May 7-9, 2014
As previously mentioned, we had to take an overnight bus from Nazca to Arequipa. First of all, that bus had very comfortable seats, the only thing that made it not comfortable was this man snoring loudly. I couldn't believe how quickly he fell asleep. Within 5 minutes of boarding, he was already sleeping and then eventually pissed off everyone with his loud snoring. Despite his very loud snoring, everyone eventually fell asleep. Lucky for me I put my headphones on because Julian was saying his phone rang twice at 6 in the morning and answered it with 3 very loud hellos. I also felt like a ninja on that bus since I had to quietly step over a sleeping Julian to go to the washroom.
Eventually, we arrived in Areuipa and had to take another 45 minute private bus to our hostel, El Solar. I think we were all a little wary at first since it is a hostel but it had really nice rooms and we got a good view of the volcanoes from our window.
So by the time we got to the hostel it was around 9am and we were all tired and really hungry, very close to being hangry. Yuri wanted to take us out for a quick walking tour to this place that has empanadas for breakfast. On top of that, they also had a hotdog that had fries, red peppers and cheese. We saw the church of San Francisco, the main square, and a few chocolate shops.
After our late breakfast, we continued with the walking tour. The pillars and the rain gutters in the courtyard both had intricate designs.
We then made our way to the market where a few people were brave enough to try the frog juice.
We then walked through the fresh vegetables and fruits and eventually stopped at this lady's stand where we had the chance to sample some of the local fruits.
After our quick tour of the market, we were ready for some more beer. We ended up at this rooftop patio with a beautiful view. When the group separated, we decided to check out the Santa Teresa Monastery. There was another bigger monastery but we ended up going to the smaller one because we just happened to be close to the area. It was interesting to see that the place remained virtually unchanged since it was built. Unfortunately for us they didn't have an English speaking guide so we just got bits and pieces of the monastery's history. Either way, there are oil paintings from the 18th century and elaborate pieces of art that were either used during for mass or ceramic serving dishes used for special occasions. Unfortunately for Julian, we weren't allowed to take photos.
Later that night when we went out for dinner, some people tried the guinea pig, not surprisingly, they were the same people who tried the frog juice. Anyway, Julian was one of them and he said it was good but he probably won't order it again. I went the safer route and ordered alpaca instead. His guinea pig and my alpaca were both delicious although I'd pick alpaca over a guinea pig any day. Guinea pig aside, we had a great time at dinner and we even witnessed a dance performance.
After dinner, a few of us decided to hit the town. Mainly because we haven't been to a bar in Peru yet. So the 6 of us happily made our way to the street with the bars, with the recommendation of our guide, and we started the night. The first bar was ok, it was the same dingy bar you'd find anywhere else but hey, the music was good and so were the prices. While the bartender was making our drinks, we realized they free pour in Peru. We knew we were in trouble, especially us in our late twenties.
The next day, we left Arequipa for Chivay. We saw llamas and al pacas as well as their non domesticated counterpart, vicuñas. Since we had our own private bus, we were able to stop whenever we wanted, including taking photos of llamas crossing the road.
Once we arrived in Chivay, we pretty much had an uneventful night since we had to leave our hotel at 6:30 in the morning to see the condors in Colca Canyon. We arrived at the lookout at about 8:30 and Luz, our other guide for this part of the tour, told us we had to be here for over an hour. Luz mentioned that the Andean condors were out in the endangered species list and now they have a healthy population. We saw the condors fly around their nests, which was a ridge below our lookout point, I was kind of disappointed that they were so far.
After some time, we decided what any traveler would normally do, check out the goods the local sellers had to offer. I should also mention that I saw this beautiful scarf made locally and probably out of alpaca but I didn't end up purchasing it. I'm definitely kicking myself now since scarves are my souvenirs of choice and this one was something I could wear back home. Anyway, I checked out this man's stall and this bracelet had a deep purple stone in the middle which sparkled in the sunlight, my friend Steph translated for me and the man called the stone "rain of stars" which was the selling point for me.
We were busy comparing and admiring each other's purchases when someone from our group told us to come back to the lookout. The condors were now flying above us! It was great to witness these birds, and some eagles fly around in this beautiful canyon. In addition, Julian found an adult condor with two juveniles sitting on a rock for a few minutes. That made waking up really early worth it!
Once we were done watching the condors flying, we had a short hike on the ridge and that was amazing. That also made me a little breathless and again, a little worried for our 4 day hike. Anyway, the view of the canyon was breathtaking and Luz was very knowledgeable of the area. She pointed out two villages across the canyon and mentioned that some people who choose to hike down to the canyon would usually stop in one of the villages. She also pointed out a narrow footpath a few hundred metres away from the villages and said that two people who were from Lima, tried to hike from one end of the canyon to the the village and they got to a certain part where they couldn't go any further. We trudged further along the trail and saw a few dead animal carcasses left lying in the sun. Luz explained that these animals died of natural causes and the local people who owned them left them there for the condors.
Once our tour was done, we hopped back on the bus and made our way slowly back to Chivay. We then had lunch and later that afternoon, we went to the hot springs. It was a good way to unwind and relax especially since we've had such a busy day. The only thing I was nervous about was the hanging bridge we had to cross to get to the hot springs, but it was all worth it.
After a quick shower, our guide took us to a local restaurant for dinner and some Peruvian dancing. They performed a love dance, an agricultural dance, a carnival dance and the one that caught our attention was the malaria dance. During the last dance, the carnival dance, Mariana , Dave and Steve got the lucky chance to dress up.