2014 Sep Day 1 Lima and Arequipa
I awoke rested and ready to go. I wanted to see what I couldn’t see when I arrived at 1 am. Where was I? Down in the dining room a wall painted with a surfing theme brightened the room. The theme fits the owner Cristien’s interests.
Cristien is on the Peruvian surf team and has driven from San Francisco to Peru riding the waves all along the coasts of North and South America. I told him my husband Gregg had a woodie and drove the California coast from Stinson to Santa Cruz doing the same thing back in the day. Cristien’s wife Kelly is from Santa Cruz, but she was off leading a tour in Cusco, so I did not meet her.
Here I am trying to figure out what Cristien told me is the difference between a surfer and a rocker sign.
Before leaving, I took a short walk around the area…all gated and guarded, but the houses are all of different designs, not like a condo or townhouse complex. Election day for Lima’s mayor is coming up. Political signs everywhere. Eduardo Bless took over a corner wall to tell people to vote his mark. On the way to the airport, Alberto told me that if you don’t vote you get a fine. Hmmm…never heard of that one. That’s one way to get a voting citizenry.
Lots of fog leaving Lima, but Arequipa is dry and hot, surrounded by 3 volcanoes, one still active. Where are the skyscrapers?
The city was founded by the Spanish, and the historical center, about 10 blocks square, is a UNESCO site with colonial buildings from the 1500s made of a white stone called silar. The second largest city in Peru, Arequipa is full of traffic on the narrow streets of the colonial center. On the way into town, a veterinarian’s signboard gave me a laugh…
I’m staying at the Casona Solar in the historic center. According to the owner, it was once the home of the second president of Peru. Peeling paint on 16th century ceilings and walls of silar, with a beautiful enclosed patio.
A little shrine at the entrance..
I got to Arequipa just in time for the free walking tour. With about 20 people in the group, I was the only one from the US. Lots of Brits and Aussies. We met at the main Plaza de Armas, where the excellent guide told us that the Spaniards, knowing that the natives worshipped the mountains, built the cathdedral purposefully to block out vistas of the volcanoes So only the tippy tops of the volcanoes can be seen from the square.
The Jesuits really had a grip on this place. Nearly every corner has a monastery or a church. We visited the Iglesia de la Compania, a church known for its Andean Baroque facade, sculpted with images both European and Andean.
At an enormous cloister complex adjacent to the church, the Jesuits ran an educational institute. Now around the courtyard, luxury shops sell garments made from baby alpaca. A very pleasant courtyard with beautifully carved columns, again with both European and Andean imagery.
And gargoyles loved by pigeons and nesting birds.
I took several photos of the fountain, looked up, and saw that the group was no where in sight. “No worries, I’ll catch up,” I thought, and so I hustled down the steps, seeing one of the especially tall men in a baseball cap in the block ahead.
It turns out that at about about 4 pm, siesta time is over and throngs of people and cars fill the streets. I got stuck on the corner and tried to puzzle out how the traffic system works, if there is a system. I’ve now discovered it: wait until no cars are coming, then run across the street looking frantically both directions to make sure still no cars are coming. (But cars are always coming.)
I waited for a safe second, scanned ahead for the baseball cap, and it was gone!! Disappeared. After walking a few blocks in what seemed a likely direction, I gave up and went off to see the Plaza de Armas.
I was disappointed, not only because it had been a good tour, but also because one of the Brits had hinted about going to a picanteria for dinner. The guide had told us about these places, part of Arequipa’s cultural food history. They serve very spicey food to accompany Chicha, the traditional liquor made from corn. Arequipa has about 40 of such places, but they are located in the suburbs. It would have been nice to share a taxi and the experience, but it will have to wait.
Crowds filled the main plaza, mostly pigeon lovers and children having a great time giving the pigeons a feeding frenzy.
I have never seen so many pigeons in one place, not even at St. Mark’s in Venice. Lots of people having lots of fun with pigeons.
I saw a man on a bench with an old corona manual typewriter on his lap, typing out a document for two other men sitting beside him on the bench. I have seen street writers before, but never with a lap type. I asked to take a photo, but they declined. I headed off to see Juanita.
I didn’t have high expectations for Juanita, the frozen girl found on the Ampato volcano, but the museum program was fascinating: first a 20-minute National Geographic film, then a guided tour of the artifacts found with her and 3 other children sacrificed by the Inka. They were found on other volcanoes, and a map showed the locations of frozen sacrificed children found throughout the Andes.
When the active volcano Sabancaya erupted in 1995, its ash melted the snow on the nearby Ampato volcano, making Juanita visible. In the museum on display are tiny gold alpacas and vicunas, ceramic pottery, little doll images of the children, all things that were buried with them, including weavings, their clothing, sandals and feather headdresses. It’s amazing to see these 500 year old artifacts along with Juanita, who is kept in a glass case at 20 degrees below to preserve her. The Incas are said to have made these ritual sacrifices only when disaster stuck, like an earthquake or volcano eruption, because they wanted to appease the mountain gods.
At dinner tonight on the square I tried a ricoto relleno, a traditional Arequipeno dish, which I thought had something to do with ricotta cheese, but in Spanish. When the plate arrived, I thought it was a bell pepper surrounded by runny scrambled eggs, but a ricoto is a unique fruit, very spicy. It’s stuffed with meat on a base of potatoes and mas mas mas mucho mucho mas more..
It’s not something I would order again. Maybe I should have tried the fresh water ceviche. Tomorrow I’m off to Colca Canyon to see the condors.