Sunday, April 29, 2012

Arequipa, Peru – April 21 – April 29, 2012

We travelled overnight via 1st class sleeper bus, great seats and meal onboard (this is not your mama’s Greyhound…they could take a lesson) to Arequipa, considered the second most important city in Peru.  The name Arequipa is the result of a combination of two words: “Are” & “Quipa”.  It may have been derived from the Quechua words “Ari”, which means “yes” , and “Quipay”, which means “stay”. On the other hand, in the Aymara language “Ari” means “peak”, while the “Quipay” means “behind”, thereby producing the phrase “behind the peak” in reference to Arequipa’s location at the foot of El Misti volcano.  El Misti can give Japan’s Mount Fuji a run for its money when it comes to perfect form.  It was venerated by the Incas, who sacrificed humans at its summit.

El Misti Volcano, Arequipa, Peru
View from our room :o)

Arequipa is just over 8000 ft elevation and featuring a very cosmopolitan city, being the second largest in Peru again with some incredible displays of gold and silver minted by the Incan's on behalf of the Spaniards for the RC Church...cathedrals that are huge by any measure and despite their grandeur leaves one with the impression that a lot of blood sweat and tears was shed to enable the riches that these shrines have on display.  This is also the home of the world's Llama and Alpaca products with many wild herds still roaming but most being bred and farmed.  We visited a large factory (Michell Group) and saw some beautiful materials being made on site. Jerie and Kaija have been having a blast shopping as the prices are quite reasonable and the products original and beautifully made and they are already in need of additional luggage for their stashes...ouch!

One of the highlights of our visit to Arequipa was lunch at the acclaimed restaurant Sol de Mayo.

Sol de Mayo Restaurant
The music is fantastic!
Try the Cuy :o) deliciouso

The restaurant, set in a beautiful botanical courtyard, with live entertainment is only open for lunch.  The recommended dish is Cuy (guinea pig).

In the Andres, the most prized animal is the guinea pig, appreciated for its fine meat and exquisite flavor.  This animal was the main source of protein for the Incas.  It is easy to domesticate and can be grazed easily on alfalfa and other Andean plants.  Today it is usually prepared one of two ways: before being roasted in the oven it is stuffed with a local herb known as Huacatay, which lends it an exceptional flavor; alternately, it may be served fried in oil under a stone (or “chactao”), after being basted in ground corn.  The stone ensures that the meat is fully cooked.  It is served ‘butterflied’. 
Having said all that…it was very tasty, but very rich.

One should not visit Arequipa without including Senorita Juanita in your viewing schedule.  Museo Santury, officially the Museo de la Universidad Catolica de Santa Maria, exhibits “Juanita, the Ice Princess”- the frozen body of an Inca maiden sacrificed on the summit of  Nevado Ampato, the snow-covered volcano to the North West of Arequipa, more than 500 years ago.  The tour consists of a video followed by an examination of various burial artifacts, culminating in a respectful viewing of the frozen mummy, preserved in a carefully monitored glass-walled exhibited freezer.  Only guided visits are permitted, and the whole spectacle is done in a respectful, non-ghoulish manner.  Unfortunately, taking pictures is forbidden.  Below is a photo of the unique entrance ticket.

Juanita – The Ice Princess of Peru

With its exciting nightlife, exceptional historic sites, home of  the world’s finest Alpaca products and boasting a beautiful city square, meeting place for the locals to conduct all manner of business, this is a place to spend several days.

Arequipa Center Square

However, for us it is time to move stop the Condors of Colca Canyon.


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