So, the next weekend after Machu Picchu I headed out for a trip to Arequipa, city in the southeast of Peru that is close(r) to Chile and the city closest to the Colca Canyon, the world’s deepest canyon. The plan was to take an overnight bus on Friday night, arriving Saturday morning and then leave via overnight bus Monday, arriving back in time for classes on Tuesday.
The first overnight bus (Cruz del Sur company), was just fine and they even gave us blankets on the ride there. We got to Arequipa very early in the morning and thankfully our hostel had beds ready, either they were unoccupied the night before or the occupants left really really early in the morning. So, anyway, Arequipa is a city (second largest in Peru, I believe) that is more in the Spanish colonial architecture style, a refreshing break from Incan ruins everywhere in Cusco. The beginning of the first day is devoted to traveling and booking tours, and we realized that we didn’t want to do an overnight in Colca canyon (treks are 3 days, and the 2 day tour is otherwise the same as the 1 day, but less rushed). That figured out, we walked around the city and the Santa Catalina monastery, which is the big tourist attraction in Arequipa. The city itself is really different aesthetically than Cusco, all white (from the volcanic rock used to build the city) and more open (at least in the parts we visited).
The Santa Catalina monastery is like a city unto itself, super huge and colorful and pretty. We hired a tour guide inside which made it slightly more interesting, though I can see it getting redundant if you’re not super into it. Regardless, I like history and it was pretty nice. And, the rest of Arequipa as pretty too, just a bunch of walking around. I think we got mexican food that night then went to bed very early b/c the bus to Colca picked us up at 2:30am!
As my previous post indicated, the Colca canyon tour was a bit mediocre. We made a lot of stops on the way, presumably so we would not tire of driving and would get more out of it, but it made the ride out the actual canyon longer. Then, we spent one hour at the Cruz del Condor watching the condors fly in the canyon and…that was it of the canyon. I bet it would be cool to do the trek down though. However, we got back to Arequipa at 5 or 6 and were completely exhausted, got kebabs for dinner watched a movie then slept. However, the next day was better.
We had booked a tour on horseback of the countryside, which allowed us to sleep in to the late hour of 8am. It was just me and my 2 friends, and the tour agency picked us up and took us to our guide’s house(? Stable?) where we got going. It was a little more on cement/through towns than path riding, but was super pretty and fun. Highly recommended, plus my horse was named Ricky Martin. The rest of the day we city wandered more, then packed up for the bus ride back.
So, the bus ride. The bus (Civa this time) left half an hour late, true to Peruvian form, though already putting us at cutting it a bit close to getting back in time. So, Claire was somewhat pleasantly sleeping on the bus when, at around 5 am, we stopped. After some minutes of stoppage the bus people told us that there was a strike going on ahead of us, and they did not know how long it would last. Some minutes later we got off the bus, as we were told we would have to walk through the strike and pick up a van/taxi in a town an hour walk away. Oh, so Peruvian strikes. This one was a strike because the people want the nationalization of gasoline. Strikes in Peru such as this consist of everyone stopping work for an indefinite amount of time and, because it is a gasoline strike and they don’t want people driving, blocking the roads with rocks and apparently throwing rocks/slashing tires of cars that would try to drive through anyway. Anyway, we got off the bus, then back on, thinking the strikers would let us through. Then they wouldn’t, or something. Throughout this the bus people were not telling us what was going on at all. Finally I got someone to say this could be indefinite. Luckily I had s/20 left on us, enough to get 3 people a combi (or we would borrow from people). And, so at 5-something am we started walking. Once we walked past the strikers, we had great luck. There was a bus turning around to return to Cusco on the other side of the strikers, and we were able to get on that, saving a 1.5 hour walk. And, with that, we finallllly got back to Cusco.