Or, as J calls it, “Perusing Peru”.
Arequipa is a beautiful colonial city with a center build entirely of sillar – white volcanic rock. We spend a few days admiring the architecture and seeing the sights. In Arequipa, we also meet up with J’s mom Martha!
Arequipa sits at the base of three volcanoes, including El Misti, the most accessible peak over 6,000 meters in the world. J and I seriously consider taking it on (how cool would that be?) until we actually see El Misti on the bus on the way into town, and it looks like this:
Turns out that accessibility may not be a great criteria for good hiking. We decide that an 8-12-hr slog up a cone of dirt is not all that exciting, despite the extreme elevation, without the forests, rock, and snow that usually make mountains beautiful.
More photos fom Arequipa:
Arequipa has a much higher Spanish influence than anywhere we’ve been in awhile. There is little to no Incan cultural presence here.
At the Convento de Santa Catalina, the coolest water-purification system ever – you pour unfiltered water into a thick cone of volcanic rock, and the clean water drips slowly out the bottom.
We visit a museum called Alpaca World, which follows the wool from the animals themselves through to the beautiful Peruvian weaving designs. Our biggest takeaway is that alpacas are fluffy and adorable.
On to Cuzco!
Cuzco was the capital of the Incan empire and the current seat of Quechua culture, which is spread throughout the Andean region. It has a substantial indigenous population and much of the downtown is built directly on top of ancient ruins. It is the longest continually-inhabited city in South America. Also, being back in the Andes, we’ve returned to our 3,400 m comfort-zone (11,150 ft).
Here, we take the opportunity to hike out of town and visit some Incan and pre-Incan ruins. Above, Tambomachay. The water which feeds this site is of unknown origin, since archeologists would have to disrupt the site in order to find the spring. Many Incan ruins have covered springs and water reservoirs which feed through a complicated system of underground channels before surfacing. It is suggested that this is to prevent poisoning.
J and I take a local bus out of town and walk back, diverging from the main tourist sites and finding a few ruins of our own.
Above, the view from the top of Templo de la Luna back up the valley. The cliffs shown were full of small nooks and caves with carved altars. We later learned that many of these were made to store mummies in. The Incans only mummified important nobility, and the mummies were treated as bridging the gap between our world and the next. Since they still existed in our world, they were treated as still alive and were brought out to enjoy festivals and go on social visits with other mummies. This practice caused disastrous political divisions, as mummified emperors still had political followers and decision-making powers. These factions were one of the destabilizing forces which allowed the Spanish to take over so easily.
A band playing over the Plaza de San Blas.
A spectacular little restaurant we found with front-row seats for the sunset.
Our last day in Cuzco, Martha’s partner Charlie arrives! Here, he and J check out the Incan stonework which lines the streets in old-town Cuzco. The massive stones are carved to fit immaculately and without mortar. It is a look so often copied and imitated that it almost looks like a Disney set.
Next up: 8 days in the Sacred Valley!
Lots of love!
C and J (and Martha and Charlie!)