Flight of the Condor
I just came back from Arequipa, a nice and culturally rich city in the southern Sierra of Peru. The sight when entering the city is just breathtaking; surrounded by not one, but three volcanoes, two of which feature peaks covered in snow. Yes, this city is a mystical place, no wonder the ancient cultures here used to worship the volcanoes and offer human sacrifices to them (more here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mummy_Juanita) . The people here, I’ve been told, don’t identify as regular Peruvians, but rather as a more special creed.
Arequipa features much nicer old colonial architecture than Lima. The whole inner city which unfolds around the Plaza de Armas is dotted with old churches, monasteries, old upper class mansions, most of which are constructed using the Arequipa signature building material: white volcanic stone called “Sillar”. The people here say the stone is the reason Arequipa is called the white City., but some claim it’s because there was a time more white people lived here than in Lima, due to it’s more comfortable climate.
If you ever make it to Arequipa go on the free walking tour starting at Plaza de Armas. The tour is organised by university students and is very informative. You will visit the most important places as well as being invited to have a look at a Alpaca wool work shop. Another absolute must is the “Monasterio de Santa Catalina”, a monastery rich families sent their daughters to to live secluded lives until their death. They would live together in a city within a city without much contact to the outer world and instead focusing on the spiritual life whilst producing works of art and food. Depending on how much your family gave to the monastery, you would live in a nice room with slaves to help you with the daily chores, or -you know- barely a boxroom. In any case, getting to live inside this glorified prison was considered a big honor and until today there are still nuns living there.
The biggest attraction of Arequipa though is the famous Colca Canyon, the deepest canyon in the world. Apart from the incredible views this place offers, it also offers a rare chance of seeing the 3 meter in diameter king of the sky: the Condor. I was lucky enough to see more than one and very close up. The condors flying their rounds up high and the beautiful canyon will melt in front of your eyes to create a beautiful sensation you won’t forget.
Apart from the condors you will also want to take care of some serious hiking business while in Colca Canyon. During the descent into the canyon the sun will relentlessly shine down on your sweaty face, in comparison to the experience though it is only a small price to pay. Down in the canyon is a place called the „Oasis“. Here you will be able to relax in a pool filled with nice cold Andean mountain water and also stay over night. Over night might be an exaggeration though; wake up time is at 4am so as to start climbing in the fresh air of the night. After around 2 to 3 hours you will arrive on the upper ridge of the Colca Canyon, close to where you started. Some sources claim the climb is 1000 vertical meters, but it in my memory it certainly feels like it should be at least double that!
so long Amigos!