Whilst writing this we are sat in a mud and straw hut at the bottom of the Colca Canyon. The sun is going down and we've spent all afternoon by the swimming pool in a beautiful oasis...but more about that next time!
After leaving Nazca we caught a 10 hour night bus to Arequipa (a-re-key-pa). The bus was reasonably comfy and we slept for most of the journey, although it was nearly 2 hours late picking us up after a 7 hour journey down from Lima. We boarded at 11pm in the end.
When we arrived in Arequipa it turned out all bus companies are based in 1 bus terminal and we were told that all taxi's within the gates of the terminal were safe to use. One taxi driver approached us and immediately started trying to load our bags in the boot of his car but we were adamant that we wanted to negotiate a price first (our hostel had already emailed us saying a taxi should be more than 15 soles).
This taxi driver quoted 70 soles!! When we thought we had misunderstood and tried to show him the email he even typed 70 into my phone! He became quite irate saying it was a long way to our hostel.
We quickly took our bags and headed back into the terminal unsure what to do next because he was shouting in Spanish to all the other taxi drivers and I suspected he was telling them to quote the same.
Just then 2 tourist police showed up (there are 4 types of police in Peru, normal, security, traffic and tourist) they established what was going on, took us to another taxi and told the driver he must take us to our hostel for 5 soles! He wasn't happy! They also took his licence plate and taxi registration details for good measure before giving us a handy map of the city, pointing out the main places and where their office was based, shaking our hands and wishing us luck! How nice. From now on we'll keep an eye out for tourist police who thankfully seem to be on most street corners.
We arranged to stay at the Flying Dog hostel, which has 4 in Peru, and was quite large with several pretty courtyards, a bar and pool/tv room. There was a BBQ being held that evening for all guests for 15 soles for the beer and all you can eat food (about £3.30 ish for the two of us).
After paying up we headed out to the local Catalina Monastery which is basically and old convent which takes up an entire block in Arequipa and is described as "a city within a city". There are apparently still 100 nuns living there somewhere but most is open to the public. It was an awesome place with many narrow alleys, tiny rooms and kitchens and staircases that no longer go anywhere following and earthquake some time ago.
Adam even found some guinea pigs being fattened up for dinner (they're not pets here and to the Peruvians it's no different to us eating beef of chicken). Not for me though, particularly are they are served whole with legs, teeth and in some cases, organs, intact!
That evening we went for the BBQ and met a few other English people which was nice as we have met very few so far. The barman had never heard of vodka, lime and lemonade so he made me his own cocktail of vodka, sliced lime, water and syrup. It was nicer than it sounds and the food was excellent and never ending. Barbecued pineapple is lovely!
The next morning we went to a museum with Hannah, Alex and Nico from the hostel.
The museum was primarily about the mummy of a 12 year old girl found at the top of a nearby mountain called Umpata.
firstly we watched a video where we learned that the Inca's believed that the mountains were gods and when the gods were angry they caused volcanic eruptions, earthquakes and other natural disasters.
To appease the gods the Inca's would sacrifice young children at the top of mountains. The children would be chosen from birth and they had to be pretty and pure. On Umpata 5 bodies were found but Juanita was found at the very top and was believed to be very special for this reason. Personally I, and others, believe it had more to do with the fact she was older as the other children were about 6 and probably wouldn't have made it to the top anyway!
The Inca's trekked for 4 months all the way from Cusco to Umpata and then climbed to the top, some 6000 metres, where they intoxicated the children before hitting them over the head. This practice was known as "offering" not "sacrificing" which was a practice used by the Pre-Inca's and was apparently much more brutal.
The bodies and artefacts are all perfectly preserved due to the weather conditions...minus 27 degrees under the snow! She was a bit freaky to look at in her glass cage and absolutely tiny.
In case you are wondering, the children all believed that to be sacrificed was a great honour and that they would go to live with the gods in the after life. Although there is no doubt they would have been scared they were also happy to be chosen! 500 ish years later (not that long in terms of history) that sounds very weird to me!!
After the museum the 5 of us went to lunch which was by far the most expensive meal we have had so far! Nice though.
In the afternoon we arranged our Colca Canyon trek and made plans for the next stop in Cusco afterwards.
The following day, and the final day I'm going to write about in this blog, we visited a local Market and bought stocks for our trek on Sunday, watched a couple of films in the hostel with a big group of others and made our excuses to have an early night as we were due to be picked up at 3.30am for our Canyon trek...as we have now finished day 2 of 3 we'll update you on that when we get back to Arequipa!!!
Bye for now