Arequipa is a white washed city surrounded by 3 volcanoes and felt very similar in vibe to Sucre. We checked in to the party hostel Wild Rover, one of their party aspects being free shots delivered to your room at 6 o'clock to get you going.
Our first excursion was the free walking tour. Less impressive than some of the others we have done. The flamboyant and sometimes incomprehensible guide took us on a noisy tour of the busiest roads and took us to a lama & alpaca farm to buy expensive garms. One of his best catchphrases was "all clear?" When what he was saying definitely wasn't. That being said his English was much better than my Spanish so I can't complain too much. A highlight has to be when he was describing how a massive earthquake in 2010 destroyed lots of the churches and at that moment an actual earthquake hit. We were sat in a church square and it felt like a huge truck was rumbling past for 5 seconds or so sending the pigeons flying into the air and leaving us gringos very excited. We finished the tour just in time for the World Cup final back at the hostel. What a game and Germany the worthy winners. (Well done Billy for winning the fantasy league your tenner is coming). We partied that night with our hostel pals Sam, Rory, Dan and Sarah. A double party as I had become an uncle for the second time to baby Isabel.
We sampled the excellent food of Arequipa at McDonald's and Pizza Hut and it tasted great. We also went to a place called Zig Zag where they served lama steaks sizzling in front of you on hot stones. There is something about cooking your own food in front of you that makes it so much more appealing. We also had French crepes in the morning at the French embassy. We noticed that there was a sudden upsurge in French tourists, very different to the rest of our South America experience.
One of the star archeological discoveries of the Incan culture was that of Juanita a mummified 12yr old girl frozen 500 years ago on top of a mountain. We visited the museum to witness her frozen body. The quality of the intricate gold offerings buried with Juanita were amazing.
We also visited the Santa Catalina monastery, a citadel within a citadel. Established in 1580 it is one of the most important religious buildings in Peru. We walked around taking some great pictures of the archways and narrow streets and learning about how nuns used to live and worship god. I couldn't help but think with all the narrow alleys and secluded stair cases, what an excellent level in Call of Duty multiplayer it would be.
We needed some practice before our climb up Machu Pichu so we embarked on a 2 day trek to the Colca Canyon. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, 4km from cliff edge to river bottom it is the worlds deepest and we were going to climb down it and up it in 2 days....gulp ...Our first stop after the 3am start was the condor viewpoint where you can see the majestic birds riding the hot air currents up the cliffs and over your heads. I couldn't get enough and must have taken 50 pictures trying to get the perfect shot. (I did get a nice picture of a lizard as well). Then came the real challenge, a thousand meter descent for 6km over 3 hours. It was a sheer face that we zig zagged down, stopping at the bottom for lunch it was hard to believe we had climbed down it. We traversed for a couple of hours along the valley floor before reaching our Oasis hotel at 6pm. We understood why people had suggested doing the three day tour as we were knackerd and the great news was at 5am the next morning we had to climb 3 hours up the otherside and out of the canyon. Whopeee! We had to keep reminding ourselves that we paid for this! So still in darkness led up only by our head torches we began the zig zag route up the side of the canyon. It was extremely tough only made a bit easier when I played Laura's favourite song Carly Rae Jepson Call Me Maybe, bringing a smile and a spring in our step. We got to the top after 3hrs 20 mins. What followed was a buffet lunch and a cute kid with a baby lama. We ate the former and took pictures of the latter. We went home and slept for a day.
Our last excursion was some white water rafting, a nice refreshing treat after the hot days we had had before.
To finish off our stay in Arequipa we went shopping for some better hiking boots for Laura, she would need them as our next stop was Cusco and Machu Pichu...