We took a horrid bus from Puno to Arequipa, 6.5hours of discomfort and wierdness! We were the only 2 tourists on the whole bus and to be honest, we were glad and slightly surprised to make it off in one piece! The driver was crazy, flying around windy cliff edged roads and the journey was frustrating because as with most local buses, the driver will leave the bus station with passengers who have paid full price and then as soon as he gets round the corner all the locals pile on for a fraction of the price, bash you with their big bags and bring all sorts of wierd stuff with them (including livestock- saw two big bags of chickens). And then the full price paying bolivians get angry and start shouting at the driver VAMOS (lets go) irrately as the bus is full and every unscheduled stop takes time! Just when we thought the bus journey couldnt get much wierder, the bus pulled over in the middle of the Andes, in a big wide open space filled with nothing and everyone started getting off??? I turned to ask in my basic spanish what was happening and a man told me it was a toilet stop? Now we've travelled in many countries and are used to hiding behind trees, huts, bushes etc.. to go to the toilet but i couldnt understand where they would go as it was an empty flat space. Next thing i know, i look to my right out the bus window and women, men, children are all peeing in the same area, the men just standing around and the women with their pigtails, bowler hats and huge frilly skirts who just plonked themselves down in full view of everyone with only a skirt to cover their dignity! This was quite a culture shock! I mean even in China, where the public toilets are open plan (read no doors or cubicles), at least the men were seperate to the women. Anyway, just yet another strange and eye opening travel experience.
When we finally arrived in Arequipa it was pitch black and i was a bit worried cos we had been repeatedly told to be careful with the taxis in the city as there is a huge problem with taxi crime on tourists...anyway we had no alternative so got in a cab and headed to our hostel. Freddy, the taxi driver was lovely and we spoke the whole way about our trip and his family- lovely chat all in spanish!
The hostel in Arequipa was out of the city but apart from that it was amazing- a huge mansion with every thing you could want and we loved staying here and chilling out. Arequipa is a beautiful city- clean streets and gorgeous architecture. Its named the 'white city' due to the sillar volcanic rock that most the buildings are made of. A really attractive city with a beautiful Plaza de armas (main square) and many cathedrals and cobbled streets. Full of character and with a stunning backdrop of the volcano peak.
We visited the amazing Monestry and wandered around this walled city- full of lanes and hidden parts. The sun was setting while we were in the monestry walls and then the place was lit purely by candel-light. It was kind of eerie.
They have dominoes pizza here that tastes just like the ones at home- really nice to have something familiar for a change.
Its getting very close to Dad joining us so we spent alot of time planning details for that section of our trip.
Next stop Cusco: we booked onto the Cruz del Sur bus- overnight luxury bus to travel to Cusco.