Hello from Arequipa, we`ve been here for 10 days and done lots of amazing things but I`ll try not to make this too long....
We arrived in town, spent a night in a hostel and then moved to Wayra Swisse hotel just outside Arequipa. Sean`s friend Jon has an uncle here, Roger, who owns Wayra Swisse and very kindly invited us to stay. The view of the terraced valley and misti and chachani volcanoes is amazing. When we arrived Roger told us it was his 10th wedding anniversary with his wife Ana Sofia. He invited us to the church and the party afterwards, he really made us feel like part of the family. We spoke a lot of bad Spanish to the family and drank lots of pisco!
The next day we explored Santa Catalina convent, a very impressive building occupying a whole block near the centre and made of sillar, the local white volcanic stone. There were lots of little rooms and stone steps (you`d love it mum!). There were also lots of kitchens, Sean decided the nuns must eat pizza as each one had a wood-burning oven.
On our third day Roger took us on a day trip with Ana Sophia and their 3 year old son Joshua. We saw the local mill which was really pretty and we had a great view from the mirador with it`s beautiful arches. We went to a road Roger called `pork alley`for lunch where there are huge restaurants that just make chicharron, fried pork, very tasty. We rowed a boat round lago tingo (although Sean and I were rubbish at rowing so Roger took over). It was busy by the lake as the locals all go there and order Bunelas to eat in the car, they are deep fried batter with honey, again very tasty! We went to another mirador for views of the volcanoes surrounding Arequipa and then headed home.
The next morning we got an early bus to Colca Canyon. We could have gone with a tour but decided to try it on our own. We stopped in Chivay and got a cab to La Callera, the hot pools. It was so nice to be in the warm water in the sun, our cab driver must have agreed as he went for a swim too! From there we got another busy bus to Cabanaconde. We stayed in a nice hotel to treat ourselves and got ready to trek the next day.
We started the trek down Colca Canyon early in the morning, it was very pretty and we saw lots of donkeys along the way. After a couple of hours we started to wonder if we were crazy, most people stay the night at the bottom but we`d decided to go down and up the same day. We could see the bottom but it didn`t seem to be getting any closer! Eventually we got there after 2.5 hours of steep paths, we rented a hut to have a rest in the shade for an hour, then we went in the cool pool. It was so pretty and very refreshing. We looked at the river, the lowest point of the canyon, and then started the trek back up. It was tough trekking, but we got to the top in 3 hours, just as the sun was setting. We were tired but proud of ourselves. We had a nice dinner, some pisco sours and then went to bed.
The next morning we went to Cruz del Condor, the best place to see condors. At first there weren`t any but as the air got warmer they stared to appear in the canyon, they are so big but so graceful. After an hour they were even higher and we saw loads of them gliding around our heads, it was amazing. We spent the afternoon on the bus back to Arequipa.
We celebrated my birthday a day early with Roger and Ana Sophia. We were about to go to town to buy a cake when Roger announced that he was making a special lunch. I had to take a photo of Sean`s face when Roger pulled out a 3.5kg, 10-legged, purple octopus - he doesn`t even eat tuna! Luckily though it tasted very nice, just looked scary! That evening we had cake and lots of pisco sours by candlelight, Roger and Ana were so kind to us, it was a really special night.
On my actual birthday we moved to a beautiful hostel in town that has a pool, a bath in our room and a lovely breakfast buffet (thanks dad!). That night we had a lovely dinner in town with falafel and houmous to start (even better than M&S) and then really nice pork and lamb (thanks mum!). Sean bought me a chocolate heart and a tin of peaches, it sounds strange but I`d been wanting some for a while and Sean liked the fact that the peaches were made by Fanny! It was a lovely couple of days, thank you for all the nice messages and emails too!
We`re staying in Arequipa for a couple more days to enjoy the sunshine and then we`re heading to Chile after the weekend.
Love Vicky xxx