travelling the seven parts of the world
Apr 8th, 2008

Arequipa, or the white city, is the city of 3 volcanoes - Chachani, El Misti and Picchu Picchu. El Misti is the most magnificent one, as it is a perfect cone shape volcano, reaching 5800m above sea level, Chachani is the highest one, a complex of 6 volcanoes reaching 6075m above sea level, and Picchu Picchu is the smallest, most eroded one.

The best thing about Arequipa is that despite the 1 million population the city has now grown to, it is not a dump like, say, Lima. It is very nice to walk around, especially the city center, it is safe, it feels safe, and its not overly touristy - people don't run into your face trying to sell you something.

After arriving with the night bus, we were horribly tired, and went to sleep in the morning. The hotel was very nice, according to Lonely Planet it was the most expensive place in town, but it was pretty cold outside when comparing to the heat of the Atacama desert the day before. The place had wireless internet, which I was really glad for.

On the first day we had a city tour, and its nice to have a city tour on the first day, because it sort of gives you a background based on which you can start exploring the town later on at your own leisure. We started off with nice viewpoint from which you could see El Misti (above) and Chachani (below).

Even though this is a 6000m peak with a relative height of 3600m it doesn't really look much different than say, Mt Doom in New Zealand. But it looks very big, and very powerful, and just the feeling that you wouldn't be able to go up it without an oxygen mask is a great one.

This was also the first time we saw Guinea Pigs. Now, these animals are special to Peruvians - unlike other people, they don't keep them as pets. They eat them! Apparently, it is a good alternative source of food, as they famously manage to breed very quickly, and only need barley to eat. We tried one, it was full of small bones, very little meat, and took a lot of work to eat. Not quite for us.

Like this one, much of the churches in Peru are with heavy Moorish influences. This is just from one of the many squares in Arequipa.

After that, we went to the Santa Catalina monastery, which occupies a whole city block, and where some 500 nuns lived for several centuries.

The main reason this monastery is so special was because the nuns were bloody rich. This was not the hard servitude to God that is portrayed in most monasteries - most nuns had their own rooms, an average of 3 servants, never cooked their own meals or cleaned their own clothes, always ate in private.

The inside quarters behind the monastery walls are so big, that there are even several named streets inside.

After that we were off to Plaza de Armas, the name for the main square in every Peruvian town, city or village.