Arequipa

The last weekend in Rurrenabaque was so hot and steamy we were glad to get away. So, out to the jungle airstrip and back onto the tiny plane. Just 18 passengers and some interesting notices to read.  It was a joy to arrive at La Paz where it was actually cold!  Then on to Arequipa, the “white city” of Peru where the airport is in the shadow of Volcan Misti.

Casa de Melgar is a lovely hotel, outside our normal price range for these long trips. It’s a converted convent around several internal courtyards. Fortunately they could only take us for one night but we did enjoy the room, the bathtub, buffet breakfast in the garden and the overall ambience and convenience of the place. Next day we moved to a more affordable, but pleasant hotel.

Arequipa is all about colonial architecture most of which has been beautifully restored. The main square with it’s huge cathedral and arcades is wonderfully impressive. A big attraction is the Covento of Santa Catalina, like a town within the city. There was a revolving window to prevent direct contact with the world outside but the nuns appear to have led a life of luxury in their separate houses until a 19th Century pope imposed reform and made them sleep in dorms and eat in a refectory – in the company of a life sized Last Supper.There are still 20 nuns in a nearby building but the original is open to the public.

Che Guevara sits, a little stiffly, in the window of the El Che cafe watching the passersby in the street outside.

On our way back to the hotel one night the street was full of men in suits with strange purple robes. Not sure what secret society or organisation they are part of but eventually it became clear a religious procession was expected. A statue was hauled up the street by some men in purple, preceded by priests, incense and lay people with candles, some of whom went barefoot. It was obviously an important occasion and some traffic control was needed but the traffic police had important issues to discuss…….

Our final visit was to one of the original Spanish colonial houses, well preserved and maintained despite earthquake damage in the past and now owned by the bank.

Arequipa is the starting point for trips to Canyon Country including Colca Canyon with it’s famous condors swooping.  But we had other plans and moved on to the coastal area, North of Lima, to  find out more about Peru’s history before the Spanish
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