Where to start with this surprise of a city. If it gives you any reference Keith and I were planning on being here for about three days and ended up staying an entire week! The first thing to note is it really reminded us of home. Nestled in a valley with two large snow capped mountains called Volcano Misti and Volcano Chachani. The temperature was a perfect mid-seventies and the city boasts sunny days almost every day of the year. Sound familiar my fellow Coloradans? The air is dry and the elevation is 7,661 feet. The first few days I definitely had to take it easy as I felt it.
Most of our days here were spent meandering around this city of approximately 1 million fine Peruvian peeps. The architecture here was spectacular! It is colonial style from the Spanish and most of it is a white volcanic material called Sillar. The detail once you stopped and really took a look at it was stunning. Both of us really fell for the intricate beauty. We would stumble across narrow passageways into beautifully detailed courtyards where there would be picture perfect cafes to sit in the sun and just relax. Many times we wished we had pedometers as I do believe we walked multiple miles each day just seeing what the next street would bring us in terms of history and beauty. One of the highlights was the museum of Andean Sanctuaries. Here they have an actual preserved mummy of Señorita Juanita. She was a sacrifice to the Incan gods and was recently found on the Volcano Ambato in 1995-incredibly interesting history. We also met some great folks here to include an American couple living in Lima who shared a bottle of wine that we had purchased on our wine tour in weeks past. Great folks!
The last MAJOR highlight of Arequipa was our three-day trek into the Colca Canyon. A 3:00 am pickup started this amazing adventure. As the sun rose over the snow capped Andean mountain range and the sky had this beautiful light pink and blue hue I could not help but smile and think how magnetic the mountains are to me. Our first stop after sunrise was at a lookout where we saw large condors floating through the air. These birds can have wingspans of eight feet and they almost look prehistoric. We got lucky and ended up with a private guide who spoke English named Christina. We hiked down into the Colca Canyon which some say is deeper than the Grand Canyon for three and a half hours. The sun beating down on us and down, down, down made for a brutal day for our old and tired knees. We bunked the first night in a small village called San Juan. 40 families call this home and electricity was just brought to this village four years ago. Dinner consisted of rice, potatoes and a bit of Alpaca meat. Day 2 we hiked for about four more hours across the canyon. The scenery was breathtaking. I fed one of the dogs at the first village a bit of my pancake from breakfast and that meant a forever friend. Pelachin, the dog, hiked with us for the next two days, all the way up until we boarded our bus on the last day. Of course, that made me smile. After our hike the second day we came across what they call the Oasis and boy was it. It actually had a pool! We dove right in and enjoyed a nice relaxing swim and for a moment it felt like I was not in the Colca Canyon but some beach resort. This village didn’t have any electricity so was quite simple. Day 3 we began our journey up, up and more up at 4:30 am. It was dark and we were zigzagging through brutal switchbacks with the stars helping to light our way. It was something I have never experienced! It felt amazing to accomplish this feat and both of us were glad to have a day of R&R back in Arequipa the next day before we set off for the ruins of Cusco, Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley.