Arequipa, Peru

January 3rd – 14th

What a great town. Arequipa is what I’ve come to expect from these towns and cities I’ve travelled through. It’s clean, people are friendly, and you get charged what you would expect. It’s a great change from Cusco.

The flight out of Cusco was perfect – we got the airport with plenty of time to spare and the flight went smoothly. I love Lan Peru. it’s the way flying is supposed to be, and the way I imagine it used to be, back before things got messy and difficult in the US airline industry. The planes are new, everybody is helpful and the flight attendants are cute. It seems like everyone we come in contact with is happy to be working there. All three Lan Peru planes I’ve been on are brand new Airbus A320s. The flight was short, but we still got a snack and a soda, and in no time we were in Arequipa. The flight from the Airport to downtown was short, and cheap at S/15 for the both of us.

The book Lou had mentioned a pretty cheap hotel, but when we got there, it wasn’t very nice. Well – the hotel was (only) OK, but the guy behind the desk was very weird, and kind of defensive about a lot of stuff. We tried finding another hotel in the book but couldn’t, then we came upon the third, and what would be our home for the next few nights. The place was called La Casa De Melgar. It was a three star hotel. I don’t think these stars mean the same thing in Peru, or S.A. as they do in the US, but it was a very nice hotel, and somewhat cheap at $18 a night. Again, Lou and I got separate rooms.

This hotel was fantastic. I’ve included a lot of pictures of the hotel, because it is achingly beautiful. When you walked into the lobby, there were soaring ceilings. You then exited into a wonderful courtyard, took an arched pathway to another courtyard, and stairs up to our rooms. Granted, almost all of Peru is “shabby chic” made famous by Martha Steward. I hate it in America, but in Peru it’s pretty nice. The beds were wonderful and we had TV’s with English programs (yes, they have soft core porn on TV in Peru too.) If I have one complaint, and it’s one of my very big pet peeves, is that I could not get a good shower. Lou mentioned he was able to get a 10 minute shower. I never got enough hot water to actually wash my hair AND shave, even if I started turning the water off when I wasn’t using it. I figured it was a problem with my room, so I moved to another room, which had the same problem. By this time I was getting annoyed, so I moved to a third room. I finally got a somewhat decent shower (not very hot, but hot enough.) That was on my last night in the hotel. I didn’t move because this place was just so beautiful, and in a few years I’ll remember how achingly beautiful it was, and hopefully forget the pain (kind of like Jennifer.) I hope you enjoy the pictures, even thought I doubt I did the hotel justice.

The town itself was pretty nice. It’s supposed to be the strong hold of right wing politics in Peru (AKA Peruvian Republicans), but I tried to not let that bother me. The streets were pretty clean – at least as clean as a 500 year old city can be. There was a LOT less horn usage than in either Cusco or Lima, which was nice. There were a lot of good places to eat, and quite a few students and thus internet cafe’s around (but making phone calls over the internet was difficult.) Apparently they also had some sort of issue with people downloading porn, because every Internet cafe had large signs saying you couldn’t download porn, and Lou ended up losing quite a bit of e-mail because of a very restrictive web filter closing his web browser (and this was from a yahoo.com popup window.) I’ve never seen anyone downloading such things in an Internet cafe, but apparently it is a huge problem in Arequipa.

The only real tourist attraction around was the Santa Catalina Monastery, which was also beautiful. It was huge – the size of a couple of city blocks. I almost didn’t go, since the cost to enter was $7 US, which is a ton of money when you can get a nice steak dinner for that price (without drinks.) But as luck would have it, I ended up with quite a bit of time to kill.

It seems like I got stuck in Arequipa. I wanted to fly to La Paz. Initially, I was told that I could fly to Cusco, then to La Paz, but the flights were only two days a week – Tuesday and Friday. Lou and I got back from Colca Canyon late on a Sunday, and he was leaving that Monday, at about 1 p.m. After he left, I spend the day doing getting my laundry done, organizing my photos and eating big chunks of meat. On Tuesday I found out the flight was gone already, and my next choice was for Friday. My initial plan was to fly, but then, on Wednesday, I eventually found out that going through Cusco meant spending the night in Cusco. I really, really didn’t want to go back to Cusco for a night. On Thursday, after thinking about it for a night, I bought a (gasp) bus ticket for Friday. The bus was to take me to Puno, which is on the shores of Lake Titicaca (which I figured I should see since I’m so close), where I would then find a bus to La Paz. This would take more time, but at least I wouldn’t have to deal with Cusco again.

All in all, it was a very nice city, and we had a great time. Lou and I even chanced upon some “friends” to hang out with one night, which I wrote about in another post. I give Arequipa two solid thumbs up.

HERE are the pictures.

Greg