Already impressed by the food in Puno, we moved on to Arequipa which had the same amazing quality of food but also had amazing buildings made out of white volcanic stone. In the center of town, shops were nestled in the cloisters of monasteries and in the courtyards of high roofed colonial mansions. It is also surrounded by volcanos giving it stunning 360 views. A few were active and one is long overdue for a huge eruption according to some locals but scientists can’t give accurate predictions. While on the free tour of the city, the guide told us that if it erupted there would be a gigantic explosion (pyroclastic) and the result would be similar to what happened to Pompeii. You would have about eight seconds to escape Arequipa. I’m not sure if he was encouraging further tourism to the region, but visiting is probably worth the risk. I’m sad that we didn’t get more photos, but we were too busy eating. Here are some of the better ones.
We also had the pleasure of taking a cooking class in Arequipa where we got a market tour to see all the local produce and got a taste of all the interesting and tasty fruit of the region. Lucuma was the most weird, it has the taste and consistency of fruit cake! We then got to cook a three course Arequipeño meal. The amount of cheese was determined by us, so naturally it was the biggest part of the meal.
This is us with our cheese stuffed peppers with a side of potato cheese slice. For the entree we made a typical Arequipa milky cheese soup. Our teachers were crazy and found the phrase “small banana” so hilarious that they had to keep yelling it out throughout the cooking course for no real reason.
When we weren’t eating or drinking (one place had an IPA from Lima!) we were touring to Colca Canyon.
Colca Canyon Tour
Colca Canyon is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in USA and has condors (bonus!) but it was a three day tour from Arequipa. The first day was all driving through the surrounding desert where we got to see more llamas, vicuñas and alpacas and some birds in lagoons.
Misti is Quechua for “mister” so the name of the volcano is more or less Mr. Mountain.
The first surprise for us was that we were staying in a luxury lodge that night (it wasn’t to the others who actually knew what the tour was before they payed for it). The second surprise was hot water bottles after dinner.
On the second day we headed for greener pastures and the start of the Colca Canyon.
We even payed a woman a few coins to let us take a photo of her cute alpaca.
The thing that everyone comes to the canyon to see is the Andean Condor. Its a giant bird with a wingspan of up to 3.2 meters. They can’t guarantee that you will spot one but we were lucky enough to spot a group of five of them and get a few photos.
The condors seemed very well behaved as they all flocked around the special condor lookout called Cruz del Condor. Even though we walked a fair way around the valley, we only ever saw condors right in front of this dedicated condor lookout. On the way back we did see a couple just beyond the lookout but they had only been tempted away from the lookout by a dead cow.
The accommodation for the second night was down in the bottom of the canyon and we were at the top so we had to go for a three hour hike down a windy path. The accommodation was another pleasant surprise, there was a pool!
To make it back up the canyon the following day we had to get up at 4:30am to avoid climbing the canyon in the heat of the day.
After staying a night there we headed back to Arequipa via hot springs (not pictured).
We then got on a night bus to Cusco, which had WiFi and personal screens in the back of the seats with movies and games. Talk about luxury! Then there was a bizarre game of bus bingo at six in the morning just before arriving to Cusco. We didn’t win but got some good practice for future experiences in Peruvian retirement homes.