Alarm went off at 5:15 today to make sure we would be all packed and checked out of the hotel in time for our 6am bus pickup. The bus arrived right on time and we boarded for our 5 hour ride to Arequipa. This bus was just as big and nice as the last, but seemed to lack a heating system. They handed out blankets first thing which was thoughtful.
We stopped at a view point overlooking a lake called Lagunillas. I believe it was 4174m in elevation, so quite a bit higher than we had been in Puno. It was beautiful, and one of the mountains nearby had snow on top. I’m pretty sure the real point of the stop, though, was to see the adorable animals standing around. There was one llama, one alpaca, one sheep, and 3 tiny baby puppies. The llama was thrilled to pose for pictures with everyone, but the alpaca kept making angry noises and spitting at people. The sheep was fast asleep in the shade, and the puppies were afraid of humans but really fun to watch rolling around playing with each other. As we drove along there were occasional herds of alpacas in the open spaces and lots of different birds. Not long after our stop we crossed the border from the Puno region to the Arequipa region. That border was up at 4500m, and we noticed the roads got quite a bit nicer after the border too.
Around 10am or so we stopped at a tiny restaurant type place where they provided us with sandwiches. They had ham and cheese or avocado and cheese. Eric and I were both happy. His actually looked like the one from the boat with 3 bread slices and the odd salad paste on one side. Mine was a normal looking sandwich with cheese, avocado, lettuce, and tomato. A nice surprise. They also seem to enjoy giving small pieces of chocolate with everything. My purse became a bag full of chocolates at some point so we were never without a snack. We then switched from the big coach bus that was continuing to Chivay to a smaller busvan thing to take us to Arequipa. The first area we drove through after the snack was a large reservation meant to protect the vicuñas. They were hunted almost to extinction for their wool, so now they have a safe place to live in the wild. It also meant we saw a ton of them during the drive and some really cute vicuña crossing signs.
We finally arrived in Arequipa and made it to our accommodations. They were definitely the lowest end of the scale so far, but still fine for a couple of nights. We handed over our dirty laundry at 6 soles per kilo and we’re excited to have clean clothes again by the evening. Then it was time to head out and explore the city center! We made a stop at the office of the company who would be taking us sandboarding the next day to organize our timelines and also pay them. That went well. Then right across the street was a shop called Chaqchao where I had hoped to take a chocolate making class. Turns out they only do them at 11am so we would not be able to make it during our stay. We bought some chocolate from them anyway and stayed for a drink. Eric had a beer and I had some iced tea while we sat up on their second floor patio.
An older gentleman named Alex came in right after us and sat down at the table next to us to have some coffee. We ended up chatting with him for a couple of hours up there. He just recently moved permanently to Arequipa from Germany and was able to tell us all sort of good helpful things. He was a funny guy and seemed to be well travelled. Really enjoyed our afternoon sitting and chatting there with him.
Our next stop was a few blocks down at the Museo Santuarios Andinos. This is a museum that is affiliated with a university here that shows off artifacts and human remains discovered from Incan rituals on the surrounding volcanoes. The main attraction is Juanita, a young girl who was sacrificed at the top of one of the mountains here. She was found extremely well preserved and with her hair and internal organs and in some places her skin still present. We were lucky to get to see her as she does travel to other museums sometimes. I really enjoyed that place. They showed a film about the find and further searches they have done there, and then we had an English speaking guide show us around the museum of things they’ve found ending with Juanita. The rituals, preparations, and sheer effort were really interesting. Juanita was not the only child sacrificed, just the most well preserved. But each child sacrificed was chosen at birth to be a sacrifice when they were in their early teens. It was something predetermined for them. Very interesting stuff.
After the tour we wandered back to the main plaza to see what there was to see. Apparently what there was to see was a million pigeons and people playing with them. A couple people were literally covered with pigeons eating seeds off them, while others were buying seeds from a street vendor and tossing them into clusters of pigeons on the ground. Some had one or two eating from their hands. Children were running and laughing and playing with pigeons. It was really a sight. We must have stood there watching for at least 20 minutes. Never seen so much entertainment from pigeons before.
At some point we had to tear ourselves away and we decided to look for an early dinner. I had remembered reading about a restaurant that would serve up a whole bunch of different Andean potatoes with your choice of topping. Thankfully Alex had mentioned this one in our talks as well so we had an idea where to find it and a recommendation to try it. We located it pretty easily and went in for a super early dinner. Even though it was barely 5:30 we hadn’t eaten much during the day and we were hungry. We were the only ones in the place because nobody here eats dinner that early. Thankfully they served us anyway and we got nice attention. Eric tried three kinds of potatoes with bacon, beef, and some other meat on top. I tried the slightly upgraded plate of 7 kinds of potatoes with cheese curds and onions in a milky sauce with Peruvian herbs. Basically a really fun way to eat cheesy potatoes. They were all delicious. The owner also let me try some chicha morada. I’d been curious about it since we got here but not brave enough to order an entire glass. I knew it was a drink make from purple corn, but I had no idea how sweet it would be. It was a super dark purple juice-like drink that he said also had pineapple juice and some other stuff in it that explained the sweet flavor. I was thankful he gave us free samples, but not interested in a full glass. We finished our dinner, and headed back to the hotel for the evening to relax after a long day of travel.