Day 1 - June 9-10, 2009 - Travel to Arequipa
Mom drove up yesterday from Florida. Terry joins us half way through the trip. Today we fly out of Atlanta at 5:45 PM on Delta, arriving in Lima at around 12 AM. It takes us a bit to figure out what time it really is -- they're in the same time zone, but DO NOT observe daylight savings time. We nap in the modern, clean, nearly deserted Lima Airport, then fly to Arequipa at 3:15 AM on June 10th. We are now on a LAN Airlines plane, which is owned by Delta. We arrive in Arequipa at 5:10 AM, and are greeted by a van driver from our hotel - Casa de Mi Abuela (My Grandmother's House).
Arequipa is a modern city, in the way that third world cities are modern. Lots of new buildings, lots of buildings in mid-construction, lots of exposed concrete, lots of traffic, lots of areas of poverty here and there, and lots of dirt. It is surrounded by beautiful volcanoes. Our hotel is in the nicer, more touristy part of Arequipa. Casa de Mi Abuela (photo to the right) is a beautiful little refuge of buildings, courtyards, and pretty trees. We nap. We wake mid-morning and walk down to the Plaza de Armas (below). Every Peruvian city of any size has a Plaza de Armas, or central plaza, with a nice park in the square, and a Spanish Cathedral overlooking it from one side. The cathedrals vary in size and ornateness, depending on the size of the city, and when the cathedral was built. Every one of them is beautiful. We walk through the cathedral briefly, then walk up the road to visit the Juanita Museum. Juanita is the name given to an Inca girl that was sacrificed on the summit of the Ampato Volcano, at around 20,000 feet in altitude, about 1466. She was discovered by American anthropologist Johan Reinhard in 1995, preserved in ice. She remains frozen in a glass case in the museum. Imagine the Incas climbing to 20,000 feet, in the snow, in rope sandals... It's a great museum, with many artifacts, and a good tour guide. It finishes in the room where Juanita rests. Eerie.
We eat lunch at Mixto's, on a rooftop deck near the plaza. Cuy (guinea pig) is a delicacy in Peru, and I've committed to trying it while I'm here, and decide to dive in and get it out of the way. I order Cuy Frita (fried guinea pig). Mom and Allison order a pizza. We are excited to sample Peruvian beer, and order a Cusqueña, by far the most predominant beer in Peru. It is terrible. It tastes like a crappy beer, with salty soda water added. W
e hope there is better Peruvian beer. Our food comes. The pizza looks fine.
The guinea pig looks like a guinea pig. Literally, it looks like they plucked a guinea pig from its running wheel and tossed it right into the fryer, then onto a plate. I orient the plate so that it's looking at Allison. I admit that I'm a bit disturbed by the whole and complete animalness of it all. I start to dig in with knife and fork. I know it's a bit cliché, but it tastes just like chicken. There's very little meat on a guinea pig, however, so the knife and fork don't work very well. I'm sure that the locals just tear off a leg and gnaw on it, but I'm not quite willing to go that far, so after a few bites I resign to eating some of the pizza (which we all agree sort of sucks). The waiter takes the cuy away, mostly intact. We bet that this happens more often than not (with the turistas). We hope that the food gets better along with the beer.
We head up the road to the Monasterio Santa Catalina, a convent built in 1580, and enlarged in the 1600's. There are approximately 20 nuns living in a small portion of the complex, with the remainder open to the public as a museum. We walk ourselves through a self-guided tour. It is a beautiful complex (left). We are still a bit jet-lagged, and head back to the hotel for a nap.
Later we toodle around town a bit more. We wander into the Cusipata river rafting company (there are many companies offering whitewater rafting, this one is recommended by Lonely Planet) and book a short raft trip for tomorrow afternoon, just out of town. We head to dinner at a vegetarian place, Lakshmivan. It is excellent. We have vino tinto (red wine) instead of beer. Things are looking up on the food and drink front...