Arequipa and the Colca Canyon
We took the six hour bus trip up to Arequipa from Puno, it was only short trip for us but as it was dark part of the trip it felt pretty tedious and we couldn’t wait to get off. Even though it was far more comfortable than any previous bus, with WiFi, Cruz Del Sur is incredible in comparison to the alternatives throughout South America.
We stayed at Marlon’s house again and by the time we made our way there from the bus station I went straight to bed, whilst Rob ate his emergency two minute noodles kept in his pack and turned in soon after. The next morning once we were up and ready to check out Peru’s 2nd largest city we were pleasantly surprised with the gorgeous Plaza and a little awe struck by the first KFC, Starbucks, Burger King and McDonald’s we had seen in four weeks.
We had coffee on one of the balconies overlooking the plaza and lunch at the markets. We ate with the locals sampling the traditional stuffed chilli, Rocoto Relleno along with, rice, potato bake and a piece of chicken. I also picked up some almonds and ½ kilo of dried figs (which I have been indulging in a bit on this trip) which I have since realized have been upsetting my stomach a bit, having ½ a kilo and not having to eat them sparingly hasn’t seemed to work out for me.
The main attraction for Arequipa is the Colca Canyon, it is possible to do a day trip out there but with a pick up of 3am we chose the over night trip. There is also a trekking trip if you are so inclined. The tour was only 70Soles ($27AU) which included a night in a hostel and “breakfast”, along with transport there and back which was pretty good. You can also upgrade for better accommodation which would probably come along with breakfast, instead of “breakfast” as we received. The national park fees then also cost you another 70Soles which I guess then makes the tour a little pricey.
We made a few stops along the way, making sure to stop for a local brew that included coca leaves and two other plants to assist with the altitudes we were going to be reaching. The trip did include a whole lot of driving and after lunch which on both days were, pricey but delicious buffet’s we visited some natural thermal hot pools. Our accommodation was pretty basic, but it was a private room so that was nice and the dinner us and the rest of the tour group were taken along to included a bit of local singing and dancing and a mediocre meal.
We were woken early the next morning for the pinnacle of the tour, a visit to Cruz del Condor and the opportunity to get really close to the Canyon. At Cruz del Condor condors can be seen at a really close range as they fly past the canyon walls earlier in the morning, we were lucky to see two flying as soon as we got off the bus, they then took off for about 1/2 an hour and later a few more returned. Along the way we visited a few small towns and then it was time for lunch again, after we had stuffed ourselves it was time to return to Arequipa and we made the three hour trip back to the city.
I don’t think I can say we were disappointed by the tour, it did everything it said it would do, however the tour was the “Colca Canyon” tour and we kind of felt we did not see all too much actual canyon. Perhaps if we had chosen to do the trekking version of the tour where you are actually in the canyon trying to walk your way out of it we would have felt we had really experienced it’s enormity.
We had a full day left in Arequipa so made sure to visit the Santa Catalina monastery, we took about two hours just walking around this city within a city. It was built in 1579 and at one point housed hundreds of nuns of all ages that after entering the monastery walls were never to see their families or homes again, dying within the walls. Nowadays there is only about 20 nuns, none of which we spotted during our visit.