In Copacabana we boarded a bus which crossed the Peruvian border and after a terribly long and hot 8-hour bus drive we finally arrived in Arequipa, the most important economic center of the South of Peru. As of the 16th century Arequipa prospered thanks to its privileged location on the transit route for the mines of Potosi and was an important commercial center for silver. Having spent several weeks in Bolivia, we were struck by the wealth and the richness of the city and its people: many expensive boutiques and restaurants, cocktail bars, historical buildings etc.
A mandatory visit in Arequipa is the Monasterio de Santa Catelina, a gigantic monastery founded in the 16th century which was inhabited by around 170 nuns, daughters of the wealthiest families of Peru. The monastery is completely shut off from the city and is like a little town on its own, extremely well preserved. Once a girl entered the monastery, she could never get out again, and could only see her family 1 hour per month. Each nun had its own quarters and its own slaves, and the monastery has its own bakery, church, hospital etc. Today there are still about 20 nuns living there, but luckily they are allowed to come and go as they wish.
After having visited Arequipa, we left the city for a two day hike in the Canon of the Colca River, 180 km North-West of Arequipa. The Colca Canyon is hundreds of kilometres long and is considered the second deepest canyon in the world (3400m), and twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in Colorado. A few very small communities live completely isolated deep inside the Canyon, only accessible by foot and where locals speak Qechua or another ancient language and who still believe in witches, trolls and ghosts (as did our young educated and perfectly English-speaking guide!). The first day we hiked all the way down into the canyon, and had lunch in an oasis next to the river. The afternoon we hiked further into the canyon, along the river to a local community where we spent the night in the house of a villager. The family was very welcoming and prepared dinner and a room for us and they even offered us a beer! There was no electricity or heating but we slept very well. The next day we started our hike at 5am and had to climb the whole day on an ancient Inca trail to get back out of the Canyon. It was an absolutely amazing experience!
- Los Andes Bed and Breakfast
- Crepisimo (for super good authentic Crepes!)
- Zig-Zag restaurant (Ceviche and Pisco Sours, Camille’s new favourite drink)