Ahoy from the crew of the BlueJacket in Arequipa, Peru!
On day 3 of our Peru trip we took a flight on LAN airlines to Arequipa, which depending upon which source you want to believe, is somewhere between 766 and 1000 km south of Lima. Luckily the flight was only about 1.5 hours long, as the legroom on these flights was designed for much shorter Peruvians and not a 6'3" gringo.
The first thing that you really notice when getting off of the plane is the altitude as you're now at around 8000' (2400 meters) and that your breathing now becomes more labored. The next thing that you notice is how arid it is and how deep blue the sky is. Then you notice that you're surrounded by 3 huge volcanos, some of which are snow capped. Misti, which is the largest and shown above, really dominates that skyline. It's really quite the change from Lima!
We were met at the airport by our guide and driver who would be with us for the next several days. We proceeded into the historic section of the city because in general, the newer sections are pretty much boring, working class neighborhoods. Arequipa is also known as the White City as many of the buildings are constructed out of sillar, which is a white volcanic stone and which must be easy to carve as many of the buildings are decorated with beautiful, ornate carvings.
One of the major attractions in Arequipa is at the Andean Sanctuary Museum, where the mummified corpse of Juanita is housed in a climate controlled chamber. Juanita was just a young child when she was sacrificed over 500 years ago near the peak of the Ampato. She wasn't discovered until 1995 when the eruption of a neighboring volcano melted enough snow on Ampato to make the excavation possible. Juanita has been encased in ice since her death and was in amazing condition. Three other sacrifices where found on the mountain, but none were in such good conditions. I found it interesting to learn that all the children were from royal families and had been groomed for the honor of being sacrificed since their birth. Photography isn't allowed, but thanks to the Internet I was able to find this image on someone else's blog who found it elsewhere...
Another key attraction of Arequipa is 16th century convent of Santa Catalina. It was one of the largest convents in the world with over 400 nuns living there for over 450 years. Girls entered here at a young age and once they entered, they weren't allowed any physical contact with anyone outside of the the convent. However, this convent clearly catered to rich families who placed their daughters in their care, as they were allowed to bring servants with them with some of the having over 10 servants. And, believe me, living conditions varied widely from stark, small, light starved rooms to spacious, airy quarters. I guess that the convent knew who paid the bills. The architecture and quality of light within this massive compound is absolutely beautiful and is a photographer's dream.
After the tours we wandered around Arequipa on our own, got lost after misplacing the map, had a great dinner, but all in all enjoyed it very much. Arequipa was a beautiful city and the hotel that we stayed in (the Casa Arequipa) was also visually stunning. I loved the yellow walls and curving staircase and color contrasts! It was a bit noisy as are many of these older buildings with lots of hard surfaces, but it was beautiful.
You can find photos of of the entire trip here and of just Arequipa here. Note that if you click on the word "map" at the top of the photo index or photo, you'll be presented with a map showing where the photos were taken.
-- Geoff & Sue
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