The White city
Ten years ago Arequipa was the lifesaving destination of our Peruvian trip. The combination of altitude and cold in Cusco had given me a case of bronchitis that got worse and worse the further we travelled. By the time we reached Puno breathing at night was like inhaling razor blades and I knew we had to descend to lower altitude as soon as possible. We took the overnight bus to Arequipa and although it was a terrible journey and we arrived late, after a good nights sleep I was on the road to recovery.
This time around we'd not planned to go back to Arequipa Nascar was on the agenda. But we quick realised that by the time we got there we'd have no time before we had to leave for Lima. After much consideration we decided to go back to Arequipa as the connections from Cusco and Lima were better.
After the shitty bus ride in Bolivia we were hopeful of better bus rides in Peru. We had booked full reclining "cama" seats, with food and drink service. There was a video service but the only suitable movie was the "point break" remake, which was awfully stupid.
Hopes of a decent nights sleep on board proved to be unfounded. The road to Arequipa had not improved in ten years. I hate to think what we would have seen if we could see out the window as the bus weaved through switchback after switchback. Plunging cliffs no doubt.
The bus stopped on the side of the road a couple of times during the night. I assumed this was simply to pick up passengers patiently waiting by the roadside, but the stops became progressively longer. At least when the bus was stopped there was a chance to grab a quick snooze! About 5am the bus finally stopped. When I peeked out of the window I saw we were in the middle of nowhere; a shabby mining town off in the distance. We'd broken down. A replacement bus was being sent from Arequipa but it would take over an hour to get here. Even with the bus still there was little rest. Shelly swore this was the last overnight bus we'd ever take.
We arrived in Arequipa about two hours late, which wasn't too bad considering. When booking accommodation we'd tried to find the place we'd stayed in last time. It had been converted from a hacienda with rustic rooms built into the amazing barrel vaulted stables/storehouse. The owners had only just completed the renovation and were extremely attentive and caring, especially to me as I was obviously ill at the time. When we left a couple of days later we promised we'd come back to them again next time. But search as we might we could not find the place. Maybe it had a new name now. Anyway, we booked a place just off the plaza da armas. Once again it was a converted mansion and very boutique with only 6 rooms. The room even had a little sitting room to the side. Thankfully they let us check straight in - at 9am in the morning - as we were shattered from the bus journey.
After rest and refreshment we set out to explore. The Plaza das Armas was still magnificent. The cathedral at the northern end of the square is a fine piece of baroque theatre, but uninteresting inside. One curiosity was the confessional booths running along the front of the cathedral as both the priest and confessor were exposed to the public. Very odd.
In the afternoon we took a walking tour of the old city. The tour included typical food as well as sights and history and was good value.
We didn't really do that much with our time in Arequipa. There were plenty of sights left unseen. We could probably have stayed a few more days and done a few day trips to the surrounds, but we'd run out of time. We were flying to Lima.