Arequipa, Peru


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Midgets and Mummies
Sun Dec 1, 2002 5:59 pm

So yesterday we left Cusco around 7 pm and took an overnight bus to Arequipa. Not the best bus we have had on this trip, but it beat all of the Bolivian busses we had hands down -- we got served food, there was a movie that you could hear and see well, and there were functioning bathrooms on board.

Before we left though, we had the odd experience of being asked to be in some family´s photo. They were from Lima and told us they wanted a photo as a rememberance of the day. Rememberance of what, I´m not sure, since we had never even seen each other before. Hands firmly across our valuables, we posed uncomfortably between a teenage girl and boy. They didn´t go for our stuff (not that I had any money on me at the moment anyway), but I was weirded out for a good hour after that. Still can not figure out why they would want us to be in their photo. Maybe they haven´t seen a lot of gringos.

Then, to add to the strangeness, we passed by the SHORTEST man I have ever seen, dressed in a clown outfit. He was literally no higher than my knee -- maybe two feet tall -- definitely no taller than a two year old. He was mostly head, hands and feet.

We arrived in Arequipa at about 5 this morning and immediately crashed in our hotel till about 10. Then we did the two major tours in Arequipa -- the Santa Catalina convent, and the museum that houses Juanita, one of the best preserved mummies in the world.

The museum that houses Juanita is great -- you watch a short video produced by National Geographic on the discovery of Juanita and other sacrificial mummies in Peru, atop one of the mountains not far from where we are now.

The Incas only sacrificed people when a new Inca was crowned or when the empire was in crisis. It was believed that Juanita was sacrificed in a time of drought. She was forced to walk from Cusco to Arequipa and then all the way to the top of the mountain. There, she was probably given enough chicha (corn alcohol) to make her drunk, and then they bopped her on the head with a spiked mallet to kill her. She was found with all sorts of interesting and excellently preserved artifacts. She herself has all of her organs intact and her face as well is eerily well preserved.

Some links for you:

Juanita, the Frozen Mummy

Preserving a Mummy

The convent was not nearly as interesting as the other one we have already seen. The woman rushed us through everything and we did not learn very much. It was a huge complex, though, and at it´s peak, 500 people were housed there -- nuns and their maids.

Tomorrow we head off to do another trek in Colca Canyon, where we should get an up-close look at some condors.

Till later Alison and Patty

Summer to Winter and a Swollen Foot
Mon Dec 23, 2002 11:51 am

Dear loyal reader,

Thanks for sticking with us -- there are 93 of you signed up for this list, and you have stayed on the list all this time. Also, thank you to all of you who said they enjoyed reading our posts. It helped us to write when we felt too lazy to do so. :)

And now, the final chapter:

We successfully hiked the Colca Canyon, spending a day walking down, down, down to the oasis at the bottom with our guide Merco, who talked, talked, talked the whole way. All 6 hours. He was a chatterbox, and talked about anything that came into his head. Patty and I were quickly wishing for peace and silence, but at least we were practicing Spanish that day.

We spent the afternoon in the pool and then went to sleep in our bamboo bungalow. At *** 2:45 *** in the morning (no, we were not pleasant at that hour) Merco dragged us out of bed, and we headed up the canyon. We wanted to beat the sun, since it gets really hot, and we had a 7:00 am bus to catch. I had had enough of walking uphill after the Inca trail and had a mule carry me up. Poor thing seemed much too small to be carrying me. My feet nearly touched the ground when I was seated on it's back!

It took me about two hours to ride to the top, with a muleteer prodding the animal along. Didn't know I'd be renting a mule AND a man, and it was quite strange to have someone effectively pushing me along.

Patty and Merco bounded up the canyon on their own legs, making it up just behind me. Heck, I wasn't even awake enough to walk that morning -- kudos to Patty for making good time up the hill. It was a viciously steep climb.

We had breakfast in the village at the top of the canyon, and then hopped the bus to go see the condors. We managed to hop off at the right place, with the help of the locals, who nicely pounded on the drivers door and shouted for him to stop at the appropriate moment.

For all this effort, we only saw ONE stinking condor, and he wasn't even that close to us.

Back in Arequipa, we went out with a few of our friends from the Inca Trail, and saw a few free movies in a restaurant. We saw Blade II one night, and I am Sam the other.

From Arequipa it was off to Nasca to see the famous lines.

(Continued in Nasca . . .)

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