We were in luck. That was what we were thinking on the way back from the airport, after an employee at the Lima airport saved us several hundred dollars out of the goodness of their heart. Having landed at midday, Arequipa welcomed us in its full grandeur – several snowy crater peaks waved at us and we happily ran around looking for a ride to the hotel.
The old part of the city was calling to us through the open roof of the hotel. We didn’t waste time fumbling around and went out.
We each swallowed one of the pills against altitude sickness and climbed up the hill towards the fort walls or more precisely – toward the Santa Catalina Monastery. Arequipa stands at an altitude of 2800 m and our plan was to use it as practice for the heights to come. I don’t know if the special pills worked as we took them took them sporadically, but we didn’t have a problem. The tea of coca leaves is the salvation in these kinds of situations. It is universal cure for everything bad and stimulates everything good. We drank it in gallons, just like everybody else, tourists and locals alike. We avoided chewing raw leaves, despite the habit of our bus driver who did it for 8 hours straight while driving. But let’s go back to Arequipa and the local atmosphere.
At that altitude when the sun shines you are forced to take something off, the sunglasses are a must, but it gets bitingly cold in the shade and after dark.
The biggest landmark of the city is the Santa Catalina Monastery. We will remember it for its interesting architecture, colorful walls, huge number of tiny rooms where nuns of different ranks had lived, you can tell by the size and the “luxury” of some of the chambers.
There were also several courtyards, every of them different with its symbols and architecture. And let’s not skip the public laundry space where all the nuns used to get together to do the laundry.
Despite it being a monastery, there were places where you were tempted to get your photo taken or capture the view of the roof towards the big volcanoes.
And so, proud of having visited the monastery in time (it closes at 17:00) we strode (a little heavily because of the altitude) towards the city center, or so-called Plaza de Armas. On the way there we saw several churches (the people are very religious, they were at church at all times during the day) and several traditional buildings, turned into hotels.
The city square was flanked by a cathedral and two long buildings, containing several restaurants, the municipality and other institutions.
It was full of people. Whole families were out since it was Sunday. We took several photos, tried to blend in the crowd, but with no great success while several local politicians stubbornly convinced people of their ideals.
The sunset greeted us and discreetly urged us to leave the square and enjoy some pleasures, which only an empty stomach can appreciate.
This article was brought to you in English by Marta Petrova.
Do you like this post?
Travel together with us and get instant updates on our Facebook page.