& so we settled ourselves in. Francis & I were to sit next to each other, but I couldn’t work out which seat number was window & which was aisle. So in a very British way I gave him the choice. He said he didn’t mind, then I said I didn’t mind, then I said it again… & so we continued for a bit, until it was decided Francis would have the aisle seat. I was a bit put out at this because I wanted the aisle seat… but that’s the British for you!
Ruth & Anna were sat in front, Helena (I’ve remember her name – she’s the German interior designer on her honeymoon) & Rene were sat
Behind. Off came my shoes, on went my blackout eye things, in went my ear plugs, around went my blanket, back went my seat, up came the leg rest. Ladies & gentlemen, g’night…
I lay there. & I lay there. & I lay there. No sleep came. I thought, I know, I’ll change my position & turn to the side a bit & see if that helps. However, Ruth had reclined her seat. The effect of this was to ‘lock me in’ to my laying position. I breathed through the feeling of claustrophobia I felt rising in slow panic from the pit of my stomach… “breath, breath, breath” I repeated to myself. It seemed to work. I started to drift. Then I think I must have gone off, because I was awoken by the feeling of being lurched from one side of my seat to the other.
When I next get the chance I need to look at the route we took via Google Earth. It must have been THE windiest (& I don’t mean flatulence!) road IN THE WORLD (you know what to do…). We went left, we went right, we went left, we went right… Hairpin bend after hairpin bend – it went on for hours… & hours… & hours…
I thought to myself, I’m not even going to think about the possibility of feeling travel sick here… I’m just not going to allow it into my psyche… & it was hard… but again, I overcame. I must have drifted off again because the next time I awoke the bus was stationary & I thought ‘yay, we must be here! I made it!’ – so I lifted one of my eye covers & peeked. It was pitch black on the coach, but there was a dull orange glow from outside – I guessed we must have been at a service station changing drivers or something because a few minutes later the bus pulled back on to the road. I thought to myself, shall I take a peek at the time…? I decided not to because I thought knowing my luck it would be something like 11pm & I’d be really miffed – then every time I checked after that it would only be, like, 15 minutes after… which would drive me bonkers! So I drifted off again.
Left… right… left… right… again I woke up. This time I couldn’t resist a peek at the time: 3:30am. Not as far in to the journey as I had hoped but, nevertheless, still over half way. I drifted off again. I only awoke once more before morning & that was by a heavy weight on my right side. It was Francis. I lifted up my eye cover to see & yes, there he was, in all his glory. Mouth wide open. I guess he must have been snoring but I couldn’t hear because of my ear plugs. I left him where he was – it seemed easier. I was also aware that the bus was really really hot & that the air con wasn’t on – I was wringing wet & I could feel the claustrophobia returning… breath… breath… breath… I drifted off again 🙂
Next thing I knew, I was being tapped on the forehead by something. I lifted my eye cover to see it was daylight! & that it was the stewardess tapping me on the forehead with a box containing my breakfast… strange, I thought, but I guess it’s another one of those ‘Peruvian things’ they do?!
I lifted my chair up, put away the leg rest, removed my blackout eye thing, folded away my blanket, removed my ear plugs – including the one that had somehow made it’s way round to my left nostril – & settled down ready to feast upon my, no doubt, culinary delight in a box. I felt somewhat let down by the shrivelled bread roll containing a hot dog sausage, the dry sponge cake & the boiled sweet. However, they were gratefully consumed as I was more than ready for them. The road was still very windy – which I seemed to have got used to by this point – but I guessed by the presence of the white bag under Ruth’s nose the same couldn’t be said for her.
I helpfully commented to her that if she insisted on smelling of sick for the rest of the trek we may have to hang an air freshener from her, but it didn’t seem to make any difference – & I couldn’t tell if she found it funny or not because the bag didn’t move. Oh well 😐
After breakfast the next job was a visit to the little boy’s room, so on went my shoes. I had some difficulty with this as my feet seemed to have grown several sizes over night, but eventually they went on. Whilst I’m sure the toilet would have very pleasant at the beginning of the journey, I will leave to your imagination the state it was in by the time a coach full of men had used it through the night-long shikane… all I will say is that I’m glad I put my shoes on!
At last we pulled in to Arequipa. I have to say it was a very impressive town. With a population close to 1 million it is the second highest populated city in the country. Arequipa lies in the Andes mountains at an altitude of 2380m above sea level. The volcano ‘Misti’ overlooks the city & many of the colonial-era Spanish buildings were built using sillar, a pearly White volcanic rock from which Arequipa gets the nickname ‘La Ciudad Blanca’ meaning ‘The White City’.
There are actually 3 main volcanos that surround Arequipa: Misti, which I’ve already mentioned, Chachani & PichuPichu. Volcanoes are visible from almost every place in the city.
After checking in to our hostel, we had a couple of hours in which to shower & change – & for some grab a kip – before we were going to head in to Arequipa town for a ‘looky see see’. The hostel was lovely – a real authentic Spanish influenced building with a mid courtyard, lovely quaint rooms & a killer view from the rooftop. For some reason there had been a bit of a swap round with room mates & – being British – we didn’t ask why, so I was sharing with Mike & John was to share with Francis. Ruth was to share with Angelina (previously Anneka) & later on in the day commented on how she’d forgotten how long young girls take in the bathroom – she barely made it to the 10:30am meeting time for the town excursion!
So, into the town we ventured. A long line of pale, rucksack wearing, camera bearing tourists. We blended in very well because everywhere you looked there were people who looked the same – although I’m convinced we didn’t look as ridiculous as them! Lol.
The town was absolutely beautiful. It was clean, picturesque, both modern & traditional architecture but unlike Lima it all just fitted together. There were churches, a cathedral, a monastery, historical building after historical building… the list just goes on & on. Out of all the towns we had visited so far, Mike & I both agreed this was our favourite – & one we could picture ourselves visiting again one day. After a while walking around as a group we decided to go & grab some food before having some free time for ourselves until the evening.
The restaurant we went to was a traditional Peruvian restaurant. The waiters & waitresses were all dressed in traditional Peruvian costume & the menu was… shall we say unusual at the very least. We watched open mouthed as the lady on the adjacent table had her guinea pig main course served – & it was literally a guinea pig spread eagled on a plate, with chips!
Angel (GAP guide) recommended we order a selection of dishes from the menu & then just have a bit each. The sight of the guinea pig combined with the quick read through of the menu had been sufficient for me to opt for just a salad & some fried cheese. I know what you’re thinking – but I’m telling you, don’t start. If want to eat a guinea pig, be my guest, but for me & my digestive system – no thanks!
Sadly, although on the menu, Mike’s choice of fried cow’s udder wasn’t on that day. No, really!
After lunch we each headed off in different directions.
Mike, John & myself went for a more in depth look around the town, aiming to take in one of the churches too – but not before we had popped back to the hostel for John to do his hair. While I was waiting I grabbed the opportunity of some FaceTime with my beautiful Polly Waddle (xxx). It was lovely – especially as an earlier attempt had failed. It was really strange to be looking at Polly, sitting in the lounge with her pyjamas on, with a roaring fire going, when I’d just walked in from a glorious sunshine flooded street & was sitting there in my shorts & a t-shirt! In the common area where I was sitting there was a little Peruvian girl & she walked over to see who I was talking to – she couldn’t understand how Polly had fitted inside my iPad & she kept looking behind it! She was really cute (the little girl, not Polly – although, in fairness, she can be) – & had a face covered in the chocolate ice cream she was eating. I mimicked to her that she should lick her lips – Polly said I should stop because I looked like some sort of pervert…
Anyway, Jake went round to see if Brenda was about so that John (who reappeared with freshly quiffed locks) could have FaceTime with her too, but sadly there was no answer. Turns out she was at Daphne’s watching a film – John said that’ll teach to go out enjoying herself! SO STAY IN FROM NOW ON BRENDA! YOU HEAR? 🙂
With all the excitement over, The Men from the Peru headed back in to town. Every town we have been to has a church in the main square – the Plaza Major as they are called here – & this is where we headed for our first stop. The Plaza Majors date back to when the Spanish colonised Peru & introduced religion to the people here in the form of Roman Catholism. Prior to this the people of Peru worshipped Mother Earth, as I mentioned earlier, & still do even now, but Catholism is widely accepted now as the religion of Peru.
At the heart of every Peruvian town & village a Plaza Major was built, with a church at the side. The insides of the churches are lavishly decorated with ornate multi aperture frames, every inch of which are covered in gold leaf. Within the apertures stand figurines of the saints, Mary & of Jesus. Some of the churches are very simple buildings, but others – like the one we visited in Arequipa on this afternoon – are very very impressive buildings, with many many pieces of original art on the walls. Some of the churches even have some early works of Da Vinci & of his students.
Beacuse of my stupid brain – & lack of sleep (although I don’t think 8’m doing too bad so far…) – I can’t remember the name of the church we visited, but I have put a pic or two below for you 🙂 After the church we went to visit an exhibition we had heard of telling the story of Juanita.
Juanita, the beautiful young girl of the Ampato Volcano, was discovered on the 8th September 1995 by anthropologist Dr Johan Reinhard. Ampato stands about 6380m above sea level & had been the shelter for Juanita for some 500 years. At the age of 12-14 years old she had been offered to Apu Ampato by the Inca priests as a ritual sacrificial offering. Her body would have been arranged in a very specific way at the time of the sacrifice & at the point of her death would not have been moved again. There it remained, frozen – literally – in time, until it was discovered along with 3 other children’s bodies sacrificed in similar ways. 15 years of research had led Dr Reinhard to the point of discovery & in actual fact they couldn’t find Juanita’s body on their first expedition, because the ‘grave’ was empty.
At that height it was extremely unlikely to have been removed by grave robbers. It was more likely to have been caused by an earthquake – very common in those areas. Thinking this to be the most plausible explanation, Dr Reinhard returned on a second expedition shortly after the first & rolled a large rock from the point where the body should have been. They then followed the path of the rock down the face of Ampato & there, on a flat area surface some 100m beneath they found the body of Juanita. Other than some damage to her face where she had fallen down the rock face, & the subsequent exposure to the sun, her body was perfectly preserved in every way – as were the other 3 bodies they found.
Why Juanita & the other children were sacrificed remains a mystery. But due to the ‘pause in time’ the frozen conditions gave the researchers, the bodies have provided invaluable information about the Inca people. Whilst, on the face of it, this story may seem barbaric & beyond comprehension, as our guide our guide pointed out to us, the sacrifice of innocent has always been a running theme through many many religions. In the case of my own faith, it took the sacrifice of an innocent person to take away the sin of the world – maybe the sacrifice of Juanita was because the Inca priests believed tahat it would somehow ‘free’ them of some curse or drought… who knows.
Well, now I’ve cheered you all up with this jolly tale!
All that remains to tell about the day is that we returned from town, met up again at 6:30pm, headed back in to town to a cocktail bar – where i have to say i was the only one drinking soft drinks! I felt a bit of a berk stood there with a sunrise coloured fruit juice drink with a piece of fruit in it & an umberella, but at an altitude of 2380m rising to 4910m tomorrow I’m not taking any chances with altitude sickness! Angel very kindly pointed out that i looked like a girl, but i took it… like a man 🙂
From the cocktail bar – with some now very giggly group members struggling to cope with the altitude & the fast effect it has with alcohol – we headed to the restaurant to eat. John sat on his chair & promptly broke it 😐 he really isn’t having a good time of it…!
Everyone was still pretty much bus-lagged, so after our meal it was decided to head back to the hostel for an early night. I think everyone was in bed, lights out, by 9:30pm. Another busy busy day, but another great one. Looking forward to tomorrow where we travel to Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon IN THE WORLD 🙂 – the deepest is also in Peru, but we don’t get to see that one. Next time maybe…
Signing off for now. Radio silence for a couple of days I think as we’ll have no Internet until Puno at Lake Titicaca.