Peru: hard to leave

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So I should be in Bolivia, but I’m not. Peru has me in a death grip of pleasure and I’m still here. Specifically, I was planning to be in the town of Arequipa for two, three days, just enough to soak up some sun and get over my cold. That was over a week ago, and I’m not thinking of leaving yet. Arequipa is probably the most pleasant city I’ve visited on this trip. It’s exceedingly pretty with its classic colonial architecture, cobblestone streets, beautiful churches, mansions and monasteries. The weather is perfect, and the people probably the friendliest in all of Peru.

Arequipa is also the most politically active town in Peru, so the days leading up to the election were filled with impressive demonstrations full of dancers and brass bands, and wild fireworks displays. Unfortunately some of these fireworks displays were right outside my room at six in the morning, which was a rude awakening after a solid night out.

One thing I tried here was the Andean delicacy: cuy. It’s fried guinea pig, and it comes with all the bells and whistles. They take the hair off, dip it in batter, and then fry it, so you end up with a flattened, skinned guinea pig complete with its tiny claws and head. Even its eyes are still there, and apparently the bone marrow is delicious. I didn’t like it very much: it tastes like the greasy slivery parts of a chicken and it’s more bones than meat. Still, ripping off a guinea pig’s back legs is a quintessential travel experience.

I had some time to kill in-between weekends and somehow signed up for a three day trek through one of the deepest canyons in the world. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, in fact. Why in God’s name I did this, I don’t know. I’ve been hating trekking and hiking more than life itself on this trip, and the Colca Canyon hike is famous for being the hardest in all of Peru. In the end, it was awesome. I had a great group, only five people and a guide, the weather was lovely, and it’s not exactly tough when you spend a couple of hours hiking and then another few hours relaxing at an oasis at the bottom of the canyon.

The hike up was from 2,000 meters to 3,200 – a three hour walk that was a lot less strenuous than I had expected. With ample breaks, we made it up as a group and then celebrated with an Austrian tradition: gipfelschnaps, a shot of liquor enjoyed at the top of the mountain. We combined it with a Peruvian tradition: you hold the shot glass and yell “arriba, abajo, a centro y adentro” while moving the glass up, down, centered and then finally shooting it. Good times.

There’s good waves coming in this weekend so with a group of four people we’re off to the coast for two days to do some surfing. I’m thinking to go to Bolivia after that, but considering I’ve been saying that for the past week we’ll just have to see how it goes.

Here’s some pictures.

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