Having survived our trip to 12,000ft above sea level, we had a full day in Arequipa to relax and do a bit of shopping.
Our new travel pal, Dave, wanted to get an additional battery for his phone, so we set off into the markets of Arequipa.
Being the second largest city in Peru (although only a 10th of a size of Lima) Arequipa does boast several modern shopping malls, however it was the downtown markets we were interested in.
Just to the east of the main square, Plaza de Armas, small shop fronts crowd the tiny streets selling everything you could possibly need. The streets seem to be organized by wares; there was a block dedicated to shoes, one to pots and pans, another to electronics which is what we were in the market for. Through our broken Spanish and a little bit of help from Google Translate, Dave managed to obtain a extra battery, an external charger and an additional 8GB of memory for the bargain price of $17.00! He also picked up 4 bootleg Blu-Ray movies, some of which aren’t even out yet, for about $3.00. All in all, an impressive amount of loot.
Feeling a bit peckish, we ducked into the central food market, where barrels of spices, pasta and rice were lining the narrow aisles. Everything was fairly normal until we reached the butcher aisle…and then things took a turn to the weird.. Piles of stingrays slopped about on tables, mountains of internal organs from various animals were proudly displayed. The grossest thing, apart from the smell, were the llama heads. No matter our reaction to them, they sported some serious grins. We rolled the dice, and ate at a local stall on the second floor. We stuck with a dish we knew, Lomo Saltado, which is essentially a meat stir fry, mixed with fat fries and a pile of rice. Absolutely delicious for $1.50 a pop and so far, no after effects.
As we wound our way back to the main square, we ducked into a toy shop. Needless to say, everyone is getting knock off Star Wars toys for Christmas this year.
By now, we were lagging a bit and need some caffeine fortification. We found a promising Social Club on the main square and settled in for some Cafe Americanos and a lovely view of Peru’s biggest cathedral.
We had a very early start the next morning, 5:30am roll call for our next Peru Hop journey, so we had an early night on our hostel’s 4th floor terrace and watched the sun set over the Monastery. Around 7pm, bell ringers climbed the monastery tower and the bells rung out for about 10 minutes. It was a lovely way to wrap up our visit in Arequipa.
5:30 am came bright and early and we boarded the Peru Hop bus to Juliaca, where a few of us would disembark and catch a local bus to Puno, which sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca (snicker snicker). We were climbing up to an altitude of about 13,000ft, so I loaded up on Aleve, splashed a lot of Agua de Florida on my head and tried to get some sleep. About 5 hours later we were pushed off the comfort of our bus to the barren, sun-blasted streets of Juliaca while the rest of our companions were shuttled off to Cusco.
Having been taken care of very well up until this point, it was a bit of a shock to the system to find ourselves stranded in a strange town, surrounded by our luggage. Taxis were hard to come by, so we stayed in a tight protective group until we could all be transported to the bus station. A transportation option in Peru is colectivos, essentially 12 passenger vans that wait for enough people to go from point A to point B. Our taxi dropped us off at the departure point, which was devoid of signs explaining the process and some of the most nightmarish bathrooms to date. Not really knowing what to do, we joined a line of about 50 natives and hoped for the best. About 20 minutes later, we crammed ourselves into a minivan, backpacks in our lap, and drove for about an hour to the lakeside port of Puno.
Puno sits on the shores of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest commercially navigable lake. Lake Titicaca is huge…it’s bigger than Costa Rica. At first glance, Puno is quite a broken down, unorganized town…but once we got our bearings we settled in quite comfortably.
We arrived during the Our Lady of Mercy festival which prominently featured a seemingly endless supply of dancers dressed in extravagant costumes backed by a brass band. These guys started at 11:00 am. They wrapped up the party at midnight. An endless loop of dancers performing the same steps to the same song. Not to say it wasn’t fascinating for about 2 hours.
The next day, we wandered down to the lake where we checked out the tour options for visiting some of the islands on the lake. We settled on a 2 day/1 night stay that covers three islands…more on that in the next post.
It’s coming up on election time in Peru and every surface is covered with candidate advertising. These range from posters, huge painted murals on every house and fence and loud parades, the candidate’s message usually blasted from loud speakers in the back of a pickup truck. We caught one of these today in the main square.
After we loaded up on snacks, gifts for the locals on the islands and plenty of water at the local Peruvian version of Wal Mart, we headed back to the hostel to kill a couple of beers and whittle down our luggage for our trip tomorrow. Our hostel, by the way, has some seriously awesome art. Tomorrow night, we will be staying in a indigenous family’s house, reported to be very cold, so we will be pulling out our glow worm sacks and silk underpants. There is a huge possibility for humorous selfies.
See you on the other side!