After the exhaustion of Machu Picchu, we took a late train back to our hotel in Cusco, arriving around midnight and then getting up early the next morning to say goodbye to the O’Neal section of the family as they began their trip back to the States. We wandered around Cusco for the day, shopping, drinking coffee, and relaxing and then got on a night bus to Arequipa, a city in the south of Peru.
First on the list of things to do in Arequipa was to sleep for practically an entire day.
After sleeping most of the night on the bus, my body still didn’t quite feel done. We ventured out for breakfast and a glance at an alpaca textile factory, then headed back to the hotel where I promptly fell asleep for most of the afternoon. It felt like a bit of a waste, but apparently I needed it and it helped me to be much more energized for the next few days.
Arequipa is known for a few major things: their large number of colonial buildings made of white stone, several big alpaca textile factories, and the Santa Catalina convent. It also happens to be a good jumping off point for reaching Colca Canyon and its resident condor population. We managed to hit all these things in the few days were were there as well as refill my very empty stomach with some amazing Peruvian food.
We visited two different textile factories while in Arequipa. One was more of a store, but had a variety of cameloids living in corals outside. The other had a whole museum about the history of cameloids in Peru and how the wool is processed. This woman was demonstrating the sorting process. That’s a lot of alpaca fur!
We had been hearing about Chupe de Camarones ever since arriving in Peru and with a recommendation from the owner of our hotel we headed out to find some. The restaurant was hidden on a side alley, but was absolutely packed (two stories high, huge and barely an empty table in sight). Alex and I decided to split the Chupe de Camarones. Good thing since these bowls are each a half of a serving!
Wandering around the convent was quite the extensive activity. We walked past it for several days and finally went in on our last day in town. It is technically still a working convent, but the nuns live in a newer part and then tourists can pay to go through the older part of the convent.
It is old and beautiful, filled with bright colors, interesting plants, great views, and lots of history.
When it first opened the convent housed wealthy Spanish girls whose parents would pay a dowry for them to live at the convent. When they were old enough they had their own apartment with several servants who took care of them. Each apartment had a bedroom and a kitchen and was run like an individual household.
The residents of the convent would throw socialite type parties, hosting musicians and inviting the public.
Eventually the bishop decided this was a big no-no and the convent was cracked down on.
One of the most interesting things about this was that it was barely mentioned anywhere in the convent. I read about it in the guidebook before going in and then was pretty boggled that while this seems to be a major part of the convent’s history, it is entirely glazed over in the historical information posted around the area. Hmmmm