After 9 hours on a night bus from Nazca (see previous Peru post). I stepped of the bus feeling very stiff and blurry eyed desperate to get to my room and shower. The thought of spending the day walking round and exploring did not feel appealing at this point. That soon changed when I looked at the dramatic landscapes that surround this beautiful City.
A Pisco Sour before enduring the 9 hour night bus to Arequipa
As you stand in the Historical Centre of the City, it’s almost as if you are surrounded by holograms. With 3 active volcanoes looking over the city it’s a magnificent site.
As our G Adventures guide walked us around the Plaza De Armas (main square), he advised us on all the museums, such as the Contemprary Art, Museum of Arequipa & Museum of Cathedral to name a few, and other sites that we could visit to learn about the history of Arequipa.
Volcano's around the City
Seeing the sites!
I’d love to say I’m cultural and listened to his advice, but as I looked at my roomie I could tell we had the same thought… Lets drink wine and look at the views!
Plaza De Armas is perfect for this. With lots of restaurants above the square we found a beautiful roof top restaurant. Everywhere you look is breath-taking.
Our cultural afternoon!!
You really get to see the best views as El Misti rises above the Cathedral of Arequipa. With an elevation of 5,822m you can hike up El Misti. Due to acclimatisation this should take two days, so you will need camping gear.
From Arequipa it’s a 3-hour drive to the quaint town of Chivay. This was one of my favourite drives. The scenery
is nonstop. Listening to Fast Car (Tracy Chapman), Fix you (coldplay) Every Day Robots (Damon Albarn) I was mesmerised. We also had our first site of wild Vicunas. Related to Llamas they live high in the Andes.
The last view of the Volcano's on the way out of town.
Wildlife and beautiful landscapes everywhere you look.
Everyone in the group had continually talked about getting altitude sickness in Peru but I hadn’t given it much thought (ignorance is bliss). Our guide recommended Coca Leaves. They are meant to ease the headaches. You can drink them as a tea or place them in the side of your mouth and chew on them. Honestly this made me want to throw up as I tried it, so I stuck to the tea. At this point some of the group did start getting sick.
The infamous Coca leaves.
At 4901 meters above sea level, this is where the effects really kick in. Blue lips, headaches and for some vomiting. There is a pit stop at this point to buy souvenirs and have another coca tea, but at this stage most of us were having issues with upset stomachs (don’t need to go into detail) and scrambling for the toilets which were very unpleasant (think festival style and you know what I mean).
As you leave the pass and drop back down 1300 meters normality starts to return. Sadly, for some in the group this was not the case and on arrival to Chivay they were bed ridden for the next 24hrs.
Patapampa Pass. the highest point at 4901 meters above sea level.
With a combination of tourists and locals in traditional Peruvian dress this colourful town will invite you in. the main market is small but sells lots. If you are heading to the hot springs and forgot swimwear, don’t worry this market has you covered. As was my case. The swimsuit however was a bit on the large side and I looked like I had cone boobs (Think 90’s Madonna, but not sexy)!
La Calera Hot Springs
I had a picture of laying in some natural wonder, but this is not the case. It’s like walking into your local outdoor swimming pool. The plus side is it’s a lovely relaxing afternoon as you lounge round in the pools with a beer in hand.
There are some beautiful walks around Chivay and you will see pimped up scooters to transport you round.
I don’t know the name of the place that we ate but the entertainment was unforgettable. As I ate Aji De Galina, a masked man and lady performed a Malaria folk dance. They selected some of the group and lay them on the floor whilst dancing round them and dressing them up. No one had a clue what was happening, and poor Darren looked very uncomfortable as the lady dancer fanned her skirt over him, but it made for a fun evening.
The evening got funnier as me and Angie returned to our room and became a toilet tag team. There’s something in the highland air!!
An extremely early start is in order. Meeting at 6am for breakfast it appeared that we weren’t the only two having a game of tag. Most of the group had been afflicted. Thankfully we didn’t get passed the sick bug too as many of the others got hit. There were lots of sad broken faces that morning.
The Colca Canyon in the South of Peru is one of the world’s deepest. At 13,650 ft it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. You can trek through, and raft, but we took the lazy option, by road to get there.
If it’s a good day you will see condors soar above, and we had just that!
With a wingspan of up to 310 cm (10.17ft) and a lifespan of 100 years they glide effortlessly above and below. There are great spots to sit on the edge and watch, but of course tread carefully.
If you have concerns about acclimatisation there are various medications you can take, but from what I seen everyone that took these became ill. I travelled to Peru without a single thought on altitude sickness and I was absolutely fine the whole trip. Is it a case of mind over matter? Or simply the luck of the draw? I’m going with option 2.
All I can say is Just embrace everything, and don’t let something that might not affect you hinder your trip.
Next stop on my Peru adventure will be Cusco and the Sacred Valley. Stay tuned….