At the end of yet another uncomfortable and freezing overnight bus journey, being flung around with every bend in the road, lay the city of Arequipa – Peru’s second most important after Lima. Nestling in the shadow of El Misti volcano, much of the old town is built from white volcanic ash rock and glistens in the sunlight.
Definitely my favourite place in Peru so far. The colonial buildings are beautiful and the arches surrounding the square have earned it it’s nickname of ‘the Rome of Peru’.
Fredy took us on a quick orientation tour and we stopped in the market for a fresh juice while gawping at the various bits of offal and sheeps heads for sale. Juice stands are on every corner in Peru and Ecuador, sometimes 10 in a row vying for your custom.
Stef and I had a 4 course vegetarian set lunch for 6 soles (£1.50!) in a lovely little local restaurant before heading to see Arequipa’s most famous resident: Juanita the “Ice Maiden”. Discovered on a nearby volcano in 1995, Juanita was an Incan sacrifice to the gods in roughly 1440. As only the most beautiful children were offered to the gods it was a great honour to be chosen and therefore supposedly she didn’t mind walking to 3800m, being drugged and then smacked round the head.
Due to her body being instantly frozen in the climate she was immaculately preserved when discovered, with only slight discolouration to her face where an eruption had dislodged the body and exposed her skin to the sun just before she was found. Fully clothed, organs in place, stomach still containing her last meal and tiny hands clutching more offerings. 14 years old and only 148cm tall anyway, Juanita is now even smaller as her foetal position has been compressed over time.
On show on a dimly lit block of ice, she was the centrepiece of the fittingly freezing museum!
I spent the afternoon wandering the city with my camera, and had that decent coffee I’d been craving since Nazca. Our hostel here is lovely: big airy rooms, and tea on tap!
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