Arequipa, the final stop of the journey. The ride to Arequipa was supposed to be about 11 hours, but ended up being 17. Maren and I are getting better at the Peruvian way of “going with the flow”. The bus got stopped in the middle of the snowy mountains due to a truck crash. Though the delay was not ideal, I got to experience another aspect of the vast climates of Peru. When we got to Arequipa it was hot and sunny, so we quickly took of our layers of jackets and headed to the hostel called Home sweet Home. After unloading our bags, we headed to a delicious vegetarian menu for 6 soles. The place called Laksvishimi (or something like that) gave us salad, soup, a huge second plate, a drink and desert all for 6 soles. We ended up there for dinner as well. After a confusing day of trying to figure out a trek, we decided no more tours. We would do our own trek. Maren and I booked a ticket to Chivay for 6am the next morning and then headed to bed.
Chivay ended up being a really cute mountain town three hours up from Arequipa. We took the 45 minute walk to the hot springs where we ran into Eric from our Jungle Trek. It’s funny how everyone is really doing the same loop. The hot springs were nice but really crowded because of the Fiestas Patrias (Peruvian Independence day). The weather was even more summery than Arequipa. I got to wear shorts and tank top. The funniest part of the day was when I tried to buy knit legging for the night time cold. I tried to buy women’s leggings but because they were made for Peruvian women they were much too short for me. After about ten minutes I finally convinced the woman that I really DID want the men’s size despite the frontal flap.
The following day we hiked to a town over called Yanque. The walk was along a mountain road and the only people in sight were farmers working in the terraces. The walk was about 4-5 hours and then we had lunch in the small charming town. The 5 sole menu was very tasty and we spoke with the woman using her hands and feet to grind the wheat used for soup. The locals helped direct us to the hot springs, which were about another twenty minute walk. There was the choice between the public springs (which was more like a swimming pool) and then the one down further in the canyon. The one in the canyon was run by a lone local woman; who surprisingly enough did not let locals in her pool. The pool was incredible. It was all natural and made out of the mountain stones. The water was heated by a bubbling volcano spring. The view was incredible with the river running one side and the mountains on the other. And the coolest thing.. it was just Maren and I alone in this paradise.
The day ended with a tasting of typical Arequipa foods. We ate Ocopa which is this delicious creamy sauce consisting of peanuts, milk, cheese, chili, and vegetable oil among other things. The sauce is eaten over sliced potatoes and has a flavor unlike anything I have tasted. The second course consisted of Rocoto Rellena (which is a special stuffed chili pepper) and la pastel de papa (which reminded me of potatoes au gratin). The pepper was good, very meaty, so not exactly up my alley. I was also surprised and that I did not start tearing from eating a chili pepper. I later found out that they add certain ingredients to the mix the tame the spiciness of the pepper.
Overall, a lovely excursion, wonderful weather, good food, beautiful scenery, and a 2 hour dip in paradise!