Thursday, July 15, 2010

Arequipa and Arrival in Cuzco

I am now in my hostel in Cuzco after taking the overnight bus there from Arequipa.

Our free day in Arequpia was really nice.  We got to sleep in for the first time in a while, and I enjoyed a banana crepe sitting in the sun on that patio in my jammies.  I got to shave for the first time on the trip, and I was getting pretty scruffy.

We headed out to see the main two sights of in Arequipa: El Monasterio Santa Catalina and El Museo Sanctuary.  The monastery dates back to the 1500s and was the home of up to 500 nuns and their female servants.  Life as a nun wasn`t easy, as they were not allowed to have anything that would encourage vanity.  This included combs, jewelry, and mirrors.  Their conversations with others were also always being listened to, and any letters they received were screened beforehand to be sure that they weren`t communicating with a boyfriend.

The monastery was absoluately huge, and I think it was around 2 acres.  It took about an hour to take a guided tour, and afterwards it was like finding our way through a maze to get out.  Isabel bought some natural soap that the nuns make, and we had fun taking pictures in all of the different areas of the monastery.

Afterwards we saw some good prices for authentic food at a nice looking restaurant, so we checked it out.  We were surrounded by natives, and it looked like we were the only non-natives in the entire restaurant.  After we looked at the menu we realized it was an Argentinian and not a Peruvial restaurant, but we didn`t care at that point.  My grilled chicken was amazing.

Then we headed to El Museo Sanctuary, which is the home of Juanita, the Ice Princess.  Juanita was a young girl between the age of 12 and 14 who was sacrificed to appease the gods.  The Incans believed that the mountains were deities and that they had to make regular sacrifices in order to keep them happy and prevent volcanic eruptions.  Juanita was discovered in 1995 near the peak of a mountain in Arequpia, and the extreme cold weather at the top of the mountain actually left her very well preserved.  Her skin, clothing, teeth, and bones were all mostly intact when she was discovered.  They also found other children that were sacrificed, and their tombs were decorated with offerings and items to help them make the transition into the afterlife.

Unfortunately we were `t allowed to bring cameras in, but seeing the artifacts they found was really amazing.

After that, we wandered around and did some souvenieer shopping.  I got a few things and then got a delicous sandwich from a shop.  It had chicken, egg, cheese, tomato, and lettece, and it only cost me 2 bucks.

Then it was off to the bus station to get our overnight bus to Cuzco.  We went with the same company as before, so we enjoyed waving at the camera and playing bingo.  When we arrived our hostel was supposed to pick us up, but they were nowhere to be found.  We were mobbed by taxi drivers offering their services, and after waiting a bit longer we decided to just get a taxi from the mob.

It was a bit hard to find the hostel, as it turns out that in Cuzco that addresses are organized by buildings around a block.  Our address was D8, and so all of the buildings with a D at the start of the address wrapped around the same block. 

We eventually found it and are resting up now before our free day here.  I am planning on doing bungee jumping and a bungee slingshot, and Isabel wants to do shopping.  Other than that, we will be relaxing and preparing to visit Machu Picchu tomorrow.

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