alpaca tastes yummy
But I haven´t tried guinea pig yet. Someday, I am sure it´s time will come, but right now I am content eating cute little furry things that keep my fingers warm with my new fingerless gloves, and keep my belly full.
Other food highlights have been a Turkish restaurant in Arequipa, and an unlimited supply of muesli, fruit and yoghurt with honey in the Colca Canyon. You know, the best backpackers are run on their stomachs. And of course, mine is still expanding, just in time for Christmas.
After Nazca, we got the overnight bus to Arequipa, which was quite comfortable. The journey, or at least, the bits that I was awake for, was quite picturesque, driving through the desert, and of course, Arequipa is a beautiful city. It is known for the white rock that is used in building, called silar. The whole of the city centre is constructed from this rock, and it is incredibly striking with the sun beating down on it. Perhaps the most famous attraction in Arequipa is the Santa Catalina convent, which was built by a wealthy Spaniard in the 16th century, and is a city within a city. Furthermore, along with beautiful winding alleys and courtyards with cloisters, the two main colours that the monastery are painted in are a bright cobalt blue, and gorgeous sienna-orange. It makes for a very peaceful and enjoyable couple of hours strolling through the many rooms and streets.
The architecture in Arequipa, as I mentioned, is fabulous, including the amazing churches in the Plaza de Armas, and, even better for me, the little courtyards and alleys up which you could find fantastic cafes and resturants to while away a couple of hours reading or writing. Sometimes that is the best thing about travelling - that chance just to be on your own with a book and a crepe. Aaah, bliss!
From Arequipa we went to the Colca Canyon, the second deepest canyon in the world. The first is right beside it, and I can never remember the name. I have to say though, that the Grand Canyon is more spectacular, perhaps because it is wider - the narrowness of the gorge that makes the Colca Canyon makes it rather hard to comprehend the scale. What is fabulous about the Colca is the fact that it is home to condors, and we spent a hour looking for these huge birds. I am no bird lover, but I do have to admit that they were spectacular.
Whilst in the Colca, I indulged in another bout of horse-riding, which was tons of fun. Our guide spoke no English, but he was nice enough to speak super basic Spanish, so that I could understand him, and translate for everyone else. (Yes, GCSE spanish really does have a use.) We rode up to an Incan village ruin, which was in the process of being restored by DESCO, which is a Peruvian institution, I assume aimed at protecting Peruvian heritage. I also met Scooby at the ruins, who was the most adorable little puppy dog, who was rather fond of tugging at my leg, and trying to me to play with him. Come on, it´s a puppy dog, how could I resist?
We ended up in a restaurant which did local dances along with food. Now, normally I hate that kind of thing, and I wasn´t best pleased about it, but the final dance made up for it, because it had such a bizarre story line. There was a boy and a girl, and then one of them would get sick, and fall on the floor, shaking with fever. The other one would then take a rope and whip them, and then when that didn´t cure them, they would sit on their head, acting out the sick person drinking their pee! If that isn´t the strangest dance storyline, I don´t know what is.
Right now I am in Puno, a port on Lake Titikaka. It´s quite a happening little tourist town, and in a minute I am going to get myself some cake, at one of the many restaurants along the main pedestrian drag. The tourists come to see the Floating Islands (Uros), and the other islands on the lake. I went out yesterday, and it was a pretty good trip. The floating islands were amazing - they are made from a special reed which grows in the lake, and are anchored down. If they weren´t anchored, they would be blown around in storms. The people who live there now seem to mainly be supported by tourism, which is a shame, but their lifestyle is fascinating, with everything being linked back to this reed - their land, their houses, their food. The other island that we went to we actually stayed on - Amanti. There were maybe a hundred tourists who stayed with families on the island when I was there, which was also a little weird, but it was amazing to see such a simple life - no running water, no electricity, and lots of potatoes growing in fields run by irrigation (it hardly ever rains up there). The kids in our family were fantastic - they were only 3 and 5, and were so much fun. Furthermore, there was a tar heel sticker in the courtyard of my family´s home, so I felt right at home. Some other tourist had given it to them.
Whilst we were on the island the boys played a football match against the locals, and I went for a hike up the mountain (it was more of a hill, but since the summit was 4,600m above sea level, I definitely get to call it a mountain) where at the top there were some Incan ruins. I was accompanied up the hill by three little boys playing various musical instruments, which made for an incredibly novel motivational factor. Maybe this is the key to getting up the inca trail - have my own band supporting me!
This morning we went to another island, and then home. I am absolutely exhausted now, and will sleep like a baby before catching the bus to Cusco tomorrow. I am most excited about that. It is where I have been looking forward to most in Peru.