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32 - PERU

Arequipa  -  18/08/04 - 24/08/04

El Misti Volcano

Arequipa is a beautiful city. All the main buildings are constructed with white volcanic stone, which has an amazing effect against the very blue sky. The plaza is elegant and shady, balcony restaurants the perfect place to lurk.

There were a few things we wanted to see but it was my birthday weekend so we mostly just relaxed. This area of Peru is where they found the frozen Inca mummies a few years back. High on top of the volcanoes over looking Arequipa.

We had seen the National Geographic program about it and they have a museum here with the best preserved mummy. A girl about 12 years of age who has been named Juanita.

The museum was freezing, which I suppose is only right but a bit sad as we'd been walking round in the sun feeling happy to be warm. It was fascinating though, everything was so well preserved. Shoes, cloaks, bags, tiny bronze Llamas, silver pins. All frozen for 500 years. And right at the end sitting in a frozen cabinet, knees up to her chest, Juanita. Wrapped in shawls, with her hair braided, sacrificed to the mountain gods.

Plaza de Armas

Santa Catalina Cathedral

Inside the convent

Inca children were chosen at birth to be sacrificed. They were taken high up the volcano, probably suffering from altitude and cold, drugged and then hit on the back of the head. Terrifying, but just the way it was. Good excuse for the Spanish to kill them all!!

Sunny courtyard

The Cathedral in Arequipa is as usual, huge but unusually friendly. Instead of dark and foreboding with gruesome pictures looking down on you it's light and happy, magnolia walls and my favorite Virgin Mary ever, in a groovy pink frock.

Also happy and peaceful is the Santa Catalina Convent. It takes up a whole block of the city and is a little town itself. It has streets and courtyards, gardens and of course it's own church.

All the walls are painted terracotta orange and deep blue. With the sunshine the orange trees, geraniums and cobbled twisting streets it seems idyllic. We then found the Novice area, it's cold and white and all the scary pictures are back.....weird.

There are lots of strange things going on. Little staircases everywhere that lead nowhere. Tiny courtyards, just big enough for two chairs and a pot plant. Think the nuns must have invited each other round for tea. Kitchens everywhere.

Plaza & Cathedral

They made the communion wafers here and all the presses are out on display, some are massive, the size of plates. And they had a swimming pool......well a communal bath house, but it's huge. The nuns now live in a modern building in the grounds so we tourists can wander around.

Arequipa was a good place to have my birthday, nice restaurants, shops, sunshine and fabulous chocolate.




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