Ashay, Denton, Vincent, and I went out to a nice little pizza place on Friday before catching the bus to Arequipa. We met up with Anna and Kira at the school and then Ebert took us over to the bus station. On the way down we took Cruz del Sur (the most famous/prestigious/secure bus company) and had a 11 hour ride down to Arequipa. We arrived early in the morning and a bus picked us up and took us to a hostel to have breakfast and wait for our tour of Colca Canyon. We hadn’t quite finished breakfast when the bus came so we wolfed down the rest and started our two day bus tour of Colca Valley/Canyon. We drove through a reservation for los camelidos (alpacas, llamas, and vicuñas) and I bought a nice alpaca sweater. Arequipa is in volcano territory and we saw lovely rock formations as well as the volcanoes themselves. We saw herds of wild vicuñas along the rainwater ponds and also several types of local birds. We made several stops along the way to break up the four + hour drive. We drove through the crater of an old volcano and then stopped at the highest point in the trip. We had a lot of changes in altitude during this trip. We arrived in Chivay in time for lunch and stopped at the tourist buffet. It was expensive but I ate enough to make it worth it. We had alpaca meat (very tasty), little spinach balls, quinoa balls, a pasta dish with alpaca, and some other dishes I can’t remember. After that we had a little break and then most of us went to the hot springs. It was awesome, like swimming in a hot tub just a little cooler because we stayed away from where the water entered. It was 39 degrees Celsius- I feel confident that you can convert that to Fahrenheit on your own. For dinner that night we ate at a great little local place close to the main square. When we started dinner, the town didn’t have power so everything was done by candle light. The lights came back on half way through but we all liked it better without power. However, I did enjoy having power back later that night when I took a shower.
We all got up early the next morning to have a quick breakfast before starting our second (and final) day of the bus tour. We made a couple quick stops on our way to the Cruz del Condor and got to see a beautiful Colonial-era church from the inside. In that same stop there was a guy with a hawk that he placed on us in different poses for pictures (which will be posted… eventually). All of us had to get our picture taken and then we hurried back to the bus. We arrived at Cruz del Condor just before nine and were lucky to see three condors. It was the middle of nesting season, the guide explained to us, and only the adolescents were out flying. I got one picture of a condor in the distance below us and saw another up close but it caught me by surprise and I didn’t get a picture. As we came back through the canyon we stopped to look at the pre-Inca tombs and a model of the terraces made before their construction. It was very interesting to see these models since I had watched a video about them during my third week of grammer class. We came back to Chivay for lunch, to the same expensive tourist trap, but we just ordered sandwiches for a lot cheaper. After that we bought popsicles and settled in the bus for the long haul back to Arequipa. We were dropped off at the hostel that we had breakfasted in on our arrival in Arequipa and left our stuff there so we could explore the city unemcumbered before being picked up later that night to go to the bus station. We went to have some drinks before supper in a cafe on a balcony overlooking the beautiful Plaza de Armas de Arequipa- I had a juice- and then went for pizza for supper. It’s interesting how many little pizza places you see here in Peru. While everyone else went to check out the William Wallace bar, wore funny hats, and shouted “Freedooommm!!”, I played guarddog in the hostel and read some more in the book that Ashay lent me. Eventually everyone came back to the hostel and we waited there for our ride to the bus station. Our next bus was to Tacna, a trip of about 6 hours, which meant that we got to Tacna before the sun did.
That was the start of a long, long day. We got a taxi to take us across the border to Chile and only had a minor hiccup when Vincent forgot his visa and had to pay a small fine. We found out that Chile is two hours ahead of Peru between Daylight Savings Time and who knows what else so we crossed from about 5 in Peru to 7 in Chile. We landed in the bus station in Arica, Chile, I changed my dollars for pesos, and I started to get really hungry. We caught a taxi to the hostel we were staying in (two to be precise), dropped off our stuff and started walking back towards town to see what we could scrounge up for breakfast. About halfway through the walk we decided it wasn’t worth it and caught a bus into town. After that we walked around in town for about an hour trying to decide where to eat. At that point I was ready to walk into the nearest place that sold anything remotely appetizing and start chowing down. However, the rest of the group had different ideas about what qualified as “breakfast”. Also, in Chile they have a custom of not eating out for breakfast until 11 and so the good places didn’t open until then. As we walked I ate the whole mini-tube of Pringles that I brought for bus snacks and almost convined everyone to eat at the nearest place that looked like it had good clientele but we ended up completing our circle and going to one of the places we had passed over earlier. I had a cheese sandwich, some juice, and a disgusting cup of tea that reminded me why I always picked out the tea bag. We were not very impressed with Chilean manners, service, or eating habits. After that we searched for a supermarket because the plan was to spend a day drinking on the beach. While they bought rum, wine, etc. I bought some water. I should mention that we all had our swimsuits on under our clothes because the original plan was to find some breakfast along the beach and then go swimming. After the alcohol was purchased we started walking back towards the beach. Some of us were in favor of taking a bus back but didn’t know how to find the right one. I pointed out that once we were out of town they all went to the same place- the touristy beach. Once we were out of town we just kept walking until we found the beach we were looking for. We went for the unwalled section and found out why the beach was walled in- the shore was actually very rocky and they wanted to keep the sand on the beach. Since it was walled, the waves weren’t anything to speak of but after the sun came out the water felt very nice. I stayed in the water the most but still managed to get a terrible burn, which showed its full extent the following day. We were all burnt to a crisp. The next week everyone at school knew who had gone on the trip because we were so burnt. We came back to the hostel to wash off and then watched the sun set at 8 (not at 6 like in Peru!) and went for dinner at the restaurant by the beach. After that, we laid our burned bodies and let ourselves get some rest.
Denton and I decided to come back early and not spend all week in Chile because of some money issues. We came back on Tuesday with the rest of the group.
We slept in until about 9, packed, and got taxis to the bus station. From there we got taxis across the border to Tacna, reversing our trip to Chile. While I was going through immigration, I told the official that I wanted to be in Peru for three months (the maximum allowance for a tourist visa) and for no apparent reason he gave me six months! I was really pleased with this development but I still have to check if I have to make another trip out of the country at some point to complete my stay. When we had just gotten through border control, they had a tsunami drill. This meant that everyone had to get out of the building and pretend to walk through the sand to the safe point. They also had a mock fire rescue from the roof of one of the buildings. We had recieved advance notice in Arica about the tsunami drill but didn’t know what time it would be. Eventually we got to Tacna and bought the bus tickets back home to Cusco. We had a great brunch there of lomo saltado and some pineapple juice. The bus was very relaxing, practically a straight shot up the coast, and I was able to read my book in between glances at the movie. We stopped in Arequipa and had an interesting time finding the correct bus station but we had a great supper of spaghetti with chicken in the second (wrong) station we were in. We arrived in the third (correct) station just in time to use the bathroom and load the bus. In all of the busses I rode on this trip I made sure to have the window seat because I’ve found that I don’t need to get up as much as my friends on long trips. We arrived in Cusco at six in the morning on Wednesday and I came home in time to eat breakfast and go back to sleep since sunburn, bus seats, and sleep mix about as well as oil and water- which is to say not at all.
All told, this was a great trip and I learned a very valuable lesson: Always wear sunscreen!