How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #14, April 2019: Arequipa – Plaza del Armas – Basilica Cathedral – Plaza Yanahuara – Convent of Santa Catalina
I was still day dreaming when we arrived in Arequipa, as a piece of my heart was left behind, floating in the foggy morning along the Colca Canyon.
I suddenly noticed the bustle of a big city; many buses, a tumult of people going everywhere, cars, and adds all over the places. It was the industrial area of Arequipa, and the guide told us that this specific area is used mainly by people coming from the highlands, therefore the similar outfits we’ve seen along our 2-days trip.
The morning fog is deepened hard into the valley, sticking up to the mountains, the river, and the sky. It goes far to the end of the valley, as far as one can see, enveloping the crops, the grass, the rocks. A couple of small clouds are dissipating quietly in distance, while the sun is getting ready for a new day. A sun that is indulging our presence, sending its rays to create mystery and magic. A sun that is teasing my senses, and will haunt my memories forever.
How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #12: Mirador Lagunillas – Reserva Nacional de Salinas y Aguada Blanca – Chinitos Patahuasi – Tocra swamps – Mirador de los Andes – Chivay – Yanque
Shortly after we exit the busy streets of Juliaca, we see again the landscape we got so accustomed few days before, along the Route of the Sun.
The bushes become dwindling bundles; the grass turns into thistle clusters. Hundreds of shades of brown mixed with shades of grey. When we see a green patch of land, we know a little spring or a pond is trying to give some life to these parched lands at 4,000+ m altitude. Otherwise, most land looks arid, and dreary. The barren land looks dried and frail, sad in its majesty, generous in its magnificence.
According to an Inca legend, Manco Capac -the creator of Inca Empire- and Mama Occllo emerged from the waters of Titicaca Lake carrying a golden staff instructed by the sun god Inti to create a temple in the spot where the staff sank into the earth. Another legend says that Wiracocha itself emerged from the Titicaca waters, heading to Sacred Valley to establish Inca Empire. While the legends can continue, Uros people are real. It is not certain where they came from (maybe from the Amazon), but they moved on the waters of Titicaca since they were oppressed by the local population, and not able to get some land of their own. Originally, they built these islands near the middle of the lake, but due a major storm in 1986, they rebuilt them closer to the shore.
We were so ready on the 10th day of our journey, waking up very early to be on time for the next leg of the trip. We didn’t call for a taxi, as the Plazoleta de San Blas was right at an arm length down the narrow street where we got accommodation for our 2-night stay in Cusco. A small plaza full with cars and street vendors was ready for us at that early time in the morning with a taxi, which took us in no less than 20 minutes to the Inka Express boarding location. More tourists appeared shortly in groups or pairs, and I was amazed how many people were suddenly surrounding us. Very well organized, the tour representatives took our names, handing the luggage tags, and the VIP passes. Around 7 am we were all boarded, heading to our new destination.
The bus tour Cuscoto Puno, known as Ruta del Sol/Route of the Sun, lasted about 10 hours, with 5 short stops in touristy places along the way. It might sound a long way, but the day went by pretty quickly actually.
How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #9: Museo de Arte Precolombino – Twelve angled stone – Museo Kusicancha – Qurikancha Temple – Sacsayhuaman Fortress
At a high altitude of 3400 metres, Cusco is located at the west end of Huatanay Valley. Well protected by the surrounding mountains, the conquistadores destroyed the Inca buildings, and used the strong foundations for their colonial structures. But the solid streets and pathways remain unchanged, legacy of a strong civilization. Had they cars, maybe they would have built them wider, but they will remain in the same state for many years from now, even in this century when the city expanded so much, and the traffic in many areas looks impossible. The cobbled streets will stay famous for generations to come, and even though the Spanish maybe wished to destroy a culture, they couldn’t destroy the roots of it.
How to Peru in 2 weeks – Day #8: Getting to Cusco – Iglesia de San Blas – Plaza de Armas – The Cathedral – Templo del Triunfo – The Church of the Holy Family
Happy to get on the van, finally, I was all ready to relax and admire one more time the superb landscape of Sacred Valley where the main road would take us through, from Ollantaytambo (where we had our base for 4 nights) to Cusco.
The cheapest way to get from Ollantaytambo to Cusco was to get one of the many vans that run all day between these cities for a cheap rate of 10 soles. Our luck arrived before we even got to the main plaza; one van stopped and asked us “Cusco?” Before saying “yes” we jumped in the van right away, as a policeman was making signs already to the driver to keep moving.
Shortly after our first relaxing moments I noticed that the van had crossed Urubamba River and started ascending a hill that soon looked more like a mountain. Beautiful views, however both direction and landscape didn’t look right. Hmm, have we gotten on the right bus? Yes, we specifically asked a second time after settled in our seats. Where are they going to? Are they kidnapping us? What is going on?!..
I’ve always wondered why these names got stuck in my head since my elementary school. Like Machu Picchu, Titicaca, Popocatépetl, or Vesuvius. Maybe for the way my geography teacher pronounced them, or the way they resonated in my brain? They dwelt in my head for years, feeding my imagination and desire to see what is outside of my little box, making me dream of this beautiful world. And one day, the dream became true..
After a sleepless night, and more headaches in the morning, I realized that one can’t play with the nature, and with the human nature. I was still reticent, and careful not to exert myself too much, but hopeful I could continue the trip, especially that our schedule would continue to higher altitudes.
Many people use Ollantaytambo as a stopover for their Machu Picchu adventure. But this little city is underappreciated by many, in their excitement to head to the great fortress. There are so many free activities that you can do in this small and cozy town, if you just have an extra day.