Epic Journey. Part 9. Arequipa, Peru

4/26  Arequipa

***Warning:  This post gets real.  Contains lots of references to poop***

The over-night bus to Arica, and border crossing back into Peru via Tacna all went smooth.  At the bus station in Arica is was relatively easy to find secure colectivo taxis in the “International Lot” adjacent to the main station.  I was whisked across the border in a cadillac with four other people.  Our driver was oddly chipper for this ungodly hour, and somehow his friendly conversation didn’t drive me nuts even though I hadn’t had any coffee.  He took care of all dealings with border guards and paper work.  For $5 total all we had to do was stand where he told us, fill out papers he gave us, and physically walk across the border.  

Once in Tacna is was easy to get a bus immediately to Arequipa.  They seemed to have one everyhour or so, and I walked into the bus station at 6:25 AM (you loose an hour coming across the border), and was sitting on a bus to Arequipa by 6:30.

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bus to arequipa view

***

I think we got to the bus station in Arequipa around noon and by the time I checked in and dropped my pack I was STARVING.  I chose Casa de Melgar for my hotel.  It was the “Writer’s Choice” in Lonely Planet, and I was in the mood for a nice, colonial home base here in the White City.

It did not disappoint.  Casa de Melgar is a beautiful stone labyrinth with unique rooms and courtyards hidden throughout.  Stay there.  It was a bit more expensive than I should be spending ($70) but fuck it.  Cozy like a vacation house for a royal.  Hot water, good breakfast, nice staff.  If I moved to Arequipa I’d live here.  

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casa de melgar room

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one of the courtyards

***

For lunch I figured I was close enough to the sea to start eating ceviche again.  This place Fory Fay was all the rage, and around the corner.  It felt nice and the staff was very patient with my sleep deprived and starving (aka shitty) spanish.  There were gringos and local couples alike enjoying lunch, and I was happy with the choice.  I ended up getting the ceviche de pescado con erizo.  “Erizo” means sea urchin, and after learning what it meant my mouth said “si por favor!” before my stomach had a chance to say “…I don’t know about that…”.  Never seen that in ceviche before.  

It was perfect though.  My how I missed ceviche over the last few weeks!  Big chunks of fish, the urchin a salty taste enhancer to every bite.  It came with a SUPER HOT red pepper the mesera was happy to replenish (as this gringo punished himself with unholy doses), and when the slices of sweet potato in my bowl ran out, she quickly added more.  I left full, satisfied, and ready for bed at about 4PM.  I may be too old for over night buses. 

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fory fay ceviche pescado

***

Tonight I wasn’t feeling quite right, and still full as hell (hashtag #foreshadowing).  Grabbed some bread and serrano ham from the grocery store on the Plaza de Armas, and hightailed by to my room.  Too bloated to even attempt a nightlife exploration.  I forced ham sandwiches into my face and used the internet to get my last couple day’s affaires in order.

***

4/27 Bad times in Arequipa

Woke up earlier than I wanted to this morning.  Part of the whole point of this fancy hotel was relax, sleep in, and do the whole vacation thing.  But thanks to a gaggle of french tourists and their screaming/banging devil children, I was up at 6AM.  I was sure to give them all some serious stink-eye retribution as I walked out to have my brekkie next to them in the courtyard.  Control your fucking kids or don’t bring them around other humans people!

As I started to eat my eggs and bread, I began to realize something wasn’t quite right with my stomach.  Even though I’d barely had dinner, I felt super full and bloated.  I started getting stabbing cramps, and laid back down in my room for a bit.  I’ve only gotten food poisoning once before in my life (from a salad I made for myself in Austin), and this was scarily similar.  Soon enough, hot-lava diarrhea came a-calling.  I won’t go into detail but it was like a shock and awe campaign.  If it was food poisoning the likely culprit would’ve been the ceviche, but the late symptoms were suspicious.  Usually I think it hits you with 8 hours.  Plus it was flowing out the wrong end (sorry).  With dehydration, exhaustion from travel, and crappy beer as potential causes, I’m hesitant to blame peruvian sea urchin…to an extent.

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why can’t i stop shitting myself

Thanks to my condition, I couldn’t safely leave my hotel room for longer than one hour intervals.  After a couple bobs and weaves to pharmacies, coffee shop, the essentials I decided to go big.  I made it to the Museo Santuarios Andinos to see Juanita, the Ice Maiden of Ampato.  She’s a mummy found above Arequipa after some volcanic activity melted ice caps.  One of many young-child mummies found in the area that are thought to be sacrifices to the Inca gods.   After I had already paid, I learned that Juanita was away for study, and almost used my new found powers of molten shit stream on the dudes desk.  Thankfully I held off and ended up learning a lot from the brief movie/tour.  

There was a different mummy in the cryogenic display that usual houses Juanita.  I have to say, I found myself uncomfortable.  Even the photos of Juanita that hung in the small museum seemed wrong when one remembers that this is/was a human being.  Whether you believe in the spirit continuing on to one place or another after death, or hold the atheist card its undeniable that the mass in the refrigerated chamber was not more than bone, flesh and a poncho in the fetal position.  That said, I just felt wrong gawking at her.  

Sadly no pictures allowed but heres a link.

***

The best part of the museum tour was that is was exactly an hour long, giving me time to fast walk it back to my room/toilet to take care of business.  I got brave and walked out to the adjacent suburb, Yañahuara.  There was supposed to a be a mirador there to get a good view of Arequipa and El Misti; the imposing volcano (active!) looming over the city.  The idea was to get there by sunset and get some wide shots at golden-hour.  I got there a bit earlier than sunset so didn’t quite get the light I was looking for, but couldn’t risk sticking around too long. The neighborhood was cute, with lots of good looking restaurants, but I was a slave to my bowels at this point.  I took a few snaps as I hustled back to my hotel. 

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el misti over arequipa

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el misti looming

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streets at dusk

“Why always going back to your hotel?” you might ask. ” Why not handle it at a restaurant or something?”. Well it was partially out of respect for the city.  The phrase “blowing up the bathroom” doesn’t do it justice.  Plus I’ve found in my travels that men’s crapping facilities can be hit or miss, and in my particular case I wanted to know I was well stocked and comfortable when it all goes down.  

***

That night I went to Ary Quepay for dinner.  Its in all the guide books, and was the closest place to me with traditional arequipeña food.  I was hurting, and had no appetite.  I sat down and flipped through the menu of all this stuff I wanted to try; rocota rellena, chupe de camorones, papas ocopa!  But my shitty stomach wasn’t feeling any of it.  In the end I stubbornly ordered alpaca in the house sauce; at this point alpaca was comfort food and I hoped “house sauce” was some arequipeña specialty.  It was fine I guess, but I was in rough shape.  Have to review Ary Quepay next time.  

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I was in bed by 8:30, wondering if they sold Depends in in Peru.  

***

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