Today we finally got to see the sights of Arequipa, but not before spending the morning sorting out our travel arrangements for the next few days. Marc is heading to Puno tomorrow for Lake Titicaca and a trip south through Bolivia, while I am going to be sticking to the coast and travelling down through northern Chile.
Once we had sorted everything, we stopped by all the major sites of downtown Arequipa. This saw us starting at the third Plaza Da Armas of our trip (after Lima and Cusco). Apparently the locals in Arequipa are proud of their Plaza being the best in Peru and it was probably the nicest one we have seen so far - certainly the cathedral was the most impressive we have seen. Apparently its towers were terribly damaged by a large earthquake in 2001 (locals wept in the streets), but they were restored to their former glory within three years.
We then walked up to the monastery, which is probably the most famous historical site in the city. It used to house the nuns of Arequipa who were the second daughters of families in the city. The girls were sent at a young age and never left the monastery complex for the rest of their lives. We arrived too late to justify the entry price (high by Peruvian standards), so just took some pictures and moved on.
Our next stop was ‘Munda Alpaca’ or ‘Alpaca World’ which is one of the most famous wool producers in the country. They sell wool products from the four South American camelids: llama, alpaca, vicuna and guanaco. Apparently vicuna is the softest and most prized wool in the world, and they were almost hunted to extinction as a result. Nowadays their numbers are back on the rise, though it is still by far the rarest of the four. However, the main feature of Alpaca World was not the shop but the exhibits showing how the wool is processed, including a pen full of llamas and alpacas. For a small tip (60p equivalent) we were allowed in the pen to feed grass to the animals. This resulted in a feeding frenzy, and llamas and alpacas frantically grabbing at our hands. Apparently once one gets some food the others get jealous and have to prove themselves, hence some cheeky alpaca antics. The exhibit itself was interesting, with modern examples of all the machinery used to turn the wool cut from the animals into a sweater available in the shop.
The last stop of the day was a return visit to the Plaza Da Armas where night had fallen, and celebrations for Arequipa’s anniversary were taking place. The town is something like 440 years old, and there was a stage with a choir on it set up in front of the cathedral to celebrate. We listened to the town’s anthem being sung by the choir before heading back for some dinner and a goodbye to Marc.
Photos of the day: some alpacas frantically grabbing food from my hands while I try to photograph them, stitching a traditional alpaca garment, and the cathedral at night with choir in front.