Arequipa, Peru: The Reality of Work + Travel [Days 21 & 22]

Day 21 | Sunday, November 13, 2016

After traveling through the night on a bus, we have finally arrived in Arequipa. We were supposed to arrive at 6:30 am but as things seem to go in Peru we are about an hour late. Which honestly for a 10+ hour bus ride isn’t too bad. We fortunately paid for the premium seats so we were given a meal, had movies we could watch and seats that recline 160 degrees. We both slept most of the night but are still exhausted. After claiming our luggage we headed for the exit gate weaving our way through the ever present and very persistent row of taxi drivers wanting to know if you want a ride. Steve has ordered an Uber and we should be on our way to our Airbnb apartment in a few minutes. Unfortunately, Uber has done a recent app update and it isn’t great if you are in a city your are unfamiliar with. The app now provides you with a location to meet your driver at but when you have no idea which street is where this isn’t really helpful information, it is just confusing. After walking to the bus station exit, waiting a few minutes, noticing that the app appears to be suggesting that we meet our drive on the opposite side of the bus station, wandering back through the maze of nagging taxi drivers and attempting to find another exit near where Uber is asking us to meet our driver, realizing we can’t get out where Uber wants us to meet the driver and then noticing that our driver is headed for the exit we have left behind and that we are a several minute walk from, we finally just cancelled the Uber oder. Now completely frustrated, standing on a random street amidst a crowd of Arequipa locals rushing past us on the sidewalk going about their morning we look at each other with disgust and helplessness. Steve attempted to order another Uber but it failed several times over the course of 30 minutes. We finally hailed a taxi, negotiated a price to take us to the Airbnb apartment and were on our way. About halfway to the apartment we realized that our driver didn’t exactly know where he was going as he started stopping and asking other taxi drivers and random people out in front of their homes for directions. This is when it is good that you have pre-negotiated the fair because the taxi driver knows that there is no changing it now and the extra time is simply costing him not us. Steve attempted to tell him that he had it mapped on his phone and that it would guide him but the taxi driver didn’t understand. Finally the taxi driver figured it out and we arrived at our apartment having only spent a few extra minutes on the road. We met our hostess and got settled in our apartment. We both decided it would be a good idea to take a quick nap as we have been traveling all night.

After a couple of hours of sleep we got up, showered and changed clothes and then headed out to the Plaza de Armas. 

After about a 15 minute walk we finally entered the plaza. I actually expected to find the plaza a little quiet and minimally inhabited but it is quite the contrary. The plaza is bustling with people and they are actively setting up a stage for some sort of presentation or conference. My best guess is something to do with the church based on the logos and artwork that are displayed behind the stage.

Arequipa Cathedral Basilica by far is my most favorite church we have seen. It is has been beautifully maintained and upgraded. Great care and attention to detail has been applied in upgrading the building with modern lights and sound system. It is stunning, gleaming white sillar volcanic rock towering over the plaza. We opted not to venture in the church as Steve has shorts on this afternoon and they ask that you not enter the church in shorts, tank tops, hats or sunglasses.

After a brief tour around the plaza and surrounding area we ate some dinner and then headed to the grocery store. 

That is a wrap for day 1 in Arequipa.

Day 22 | Monday, November 14, 2016

The reality of this trip is that Steve still has to work his full time job and I am still taking on design projects as they come up. So far, it has worked out very well. We have been staying within a 10 minute walk of Steve’s company’s office in the San Isidro district of Lima. Generally speaking Monday thru Friday Steve goes into the office from 8:30 am to 5:00 pm. I stay at the apartment where we have Wi-Fi and do as I do back home: make meals, grocery shop, wash laundry, clean, and work on design projects. This trip has added one more duty to my list, that of travel agent. I also do countless hours of research, planning and booking our next adventure.

Steve has taken a few days off in the last week or so as we have toured Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu [Day 1 | Day 2] but the reality is that today he has to work. So, from our apartment in Arequipa he is working while I do some research to find a tour for us to take of the Colca Canyon. Tomorrow he will take the day off so that we can spend the whole day touring the Colca Canyon.

After a few hours of research I have found two companies that do full day tours of the Colca Canyon and have offices here in Arequipa. Since we are wanting to book a tour for the next day we figure it is best to book a tour locally instead of attempting to book a tour online.

After spending most of the day working we are venturing back to the Plaza de Armas to attempt to capture some photos of the Cathedral all lite up at night, book a tour of the Colca Canyon and eat dinner. 

While researching Colca Canyon Tours I found two resources for booking tours online: Viator and FindLocalTrips. These are great for getting an idea of what is included in typical tours and the price per person. I was thinking that the full day tour including round trip transportation from our apartment, a light breakfast and an English speaking guide would cost about 90 soles or $26 per person. We first stopped by the offices of Colonial Tours they were all busy helping other customers so we decided to head over to the offices of Oasis Palmeras Travel. We walked right in and were immediately helped. The exact same tour I had looked at online for 90 soles per person was only going to cost us 55 soles. I am not sure if this is simply because we were booking directly through the tour company or if we were booking the evening before the tour. Whatever the reason I like saving 40%. We opted to book the tour without bothering going back to Colonial Tours to compare tours. Online both tour companies were rated equally and their tours were priced identically so it didn’t seem worth the time.

After booking our tour we headed back to the plaza in hopes of capturing the Cathedral all lit up but unfortunately there is so much ambient light from the surrounding businesses, street lights and the lights in the plaza that it didn’t look nearly as impressive as we had hoped. We did tour the inside tonight and it is every bit as impressive as the outside.

After touring the the Cathedral we headed out into the alley behind the Cathedral to find a restaurant for dinner. There are several restaurants located on the alley and several have rooftop decks to eat on. We finally settled on a restaurant for dinner. Weaving our way through the three stories of the restaurant each connected with a narrow, steep set of stairs we made our way to the rooftop deck to dine. The view of the back of the Cathedral is impressive as well as the night sky above the city. I got brave tonight and ordered alpaca a la plancha (grilled alpaca) and Steve ordered his favorite Peruvian standby Lomo Saltado (stir fried sirloin with onions and tomatoes) served with rice and french fries. We both topped it off with some fresh fruit juice. I enjoyed the alpaca, it tasted quite a bit like venison (deer). 

Now it is time to head home and get to bed as we have a 3:20 am departure for the Colca Canyon tomorrow morning.

Colca Canyon Full Day Tour [55 soles per person]
Transportation – pick-up at the major intersection just outside our Airbnb apartment at 3:20 am.
English speaking Guide.
Light breakfast.

Not Included:
Lunch (15 to 30 soles per person).
Boleto Turístico del Colca [Tourist Ticket] (70 soles per person).
Entrance to hot springs in the town of Yanque [optional] (15 soles per person).

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