We arrived in Arequipa very early, around 7am. We took a taxi from the bus terminal to the city center, and I left Ewelina with the bags on a bench outside a beautiful old Franciscan church.
My walk to find a hotel was one of the nicest I've had on our trip so far. This early in the morning, everything was quiet, it was comfortably cool and the light made everything very pretty - a bit like it does in Iceland where the sun is so often low in the sky. We are rarely up and about early enough to enjoy that here.
Arequipa's center is old and the area I found myself exploring had winding, narrow streets which clearly predated cars by a few centuries. Most of the hotels and hostels were still closed at this hour, but eventually I found one, Solar de Macarena, which offered us a beautiful room on the second floor with windows overlooking a relatively quiet street, our own bathroom, access to a kitchen, wifi, breakfast, a comfy patio with tables and parasols and chairs, and a pizzeria on the 1st floor. 60 soles, we were checked in by 9am.
That morning set the tune for our stay in Arequipa - the climate was comfy, the city was beautiful and we had a great place to stay where we could cook, be nerdy and relax. We played pool and visited the excellent restaurants and bars made possible by mass tourism.
The beaten track has its perks.
One of our main touristic excursion was a visit to the amazing old convent Santa Catalina, which covers an entire city block, a villiage within a city, where rich 2nd daughters lived a religious, illiterate life of luxury - most of the "cells" we visited were bigger than my apartment and included servants' quarters. Apparently horses were only banned after one of the nuns demanded one from her family and caused too many accidents riding it. Not really the kind of place that springs to mind when you think about nuns...
Another excursion was a visit to the museum Santury, where we had a guided tour telling us the story of, and finally showing us in person, a mummified Inca girl. Inca priests sacrificed her to the forces of nature, modern scientists brought her back to civilization and named her Juanita. She was found, still frozen, on top of a nearby volcano mere weeks after a neighboring mountain's eruption melted her icy grave, causing her 500 year old body to slide down the slopes of a crater. Fascinating stuff.
In Arequipa Ewelina and I also visited travel agencies and debated how and when to book the Inca Trail, and whether to go on a trip to the gigantic nearby canyons. In the end we didn't book anything, skipped the canyons, and hurried onto a night-bus to Cusco to make sure we would, for a sane price, get a place on the Inca trail in time to return to civilization for Christmas.