Arequipa, the White City
Peru Part Deux!
After lunch we walk to the Museo Santuarios Andinos, where Juanita, the Ice Maiden of Ampato, is kept. Juanita was an Inca maiden, approximately 13 years old, who made the trek from Cusco to the top of the Ampato volcano (20,600 feet) with priests over 500 years ago to be sacrificed to the gods. Her body, mummified in a glacier, was discovered in 1995 by anthropologist Johan Reinhard. She was studied extensively when she was brought down from the volcano, as her body was so well-preserved that her stomach still contained the contents of her last meal! Today she is kept in a clear case in the museum, still frozen for all to see. When the neighboring volcano, Sabancaya, erupted centuries ago, the volcanic ash caused melting at the top of Ampato which exposed Juanita, causing her body to fall a short ways. The fall seriously bruised her face and eyes, giving her a particularly haunting look. While her story is fascinating and the museum well worth visiting, Andrea and I both now wish we had stopped short of viewing her actual body. It somehow seems disrespectful to view her like that. What an incomprehensible (to us) life she led: She was chosen as a young child for sacrifice due to her physical perfection. She was taken from her family to live with the other chosen children in Cusco. It was a tremendous honor to her family that she would be offered up to the gods. She knew her mission in life from a very early age, and yet willingly made the incredible trek to her death. Yet another reason I'm grateful to be a child of the 20th century!
After our visit to see Juanita, we visit the Plaza de Armas, or city square. We walk around the square a bit with the many locals out enjoying this beautiful day. We stop to take pictures of an active 17th century Jesuit church, La Compania, and then walk to the nearby cloisters where there are several shops selling alpaca woolen goods. We continue our walk to the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. It is a convent founded in 1579 which is its own stand-alone village where more than 200 nuns once lived and approximately 30 still do. It's a labyrinth of chapels, private quarters, kitchens and art galleries. We opt not to take the guided tour but instead wander through it at our own pace. I find it peaceful, serene and incredibly beautiful. The walls of the structures are painted bright blue and burnt orange, and there are pots of flowers everywhere. Because the nuns originally came from Spain, Santa Catalina looks very much like a Spanish village. And the brilliant blue, sunny sky lends itself to some gorgeous photographs.
It's about 5:30 by the time we finish at the Monastery, and we are exhausted. We walk back to the hotel, freshen up, and decide to find Zigzag for dinner. This time we do, and have a meal of Peruvian beef (MUCH better than Argentinean beef, according to our waiter!). It's served with different dipping sauces and quinoa on the side. After dinner we walk back to the hotel and turn in early. It's been a busy day!