After registering at the Hotel Meliana, we dropped our laundry off at the Fairy Laundry and began our tour of Arequipa. First we traveled to the very large local market in the center of the town. This is where our guide came in handy, as we realized that we were the only tourists there. The market was a bewildering array of vegetables, fruits, natural remedies, fish, chicken and other exotic things that we didn’t recognize. We had a lot of fun wandering through it, and catching the excitement of mingling with the natives. There we saw many of the 2890 types of potato varieties that are grown in Peru. We sampled fresh fruits such as chirimoya, granadilla and tumbo. After the market, it was church time, and we toured the magnificent Cathedral located next to the beautiful Arequipa Plaza de Armas. A Mass was being presented in the Cathedral, and our guide chastised a local woman for begging while it was going on. As we walked along the streets and admired the magnificent buildings, our guide pointed out sillar, the sparkling white volcanic stone used in constructing churches and other buildings throughout Arequipa. At La Compañia Jesuit Church, we admired the ornate façade and beautiful wooden door. The effects that the indigenous natives had on the Catholic religion were obvious.
As we observed the city traffic, we were amazed to see that very little attention was paid to lanes, stoplights, stop signs or other general rules of the road. However, there appeared to be a high level of necessary cooperation between drivers. Even though there appeared to be a great deal of horn honking, almost all of it was very purposeful, and needed to warn other drivers. We then got the chance to do some serious shopping and Karen finally got her chance to acquire some alpaca sweaters, at the Alpaca Camargo store. She was skillfully guided by our guide, who told us that there was a big difference between baby alpaca and "maybe" alpaca. Fortunately, he helped her acquire the real thing. We next traveled to a high overlook, where we viewed the three volcanoes; Chachani, Misti, and Pichu Pichu that surround Arequipa, and had a beautiful view of the valley with the Rio Chili flowing below. At the overlook, we strolled through a beautiful garden and ate passion fruit straight off the tree. Carlos informed us that there are tremblers almost every day from the volcanoes, which makes the Arequpños feel much safer, because the earth is releasing energy instead of building it. After visiting Yamahuara, yet another indigenous influenced church, we were beginning to realize that Carlos really wanted to teach us that the indigenous people influenced the Spaniards much more than is generally accepted. At this point, we were asking ourselves: “Who assimilated who?”
We ate a late lunch at the Sol de Mayo, another restaurant that caters mostly to locals. There, Karen turned down the Cuy, (roasted guinea pig) when she realized that it would be served with the head and feet still attached. However, we still kept telling our selves that we were really fortunate to be getting the "non-tourist" type of experiences.
Our last tour was the famous Santa Catalina Monastery, where we were briskly guided through the sprawling convent by a business-like 4' 6" nun. The monastery was very interesting, but unfortunately it has been converted to a money-making tourist trap complete with bars, gift shops and all the methods of extracting money from unwary tourists. It was very interesting, but our nun guide was more interested in getting us swiftly through and collecting her tip than she was in presenting the Monastery. Overall, it was one of the more negative experiences of the trip. We ended the day by visiting La Chocolateria and sampling bitter Peruvian chocolate for the first time. What a treat! We then drove to the Fairy Laundry and picked up our laundry. That night we took it easy in preparation for the high-altitude adventures that awaited us.