Peru - Arequipa
I. Love. Peru.
What a wonderful treat it was to get to celebrate my 40th birthday in this incredible country! I decided to break up the experience into a few different blog posts to spread out the fun.
First, after a quick overnight in Lima, we headed to the gorgeous town of Arequipa. Hilly and quaint, it's architecture made me smile from ear to ear.
Our hotel was the Casa Andina Private Collection; the building began its life in 1794. Beautiful, barrel vaulted ceilings and stone walkways welcomed us. The food was delicious and when we had dinner in the private restaurant it was probably one of the best meals of the trip.
The little shops in this town made me smile. I love seeing the souvenirs and offerings in different areas. It's interesting to me to see what locals feel is important enough to translate to product to sell to travelers.
One day we walked to Mundo Alpaca (Alpaca World!) - a museum/experience center where we got to spend about 20 minutes feeding the sweetest mini-herd of alpaca ever.
We learned about how they sort the fibers (it's one woman and a HUGE pile of fluff that she sorts by hand according to color, texture, etc.) and how the fibers are processed. There's also a museum of sorts showing older processing equipment... and a kind of "live experience" area where a couple master weavers demonstrate the craft of backstrap weaving.
I could watch these magic hands for hours. It's enchanting witnessing the lift..skip..skip...lift...lift...lift...skip of counting hands as they work through one pick of weaving. No charts...no notes - just tradition, experience, practice, and time.
We also might have gone to the Michell (yarn shop) store while there, and I might have purchased some alpaca yarn... just a skein or two ;)
Another adventure was the tour of the Monestary de Santa Catalina. Founded in the 16th century, it's really a city within a city. Chuck and I toured the grounds and learned about the nuns... where they slept, how they lived. The property has been restored because of tourism. (The monestary is still active, but the nuns live/practice in an area separate from the toured section.)
I ran out of space on my camera in this place. Everywhere we turned was another gorgeous photo waiting to be captured. After a while, I just allowed myself to enjoy the experience and it was really overwhelming how beautiful and peaceful the place was.
One of my favorite stories in the Monastery was about Sister Ana de los Angeles Montegudo (the most famous nun from there) who lived and died in the 1600s. She is known for causing miracles and making predictions. She slept on a bed of nails (in the photo below) and the painting above her bed was done of her after her death (a common practice for nuns in the monastery). Read more about her here.
Outside of those walls, we encountered lots of local children and women carrying adorable little lambs. How could I resist!! - I posed with this lamb and its owners and learned that this sweet little baby is only 2 weeks old. They bring the lambs out for photography and bring a different one each day.
We also visited Juanita the Ice Maiden (no photos, but you can learn about here here) - She was a sacrifice left on top of a mountain somewhere around 1450-1480, and her quickly frozen mummy was discovered in 1995. It was interesting to tour the small museum and see the artifacts, as well as to learn more about the rituals surrounding her sacrifice. The most interesting fact I learned was that she walked for miles and miles, dressed beautifully, and seemingly went willingly to her death.
Heading out of Arequipa, here's a quick night shot of part of the cathedral on the square. I loved this city and didn't want to leave. It had so much charm and was really interesting. If I had gone home after these few days, I would have believed that the trip was worth it.
Little did I know what fun was lurking at the next destination!
...to be continued! :)