Carnaval in the shadow of volcanoes
Trip Start Jun 27, 2007
22Trip End Sep 14, 2007
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I woke up after a quiet night in the hostel and decided to try and make it as far as I could towards Lima in one day. There are of course direct buses from La Paz to Lima, but like flights, if you travel over an international border down here, you pay in dollars, and through the nose. So I took a taxi up to the cemetery area of La Paz from where the minibuses leave to the border. Rather than keep to a schedule however, they only leave when they are full, and so after waiting over an hour for the bus to leave we finally started ascending up on to the altiplano and towards Lake Titicaca. I arrived at the border and fought off the aggressive rickshaw drivers who tried to snatch my bag from the bus and take it the 200 metres to the border control.
Finally I was in Peru after a fantastic 3 weeks in Bolivia. I took the next minibus to the city of Puno - a dump where I had no intention of staying if I could possibly avoid it. However time was marching on, it was beginning to get dark, and the bus was still stationary, waiting to fill up despite the driver insisting it would leave "any moment now". I arrived at Puno after a three hour trip along the shores of Lake Titicaca, and immediately went in search of an overnight bus to Lima. Unfortunately there were none left but there were departures to Arequipa, a beautiful city I had visited two years before and which was on the way to Lima. I wearily climbed on board and dozed for the 5 hour journey arriving at 3 am. I found a hostel and went straight to bed.
Arequipa is one of South America's real gems. A large city with a small colonial Unesco world heritage centre, and with some of the most spectacular scenery in Peru in the surrounding area such as the world's two deepest canyons, and many volcanoes and snow capped mountains. Known as the white city for the white rock many of the old buildings were constructed with, it gleams in the heat of the day. It enjoys a perfect climate of warmth, sunshine, and cloudless skies, much like Cochabamba which is at the same altitude. The main square is one of the most beautiful in the continent, with a beautiful cathedral at one end, framing the enormous Misti Volcano, which towers over the city, between the two spires. The Arequipeños themselves are a proud people who like to distance themselves from the rest of Peru, considering themselves Arequipeños first and Peruvians a far off second.
I spent my first day enjoying the warmth and skulking around the town taking the odd photo and enjoying the Peruvian food: some of the finest cuisine in Latin America. The following day there was a carnival in town, part of the long national celebrations for Independence. There were the usual floats, elaborate costumes, beauty queens with fixed smiles, dances, courting ceremonies, and re-enactments, all passing through the square in the shadow of the volcano. As the sun went down over the mountains and decided to head to the bus station to start making my way towards Lima after a lazy two days in the sun.