A person handed us branches with leaves to feed the animals as we arrived at the alpaca cuddling area. We were immediately sighted by all the alpacas who lovingly came over to greet us, competing for our attentions. Unfortunately, it was like someone hit the off switch when the last leaf was consumed an they all trotted back to their sheltered area.
I did learn that alpacas, llamas and vicunas are all part of the camelid family and I can see the resemblance.
We learned how they sort the alpaca fleece and checked out the weaving demonstration. The textile museum was also well done.
We decided to walk uphill for a couple of kilometers to the Mirador de Yanahuara (Yanahuara Scenic lookout). We walked past some lovely private homes and had great views of Arequipa and El Misti volcano. There was a cute little square where we rested before going back downhill to the town centre, passing a statue of two fighting bulls.
They have bull fighting in this part of Peru with a few differences. The bulls are prized by their owners. They get the best vet attention, all the females they want and when they are too old to fight they are well taken care of in their retirement. The bulls fight each other and when one bull is obviously losing or hurt, it's owner forfeits the competition and gets vet care for his champion.
When we got back into town centre, we stopped into St. Augastin Church Qand sat for a short bit.
Our next stop was a tour of the Arequipa Basilica. Highlights were the huge Belgian pipe organ and the intricately carved wooden pulpit from Lille, France. They had roped the area off around the pulpit because ironically people have been unable to resist the temptation to touch the carved devil on the bottom and all this handling was starting to damage the pulpit.
The tour also took us through a few rooms with artifacts and up to the roof and the bell tower. We were able to see where one of the bell towers had collapsed during the last big earthquake (now rebuilt) and also great views of the square and the three surrounding volcanos (Misti, Pichu Pichu and Chacha).
After the tour we just had to try a local artisanal icecream called Queso Helado which is sold by many street vendors. Although the name means cheese and it looks a bit cheesy, it is actually made from coconut, evaporated milk and cinnamon. Very yummy.
I wanted to check out the alpaca stores so we decided to split up for an hour...much more pleasant that way.
One of Arequipa's top attractions is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina. Established in the 16th century, this convent is a five acre city within the city. When second daughters of wealthy families went in, they would not have contact with anyone on the outside, except on the odd occasion by voice through wooden slats. After four years they could choose to stay or leave.
In the 1970s the nuns needed more funds to maintain the convent so they made the radical move to open it up to tourists. There are now still 20 nuns living there.
It gets cold quickly when the sun starts to set. We went back to our hostel to change into warmer clothing and headed to Plaza de Aramas (the main square) to watch the sunset from the rooftop bar of the Katari Hotel. We munched on delicious pepper stuffed egg rolls dipped in guacamole and sipped our drinks...John a Pisco Sour and a sparkling water for me since I read that alcohol is bad for altitude sickness.
The view was stunning.
We chatted with a group of younger tourists from Calgary, England and Belgium who were sitting at the next table. As the temperature dropped, the waiter brought everyone alpaca blankets to cozy up in.
Too soon it was time to say goodbye to our favourite square. On our way back to our hostel, we stopped at a Peruvian tea place where we tried different teas made with local fruits, flowers and plants. I had the one made to help colds...which I still had. The tea came in a large glass pot that you put on top of your cup and it flowed through the pot's bottom.
Then it was back to the hotel where we packed for our early morning flight to Cusco. I was a bit nervous because once again, we are going higher up in altitude.
TIPS & COSTS
Arequipa Basilica entrance- 5 soles ($2 CAN)
Guided tours available for tips.
Santa Catalina Monastery- Entrance 40 soles $16 CAN. Guided tours for 5 soles extra which was well worth it