Sitting at around 7,700 feet above sea level sits the semi-arid city of Arequipa,Peru on the Gringo Trail. The "Gringo Trail" is a well established route around Peru, Bolivia, Colombia, Argentina and Ecuador, Chile and Brazil. It's no established trail like the Appalachian Trail in the US, it's more just a route us "gringos" travel to certain sites and highlights of South America. It's a trail where you go from city to city, ruin to ruin, etc. etc. and a trail we wish desperately to get off. Of course we want to see some great stuff, however we are already getting tired of touristy areas and their accompanying high prices and unfriendly people from time to time. It becomes an American/Europeanized false representation of what a place really is about and what the people are like in any given place.
AirBNB in Arequipa has been incredible!
Arequipa (Spanish pronunciation: is the capital city of the Arequipa Region . It is Peru's second most populous city with over 800 thousand people. Arequipa is the second most industrialized and commercialized city in Peru. We found that there is currently a huge mining boom here as a result of Copper. The city was founded on 15 August 1540, by GarcĂ Manuel de Carbaja . The historic center of Arequipa spans an area of 332 hectares and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. A series of volcanic cones dominate the city skyline in the east which include Mt. Misti, and the extinct volcanic groups Pichu Pichu and Chachani. We had amazing views from our rooftop of the apartment we found on AirBNB.
We are only spending about 32 dollars per night and we have a 1 bedroom apartment about 15min to half an hour away (depending on traffic, which is horrible in Arequipa) in a residential neighborhood. Our budget for not being the "historical center" where all the prices are inflated, has been restored and while in the apartment, lived quite cheaply. It also had great internet where we could get some work done on the blog, talk to family members, watch TV on our Amazon Fire Stick, and pretty much feel at home. It was nice to come "home" for the last 5 night and cook some dinner relax and spend time alone. We have been in hostels recently and they can get tiresome. Besides, taking in the local culture is what we really want to do, and staying outside of town gives you more of it.
It has been a great choice for us, as Shelly was battling stomach issues (resolved) and a small cold (nearly resolved). We are adjusting to the altitude here before heading to Cusco and staying in 10,500 to 11,500 feet. We are a bit worried about altitude sickness, however feel we will be better off than if we had come from sea level directly. And we have been doing our best to walk around the city as much as we can and get some cardio up. We did so a few times downtown at the "historical" area of downtown.
The Centro Historico of Arequipa and Plaza De Armas
- "The historical center of Arequipa is an example of ornamented architecture, represents a masterpiece of the creative coalition of European and native characteristics. A colonial town challenged by the conditions of nature, the indigenous influences, the conquest process and evangelism as well as for a spectacular natural scenario."
The central area of Arequipa around the Plaza De Armas Park where the Basilica Cathedral of Arequipa is located was in the heart of it. There was also a walking street with benches, to people watch and catch performers and salesmen of all sorts attached to one of the corner streets of the Plaza. The cobblestone streets, colonial architecture reminded us a lot of Antigua, Guatemala. We spent some time walking around the Basilica, had a great dinner at El Vikingo on the plaza where Shelly at Fettuccine Alpaca and I had the Alpaca and Veggies. The architecture was impressive in Arequipa's Historical Center and generally safe to walk around at night. Not a place we want to stay, due to it's tourist draw, however a great place to visit. We loved sitting on benches simply people watching.
Change In Perspective
We sat around our apartment blogging, washing clothes, taking in the sites on our rooftop, people watching, cooking our own food mostly and feeling more at home. We needed to nurse Shelly back to health and we both needed to sleep in the same bed for a change. We needed this time to relax and get things done and didn't do any of the normal touristy things on the gringo trail that Arequipa has to offer. The most profound experience of our stay in Arequipa happened most unexpectedly.
While sitting in the historical center people watching on a bench, a guy dressed up in Minnesota Viking gear came walking by. I asked how his Vikings were doing and stuck up a conversation. He gave us a ton of information and has been living 13 years in Arequipa. He's from Wisconsin and we sat there talking about life, travel and everything in between. After about an hour, he started feeling dizzy, tingling in his extremities, nauseated and had to lay down on our bench. I ran and got him something sweet wondering if it was low blood sugar and when he didn't start feeling better we hailed a cab and brought him home to his wife and children and walked him up to his house. He couldn't even really stand without some support and appeared flushed of all color. We were worried about him.
Nothing too strange about that, however it's the coincidences that struck us. He is owns a few TEFL centers in Peru and Panama. If we had not been where we were when we were, who knows if he would have made it back home or not after he fell incapacitated. Once we got to his house he gave us his card and introduced his new puppy, Buddha. After we left his house we sat down on a park bench and discussed meeting him and the coincidental things that had happened. It reinforces to us that it wasn't coincidental at all and the fact his dog's name was Buddha just sealed it for us. Before we left his house he gave us about 30 dollars in local currency. We declined but he insisted and said it was for his own karma. We reluctantly put it in my pocket and as we were sitting down on the bench it must have made its way out of my pocket and on the ground.
Maybe some who really needed it found it. Maybe not. However, it was all meant to be and then we went to eat at El Vikingo and ate Alpaca (which is delicious) at a restaurant. We didn't even make the connection of his clothes and the name of the restaurant we chose by chance until later.... The Viking.
It's important while traveling that you go with the flow. You don't have to be anywhere, no job, no home, no responsibilities. As you go through your day, it's completely yours. The chain of events that brought us to this man and his house and possibilities in the future are mind-boggling. Had we not done one thing differently, we wouldn't have ever met and who knows what his outcome or ours would be. Listen to your intuition and take things as they come. We followed our intuition on what street to go down, where to sit, and who to talk to and we helped another person out of a bad situation. Our motto for traveling.... go with the flow. It's been working out great for us so far.