Tuesday, 5 February 2013

A Day In Arequipa

We were up bright and early to take a tour of the city of Arequipa.  We were only there for a day so we wanted to take full advantage of our time there.  Our guide was wonderful and it was just the two of us with her and a driver in a large car...quite a relief after the bus of the day before.

We started with a stop on the left bank of the Chili River, the main river running through the city and separating it into two parts.  Along the river banks there are many terraces, pre-Incan in origin and which are still used today to cultivate crops which are used in the city and exported to surrounding cities.  It was amazing to see this...farming in the centre of the city.  (Made us think of Ottawa´s Experimental Farm) We also had a lovely view of the city and the mountains which soar in the distance, one being an active volcano known as Misti. 

We also visited several historical sites, one of which was a school built in the 1800s by the Jesuit Order to provide for education for the local population.  It was a remarkable building with beautifully carved pillars and spacious courtyards.  One could easily imagine the school kids playing in the courtyard between classes which were held in the rooms around the courtyard.

Then it was off to our final stop of the tour...the Santa Catalina Monastery.  This was fascinating as it is a convent with sequestered Nun´s and in its hey day there were as many as 170 women living in the convent.  It was built in the 1570´s and it is essentially a city within the city of Arequipa.  We were shown streets on each side of which were small homes which the Nuns´ families built for their use.  It was a very prestigious position to be a nun at this time and only the wealthy could afford the training costs and the dowry.  (At one point the nun´s were permitted servants!!!)
The convent was really a surprising find and was very beautiful.  Even today there are a number of nun´s in residence in a newly constructed facility on the same grounds. 
The Nun´s were allowed no access to the world outside the convent...the picture below is taken in the receiving room where they were permitted once a month to speak to family through grills which restricted the viewing of their veiled faces.  The small door is the turntable which could be used to pass certain approved items to and from the nun.

There were beautiful cloisters like the one below throughout the convent.

In the main square, this fountain served as a meeting place where the nun´s were permitted to meet for one hour a day only.  The rest of the time (outside their houses) was spent in absolute silence!!!  (I am sure I would go crazy given the same restrictions!!!)

This is a view of the rooftops in the convent, where the houses are very evident.
After spending a good amount of time in this area we were off to explore the city on our own and we decided to go to visit a recommended museum, Museo Santuarios Andinos.  It is here that the frozen remains of Incan sacrificed children are kept, together with the items which were buried with them in their graves.  It was fascinating (sorry no pictures allowed) and very humbling to stand so close to the frozen corpse!!!  Many of the artifacts were very well preserved...including one impressive gold statue and several silver and gold smaller ones of llamas and alpacas.  Also, the original textiles were on display, very well preserved by the act of freezing.  It was an amazing place.
The rest of the day was spent relaxing and readying ourselves for our trip to Nazca.  For some reason we had decided to take the overnight bus to this destination.  We had been told that the buses were very comfortable and made for easy sleeping...Ha...the chairs were comfortable (for someone with short legs...Paul certainly not included)...the bus left at 9:30 at night...so we were already tired, but once we got rolling, the music was turned on...not through head phones but over the PA system!  It could not be turned down...so we decided to grin and bear it, as surely it would be over soon...but not so...the musical entertainment was followed by a movie.  It was in Spanish...but that was not important...the movie really interfered with our sleeping ability.  When the movie was finally over...off went the lights...but the temperature soared.  I was about to strip down when Paul got the conductor to turn on the air system...so at least the warm air was circulated a bit!  It made for a hellish night!  

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