Arequipa to Arica

Llamas grazing on the vast altiplano scrub.

Kati with her baby alpaca, Valeria, in Maca, Colca Canyon.

Getting ready to eat the guinea pig.

A romantic guinea pig dinner for two.

They are mostly just a bunch of little bones.

Dave and the flag proudly annouce that we are indeed in Chile.

View from the top of the Morro de Arica where we stopped to mull for a time.

Cañon del Colca
So guess what I just had for dinner? Cui, yes, that is guinea pig. With it’s little paws and little head in all its guinea glory. We had it fried with a rock, so that it was flattened, very strange, but tastes like none other than chicken, the usual culprit for taste comparisons. Just a lot greasier, because it was fried. But other than that news, I am back in Arequipa after our jaunt up to the second deepest canyon in the world, Cañon del Colca. We did in fact see condors, of which I believe there were 600 in Peru at the last count. I also saw a couple of vizcachas, a small creature that you can imagine being the offspring of a squirrel-rabbit love affair. It has big pointy ears and a long fuzzy tail, and they are wily as heck and you only see them for a split second.

Our trip was a guided tour, which we decided to do after consulting our Bible (Lonely Planet) and seeing that transportation otherwise was sketch and that we could get a great deal ($16 for two days) with an agency. The guide was great, knowledgeable, and spoke Quechua as his first language, so was always referring to us as Amigos and Friends and memorizing all the countries we came from and enlightening us about the cultural history of the places we were so intrepidly traipsing through. We were the only Americans on our tour bus of about 40 people, but we told the guide we were from the DR so that he would speak to us in Spanish (and thus spare our ears his pigeon-speak).

We had a long bus ride up and back, but we stopped all along the way to view vicuñas (the national animal--gazelle-like American camelid member much like the llama or alpaca, but more lithe and constantly sprinting, never domesticated and protected as an endangered species) in the Parque Nacional Salinas y Aguada Blanca. We also stopped to sip some mate de coca, (and later learned how to chew the coca leaves with plant ash to help with the altitude) and take a gander at baby llamas with their respective baby humans dressed up in the pollera style with embroidered hats, all at a tourist trap bus stop in the barren hillsides.

We stopped at Patapampa, at an elevation of 4,900 meters, to pile up rocks in the tradition of tourists gone before, with the intent to attract love and luck. We then rolled into Chivay in time for a late lunch of alpaca steak before heading over to our hostels and then later to Caleras, a hot springs with pool water at almost 40 degrees centigrade. Later that night, we were invited to a peña, or folkloric dancing and music show. The next morning at 5:00am we were ready for the Cañon del Colca. We were bussed up through various towns along the left side of the canyon from Chivay, where we saw approximately 300 varieties of potatoes, out of the 410 varieties that exist in Peru, growing in the pre-Incan and Incan terracing. At the Cruz del Condor we saw the famed birds, as mentioned, and then did a little walkabout looking down the steep canyon all the while.

We made it back to Arequipa and ate dinner as detailed above, and are looking forward to heading through Tacna to Arica, Chile tomorrow. Oh, before I forget to mention, I was robbed *Again* here in Arequipa. I was walking down the street near the market when I felt/saw someone spit on me from above. The man walking behind me started saying things about how gross that was and how terrible that someone spat on me, all the while "wiping" off my back and picking my pocket. The funny thing was, I expressly knew of the spit trick before it happened to me, but somehow, the guy made off with my 50 soles. That is only about 16 dollars, but still Dave and I had to laugh at the occurrence, to Me, Again. Now I have sewn a little wallet into my brassiere, so in order to rob me now, I must be physically assaulted. Which, you will be glad to know, is very infrequent due to the fact that it is so easy to lift things unnoticed from tourists (uh, huhuhuh, myself included). So on to Chile, this will be my last missive from Peru for a while. Love and Cheer, Molly

We made it across the border into Arica, Chile after a seven-hour bus ride from Arequipa, Peru. We crossed a super-dry desert with mountains and sand, but to entertain us, the bus ride was filled with amazing luxury. We had a bus attendant who served us snacks and soda, and then we had a brief announcement about safety, etc, and then we heard music for a while, and then we played a game of bingo, where people had to get up and sing, the bingo game, by the way, I happened to have won. My prize was a return trip ticket, which I can’t use, but maybe we can trade it in for credit. We watched a movie too, and then we had story time were she stood up and told a myth about the city we were entering, well, I have to run, but we are in town just in time for carnival, and yes, I will be careful. Much love, Molly

Morro de Arica, playa, humo de malditos cigarros
Dave and I are in Chile, and yes, we are still getting along just fine...we tend to be hungry, tired, plagued with diarrhea, thirsty, and even have to go to the bathroom at the same time. In fact, we do everything at the same time and rarely leave each other’s side, and find great comfort in each other being able to remember our respective boys and talking about the DR, and also we have about one brain between the two of us, so it is nice when we are planning outings and where to eat and what to see and where to walk and for how long and when to turn around and what bus line to use and what time to go to bed, that we are always de acuerdo with one another. I couldn’t think of a better person to do this trip with, and I am glad that it is just the two of us, or things might have been more complicated.

Well, today we spent the day at the beach, mostly, but it was a rather short day. We woke up at noon and left the rat-hole residence we are staying at by one o’clock. But you have to understand that Chile is two hours ahead of Peru, and so crossing the border into Chile means the sun doesn’t set until 9:00 pm. So we built a sandcastle on the beach and looked for water and walked along beachcombing and found about 10,000 dead crabs lining the high tide range.

Arica is considered by Chileans and rich Bolivians to be THE beach resort town, but I found the weather rather cold and think the people swimming in the water were crazy. We had some great Chilean fruit, nectarines, plums, and peaches... grown, guess where? Yup, all the best of the imported fruit you see in the states, but eaten here in its mother country it just tastes so much better.

We left the beach and went to the town center and found a tour place that we are going to use tomorrow. They are taking us up to the east to see the highest lake in the world, Lake Chungara. It is near the Bolivian border, but we decided to return to Arica with the tour instead of staying in Putre, because it is a sparsely populated area, and transportation is sketchy. We don't want to be wandering around in the freezing altiplano trying to hitchhike towards sunset, so we are playing it safe even though there is a small town that I know about that have these hot springs and cool geysers. Upon our return to Arica we will spend the night and then, early the day after tomorrow, take a bus all the way to La Paz, Bolivia.

Chile is really different from Peru economically and culturally, and it would be interesting to see more of it, but it would take us too far out of our itinerary and Chile is actually quite a bit more expensive than most other Latin American countries. We hear things are cheapest in Bolivia, though, so hopefully things will even out. Hey, incidentally, I didn't get robbed today! Go me!

After we got settled with the tour company and ate a small baked snack, we walked up to the top of the famous Morro, which is a rocky sand cliff rising steeply by the water. There were some nice vistas of the city and of course we got a shot of Dave with the Chilean flag. Then we dined and now we are internetting, but oh, let me tell you about last night's festivities. We arrived into Arica just in time for the culmination of its 2005 sun power festival, which was basically just a lot of dancing in the street, different groups of youth and cultural organizations banded together in neat costumes singing, dancing what I think was called comparsa, and executing memorized syncopated moves. It was a lot of pageantry and without all that pomp, and we just happened to be in the right circumstance to get to see it.

I don't think it is fair to say that we got to know Chile, as we will have only been here for three days, but at least we got to check out this resort town of Arica with its enormous BlockBuster, McDonalds, and everyone and their fornicating mother smoking up a molesting storm. It really is such a shocking change from Peru-- even the accents, here in a border town, are so whacked. Not much else to report for the day, the next time I write, I'll have seen what is touted as the highest lake in the world. Much Love, Molly