Monday, October 31, 2011

Peru part 2: Arequipa


I surprised myself when I took the VIP “bed” option on the trip from Cusco to arequipa for more than double the regular fare. If you ARE going to afford yourself luxuries though, this is the place to do it. 10 hour bus ride with entertainment, first class seat and a meal all for 25$. Not bad.

I had been expressedly forewarned about about taxis robbing people in Arequipa and I must admit, I was not very reassured, when the taxi driver took the “industrial park shortcut” to get downtown. Fueling my mounting suspicion, the driver kept stopping sporadically in the middle of the empty street and honking. At what? I do not know. This was followed by a lot of looking around and then off we went again at painstakingly slow speeds.
This particular part of downtown Arequipa, at 6am on a Sunday morning looked like many suburbs and fringes of town I had been to in different parts of south America. The combination of lack of sleep, lack of knowledge and paranoia came to its boiling point and I cracked…
“Get back on a fucking main street before I start beating the shit out of you!!!”  Is about a rough translation of the threat I vociferated.
“This IS your street…” the driver replied in resignation as he turned the corner and pointed at my hostel.
I had heard about a good place to stay from a german couple that had gotten along well with my dad at the hostel in Cusco, and in a spout of organizational laziness had decided to join them there.
Howbeit, as the long night of the soul rolled along on the bus, I replayed the girl’s body language in my head and came to the conclusion that she could have been more pleased with my general presence. I decided to act on the ever so off chance that the little tourist kiosk at the bus terminal might point me in the direction of a half decent place to rest my head. Could have been worse…

Arequipa, other than the three street wide “DTZ”(designated tourist zone) isn’t pretty by any means. Diesel gas chokes your lungs as you walk down the crowded streets, the architecture is nothing if not unextraordinary, the decibel level is at all times higher than can possibly be good for you and it is a veritable breeding ground for pickpockets, bottom of your purse cutters and such riffraff. I loved it right away.

Maybe my acumen had been whitewashed by the Cuzcodian circus that I had spent the better part of the last 3 days in but the reality of a city with crime and whores recomforted me like 20/20 vision after going cross eyed.
My “experiencia Arequipena” was quite limited, be that as it may, impressions are lasting. When the whore on the street taps you on the ass as you walk by and tells you she would do you for free, when a custom made suit costs 100$, when the roasted chicken gives you a hard-on, when you wake up at 10 a.m. to a parade marching into your inner ear drum only to be informed by the cleaning lady that it is the first day of carnival, well then there are very few conclusions left at your disposal my friend. You are in Arequipa.

When it comes to seafood, for me its always hit or miss, so when I realized I had yet to try Peru’s famed “ceviche” I decided to go high end . Chi Cha, one of Peru’s finer dining establishments, did not dissapoint. Tropical fruit cocktails, Fish ceviche, alpaca steak and mixed berry mousse. That was my Peruvian sendoff. Next stop chile.

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