We arrived in Arequipa on New Year’s Eve at about 9pm. We had trouble hailing a cab but soon found two lovely police officers who were happy to do it for us. They also recorded our country and the driver’s info. This is all very comforting in a “if I end up dead in a ditch there is a mild chance the guy might go to jail” kind of way. Our cab driver did a pitch perfect imitation of the mini scene from the Bourne Identity. I was sitting up front so I got to see my impending death with perfect clarity. The man could give me a run for my money on the highway and those of you who have driven with me know that it is not a feat easily acomplished. We arrived with just enough time to brush our teeth before we had to meet the guys from San Francisco.
We met up with three other women as well (2 from Costa Rica and 1 from Colombia). They weren’t big fans of Anne nor I. We imagine it’s because they thought we were encroaching on their meal ticket. There isn’t really a polite way to say “we turned your meal ticket down two towns back” so we were just extra nice to them until they simmered down. They finally warmed up enough to show us their yellow underwear. This is slightly less weird than it sounds. It turns out that in Latin America you wear yellow underwear for New Year and much like the scots and their kilts…if someone asks to see….you have to show. We didn’t ask but they were awful keen to show. The men in that restaurant owe Anne and I some major favours.
We ended up at a posh nightclub with its own waterfall and rang in the New Year dancing to terrible music and guzzling champagne. It was delightful. Also, I have now done the macarena in Latin America. I don’t know why that seems like an acomplishment, but it does. Also, one day someone is going to explain to me why DJs take perfectly good songs, rip out the best bits and then shove in the same “ins-ins-ins” beat to EVERY song. Why? Why? The cigarette smoke was giving me a massive headache so we headed back to our hostel to get ready for bed…only to find that our hostel was a nightclub. If you can’t beat ‘em…join ‘em so we settled in to listen to live acoustic covers of 90s grunge; sung in Spanglish, naturally. The singer was phenomenal and the decor was catholic S and M which made for an interesting evening.
We hung out in Arequipa for two more days soaking up the sun when it was out and listening to the woman outside our hostel shout “paraguas, paraguas, paraguas” for hours on end when the sun went into hiding.
After that we headed out on a tour of the Colca Canyon which got off to an inauspicous start when an older gentleman sucummed to altitude sickness and passed out on the bus. Anne got up to take a look at him and I followed in the vain hope I might be able to help. With the extensive medical training I’ve accrued from watching reruns of ER: Turns out there were three medical students on the bus, one of whom shoved me out of the way while shouting “I’m a doctor”. Next time I’m in the ER I hope that the doctor does that before s/he treats me. It inspires great confidence in both bedside manner and competency.
The Colca Canyon was nice, if a bit foggy and our hotel had a spa. With bubble bath. I’ve never taken a bubblebath with 10 strangers before so I guess I can check that one off the to do list. Our hotel was run by a poorman’s Gerard Depardieu who refused to speak Spanish or English to us even though he clearly spoke both. French only. Way to keep the stereotypes alive. We met a nice Finnish couple (sorry Maria). The second day we saw flocks of condors and had a snowball fight at 5000M. Just for the record, I am officially done with altitudes over 2000M. Nothing like violent nausea and crushing headaches to convince me that my ass belongs at sea level.
That night we caught an overnight bus to Huacachina for few days of relaxing by the pool and, of course, sandboarding.