Monday, August 18, 2008

Arequipa, Peru to Santiago, Chile

My last days in Peru were uneventful. I spent them in the country’s second largest city, Arequipa, which still felt relatively small. They call it the white city since many of the buildings are made out of a white volcanic stone. Overall a very lovely place. Why is it that, though, every city in every Spanish-speaking country has a Plaza de Armas?

I neglected to arrange accommodations in advance and when my very long (and cold – there was no heat and at one point in the mountains the windows had literally frozen over) bus from Cusco finally arrived at 1 am, a kind taxi driver took me to no fewer than 9 places before we found an available room. I’m not sure how I managed to miscalculate my time so badly, but I realized the next day that I actually would spend 4 nights in Arequipa, not 2. Money still being an issue, I quickly searched for an answer, which I found in the form of a casino. I charged chips to my credit card, played on a very strange automated roulette table with frantic gamblers (one of whom would place his bet, then race to drop coins into the three closest slot machines), and then cashed the chips that I hadn’t lost in. I ended up with a few extra coins that I dropped in slots on my way out and ended up winning about $10 more. I neglected to mention in an earlier post that Matt also made the seemingly difficult yet surprisingly easy mistake of leaving his bankcard in an ATM in Cusco the day before we left for the Inka trail. The lucky beneficiary went straight to a casino, irony not lost on me.

Other than gambling, I watched a lot of TV in Arequipa. I think I was somewhat depressed after having travel companions for 2 weeks and then suddenly being on my own again. Also, I like to have a home base and travel for short periods of time, so being gone for a month (with the same three outfits) was starting to wear on me. I was and still am frustrated that the Olympics are not widely shown here, I assume because there just aren't that many South American athletes competing. Normally I love the Olympics and I was desperate to see trampoline as an Olympic sport! I did catch some synchronized diving which was fun.

I did end up taking a city tour which I really enjoyed. I met a nice Canadian fellow who was leaving that very night. During the day we had discussed eating cuy, or guinea pig, a local specialty. We both confessed that we wanted to try it but were afraid to do it alone. We ended up going straight from the tour to a restaurant and split one. I mostly wanted to try it for Matt’s sake since he was too sick to try it for himself. Even though there was almost no meat on the poor creature, I’m glad we split one: they serve it deep fried and WHOLE, and all I could think about was its tiny eyelashes and claws. Ripping off one of its legs to gnaw on it was a, ahem, gnarly experience, one I feel no need to repeat.

Otherwise, I ate a lot of good food. The most popular local dish is rocotos rellenos, or stuffed bell peppers. There is a huge indoor market where I ate lunch and drank smoothies every day. I also tried the Peruvian version of Bolivia's salteñas, which were nowhere near as juicy but still pretty satisfying. (On a side note, I guess I didn't eat as much as I thought I did, because when I came back everyone commented on how much weight I had lost. I have always had very even bodily distribution of weight gain and loss so I don't notice a lot of the time, but I found a scale at a friend's house and weighed myself for the first time since February. I have somehow lost 25 pounds since then. I think a w00t is in order.) Here is the market:

I ultimately decided to fly from Arequipa to Arica, where I then flew to Santiago. I was able to get a really cheap ticket and figured it was worth not spending another 10 hours on the bus. Once I got to Arica I thought I had 3 hours before my next flight left so I settled in to wait (I was glad the Olympics were on and watched a weight lifter drop 300+ pounds on himself) but all of a sudden I heard an announcement for my flight. I had totally forgotten that Peru is an hour behind Chile! I was happy to board the plane earlier than expected and the second half of the trip went just as smoothly as the first.

Ironically, once I got back to Chile my internet access spiraled downward. My friend Carol was nice enough, yet again, to let me stay with her, this time in the middle of one of her roommates moving out, which ended up being an ordeal since it seems all of the furniture in the apartment was his, including all the furniture in Carol’s room… With him also went the internet account, and when you are staying in city suburbia there aren’t many open wireless connections or internet cafes. It ultimately didn't matter much, proving yet again that technology is not as necessary as we like to think, and I had a lot of fun in my four days back, including a trip to the coast to hang out with some of my ex-students, two of whom are planning a trip to visit me in Argentina. It poured rain for 36 hours but the sun came out to let me say goodbye to Valparaíso and Viña del Mar. I thought I might get nostalgic… but no. I am mostly sad to leave my friends here in Chile, but not the country itself. Last night Carol, Renée, Megan and I caught a semi-abstract play based on short stories by a famous (now dead) Chilean author named (Roberto?) Bolaños, Renée's favorite. It was random but fun, and an appropriate way to bid adieu to the country.

I am currently sitting in the Santiago airport waiting for my flight on Brazil’s discount airline, GOL, to take off in an hour. Even though I had more than twice the allowed weight, it only cost me $25. In order to gain access to the internet I had to pull up a chair at, of all places, Ruby Tuesday’s. I don’t think I have ever been in one in the U.S., and Carol cooked an amazing Persian meal for lunch from which I still feel stuffed, but I ordered tea and a piece of apple pie… the things we do for internet access.

I am still planning on updating my past posts with more details and pictures, so stay tuned! Of course, I will also fill you in on my hopefully exciting new life in Buenos Aires.


Renée said...

Estoy envidiosa de vos! jajaja! Te echare de menos pero nos vemos en Buenos Aires!

Traigame un argentino guapo! Por fis!

Renée said...

P.S. Roberto Bolaño

Read the stories. I'm not sure where that dude in the suit with the wolf mask came from.

Momma Archer said...

The picture of the guinea pig on the platter was less than appetizing...
Glad your vacation went well. It was certainly jam-packed!
Keep these stories coming. Can't wait to hear about life in Buenos Aires.

Sarah P said...

OMG! Guinea Pig! I haven't eatten anything that strange in Madison yet, but there is this bar that makes great Wenier Schnitel (sp) and I really want to try it. Other then that, there is NO Pho' in this town and its driving me BONKERS! I guess that will just be my special Seattle treat. said...

Which airline did you use for Arequipa, Peru to Arica, Chile? We are trying to do the same thing! Help!

Please email me at


carrola29 said...

So sad that RT's is the best option at the airport. very telling about chile. . . such a shame.

Anonymous said...

i am heading to Arequipa and plan to fly direct to Santiago. Any airline offer the direct flight to Santiago? Please help me out. Joo