The plan for Arequipa was to visit the “Canyon Country”, which features the deepest canyons in the world. Located roughly 100km away from the city of Arequipa, the Cañon de Cotalinas is 3354m deep. Nearby Cañon de Colca is insignificantly “higher” at 3191m depth. Since my impending flight dates leave me with little time, I tried to book the canyon trip ahead – which failed.
Arriving at the hostel in Arequipa, I was told that there was no booking and that the next tour available would leave in two days only. Moreover, it was raining miserably and cold temperatures prevailed. Most notably, I was sick – for the first time during my journey. Somehow, I managed to catch a heavy flu with fever. During my journey I got used to accept things as they happened. I call this “destiny”. Being sick while the weather was bad and a trip reservation had failed to materialize, was definitely a perfect match.
Staying in bed for the day, after having visited the town for three hours, therefore didn’t create any remorse. It was only then that I realized how lucky I have been so far during my trip as I never was sick before. Apart from some minor diarrhea, twice or so, I have been spared of major inconveniences. But I realized, that a lot of tourists in Peru are constantly sneezing and coughing. And when I spotted a Spanish tourist in the Internet cafe, wiping with her hands the snort from her nose, continuing to type again afterwards on the computer keyboard, it became obvious to me how I contracted the flu.
Named the “white city”, Arequipa has indeed a lot buildings that come in volcanic stonework. The central plaza is very scenic and I am certain in good weather conditions, this town is a gem. Having a population of roughly 1 Million inhabitants, Arequipa is the second biggest city in Peru. The historic center became a UNESCO world heritage site in the year 2000.
One major sight, the Monasterio Santa Catalina, was a pleasant visit. This convent – the biggest in the world – is actually a small town (of 20’000 square meters) within the town of Arequipa. Founded in 1580, it first did house rich Spanish nuns who lived there in a very descent style. This citadel complex was off-limits for outside people until 1970. This is why this convent is still well preserved and gives a perfect insight about how life must have been there in the past centuries. It is a beautiful, meditative place with narrow streets, stairs and green plazas.
Traveling to and from Arequipa often means traveling on the Pan-American Highway. Although my journey already partly went along this road in Chile and Argentina, it was only here, that the road looked stereotypical “Pan-American” to me: Having long stretches of straight track through deserted land on one side and the Pacific ocean on the other side.
The Pan-American Highway is considered the world’s longest “motorable road”. Although several routes claim to be the “Panamericana”, the consensus is that the 48’000km long route network between Prudhoe Bay (USA) and Ushuaia (Argentina) is the de-facto “Superhighway”. Contrary to common belief, it is not possible to drive entirely by road from the North American continent to the South American tip. A small swampland and forest separating Panama and Colombia leaves a 100km gap in the Pan-American highway system. Crossing that swamp – called the Darien Gap – still renders a road trip from North to South America an adventure.
Obviously, such a journey triggers quite some excitement for me and I am starting to think about a future travel along this road. So I might come back to Arequipa one day, in better shape.