Thursday, January 24, 2013

Arequipa Life

Almost lost track of what week and how long I've been here- in the best way possible, all days are starting to blur into one. In the last day, I've gone down with travellers sickness which has given me a chance to sit down and tackle this entry- it seems like this blog is popular and I like the fact I am never sure completely who I'm writing to.
I'm happy I went to BOOTS and stocked up on medicines before I came- even though Peru is ridiculously cheap, cosmetics, most clothes and medicines are pretty expensive. Plus it seems like an effort to walk the 1.5 miles to the shopping centre, with three streets to cross in between. If there's one thing you need to know about everyday life here is that there is next to no order on the roads- a nightmare if you're driving or in a vehicle (almost flying through the windscreen of a public bus is a regular happening)  but a disaster if you're crossing the road as a pedestrian. Its ironic that drivers take a blind bit of notice of zebra crossings and traffic cops blow whistles without seeming to direct traffic. You just need to take your life in the hands and run. At school yesterday, I was informed that two of my friends were late because their bus driver had decided to get out and give another bus driver a knuckle sandwich!!

Sitting here typing this, I can't help but be a little bit annoyed at the fact that this sickness has come on now. Not only am I missing a mornings teaching to rest up, I'm taking a ten hour bus journey to Cusco this evening, stopping by at another hostel in Arequipa on the way to wait for my travelling companion to finish his shift. On getting to Cusco at 5:30 tomorrow morning, its time to tackle the Inca trail. Luckily, I've managed to get myself free accommodation because the hostel in which this guy works has a sister hostel in La Paz and Cusco. There was an idea that we would take this guy's motorbike all the way (he'd bought it in Santiago and ridden it through Bolivia to Arequipa), but with the steeps hills, plus two people, two backpacks and guaranteed rain, we decided to go back to Cruz Del Sur.  Still despite complaining about illness, I'm lucky I didn't notice the altitude when getting here and maybe more lucky, that as the worst cook in the world, I haven't given myself food poisoning.

I've managed to go riding since I've been here, a memorable ride up a canyon that leads, if you follow it for many, many hundreds of miles to Cusco. Even though my guide was sleazy (my first salsa lesson in the middle of no-where..really?) and the horses skinny, the scenery was fantastic and I managed to see the whole of the city from the top. The ride jolted me but for the reason that whilst you are in the city, it is easy to forget you're nestled away in the Andes. One thing to watch out for is when you book things, the tour operators seem to have little contact with the guides. I paid 85 soles for four hours- upon my guide Annabel (yes that was his name) picking me up in his pick-up truck with his brother from the house, he told me he worked in distance,  not hours. At first I took comfort in him not over-working his horses for the needs of tourists but getting back to the house I realised I was only in the saddle for two hours. On being picked up, Annabel definitely took the piss a little bit in picking up lots of his cousins, driving around a few districts of Arequipa. Once we got to the stables, he seemed pretty keen for me to wear a cowboy hat and we spent the first hour galloping along dust tracks, in and out of trees, playing cowboys. As we were riding pretty much on the doorstep of my back garden, I decided to ride through the drive way and up to the house, banging on the gate. My house mates were a little bit surprised!

We met a few Ex-pats when riding through the district which Annabel handed out riding leaflets to. An older Canadian couple seemed interested and I recognised  the woman from the Facebook group Ex-Pats Arequipa which keeps our house entertained. Ex-Pats Arequipa is as the name suggests an exclusive closed group on Facebook that you have to ask permission to join. Started up probably innocently as a way for foreigners living in the city to meet up with one another, it now seems to harbour posts such as where to get air mattresses in the city and even inquiries about strip clubs. My house mates scoff at it because its just a way for people to show off the affluent life they're living in Peru. As one of my house mates said 'get to know the characters on Ex-Pats'.

This week at school, our subject was health which saw the kids drawing the human body, labelling it and drawing assault courses in the Gaucho with thick, colourful bits of chalk. One of the girls found an abandoned puppy that must have been no more than 2 months old, named it Dobby and has refused to be parted from it- even though its a straggly, pretty revolting stray, its very cute! We've had quite a lot of rain since my last post, interrupted with really strong sun. As sunscreen is so expensive here, I've decided to cut corners and not use it, hence my shoulders, face and back, accustomed to British winter, are pretty red.

Anyway, my window is closing to recover and pack for Cusco!. Whilst being this bad at home would mean I wouldn't leave the house for two days, I sort of relish the being tough and getting on with it attitude. Hopefully, I will survive to write up Machu Picchu- this being a trip I never thought I'd make this early in my trip but making the future easier because I can just go straight to La Paz from Arequipa in three weeks to cross the Peruvian/Bolivian border.

The only thing I want is a diet coke...Peruvians are obsessed with sugar, they just don't have it here.


  1. I love the way you choose not to put apostrophes in the conventional places: so avant-garde!