With a long and relatively comfortable coach journey from Nazca overnight, we arrived at the coach depot in Arequipa – some with fresher faces than others. We all piled into a private mini-bus, which felt like heaven after the public transport we just endured, and made our way to the lovely El Solar Hostel, a couple of blocks off the main plaza in town.
Although today was our only free day to explore the pretty city of Arequipa, there was only one priority on my to-do list, and that was to find myself a new camera to replace the one that was stolen in Lima last Friday.
Our wonderful tour leader, Julio, was good enough to forego having a nap to catch up on sleep lost during travel last night, to grab a cab with me out to a new shopping mall on the outskirts of town to try a few department stores for a suitable replacement Canon camera. I had a glimmer of hope as we approached the massive mall which was recently built on land that was previously occupied by the city's horse track. A complex this big SURELY would have a specialist photography store of some kind.
Alas, as expected, none of the available retailer options carried high enough quality gear to have exactly what I was looking for, so we headed back to the Hostel so that Julio could get on with his day and I could take some time to wander around town and consider the options I had available to me.
Talking to a few people who had already been out and about this morning while I was out at the mall, it was decided that I would check out a couple of the main attractions around the city including the Plaza de Armas, one of the most beautiful main squares in all of Peru, and also the Convent of Santa Catalina.
The Plaza de Armas (see 360 panorama above) was alive and buzzing with locals and tourists alike and the various streets leading from the square provided me with the opportunity to kick off the souvenir shopping for people back home and also to grab a bite to eat from one of the small cafes.
By the time I had reached the entrance to the Convent of Santa Catalina, I had caught up with Johnny, Atholl and Helen and we all made our way inside the 431 year-old monastery which still houses around 20 nuns in the northern corner of the 20,000 sq meter complex.
We explored the grounds which were opened to the public as a way of raising funds to offset rebuilding efforts required after two devastating earthquakes in the 1960s. They’ve done a pretty stella job, I have to say, with lots of nicely prepared rooms and displays set behind the vividly painted walls.
It was seeing all of these beautiful sites and not being able to photographically capture a number of fantastic scenes throughout our visit, that I made the decision, ideal or not, to head back to the mall and pick up a rather expensive Canon G12 that I had spied on my visit there this morning with Julio. Paired with a 32GB card, I figure it's the best option in the situation I find myself in, and I'll just have to swallow the over-inflated price and cross my fingers that my travel insurance takes care of the rest.
Back at the Hostel with my new G12 battery on charge, I sat down to some quality Internet time for the first time since leaving Lima. I had the opportunity to catch up with the details of the devastating events in Japan over the past couple of days. I couldn't believe what I was reading...
Capping off the day today was a visit to one of Julio's favourite local restaurants where we had the chance to finally taste Peru's must-try dish for meat-eaters – Alpaca Ribs (see lead image). Oh boy, washed down with some pisco sours – what a treat!
With the prospect of hitting the breathtaking Colca Canyon region tomorrow armed with a camera (which means LOTS more pictures for you guys, my readers) it'll be with a smile on my face that I drift off to sleep tonight!
Cheers to Johnny for the pics from the Santa Catalina Monastery. With a bit of luck I'll be back "in the game" with the photography starting tomorrow!
Links & Credits
- All images // Rob Masefield
- Arequipa // peru.travel
- El Solar Hostel // hostalsolar.com
- Plaza de Armas // lonelyplanet.com
- Convent of Santa Catalina // wikipedia.org
- Canon Powershot G12 // dpreview.com
- Japan earthquake & tsunami of 2011 // britannica.com