The 4-Weeks Series: #3 – Arequipa

I believe the initial glamor of the blog has worn off but to those of you who are still reading this, thank you. Down the road I hope this becomes more relevant to the readers and not just a “me me me me me me” blog like it is now.

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All roads lead to Arequipa, maybe, because I will start teaching in May at the same school I received my certification! And one of my coworkers back home said he may visit Peru in August, including Arequipa! AREQUIPA IS THE NEW NYC.

Anyway. The job is part time (6 hours/day) but it is comforting to know I will not be a traveling hobo and also will be going back to a place with people I know.

My last night in Arequipa at a rooftop cafe in Plaza de Armas – new friend Milly on your left and my British host Melissa on the right. The cafe provides traditional ponchos because it gets pretty cold. We looked GOOD. LIKE SEXY BATS.

At the same time it feels like the biggest cop-out of the century. I left Arequipa with the intention of continuing to travel north and I did not intend to go back to Arequipa. I have not talked about my feelings on Arequipa much until now. I wanted to explore new cities, see which one would be a good fit, and settle there. I left Arequipa because after a month, I felt like it was not a place where I wanted to stay. But at the end of the day I accepted the job because hey, job security and the comfort of being somewhere you already know, right?

I’m a bit disappointed in myself that I took the easy way out when the whole purpose of this trip has been to face new challenges and fears. The consolation is that the minimum contract is for 6 months but many teachers flake out early without repercussion. I don’t know if I will do that but at least I will have the option of not renewing the contract and maybe try on to a new city.

But you know how things like that go – once you start living somewhere, you just kind of keep the status quo….

Anyhow. I am very excited to finally start teaching.

Graduation lunch
Graduation lunch where we took pictures smack in the middle of a super busy restaurant

It’s funny, Arequipa feels like my “de facto home” because it was the first place I went to in Peru.

Here are 5 Best and Not Best things about Arequipa based on my first month there. I feel a little “deserving” to say this now that I have Cusco as comparison.

5 Best Things

1. Weather: Basically sunny and beautiful every. single. day. Daytime can get hot – the sun is strong, sunscreen is definitely a good idea – but it’s all dry heat, zero humidity. In the mornings and evenings you can just pop on a light cardigan or sweatshirt and you’re fine. I love the weather.

Overlooking El Misti and Rio Chili from Puente Bolognesi. You can go whitewater rafting on this river.

2. Food: Hello, empanada shops on every corner. In addition to traditional/popular Peruvian dishes (ceviche, adobo, anticuchos, lomo saltado, queso helado, cuy chactado, salchipapas) there are Arequipeño cuisine as well. These include rocoto relleno (spicy stuffed peppers), caldo blanco (soup with chicken broth and potatoes), soltero de queso (salad with beans, tomatoes, queso fresco, onions, potatoes), etc. I ate at both local and touristy places but I didn’t see any real differences (I try to eat at cheap places). The food was good 90% of the time. It’s not special to Arequipa but since we’re talking about food, the vegetables and fruits here are awesome and cheaper compared to US prices. You can also buy fresh bread, oatmeal, tea, juice, and (yes) empanadas from street vendors. I pity the gluten-allergic soul that walks by a panadería. 

Rocoto relleno at the local market
Buñuelos (donuts)
Anticucho, cow’s heart. I had a bite and only one bite. It’s good, but it’s very in-your-face.
Papa rellena with chicha

3. Walkability: Kind of a cheat bullet because Peruvian cities (right, because I’m an expert on that) are very walkable. Most of the time there are clearly-defined sidewalks and the distance to pretty much anywhere is walkable. Taxis are cheap by US standards but with a Peruvian salary it can add up; most people opt for the economic colectivo, the sometimes scary local buses.

4. Colors/Architecture: I posted pictures of those things here before. Arequipa residential areas can be a photographer’s heaven. I’m not an architecture person so I will probably butcher whatever I will say, but it’s a mix of European and native styles. These things are hard to explain. Anyhow, thanks to all the colors and gorgeous architecture, there is less likelihood you will get depressed in Arequipa.

P.S. The colors also include the vintage VW Beetles that come in a rainbow of colors. They are apparently not expensive at all. HMMM.

5. Non-Tourist Destination: It’s all relative but I didn’t see a lot of tourists in Arequipa. The Colca Canyon is one of the major attractions but that is a few hours away. Most of the tourists are concentrated in the main square area where you can see monasteries (like Monasterio de Santa Catalina I posted about before), museums, visit shops, restaurants, and just generally enjoy walking around.

It’s nice to blend in with the locals. Or at least try to.

Plaza de Armas
One of my favorite places to visit, the square at Mirador de Yanahuara
Weekly Sunday Parade at Plaza de Armas

5 Not Best Things

1 through 5: THINGS. Noise. People. Traffic. Malls. Traffic. Traffic. Noise. Noise. Noise. Noise. People.

Arequipa has about one million people and it’s a big city, so of course there is the super busy city center and more peaceful rural areas. I was in the city center. I never got a good picture of the traffic or the more non-picturesque parts of Arequipa life because whenever I walked along a major road I just wanted to get to the destination. The fumes from the car exhaust make your eyes hurt. There is constant honking – oh my god, the honking. Honking in Arequipa is equivalent to trying to resist freshly baked bread with butter: it’s useless. Divers honk even if they are in gridlock and it is obvious that the traffic is not moving. They honk if they are (insert any emotions here). They honk if they see an attractive girl. They honk to let people know they are available. They honk because…they…can.

At Tiabaya visiting a new friend. About 25 minutes by local bus from the city center. Nice to get away from the noise for some fresh air.

So I have mixed feelings about Arequipa. That being said, I was only there for a month, the majority of which was spent at school, so what the hell do I know. Hopefully I will get to know the city better.

If someone asked me if they should visit Arequipa, I would probably say “sure?” with that exact intonation. Cusco has more of a “wow” factor as far as the stereotypical prettiness and wow-ness are concerned. Arequipa has its own charm but I think it takes longer to find it.

Readers, I would not disappoint you. Of COURSE I made a face in one of the pictures.
And try to not be this guy if you do visit

Now to await responses for my Couchsurfing requests. Ay caramba.

3 thoughts on “The 4-Weeks Series: #3 – Arequipa”

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