Week 62 - Arequipa
We got up nice and early, enjoyed our breakfast including several coffees and said goodbye to the lovely hostel owners and their cute dogs. We stashed our tyres in one of the spare rooms and then we were on our way back to Peru. Again, the border crossing was super smooth and they recognised us. Both the Bolivian and Peruvian sides were super friendly, and we said farewell...for another month!
We headed accross the altiplano, again on long straight roads, in the direction of Moquega. Fortunately the scenery was actually quite stunning and dramatic, so despite the cold and the endless linear tarmac we enjoyed the ride. On arriving in the town the road was in disrepair and a bit strange, so much so we weren't sure if we were going the right way, and once we got to the 'location' of our hostel, it was nowhere to be found. It's not uncommon for the hostels to have to wrong location on Maps.me and booking.com and luckily there was a lady stood up on a balcony above us who offered to help. She could see her friend coming down the narrow street in his Mercedes and flagged him down. We then followed him through the tiny streets into one of the main plazas. Upon asking one of the locals he worked out exactly where we were meant to be and took us to right outside the hostel. We thanked him and then he had to get moving because the street was barely wide enough for one car, and if you hold up anyone for more than one second the beeping starts!!
The place was nice enough and close to the square, so after we sorted ourselves out we went for a wander. There was not one tourist in sight, it was great. The main street was bustling with life, especially as the light faded. A lady at the side of the road was making fresh chips, and being an hour or so until most restaurants would open we decided to get some...well, it'd be rude not to! They were amazing. The temptation was to buy lots more but we stopped ourselves and a bit later we found a nice Chifa (Chinese) for a cheap, sit down meal, which also tasted great. We took the leftovers with us and just before we got back to the hostal we gave it to a couple running a tiny stall selling water and confectionary. They were very happy! We hung around a few minutes to watch some kids dancing in the square and then we headed back to get some sleep before the potentially long ride to Arequipa the next day.
We decided that taking the back roads via El Molino on the MO-108 to Arequipa would be a lot more enjoyable. It meant back-tracking about 20km or so, but for us it would be better than more tarmac for the next 200-300km! It was a good decision as the scenery was mind-blowing! The only drawback to our great idea was the endless roadworks...and they really were endless. Every few Km we had to stop in many areas, some for longer than others. In one section there was a huge lorry with a JCB on the back of it trying to navigate through the roadworks, and I was amazed it didn't fall off the edge of the cliff...it was so close I could barely watch. They are crazy!!! To top this off neither of us were actually feeling that well, with Kelvin suffering from a bad stomach and I was coming down with a cold, so needless to say it took us the entire day to make it to Arequipa. Maybe we should have taken the easy route, but overall we were glad to have experienced the scenery of the back roads.
On reaching Arequipa we found our roadside hotel, Hotel San Lazaro, that I had booked online for a bargain of £10 a night! We were a little dubious about it to begin with however once they opened the door and let us in we felt a lot better about it. The family running it greeted us and gave us a choice of rooms, which were all massive, and they also had a very cute dog, albeit a little grubby. Kelvin was feeling particularly ill by the time we got inside and crawled into bed after a hot shower. I wasn't feeling tip top by any means but our friend Kirsi with her dog Jack were staying only two blocks away so I went to meet them at a cool little pub called Chelawasi, which only one block away. I was super happy because they sold cider and great burgers. It's amazing how medicinal cider can be! It was great to see Kirsi and Jack again and we had a good catch up before heading back to our hostels.
The following day we both chilled out and tried to claw back some of our energy before going to meet Kirsi and Jack again at Chelawasi. Kelvin was just as glad to have some more cider, and we knew that after Peru we may not be so lucky in finding cider. There was also the 'Red Lion' pub, which was a British themed pub and again had a selection of ciders, just don't bother going for the food...it was shite! Despite this, Arequipa was home to some great places to eat, be it cakes, burgers, indian or anything else for that matter! We found a fantastic cake shop called Mocca, which sold the freshesh, scrummiest cakes, so much so that each time we visited there were many people coming in and buying their whole cakes...stocked shelves one minute, empty the next! Always a good sign. Next on our list of favourites was Huayaruo coffee shop, which not only produced superb coffee, but made the best breakfasts with proper crispy bacon! Mmmm mmm!
There was a place called Ristorroti next to Chelawasi, home to more great coffee and indulgent waffles, and an Indian restaurant only a few blocks down called India Indian Cuisine. This place rivalled Mantra Garden in Lima, so it was damn good. Sadly they didn't like having dogs in the restaurant but we were able to get take-away and ate it at Kirsis's hotel. Just a word of warning if you go to this place...if you normally like medium curry go for mild! It was spicy but oh so good! The last place was Vikingos on the plaza. It offered many standard Peruvian dishes and steaks, and although the food wasn't quite as good and a bit more pricey than the other places we'd been to further away from the plaza, the view from the balcony area was stunning, especially after dark when the plaza was all lit up. All-in-all, Arequipa was a great place for beautiful buildings, food and drinks. It was just as well our hostel was so cheap because the rest of our daily budget went on consuming all that Arequipa had to offer!
Kelvin's stomach still wasn't settling and we decided that it was probably best to go and see a doctor. I thought I may as well get checked at the same time given that we'd eaten a lot of the same stuff and spent a lot of time around various cats and dogs over the last year. We contacted a local doctor, Dr Jorge Alatrista, from 'Medical Assist' who spoke english and the next morning we were off to see him. The consultation was around an hour for us both and he took a full history, weight, blood pressure, heart rate and oxygen saturations. He then decided that the best course of action would be to get us checked for nasties living in our gut, so the next morning off we went to Laboratorios Munoz, armed with stool samples! Nice!! By the afternoon we had the results...parasites! Eek! I kind of suspected as much but now it was confirmed. The Dr emailed us a prescription covering antibiotics, antiparasitics, antihistamines (I'd had a constantly runny nose and sneezing), antacids and probiotics! Sheesh, what a list and what a bag of pills, but it really didn't cost that much to my suprise.
Once we had recouped and felt a bit better, we got ready for the next instalment of adventure...Colca Canyon! I recalibrated my valves, yet again, put the luggage back on and then we were all set. Arequipa had been all about food, drink and R&R, but now we were ready to get going!