Posted by: Ali | May 7, 2010


It’s official, I’m back in Canada now. My adventure is over, which means that this blog is mostly over too. There are a few recent posts that I need to upload pictures for, for those of you who are too far away for me to show photos in person. Also, since I’ve been featured on …en Peru as a movie critic, I’m going to try to keep posting about Peruvian movies, should they come my way.

Anyways, I had a great time in Peru, and it was fun doing the blog. Thanks to everyone for reading and being interested. To all my friends and family back in Canada, I will see you soon. Chau!

Posted by: Ali | May 5, 2010

Salinas and Aguada Blanca

The Salinas and Aguada Blanca Wildlife Reserve is just outside of Arequipa and doesn’t exactly have a name that rolls off the tongue.  It’s an animal reserve that is located between 3,500 and 6,000 meters above sea level, which really begs the question: why would animals want to live there in the first place?  It’s mostly full of llamas and other furry beasts, but there are a lot of ducks and apparently even flamingos that live there.  Don’t the ducks freeze their little toes off?  Apparently it gets down to -15 degrees at night.

Anyways it sure was full of cute fuzzies, although unfortunately most of the time we drove by something too fast to get a good picture, or when we stopped and stepped outside for photography all the animals would run away (who would have thought?)

Most of what we saw were the camelids.  In the Andes there are four varieties: llamas, alpacas, vicunas and guanucos.  I can never tell the difference between llamas and alpacas, and sometimes there are even hybrids, but I will try to identify them in my photos.  Vicunas are the cutest things ever; they also have the softest wool.  One vicuna creates about 50 grams of wool per year, so the current market price for vicuna wool is $500 per kilo.  A scarf might cost you $1000 while a sweater of vicuna wool could cost you $5000 or more.  The last kind is the guanuco, which is endangered and elusive, so I didn’t see any of them.

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In other news alpaca meat is tasty and cholesterol-free!

Posted by: Ali | May 4, 2010

Colca Canyon

The Colca Canyon is the second deepest canyon in the world, although it sometimes claims to be the deepest, while in reality the Cotahuasi Canyon is about a hundred feet deeper or so, and it’s about half an hour away from Colca.  Anyways, it’s one of the main tourist destinations in Peru, after Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca.

We went on a two-day tour of the canyon, which was mostly just a lot of driving and stopping at really touristy lookout spots.  We passed through a lookout point that was at 4,910 m above sea level, which was really friggin’ high.  Anyways, enough blabbering, here are some belated pictures:

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I’ve discovered that with a regular camera it’s really really difficult to convey the depth of a canyon…

Posted by: Ali | May 4, 2010


Today we woke up at 5am (yes, me, waking up at 5am…. it happens very rarely, so mark this day on your calendar) to go see the condors at Cruz del Condor in the Colca Canyon near Arequipa.

It was kindof an adventure but not all the good kind.  Mostly it was a lot of driving, a whole bunch of tourists, and a bit of a cliche.  Condors were considered sacred by the Incas and other pre-hispanic cultures of Peru.  They generally represented heaven, or, well, their own interpretation of it.  More like the world above our world where the gods lived.  They’re also the biggest flying birds in the world, with a three-meter wingspan.

Anyways, the whole experience wasn’t terribly fun, because, you see, we’re standing on the edge of a cliff, and then all of a sudden I hear a thud behind me, and turn around and this guy is tumbling down towards me, and comes to a halt about five feet from me, not moving.  Friggin’ scary if you ask me – what if he had run into someone else on the way down?  What if he had hit his head?  What if he was slightly closer to the edge?  What if it was me?  Anyways, turns out he was drunk, and he mostly hurt his shoulder from landing on it hard.  Lucky bastard.

Posted by: Ali | May 3, 2010

The Stone Forest

In the adventure to the Colca Canyon, we passed through many interesting landscapes.  Lots of volcanoes, but my favourite was the “Bosque de Piedra,” a series of strange rock formations that were caused by erosion due to the wind.

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Posted by: Ali | May 2, 2010

White water rafting

Holy crap, it was awesome!  I’ve never been before, but today we went rafting on the Chili River, which is only about 15 minutes away from downtown Arequipa.

When we booked the tour, the agency said it was a level I river, which was good for beginners, but when we got to the river, our instructor said we’d be going on level I, II, and III rapids.  Incidentally, all the rapids had names, like “Gatekeeper,” “Goal,” and “Low Bridge.”

We got to a point in the river (it was 6km long) where our guide, Roberto, told us that we were going to get out and walk for a bit, because it was too dangerous for beginners to go down the river.  He pointed us to the beach, and told us to paddle hard. Apparently, we didn’t paddle hard enough, since our stern got caught in the current and we started going down the “too dangerous” rapids, backwards!  They turned out to be a level IV rapids, and only one person fell out of the boat (don’t worry, we rescued him).

The highlight were the ducks.  They were swimming along in the river ahead of us, just plunging down through the river, calm as if they were sitting on a couch watching TV.  We caught up with them eventually, sunning themselves on a rock.

So how much did this adventure cost?  $25 per person.  Booked the tour through Bravo Peru, and we liked them enough to book a Colca Canyon tour for tomorrow.

Posted by: Ali | May 1, 2010

The White City

Arequipa is really unusual, but I can’t put my finger on why.  Apparently they region is sort of like the Texas of Peru, they have weird accents, think they’re better than the rest of the country, and threaten to separate on occasion.  In souvenir shops I’ve seen booths selling official Arequipa passports.

It’s called the White City because the city is surrounded by three active volcanoes, which produce a rock called sillar, which is an interesting white volcanic rock.  Almost all of the colonial buildings are made out of this material, which gives it an interesting look.  Apparently it’s a fairly good rock for carving, so many of the buildings are very intricately decorated.

One thing that is true is that it’s hard to find budget options here – for food or accommodations.  There is definitely no shortage of hotels, restaurants, and tour providers, but they all seem geared at a higher budget than mine.  I did find a wonderful crepe shop that served Nutella and ice cream crepes though, yum.

The main attractions within the city, beside the fancy churches, are: the ice princess Juanita and the Monastery of Santa Catalina.

Juanita is a mummy that was found at the top of a nearby volcano.  She was an Inca noble who was sacrificed to appease the gods while the volcano was erupting.  She was found by climbers about 15 years ago and it was an incredible find since she was in perfect condition (since she was frozen) and it looked like she could have died last week.  She’s currently on display in a museum here.

The Monastery of Santa Catalina is actually a convent, with a sordid history.  According to tradition, the second daughter of Spanish noble families would typically become nuns.  Being from rich families, however, they came with large dowries, which would then get donated to the church.  Some nun in the 1500s came up with the idea of founding a convent in Arequipa, and using all the money from dowries to hire servants, buy slaves, and throw parties at the convent.  So um, it has an interesting past.  On top of that, it was subject to about six major earthquakes since it was built, which caused various parts of the convent to collapse and be rebuilt, so today it’s a hodgepodge of different architectural styles, with many rooms and hallways going off in random directions, creating what is essentially a huge maze.

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Posted by: Ali | April 29, 2010


Today was Pachacamac, the biggest set of ruins within Lima city, incidentally one I have also never visited (it’s kinda out of the way).  It was really amusing though how many tour groups there were going through, on a Thursday.  Most of them were school groups.

Pachacamac was very eroded… however it was still really interesting to see how multicultural it was.  It was built by the Lima, like Huaca Pucllana, then invaded and used by the Wari, also like Huaca Pucllana.  Unlike Huaca Pucllana, however, when the Incas came and invaded they used it too!  So there are three distinct periods and styles of use and construction.

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Posted by: Ali | April 28, 2010

Movie: The Royal Hunt of the Sun

The Royal Hunt of the Sun, 1969, directed by Irving Lerner, based on a play by Peter Shaffer

In history, Fransisco Pizarro invades Peru, captures the Inca Emperor Atahualpa, who then promises a room full of gold if he is released.  He makes good on his promise, then Pizarro kills him anyways.  The Royal Hunt of the Sun is a movie that focuses on this particular series of events.  Generally it is just assumed that Pizarro is a huge jerk, but this movie chooses to portray Pizarro as a wise, likable fellow, who forms a friendship with Atahualpa while he is imprisoned.

The Royal Hunt of the Sun is a really old movie, that’s based on an even older play.  Likely because of this, it’s not particularly accurate in certain respects – for example, their depiction of “the Indians” as primitive.  Atahualpa’s portrayal is also quite odd.  Although the point of the movie is to show him as a human being, someone who is likable and fairly well-matched to Pizarro, he randomly barks or purrs or screams to, you know, show how Indian he is.

The costuming is also pretty terrible.  There was essentially nothing in the movie that you might have seen if you went back in time – the Spaniards certainly didn’t look like conquistadors and the Incas didn’t look Peruvian.  However, the set design was really amazing.  The buildings that they were in certainly looked like Inca structures, right down to the trapezoidal doorways and fine masonry.  At several times during the movie I found myself looking closely to see if it was actually filmed on location in ruins in Peru, and the answer was that I didn’t recognize the particular ruins but it could have been here.

The story was pretty good, I thought, but you’ll have to watch it to see what you think.  A note on the story: the movie indicates that Pizarro’s on his third trip to Peru when he meets Atahualpa, but really it’s the first thing he does on his first trip.  Other than that, many elements of the story are scarily accurate, especially at the end.  There was even a quipu that guest starred in the beginning of the movie, which was pretty exciting.  Overall, it’s a fun movie, although keep in mind that it was made in the 1960s when you watch it.

I can’t find a trailer, but you can actually watch the whole thing on YouTube, here is the first part:

Posted by: Ali | April 27, 2010

Belen Valley

The Belen Valley was just beautiful.  Enough said.

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