This year we are exploring south of the border (of the continent) and planning to get really high (mostly above 8000 ft).
We are touring Peru and Bolivia for about 8 weeks. During the first two weeks we are studying Español (Spanish) in Arequipa, Peru. Why? Because there is less English spoken here than in SMA. And the weather is better in Arequipa than in Lima Peru.
From here we will be checking out Colca Canyon, one of the deepest in the world. We will be there for Pat’s b’day and our 49th!!! anniversary. Then on to Lake Titicaca. From there we will move on to La Paz and the Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia. We will stay in a hotel made out of blocks of Salt while in the Salt Flats.
From there we will return to Peru, visiting Cusco and Machu Picchu. Then we move on to a Lodge in the Amazon. Next we will visit the NW coast of Peru to explore Pre-Incan sites. And finally, a week in Lima, renowned for its cuisine. Watch the blog for periodic updates.
What are we up to now?
We travelled from San Miguel to Arequipa (via Mexico City and Lima) without incident.
After 5 days of classes we are definitely making progress on our Spanish. Our teacher splits the time between classroom instruction and touring the city, with most of the dialog in Spanish. This improves our ability to understand spoken Spanish and helps us build our vocabulary. Tomorrow she will be our guide visiting one of the big events in Arequipa, Founder's Day.
We are still hoping to purchase lightweight sweaters of “baby alpaca”. Note: Baby Alpaca refers to wool from the first ever clipping of an alpaca, not necessarily from a baby Alpaca. Anyway, finding a sweater that is the perfect weight and the perfect colors turns out to be challenging. Aside from checking out maybe 20 “baby alpaca” shops, we visited a museum featuring llamas and alpacas where we got some insight into how to ascertain the quality of alpaca and vicuña (the best of the best) items. At the museum we enjoyed watching a weaving demonstration. The weaver is dressed traditionally. Apparently, the design of the hat is key to identifying her village of origen.
Along with studying Spanish, touring and shopping we have managed to find a little food and wine (all Peruvian and excellent). Our top restaurants to date are ChiCha (by renowned Peruvian chef Gaston Acurio) and ZigZag, which offers modern takes on classic Peruvian dishes. ZigZag also features a spiral staircase by the famous French architect Gustave Alexandre Eiffel.
A traditional Arequipan dish is Rocoto Relleno. Rocoto is a spicy pepper that looks like a sweet red pepper. It is de-seeded and boiled to remove the spice, then stuffed with finely cut steak, cheese, black olives, ground peanuts, various Peruvian spices, sometimes raisins, then baked. The cheese oozes out from the top. It’s served with pastel de papa – potato cake (thin slices of potato mixed with cheese and eggs). We enjoyed ours on our first night here. A very tasty combination.
Arequipa has 3 local volcanoes. The photo below shows 2 of them: Chachani (19,872 feet) & El Misti (19,110 feet). By the way the altitude here in the city (7600 feet.) is a little higher to that of San Miguel (around 6000 feet).
Tomorrow we will be celebrating Founders Day with our language instructor. We are really looking forward to our first traditional Peruvian celebration.
Please do not expect a lot of Blog postings in the next week or so. It turns out that 6 hours/day of language study is keeping us VERY busy.