The next stop on my hop on/off bus trip was Arequipa. This involved a long, overnight journey from Huacachina, arriving at Arequipa 5.30 in the morning.
I arranged an airbnb in the city for four days, staying with a lovely older couple in their small flat. They were very good about me turning up early in the morning. However it did feel a bit like staying in Gran’s spare room; my room was full of random stuff in the drawers (letters, coupons, the odd bit of clothing) and over my bed was a picture of Jesus. The bathroom was full of stuff made with crochet and lace. However it was considerably cheaper than my rooms on the previous two nights.
Arequipa is also known as the white city. This is because of the white stone particular to the region, quarried from the volcanos that surround the city.
It’s a very attractive city, good for just walking around and also shopping for things made with alpaca wool.
One of the most popular places to visit is the Santa Catalina Monastery. Known as ‘a city inside a city’ it goes on for an entire block, hidden behind an imposing brick wall.
For the (somewhat steep) fee of 40 soles (£8/us$12) you can go in and wander around. I debated whether to go in because it seemed a little expensive, but in the end I did. It was well worth it.
The convent was founded by a wealthy Spanish woman in the late 1500s, and parents paid a dowry to allow their daughters to go live there, equivalent to around $150,ooo by today’s standards. The women lived a luxurious life inside the convent, most with their own servants. At its peak there were 150 nuns living there and around 300 servants.
The convent was badly damaged by an earthquake in the 1960s, and so opened to the public in order to pay for restoration work. The money was also used to instal electricity. A few nuns remain at the convent.