Travels with Mikey, Day 3: Arequipa — Turtles, Beer and Burritos

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March 27, 2013 by jiejie768

El Misti Volcano dominates the skyline as it soars above the countryside outside Arequipa.

El Misti Volcano dominates the skyline as it soars above the countryside outside Arequipa.

Wednesday, March 13, was a fairly mild affair, looking back. For one, it was the first (and, it turns out, only) chance we had to sleep in as late as we wanted. With our trip to Colca Canyon coming Thursday, and Santa Catalina monastery taken care of Tuesday, our only objectives for Day 2 in Arequipa were to get to a viewpoint and visit the cathedral, which we knew from the previous day, was open from 5-7 p.m. So we took our time getting up, though I think all three of us were out of bed by 8:15 a.m. This was important, as it allowed us to take advantage of the second-best thing about our hotel: Free breakfast! Most hotels in Peru feature a complimentary breakfast, but this one went above and beyond the norm. In addition to the standard offerings of coffee, fruit juice, bread, jam and cheese, we were treated to fried eggs and a delicious banana-stuffed pancake made by an in-house chef.

Lolo the Turtle, 30, is the resident guard-turtle at Las Torres de Ugarte, our hotel in Arequipa.

Lolo the Turtle, 30, is the resident guard-turtle at Las Torres de Ugarte, our hotel in Arequipa.

I say breakfast was the second-best thing about our hotel because, while this would be the key feature at just about any other lodging in Peru, Las Torres de Ugarte had a wild card. Occupying her own corner of the courtyard where Meg, Mikey and I were staying, was Lolo, a 30-year old turtle owned by the hotel. This was a bit of surprise when we first arrived, but the novelty, in addition to the fact that the turtle shares a name with our favorite Seattle-area sixth-grader, was a definite check in the hotel’s plus column.

Meg poses in front of El Misti atop the Sachaca viewpoint in Arequipa

Meg poses in front of El Misti atop the Sachaca viewpoint in Arequipa

After breakfast, the three of us set out on the town in search of our viewpoint. Among my favorite things to when visiting a new city is to go to the top of something and look out over the landscape from above. This goal was intensified in Arequipa given the area’s surrounding natural beauty. A stop at the local tourist information center (iPeru … giver of maps, directions and posters) pointed us toward the Mirador de Sachaca. After a failed attempt to grab a local bus, we hailed a cab and were on our way. Sachaca was just what the doctor ordered, featuring panoramic views of the city and the ever-present mountains behind it. We climbed the five or so flights of stairs to the top of the tower, which featured Jesus and a giant cross because, of course.

Meg and Ryan take the obligatory jumping picture at Arequipa's Sachaca Viewpoint while El Misti Volcano looks on in the background. (Photo by Mikey Ward)

Meg and Ryan take the obligatory jumping picture at Arequipa’s Sachaca Viewpoint while El Misti Volcano looks on in the background. (Photo by Mikey Ward)

At the top we soaked in the scenery and snapped (more than) a few photos, including a pretty solid jumping picture with El Misti in the background. After we’d had our fill of the landscape, we headed downstairs and grabbed some ice cream for the trip back into town.

The rest of our schedule was wide open. We grabbed doner kebabs for lunch, and then Meg hit up a local clothing store, while Mikey and I wandered off in search of malted-hop-flavored refreshment (we ended up back at Tacos and Tequila, a recurring theme on this trip). It’s hard to explain just how happy I was to have a drinking buddy.

Having Mikey along for the trip was great in many ways, not least of which was his world-class ability as a drinking buddy. Here you see Arequipena Beer, a decent regional brand I hadn't heard of before reaching Arequipa.

Having Mikey along for the trip was great in many ways, not least of which was his world-class ability as a drinking buddy. Here you see Arequipena Beer, a decent regional brand I hadn’t heard of before reaching Arequipa.

I’ve touched on this before on the blog, but when it comes to my version of the Drinking Buddy World Rankings, Mikey’s had the top spot on lockdown for past decade or so. The three of us reconvened about 5 p.m. and headed over to check out the cathedral.

Arequipa’s cathedral is unique in that it, allegedly, is the only cathedral in Peru to take up an entire side of its city’s Plaza de Armas. The exterior features Arequipa’s standard white rock facade and a pair of attractive bell towers reaching into the sky flanked by El Misti and his fellows. The interior of the cathedral is gorgeous, but frankly, hard to distinguish from any other ornate and expensive Catholic church viewable throughout Peru, South America, Europe and elsewhere. Only in America, I’ve found, are churches utilitarian. Elsewhere, they’re works of art.

The cathedral in Arequipa is an impressive structure situated in the Plaza de Armas. Inside, however, it's much like any other heavily decorated Catholic outpost around the globe.

The cathedral in Arequipa is an impressive structure situated in the Plaza de Armas. Inside, however, it’s much like any other heavily-decorated Catholic outpost around the globe.

Of particular note in Arequipa’s cathedral is the, apparently, top-notch stained-glass windows. I always enjoy seeing the churches in a town, as they are almost always spectacular, it’s just that I don’t really know how differentiate one from the other; a day later Chivay would provide a notable and welcome exception to this rule of thumb. Before dinner, we stopped at the hotel to drop off some extra baggage and take in the spectacular sunset from Las Torres’ rooftop patio.

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After leaving the hotel, we returned to Tacos and Tequila, our own holy place of sorts, for more beer and some cheap burritos. The burritos were decent (Burrito Bar in Barranco, Lima, is better), but were more like a salad made up of burrito filling with a tortilla on the side. After dinner, we grabbed a huge (seven liters) bottle of water and a six-pack of (22 ounce) beers at a local grocery store and returned to the hotel. There, we enjoyed our barley pops and forced Mikey to play Liverpool Rummy — a card game that is a staple in Meg’s family, but which requires three people to function properly — and turned in fairly early. I tried, with little enthusiasm, to follow the happenings of the UW/WSU (10:15 p.m. tip, Arequipa time) match-up in the Pac 12 tourney, but fell asleep while watching an Internet gamecast. I woke up sometime in the middle of the night to find we’d won by two. I did a little fist pump and promptly returned to sleep.

The next morning, we woke early (6 a.m. or so) and got ready for the next leg of our journey: the two-day, one-night jaunt in Colca Canyon, which, at more than 9,000 feet deep, is the second-deepest canyon in the world.

Catch up on all our Travels with Mikey:

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