Today we left El Manzano around 6:15am on a 4M Express bus to Arequipa costing $30 (85s) per person. As we had booked ahead, the bus came to pick us up right at our hotel. Actually, at least today, the 4M buses from Puno to Chivay and Puno to Arequipa were the same until Pampa Canahuas, at which point the people going to Arequipa had to move to a smaller bus. Comically enough, Laura and Alex ended up being on our bus, as they are traveling to Chivay. We have now been on four tours with them – completely uncoordinated! Great minds certainly think alike.
A couple of hours outside of town, Alex – who has not felt fully recovered from the Inca Trail/Wayna Picchu hiking – started feeling quite unwell. The tour guide – who has not been that great so far – jumped into action. She gave him rubbing alcohol to smell to clear his nausea and she and the second bus driver grabbed the oxygen tank. Poor Alex was shaking from the sickness but the treatment seemed to keep him from getting worse. The guide called ahead to Chivay to have a doctor ready for him when he arrives.
We drove past Lake Laginillas, where we saw some flamingos from afar. We stopped for about 15 minutes at an overview of the lake, where there was a view point, 1 sole bathrooms, and some textiles being sold. Due to it being very windy, it felt quite cold. JT wished that he had brought his windbreaker with him. The combination of the wind, brushy plant life, general arid conditions, and the rolling mountains in the distance made JT think of west Texas.
Supposedly we were supposed to see the Great Imata Stone Forest from the van, but it was not noted.
We saw some camelids crossing the road at one point, and off to the side of the road at other points. The national park was formed to protect these camelids. Then we stopped for a snack and tea at Pampa Canahuas. This is a city inside of the Aguada Blanca National Park, but all we saw during the stop was the inside of a restaurant. We had a provided snack of a small cheese, tomato, and ham or avocado sandwich, small chocolate, water, and tea. However, the snack was really hurried and we didn’t even have time to finish our tea.
After the break, we changed to a smaller van to go to Arequipa (since the larger van was continuing to Chivay). Now we had no guide, just a driver. Not too far after our snack spot, JT noticed a strange looking vehicle stopped at a market… when we got closer, we discovered it to be a Google Streetview car!! Neither one of us has ever before seen one of these vehicles that has helped revolutionize mapping. Who would have thought we would see our first in the middle of nowhere in Peru!! Katie had noticed before leaving home that Arequipa had been recorded for street view, but now it seems they are mapping more rural areas.
In the end, taking the 4M Express service was disappointing. It only made two stops (and one was just a hurried restaurant stop) and the guide was difficult to understand. If Cruz del Sur did a route leaving Puno in the morning, that would be a clear winner. There were some positives to 4M over other bus companies though: they did handle Alex’s illness well, they dropped us a block from our hotel, and the larger 4M bus did have a bathroom on board (which is always comforting to have – even if it took your entire body weight to open or close the door).
After arriving in Arequipa, we checked into El Alberque Espanol ($12 for twins with shared bathroom on Booking.com). We then carried our 8kg of dirty laundry to a laundry service a few blocks away, where we paid 3 soles per kilogram to get our clothing cleaned.
Carlos from Carlitos Tours then met us at our hostel at 1:40pm to give us a 2-3 hour walking tour of Arequipa (included in Colca Canyon treks). We walked around the city with him for a few hours and saw the first Spanish neighborhood in Arequipa, the first two bridges the Spanish built in the city, learned about the mountains/volcanoes surrounding Arequipa, and much more. We stopped at a street food cart and got some orange juice made from oranges right then and there (2 soles per glass). Near the end of the tour, we stopped at the main local market. We tried a Peruvian fruit called grenadilla that was great. We also tried frog juice (10 soles). The frog juice was made by boiling a de-skinned frog killed right in front of you and blending the dead frog (including the bones) with a bunch of other ingredients including tree sap and honey. Overall it didn’t taste too weird. It was indeed a bit sad to see the frog get killed, and to look at its live buddies judging you while you drank the juice. Carlos also took us by a traditional medicine stall. In addition to many powders and sprays, the stall also sold dead llama and alpaca fetuses, as these are apparently used instead of live animals in current-day ritual sacrifices.
Then we walked over to Cusco Coffee, where Carlos previously worked making coffee (and now holds trip meetings there for his tourism business), to go over the tour details and pay. Carlos went over the itinerary, everything that was included (almost everything – just not water, one optional towel rental at the Chivay hot springs and a mule if we need it), showed us pictures, and discussed what to bring. Then we paid our 383 soles ($138) per person and went back to the hostel. Carlos’ motto seems to be: ‘don’t worry, be happy’.
We decided to go to dinner at a place Carlos recommended, Hatunpa, which was also a place Katie had found highly recommended. Hatunpa uses 3-4 different types of potatoes as a base and then tops them with your toppings choice. Katie had a cream and corn topping (8.5 soles), while JT had an alpaca and vegetables topping (15 soles). It was very tasty and filling.
Then we picked up our laundry and went back to the hostel to pack for our 3am departure. The solar heated water in the showers at the hostel was reasonably warm when we took showers just after 8pm. However, in order to get warm enough water, we only turned on the hot water faucet. Also, both of us used the women’s shower on the first floor, as the men’s solar water heater on the first floor did not work.
Google Streetview car near Pampa Canahuas.
Pretty scenery between Pampa Canahuas and Arequipa.
Our twin room at El Alberque Espanol.
The first Spanish neighborhood in Arequipa
El Misti as seen from Arequipa
Trying grenadilla in the Arequipa market.
Our boiled frog
Drinking the frog juice
Carlos during our pre-trip meeting at Cusco Coffee.