Arequipa and Colca Valley

While my mom was here visiting me, we wandered around Lima, had lunch with my whole host family, visited museums, and ate lots of good food (I also took surfing lessons finally!). 

We flew to Arequipa for the last weekend of her visit and ventured into Colca Valley. The weekend in Arequipa and Colca Valley was a huge reminder of what makes a good trip a good trip: the element of surprise, not knowing what to expect and taking note of the quirks that come up that you never could have imagined before. Driving through Colca Valley in our tour bus (unashamed to be *that* tourist) it was all wide open spaces and rolling hills and everything was empty and tree-less for miles around. Because it is the dry season, the landscape was invariably in a palette of pale green, yellow, brown and beige, until we approached the towns and finally our hotel destination for the night in Yanque. There was gradually more and more fir trees and shrubs, as if the Georgia O’Keefe-esque lineal, simple shapes of hills and plains had suddenly turned into a detailed picturesque landscape, like something out of wine country somewhere. On our horseback ride in Yanque, we rode up hills and around corners and down into mini valleys. I wanted to keep exploring forever. We passed fields and farms and a thermal natural spring created by the various nearby volcanoes, crossed bridges spanning ravines and streams, and watched people zip line between the hills and cliffs above us.

To do a quick run-through of the characters we met along the way: a pair of Peruvian friends who have known each other since school days, one of whom moved to NJ and started her family there. Countless locals wearing cowboy hats and pulling it off because it just fit so logically with the rest of the environment. Herds of vicuñas, a relative of alpacas and llamas, roaming freely over the plains and grouping together around big puddles of water. All the fluffy baby llamas and alpacas, their owners ready for photo opps in every town. Condors flying overhead, sometimes eleven all at once, at the lookout between two cliffs exclusively from 8-10 a.m. sharp every morning.

The wildlife and landscape was something out of a dream.

And then there was Hermogenes who led us on horseback around Yanque, sitting like a cowboy with one hand on the reins and the other falling casually to his side, having been around horses his whole life. In the middle of the ride, he turned around to tell us it was his birthday that day (!), as if he had been deciding whether to tell us or not the whole time. My mom and I made a huge deal about it. The girl my age working at Casa Arequipa, where we stayed in the city, studying for her English exam. We helped her study from one of her past tests. Honestly, I struggled with most of the questions, resorting to Google often. You don’t realize how much English intricacies you only know because things just sound “right.” It made me grateful I don’t have to learn English as a second language.

Sunny Arequipa
Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa

Breakfast at Killawasi Lodge, Yanque