After saying goodbye to Lima we arrived in Arequipa early in the morning looking to do two things, hike in a canyon and eat some great food. As eating great food has never been a problem in Peru we quickly got to work seeing all the things this “white” city had to offer us before heading to the canyon.
And that was mummies, lots of them.
It seems the dry desert air combined with the frigid temperatures at high altitudes make a great environment for preserving mummies. We began with a small archaeological history museum in the center where we saw our first set of mummies and it was there that we decided that we didn’t want to take any pictures of dead people (bad juju, sorry) but luckily others aren’t quite so queasy and so we’re using their pics.
We next went to a monastery and having never been in such a place before it was a bit of a surprise to see a real monk there as well. The reason for going was their rather unique museum of Southern Peru which featured an impressive array of dead amazonian animals (including some very large snakes and piranhas), a lot of religious stuff, and more mummies. Yes, we couldn’t believe we found mummies in a monastery but apparently that’s OK with them. Also impressive with the monastery was the library where we found rather ancient copies of Don Quixote and many, many, many religious texts….including an old Hebrew bible.
The most impressive mummy of all however was Juanita, the Ice Princess. Named for the Gringo John (Juan in Spanish) who discovered her, Juanita is believed to have been sacrificed by her Incan ancestors in order to appease the gods. You may have seen her story on National Geographic channel. Found in 1995 after a large earthquake, Juanita is on display in Arequipa for only half the year, the rest of the year she travels the world on display. -Although she wasn’t the only child to be sacrificed (in fact 3 others were with her on the same mountain top-Ampato) she is one of the best preserved and offers researchers a way to study and understand her past.
Before we left there was one thing we had to try- the rocotto relleno. A pepper stuffed with spicy meat and veggies, toped with cheese, the rocotto relleno is one of the most traditional foods of Arequipa. No wonder, it was delicious, not too spicy, but just the right balance of flavors. Top it off with the free glass of wine (sometimes the tourist restaurants are worth it!) and well it was a delicious meal.
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