Arequipa

Arequipa is in the southwestern corner of Peru. It has a population of about 1M people and my friend Alvaro tells me that the people are the subject of cruel jokes by the rest of Peru – the equivalent of Newfies in Canada. But as it happens I really like the Arequipans and I love their city.

The Plaza de Armas is one of the most beautiful in Peru
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The Plaza has large covered walkways on three sides
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The sun is intense here and the shade is appreciated
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The atmosphere in the park is constantly festive. You can always see kids taking photos of themselves. I don’t think it’s my imagination but after a couple of months in Peru I think the Arequipans are more extrovert than elsewhere. They appear to be homogenous and local. Although Arequipa is on the visitor’s trail you don’t see many tourists
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And on the weekend there can be several couples taking pre-wedding shots. It’s a wonderful place to hang out and people watch
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It’s called the White City. Nearly all the structures are cut out of the light grey volcanic rock
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Which looks like this close up
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Fabulous architecture everywhere. This happens to be a great restaurant where your food comes out roasting on a hot stone, like in many places
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Houses over the river
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We go to a couple of museums. This museum, Museo Santuario, houses perhaps the most famous mummy in Peru. Except she’s not a mummy because she isn’t embalmed, but I don’t know the correct word
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We’re not allowed to take photographs. I stole this pic off the web. Her name is Juanita and her story is both hugely inspiring and tragic.
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Then we go off to Museo Arqueologico. Again no photo’s allowed. This houses a large collection of textiles. Fabulous
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One of the reasons I’m hanging out in Arequipa is to receive a front brake pump which is being shipped here, together with a mechanic from BMW Lima. They’ve not done a great job previously so they’re re-doing it here at no cost.

While I’m waiting I get an email from Alvaro in Lima. I met him at the Touratech dealer in Lima and rode down the coast with him a few weeks ago. He’s in his mid-thirties and’s a successful businessman in Lima.

He wants to know if I’m in Arequipa and if so he wants to know if I want to go exploring while Lucinda and I wait. We decide he’s going to ride the 1000K down and we’ll head off to the Colca Canyon. Great idea.

Talking about businessmen, I was searching for BMW Motorrad bike service earlier and here’s what the BMW cars pages look like here in Peru. Fully armoured, and as they emphasize, AK47 proof. In this ad they emphasize how they’ve dealt with traditional vulnerable spots
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3cm bullet-proof glass comes standard. Nice
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We go out on the town the night Alvaro arrives and are set to leave the next morning. But the hotel is a block off the Plaza de Armas where there’s a military ceremony, so we watch for awhile. Two sides of the square are filled with hundreds of soldiers
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They represent the three districts of the Army – jungle, altiplano and ocean. Jungle
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Ocean
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And altiplano
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The altiplano troops are more indigenous than the others, and thus shorter, and much younger. Some of them don’t look like soldiers at all. But I’m assured that not only are they skilled, but they’re fully able to support the government no matter what uprising occurs
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Finally and separately are the police. I’m told they’re 90% corrupt and that in a pinch money reliably talks. And not much money
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There’s an inspection of the troops by the Chiefs. Airforce, Army and Navy
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And in case you don’t think they’re equipped, the papers today announced more MIGs
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The marching style of the forces is strident and impressive. See the video to the left.

There are security forces carefully watching the crowds. See the other video for a serious badass on the alert. A drunk older but otherwise presentable man forces his way to the front of the crowd, right beside me, and starts yelling something about how they lost their last war with Chile. The crowd around us isn’t uncomfortable. The security badass gently and very respectfully escorts him away.

I had to think about this for awhile – then it came to me, another Peruvian penny drops – the family extends to all here.

In the side streets school kids are practicing their marching too. They’re enjoying themselves. The girls
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The boys are just goofing around because the girls are watching and it’s clearly not cool to be too into this
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City officials wait with the beautiful Peruvian flag. Although it shares much with the Canadian flag their flag’s proportions and red intensity are different and the result is bolder
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Our Ottawa boys figuring it out. I love this photo. If I’m in a grumpy mood I can look at it and laugh for hours
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The night before we’ve bribed the parking lot attendant to come and unlock the armoured gate on a Sunday, telling him to be here at exactly 10:00 am but there’s a glitch. A truck pulls up and dumps troops that line up right in front of our parking lot
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But it all works out, as it always does, until it doesn’t
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