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October 4, 2012

The drive from Cusco to Arequipa is a long one over a high altitude (4000m) section of Altiplano. We spent a night on route at a truck stop and reached Arequipa at lunchtime on our second day.  The road into the city passes an enormous cement factory which meant lots of really slow moving trucks.

In Arequipa there is a lovely hotel called Las Mercedes that has an area set outside for Overlanders and we made ourselves comfortable on arrival, with the very friendly staff making us feel more than welcome.

Arequipa is the second biggest city in Peru with a population of around 1m and has the full range of modern malls and shops. Snowcapped peaks tower over the city but the mid range altitude gives it a beautiful climate with hot days and cool nights.

One of the first things we did was head out to a big mall with a large DIY shop (called Sodimac, just like B&Q at home) to buy some things.

The city itself is very pretty and is known as the “White City”  (every country seems to have one) because of the stone used to make the buildings. The central area is quite small with a number of historic churches and a large Plaza de Armas with the main cathedral on one side.

The premier tourist site in Arequipa is the Monasterio de Santa Catalina which was actually a convent. This is like a city within a city and used to house 200 nuns and 300 servants. The nuns lived in fairly palatial quarters and each had their own kitchen with a large oven for baking goods to be sold in the city.  Definitely worth a visit.

Perhaps the highlight of our time in Arequipa was going out to dinner on my birthday. We went to a restaurant called Zig Zag (No.1 rated on Trip Advisor) where we had a fantastic meal. For the first time in a year we also had a good bottle of wine – an Argentinian Malbec. We were in heaven.

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