Sunday, June 22, 2008


That's the one of the volcanoes around Arequipa on the left, two shots of the main Plaza and the Cathedral from a roof top restaurant, and Scott with Pooh Bear.

After a night in Lima we flew to Arequipa, Peru´s second largest city. This is called the White City because it is built of silla, white volcanic stone. This stone is very easy to carve but soft. This has led to several meters thick walls and elaborate facades and interiors. It´s stunning. The Monasterio de Santa Catalina alone is worth the trip. That´s Walt & Honoree, Brenda & John and ourselves on the right. It has made me yearn for some big canvases and lots of oil paint. This 450

year old convent contains 100 homes, 60 streets, 3 cloisters, church, cemetery and gallery - all inside high walls that once held 175 nuns. These were mostly daughters of the richest families and they brought a lot of their possessions and servants with them. Around 1870 the Pope had enough of this, with pressure from the reformation, and abolished their life of privilege.
They had to live communally and no more servants! This must have been a huge shock. In 1970 with much fewer nuns left and not enough money to maintain the huge facility, they opened most of it to the public and moved into one section. The admissions and the cafe and souvenir shop they run now pay for upkeep. And it is beautifully maintained. We spend hours with a charming young woman guide exploring this ¨city¨.

Arequipa is surrounded by volcanoes, several of which are still very active. The tallest are over 20,000 feet but due to global warming snow is disappearing from the tops of even the highest. We stayed in one of the old mansions, now converted into the Hostel El Conquistador built of the old sillar thick walls. One of our other favorite destinations here was the Museo Santuarios Andinos which exhibits the bodies of several sacrificed young people found on the tops of neighboring mountains.

The most famous is "Juanita", the Ice Princess, found by a local guide Miguel Zarate and Johan Reinhard of Chicago´s Field Museum in 1964. Johan had spent two decades searching the local mountains. Her frozen body was found inside the crater of Ampato after a neighboring mountain had began showering ash onto the top of the mountain and melted the snow there. Her body was flown to the Johns Hopkins and studied there before being returned to this museum. She is in a remarkable state of preservation and her DNA has led to many discoveries about her and her people.

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