La sierra peruana: Arequipa y Huaraz
If you don’t already know how much I love to travel, you haven’t been paying very much attention to my blog. Sin duda (without a doubt), one of my favorite parts of studying abroad was my adventures around exploring the Peru that exists outside of Lima with my friends. During my last weeks abroad, we went on two equally exciting whirlwind adventures in Arequipa and Huaraz.
In mid-June, I skipped school for a week (again…) to spend time in the city of Arequipa and the surrounding areas. I think Arequipa, “la Ciudad Blanca” or the White City as it’s known, has my favorite plaza de armas in all of Peru. White stone columned two-buildings surround the plaza on three sides, and on the fourth side sits the city’s famous block-long cathedral that dates back to 1540. From Arequipa, we did a two-day trek through the 13,650-feet-deep Colca Canyon, which is more than twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, and ventured to Puno, a city of more than 100,000 people on the Peruvian shore of Lake Titicaca. The lake, which is at an elevation of more than 12,500 feet, is famous for being the highest navigable lake in the world.
My last Peruvian adventure this semester brought me and a group of IFSA-Butler friends to the city of Huaraz, located high in the Peruvian Andes. Looking back on the trip, it was yet another once-in-another lifetime opportunity. However, our lack of planning and the rampant altitude sickness, mostly just headaches, put a damper on the trip while we were there. I rode a horse up the side of a mountain for five hours to a “mirador” (overlook) of the Cordillera Blanca, the highest section of the Peruvian Andes where all the mountains are snow-capped. We did a six-hour trek up and over two mountains to Lago 69, a mountain lagoon famous for its bright blue, glacial ice melt water. Finally, our last stop was Chavín de Huántar, an archaeological site dating back to 1200 BCE that was home to one of the first Peruvian civilizations.
I used to travel and plan out my days with an abundance of lists and schedules, but I can’t do that anymore. While there’s certainly value to planning, I prefer to explore. We would have been a lot more prepared for our hike to Lago 69 had we planned instead of believing our hostel owner that it was a relatively flat trek (not a funny joke), but the memory of my friends and I figuring it out (¡and making it!) is worth so much more. When you embark on a perfectly planned trip, it doesn’t feel like an adventure, and you miss out on spontaneous stops that you can otherwise happen upon. These spur of the moment, not touristic parts of the excursion are often my favorite. They’re how you can best immerse yourself in the local culture, and they’re what I will always remember the most from all my travels in Peru.