Friday 8 December 2023

A few days in...another White City

Hello from Arequipa, Peru's second largest city! Apparently, the buildings here are white because they are built from a white volcanic rock. I have to all looked very beautiful. 

By now, you must surely know that the first thing we do when we visit new places is to try out the traditional food. So Arequipa was no exception to that. Peruvians love eating fish so most dishes were fish-based. We went to the central market and tried 'ceviche', which is a very lemony, sharp fish soup with raw fish that is left overnight in lemon juice and herbs. It tasted a bit unusual at first but it was very very lemony which I really liked.

But our favourite food was this: to start, we had a dish of very salty and vinegary potato salad (with famous Andean potatoes of course) which was delicious. For our main course, we had a fantastic sirloin steak cooked to perfection and a crispy pork which was almost as crunchy as the sirloin was soft! The one negative thing about the pork dish was that it came with an incredible unbelievably spicy sauce that was served with no warning about how hot it actually is! I didn't enjoy trying it:)

Apart from eating, we also went to visit the archaeological museum which displayed the bodies of four children who were found in the nearby mountain as part of a traditional Inca ceremony called 'Capacocha'. This is the Inka ceremony where they sacrificed animals or humans (usually children because they were considered purer) to please the gods because a natural disaster had happened, in this case a volcano eruption. We know that this took many days, some times weeks, as children were prepared, dressed and fed beforehand and taken from Cusco (the Inka capital) all the way up the mountain. They were then killed and buried with various offerings. The most famous of the children, and the best preserved, is called Juanita. It is due to luck that the archaeologists found her as she had fallen out of her grave ten days before the archaeologists found her. They estimated that Juanita died 500 years ago but because she was buried up in the mountain and frozen, she has been preserved incredibly well to the point that all her internal organs and fluids are intact, she had her hair, skin, teeth and nails which I find mind-blowing! It felt cool but in a creepy way. I find it hard to explain the feeling. 

But Arequipa was not all doom and gloom with child-sacrifices. It was also full of colourful Christmas parades (on the 1st of December!!!) and almost too many Santas. 

And on our last evening, we were lucky to bump into an annual dance in the city square from the nearby villages in the famous Colca canyon. The dancers were all wearing dresses, even the men! Yes you read it right...even the men were wearing dresses because apparently the tradition was that the girls were trying to hide their boyfriends from their strict parents by dressing them in girls' clothes. The tale sounded as absurd as the dances looked but it was great fun to watch. We are actually going to visit this canyon in a few days and I wonder whether we'll see any men wearing dresses? I'll let you know if we do :)

 p.s We saw on the telly a few days later that ceviche was declared by Unesco a world heritage food! And it was Peruvian ceviche, not Chilean that they chose! I wonder why. Peruvians were ecstatic and it was all over the telly here, there and everywhere!

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