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Alpacas and Arequipa - Aela Morris

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already been in Peru for a week. It feels like only yesterday that we were jet-laggedly meeting at the hostel in Arequipa for the first time. We’ve done a lot of exploring of the area around the square, and eaten lots of yummy food. The trout I had at the welcome dinner has probably been my favourite thing so far. We visited Santa Catalina monastery, which was built during the Spanish colonization of Peru, and where nuns still live in cloisters (and, according to pictures, play volleyball in habits). Our guide Arlich took us to an alpaca farm, where they process wool and make products using the same traditional methods that Peruvians have been using for generations. We also went white water rafting, which was insanely fun, even though the water was freezing and we all got soaked. While staying at the hostel, we’ve had four days of Spanish lessons in Arequipa, which we all completed with varying degrees of success. I think that the experience of being in the communities will be the best teacher.

On Wednesday, we took a 6 hour bus ride through the mountains to Cabanaconde, where we played soccer in the street with some local kids and then stayed overnight at a hostel before setting off the next morning for the long trek into Colca Canyon.

3 hours, all downhill, while breathtakingly scenic, stops being fun after a while. Eventually though, we made it to the oasis, albeit in a sweaty, dusty heap. We spent the rest of Thursday and all of Friday hanging out, swimming in the pool, and playing like 1,000 rounds of Go Fish in the bottom of the canyon. We also celebrated one of our group member Yasmin’s 18th birthday. Saturday morning, we rose at the extremely ungodly hour of 4:30 am to start hiking back up in order to beat the scorching afternoon heat. Well, some of us trekked, and some of us, like myself, were too sore from going down and had to get horses to take us up. Then after breakfast, it was back on the bus to the first hostel in Arequipa, where everyone is spending the weekend resting and catching up on laundry before we leave for Puno and our first volunteer project on Monday. I’m excited to explore more of Peru and begin our homestay!

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