Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Arequipa (August 18th - 27th, 2013)

Arequipa, nicknamed "the White City", is the second largest city in Peru. It is surrounded by three beautiful volcanoes and is close to the two deepest canyons in the world.

Chachani volcano


Some of the many white buildings in Arequipa, made of sillar

We arrived in Arequipa relatively late in the evening and spent some time on finding a hostel. We weren't very happy with the place we ended up at, so the next morning, we walked across the street and asked to see the rooms at La Posada del Virrey. The rooms were nice and the service friendly, so this was where we ended up staying for the rest of our time in Arequipa.

After getting settled in for the second time, we went on a free walking tour and got a first good look at this beautiful city. Unfortunately, the tour was not very good - it would have likely been better if it had been in Spanish rather than in English.

Radek was really keen on climbing the Chachani volcano, so we spent some time during the next days going from agency to agency, trying to find a group that could do the climb with him. Unfortunately, we were unsuccessful, but managed to do a lot of other things instead. This meant quite a few firsts for us, especially for me. We went rafting: it was the first time for both of us. It was really amazing, and the river Chili very beautiful. 

Rafting on the Río Chili

We managed to stay in the boat, although our guide once nearly fell out

Another first, at least for me, was horseback riding. We rode next to the valley of the river Chili on the same path that John Wayne, together with his third, Peruvian wife supposedly liked to wander on.

First moments on the horses

Finally, I went to a cooking course for the first time in my life. Fortunately, I met a very nice Dutch couple there (Hans and Marieke), and the food was quite good. Otherwise, the course was a big disappointment. We didn't have the chance to cook! Instead, we would watch a cook prepare the food, and we would later eat it. In any case, here are the recipes to two typical Peruvian dishes, and a Peruvian cocktail:

Ceviche (serves 2)

350 g very fresh fish, cut in 2x2x2 cm cubes (Trout, flounder or other. If tuna is used, it must first be put in a mixture of milk and salt for 20 min)
Juice from 7 small limes
1 1/2 tbsp celery, finely chopped
Leaves from 3 stems of cilantro, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 cm fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp molasses
black pepper

Add lime juice and 1/2 tsp salt to fish cubes, wait 10 min.
Add celery, cilantro and garlic.
Add ginger to one side of dish with fish, mix with the liquid, squeeze and then remove the ginger.
Add pepper and more salt.
Add molasses.
Marinate for 10 min.

Serve on bed of red onion slices, lettuce, corn and baked sweet potato. Add finely chopped rocoto pepper on top, and a slice of lime for decoration. Eat immediately or store for up to 8 hours.

The molasses used here (melaza de caña) were a white and somewhat salty powder that can apparently be bought from stores specializing in Japanese food.

Ceviche may be eaten in any part of the day, and is, among other things, considered a hangover cure.

I'd make the fish cubes smaller, or use fish slices instead.

Lomo saltado (serves 2)

350 g filet mignon, in 4-mm-thick slices
3 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Paprika powder
Seasoning mix (to prepare, use 1 cup salt, 0.5 tbsp black pepper, 0.5 tbsp oregano and 0.5 tbsp molasses)
1 large red onion, in 8-mm-thick wedges
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 large tomato, peeled and in wedges
3 tbsp semi-sweet red wine
Leaves from 2 stems of parsley, chopped

Fry the garlic in olive oil until the point of crystallization (the garlic should be yellow and floating). Add the paprika, and then the meat. Add seasoning. Heat until meat is nearly cooked, then add onion. Add soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Add tomato wedges some minutes later. After another couple of minutes, add wine. Finally, add parsley.

Serve together with French fries and rice.

The molasses used here are the same as above (melaza de caña) .

This dish can also be made with vegetables, chicken or fish instead of beef.

Maracuya sour (serves 1)

1 oz Passion fruit juice (prepare fresh by sieving)
3 oz Pisco
1 oz Sugar syrup (to make, mix papaya, pineapple, orange peelings and cinnamon stick with 200 g sugar and 100 ml boiling water)
5 Ice cubes

Shake all ingredients and pour, without the ice cubes, into a cold glass. Add a few drops of amargo bitter.

Pisco sours are made the same way, using lime juice.
Frankly, I would decrease the amount of pisco, or skip it altogether.

We were also told that we will learn how to make queso helado - a delicious ice-cream-like dessert, but we didn't even see how it is made.

In between these activities, we also visited the close by Colca canyon (the second deepest canyon in the world) and went to two museums - the Museum of Andean Sanctuaries and Santa Catalina Monastery. The Andean Sanctuaries houses one of the most important recent archaeological findings in Peru - the mummy of a 13- or 14-year-old girl who was sacrificed on a volcano at more than 6000 m. Poor Juanita! The Santa Catalina Monastery, on the other hand, is a huge convent. Until a thorough revision of the rules in 1871, the nuns lived in individual houses within the complex, and even used servants and slaves. Both museums were definitely worth the visit.

System for water sterilization - Santa Catalina convent

This is where the slaves washed clothes - Santa Catalina convent

A street with living quarters for the nuns - Santa Catalina convent

We then headed for Cusco - a city we had avoided for some weeks, because we wanted to stay clear of the high season and were hoping that things would have quieted down by the end of August.

For more photos of Arequipa, check here

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