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6.29.10: Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa and Rio Chili

Rise and shine at 6am today! Had to get up in time to make it to church. Yep, I said it, church. One of the sights that was on my list of must sees was the Monasterio De Santa Catalina. Constructed of sillar, quarried locally, this convent is said to be the most essential and impressive colonial structure in the city. You can tour it at normal business hours however, the church attached to it is only open for morning mass, so we had to rise with the roosters. I had a nice big cup of java to rouse my senses before church and I was in a fantastic mood.
I was skipping down the morning streets of Arequipa singing 'zip a dee do dah', when my glasses leaped off my head and out popped a lens! I tried to reinsert it into the frame but it was a no go. My glasses had died. I tried the one-lens look, but it wasn't the best.

After I ditched my botched frames, we arrived at the church.
The church was smaller than I had imagined but beautifully decorated with jeweled snowflake-shaped chandeliers suspended from the arched ceilings.
In the back of the church, behind what looked like wooden, crisscrossed prison bars, sat the cloistered nuns.
Then we set out to explore the monastery with our hired guide.

The Santa Catalina de Siena Convent was founded in 1519, and since its inception, women from diverse social backgrounds have entered the convent to serve as segregated nuns, never again returning to their homes or families. In fact, their families were only permitted to visit once a month and they were separated by the crosshatched wood paneling because the nuns were not able to be in close physical proximity with anyone from the outside world.

She showed us several different statues of Jesus throughout the convent and told us that, in Peru, their portrayal of Jesus must reflect a painful, distressing exterior to remind people of his suffering.
To make him seem as life like as possible they used alpaca teeth and the nuns even donated their own locks of hair to the statues.

She showed us around the old time sleeping quarters of the nuns, which, she explained, always had to be set under an archway because earthquakes were so prevalent, an archway is the safest place to be in that occurrence.

She showed us where and how the nuns would wash their clothes, cook food and even entertain themselves.
She showed us the room they used for funeral services. The body was placed in a carved wooden box, that looked like a cross between a coffin and a bassinet, for viewing and a portrait of them was painted and hung on the wall.
Nuns could only have their portrait painted after death because, if you were still alive to see it, it was like a mirror, which is a sign of vanity and is strictly forbidden.

The monastery was enormous and amazing, with brilliant colors and epic archways at every turn.
There are luscious gardens and a central fountain, and on top of it all, a breathtaking view of the city down below. Imagen_112.jpgImagen_099.jpg

We had a little bit of time before our, much anticipated, white water rafting trip, so we decided to visit the monastery cafe for a quick pick-me-up. The cafe, appropriately titled "Temptations & Sins", featured hilariously named delicacies such as 'Rage: Irate Apple Pie' and 'Arrogance: The Proud Carrot Cake'.

On to white water rafting!!!
I had such a blast on the first round of white water rafting in Cusco, I was itching' to go again.
This time I'd tackle the Rio Chili in Arequipa, home of class 2-5 rapids.
Last time my uniform consisted of a bikini and shorts, but this time we were getting wet suits.
The water down here is much colder and the guide assured me I'd be sorry without one. Layer #1 was, of course, my bikini, followed by a wet suit that made me look like I should be training dolphins at Sea World.

Then came the jacket, water shoes, a life vest and helmet. I was rocking' it!
This route was a lot different than the last I went; much colder, narrower, shallower, and very rocky, in other words, more dangerous, therefore, more fun!
The scenery was beautiful and I was floating along in awe.
The rocky cliffs, lush trees, and blue skies all around brought a smile to my face that never seemed to leave.
Everyone else had opted to go at 8am instead of the afternoon run, so we had the sights and the river all to ourselves.
It started off easy and relaxing as we got warmed up and then the fun started.
Rocks, rocks, more rocks, drop-offs, curves, and waterfalls, "Hold on for dear life!" aided our guide. "Where's my 'oh shit' handle?!" I begged.
It was sick! We had a couple of close calls when I though, for sure, someone was going, face first, into the river but we all made it out alive and exhilarated.
When we one with our water world adventure, we hauled the raft up a hill to the truck and changed into some dry clothes. Our rafting hosts had hot tea and snacks waiting for us; Oreos, Sublime bars, and water bottles that were so gay. Literally... SoGay water.
It was a glorious day!

Posted by emichele 12:23 Archived in Peru

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