The blog is not finished! But after the Theft (yes, capital letters), the want/need to update the blog took second fiddle to dealing with the Theft and just finishing the trip sans computer. Since being home, it's been hard to get that motivation to complete it. But I will. Ever so slowly. Please be patient!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Day 26 - One city, two religions

The following takes place on Thursday, December 23, 2010.

Ok. I admit. Having spent an entire day in bed watching TV, I felt almost obligated to get back outside and see some sights. Especially considering I had a bus booked to leave Arequipa at 8 that evening out to Cusco.

I scoured the guide books for ideas as to what to do and interrogated the hostel staff as to what they would recommend. By the time I was finished my tea and my banana pancakes, I had a plan of attack set up.

It was time for me to become. . . . A Tourist.

I had completely forgotten that the University museum in Arequipa here actually housed one of the rarest artifacts from the Inca culture: Juanita. Juanita is the most well preserved Inca mummy ever discovered. She is called “The Ice Princess” because she was found completely frozen, 500 years after her death.

The museum didn’t allow for photography unfortunately, so I will do my best to describe her to you. At the start of the tour, we were shown a short twenty minute documentary done by National Geographic on the discovery of Juanita, as well as three other mummy’s found on the same mountain. All four were children under the age of 13, sacrificed by their people in a way to appease the Inca Gods who were believed to live up in the mountains.

After the video, our guide took us through a number of rooms that housed the many artifacts that were discovered at each site, including bags filled with food for the long journey up the mountain, clay pots, shoes, and carved figures that were made as offerings for the children to take on their journey to meet the gods.

And then we met Juanita.

I honestly was shocked at how small she is. She is kept permanently at a temperature of –20 celcius, so as to keep her as preserved as when she was found. The guide demonstrated that, standing up, Juanita would only be about three feet tall. It is hard to put into words what it’s like to see the frozen body of a child that was sacrificed so many centuries ago. Her body permanantely in the fetal position, hair still intact. Skin, facial expression frozen in time. The entire group I was in talked in very hushed voices, if they spoke at all.

I can see though why such a find is exciting, considering how little we know of the Inca culture. Every shred of information is needed to understand this culture that, in it’s 100 year existance, conquered a vast stretch of South America.

After having a quick bite to eat, I wandered up the road from the Plaza to the Monastery. This place is huge. It only houses a couple dozen nuns, but the convent covers just about four hectares of land. There are streets, a market . . . it is literally a city within a city. I opted against a guide and decided to walk the entire complex on my own, taking my time to soak in just how beautiful the entire place was .Arequipa MonasteryArequipa MonasteryArequipa MonasteryArequipa MonasteryArequipa Monastery






The whole place is absolutely serene. Pumped through hidden speakers throughout the convent was the recorded music made by the nuns. You know the kind. The reverential “ah-ahhhh-ah-ahhhh” kind of church music. Arequipa MonasteryVery pretty and fitting. I have a lot of respect for these ladies to give up so much for something they believe in. Their rooms are so basic, and yet they will live their entire adult life there wanting nothing more.

Near the end, I was just following the arrows on the wall when I wandered into what was called the “Low Choir” room. I heard the music and assumed it was still the stuff from the hidden speakers.


I glanced to my left as I looked around the large room, and just behind a large partition, I could see the nuns of the convent. Doing my best not to mutter “Shit, wrong room,” I quietly turned around and walked out.

The rest of the night I spent chatting with family on Skype before my taxi arrived at the hostel to pick me up to go to the bus station. Another overnight bus awaits.

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