2008 Roadtrip Overnight in Arequipa, Peru

We left Cuzco at 8:40 a.m. and arrived in Arequipa at 5:00 p.m., having driven 605 km. We had to drive south to Juliaca on Ruta 3 and then west (I think it was on Ruta 30) because that was the paved road. A more direct route was unpaved (we had asked 3 times, just to make sure). The tolls were S/.34.20 and the road wasn't always well-paved. In some stretches there were many potholes.

We passed 4538 m/ 14,800+ feet and I felt like someone was sitting on my chest. When we left the plateau and started climbing it really got beautiful. We passed a gorgeous lake called Lagunillas and then Salinas and Agua Blanca. We saw llamas and viçunas (and could tell the difference, for once). We then saw the perfect volcanic cone of El Misti (5822m) and the snow-covered Chachani (6075m). When we were in Arequipa in May 2007, it was the rainy season and we never saw El Misti.

The descent from the high altitude desert was one of surprising contrasts; the green-green agricultural area in the valley below offset the brown scrub around us. Arequipa is at 2325 m so the descent was distinct.

We decided to stay at Casa Andina Private Collection, right in the center of Arequipa, this time (Calle Ugarte 403, Arequipa, telf (51-54)226-907, e-mail:
acpc-arequipa@casa-andina.com, web: http://www.casa-andina.com/). We (heavily) negotiated (with Hernán Swayne, the Regional Manager-/Arequipa) a rate of US$145 for a standard room (that had light, i.e. wasn't on the inside of the historic palace building).

Before we left Cuzco Dimitri had noticed an oil spot on the ground underneath the car. On the road we stopped at a gas station that had the ramps with a trough underneath. For the first time in my life I walked under a car and looked at the bottom. There were lots of scrapes on the plate from the times we were on bad roads or steep driveways. But there was also a distinct difference in the appearance at the rear axle. There was lots oil on part of it. Dimitri recognized that as a definite problem.

It turned out that Hernán, the GM of Casa Andina Private Collection told us that he had a Subaru just like our Legacy. Then Dimitri explained the problem. Hernan said (much to our surprise) that there was a new Subaru dealer in Arequipa. (Subaru Autorama, Av. Jerusalén 824, Yanahuara, tel (51-54) 608-512, e-mail: ventas@technotrading.com.pe, web: http://www.subaru.com.pe/) having opened in November, 2007. At 5:30 p.m. we rushed over to the dealer's service center. They were getting ready to close at 6 p.m. but a mechanic got under the car and, with the manager of the dealer, explained that it could be a huge problem if the oil leaked out completely.

We decided to leave the car to be fixed in the morning, with all of the luggage we didn't need for our overnight stay. We just took our food bag (for apéritif), our two small suitcases and our two computer bags (5 out of 13)!

We wanted to leave Arequipa early to get to the Chilean border by 1 p.m. The last time we crossed from Peru into Chile, the aduana required that we remove all of our luggage from our car to be x-rayed (for drugs perhaps). We were not looking forward to that again but expected to spend a long time at the border control for that process. We need to buy a new "permission to use the roads" in Chile and we wanted to do that the day we arrived in Arica. We have a long drive from Arica, Chile to Copiapó, Chile and wanted to start early after our overnight stay.

With the car not being ready until noon, we won't get to the Chilean border until 5 p.m. probably. It will be tight to buy the necessary permission before they close on Thursday. But we have no choice. It was incredibly lucky to find a Subaru dealer that was open, had the necessary seal to fix the axle and that could do the work as quickly as they said they would.

It reminded us of the late Saturday afternoon when we were on a roadtrip in Italy. We had been driving on a freeway at 130 kph when Dimitri thought there was a problem with a tire. We got off the highway in a tiny Italian town we found a tire dealer still open on a Saturday afternoon. The owner explained that there was a bubble in the tire (it turns out that we had been sold an old set of Michelin Alpine snow tires by the Opel dealer) and it could blow any moment. We bought a new tire and counted ourselves incredibly lucky.

When we were in Arequipa in 2007 we had two favorite restaurants. We went to La Trattoria del Monasterio twice and had a very good lunch and dinner there. (La Trattoria del Monasterio, Santa Catalina 309, Arequipa, telf (51-54)204-062, e-mail: latrattoriadelmonasterio@yahoo.com) We had the hotel make a reservation there (and it was good we did; the restaurant was turning customers away).

It describes itself as: "The finest Italian food...with Arequipan flavor. Discover La Trattoria del Monasterio, an outstanding restaurant inside one of Arequipa's leading architectural and historical attractions: the Convent of Santa Catalina, where you can enjoy a truly memorable culinary adventure that combines the finest of Arequipan and Italian cuisine."

"The menu has been prepared by acclaimed Peruvian chef, Gastón Acurio, the inspiration behind this mouthwatering union of flavors from the two cultures."

We spent S/.110.50 plus tip and had a nice meal (warm enough too, even without heat). We started with the Chupe de Camarones, a famous Arequipan dish that we had enjoyed before S/.29. In English it was described as shrimp chowder with potato, local corn, pumpkin, cheese, eggs and cream of milk. The kitchen split the soup for us and it was excellent, just as we had remembered.

For our main, we shared a Farfalle of the Countryside S/.22. It was described as ragu of zucchini, mushrooms, eggplant, peppers, olives and olive oil. With that we ordered a Salad of the Countryside S/.19. It was described as Organic lettuce, eggplant, zucchini, artichokes, grilled peppers, mushrooms, carrots and tomatoes in a garlic paste vinaigrette. Both dishes were split for us in the kitchen and were very good. Except for soup, we actually prefer it if the kitchen doesn't split the dishes. I get too much food on my plate when I get half. Then I eat too much. I exercised restraint this time, however, and left some of the Farfalle!

We each had a (rather generous) glass of Tacama Malbec /Merlot blend for S/.9 each on our new "one glass of wine at dinner" regimen. It was good.

For dessert we saw that there was zabaglione on the menu and ordered that since it is our favorite Italian dessert. It turned out to be whipped cream and strawberries. We were greatly disappointed. For an Italian restaurant to misrepresent zabaglione is almost criminal. It kind of changed the otherwise good meal experience for us. We also had one espresso decafeinated coffee S/.7 and one water S/.3.

After dinner we talked to the doorman outside La Trattoria and he said our other favorite restaurant in Arequipa had closed. Fortunately we had been to another Coca Kinto Restaurant in Puno (and they had given us the recipe for my favorite Sopa Incaica there). I made the soup following the recipe while we were in Cuzco and liked it very much (although it wasn't as good as it had been at the restaurant itself in Puno and in Arequipa).

We walked to the Plaza de Armas and it was beautifully lit up. The cathedral looked fabulous at night. It was wonderful to stay in the center of Arequipa, called the Cercado this time.

And it wasn't noisy; we got a good night's sleep.