If you take everything literally, the name of this travel blog might be a little misleading.
While getting from Copacabana to Cali in eighty days would be some feat, it’s also extremely unrealistic if you’re trying to get from one side of South America to the other on a bus.
Indeed, I’ve already racked up one hundred and seventy six hours of bus journeys, which is just over seven days knocked off the eighty that this blog granted me to reach Colombia.
And to be honest, it only dawned on me a couple of days ago that I’d passed the eighty day landmark, in Arequipa, in Peru, and still 3,570km away from Cali.
However, the White City certainly wasn’t the worst place to exceed my limit, and Arequipa doesn’t get its nickname purely because of the heavenly colonial city centre.
Instead, it stems from the Spanish founders and settlers of the city who came to Peru and left Arequipa with a predominantly Spanish population.
In a similar way to Sucre, Arequipa’s beautifully majestic plaza tricks you into thinking that you’re back in the middle of Europe, and the impressive cathedral in Plaza de Armas is the closest you’ll come to a South American example of European architecture.
The city is also up there for being one of the gastronomic capitals of Peru, and although there was the temptation of a McDonald’s, KFC, and Pizza Hut trio temple directly outside my hostel, Arequipa is a hub of Peruvian cuisine with an abundance of tasty lomo saltado, ceviche, and even the local delicacy of guinea pig which, by the way, looks frightening on a plate.
While Arequipa is a lovely city in itself, it’s impossible to visit without sampling the surrounding landscape that consists of a trio of volcanoes which reign over the city.
Although the triple team of Misti, Chachani, and Pichu Pichu are extremely intimidating, the main attraction of Arequipa is the Colca Canyon.
Before rocking up in Peru, I’d assumed that the Grand Canyon was the only one worth visiting, but it turns out that Arizona’s finest isn’t anywhere near as deep as Cañon del Colca or even the nearby Cotahuasi Canyon.
Indeed, you only need to go on a two day hike to the canyon to appreciate just how sheer it is. Walking down the steepest of drops isn’t kind on the knees, but stopping for a piece of cactus fruit and staring through the incredible views of the valley and hillside settlements make the pain barely bearable.
Climbing back up the canyon, however, truly makes you understand why a lot of people choose to get driven round Cañon del Colca in the comfort of a van.
Starting in the dark at 4:30 am, the hike is essentially a vertical climb for 6 gruelling kilometres during which the canyon teases you into thinking that every ridge is actually the summit.
Climbing through thick cloud at a punishing altitude probably isn’t recommended if you’ve got a dodgy heart or a hip replacement, and it becomes a mental battle of wanting to stop but fearing that if you do your legs simply won’t be willing to cooperate anymore.
Reaching the summit, however, is probably as rewarding as getting a blue tick on Twitter, and hiking through the canyon is definitely the best way to see one of Peru’s most stunning natural attractions.
So Arequipa seemingly has it all. The perfect place to relax and indulge for a few days, while it also has the tools at its disposal to satisfy the thrill junkies who binge on stiff legs and heartburn, and if you’re ever in the White City it would be rude not to treat yourself to a bit of both.
Next stop, another closer to Inca territory in Cusco. Until then.