For this blog, I want to introduce you to the two most fascinating people I have met in Arequipa, Juanita and Juanito.
First off, Arequipa is a beautiful city 8 hr by bus south of Cusco. Set in front of snowcapped mountains and volcanos, Arequipa is stunningly beautiful. It is remarkably clean; a nice break from dusty, smelly, Cusco. Arequipa houses countless white churhces, a monestary, and plenty of museums.
Which brings me to my first friend, Juanita.
Juanita is famous for being an Incan child sacrifice in the late 1400s. Seems a little late in history to still be committing human sacrifices, but who am I to judge?
Juanita was sacrificed atop volcano Ampato. She is known as the ice princess because her body was preserved by freezing as a result of the chilly temperatures at the volcano. She was only discovered in 1995 and wasn’t even discovered where she was originally sacrificed. A volcanic eruption caused her body to fall from the summit of the volcano and down the mountain.Despite being tossed about, she is incredibly preserved. All of Juanita’s organs are intact. She has skin, hair, and fingernails. She is kept in a freezing cold box and displayed at a museum in Arequipa.
I learned pretty cool stuff at the museum like how Incan child sacrifices were chosen at a young age for qualities like beauty. The kids were raised together and awaited the day when they were sacrificed. The sacrifice involved hiking hundreds of miles in a procession. Then, they got the child drunk and hit them in the head with a stone. Ouch. But hey, Juanita is pretty famous.
Now, let me introduce Juanito. Not A child sacrifice (though he is the height of a child), Juanito was my tour guide for a two day trek down Colca Canyon.
Colca Canyon is known for being the deepest canyon in the world at 3191 meters deep (but its neighbor canyon is actually a bit deeper). To put that in perspective, it’s twice as deep as the Grand Canyon.
The trek involved hiking down to the bottom of the canyon, before looping around and coming back up.
We had a six person group; two American guys traveling together, an Austrian girl and Mexican girl traveling together, a guy from Canada, and me. Our group was great. Everyone was friendly, easy to talk to, and funny. But Juanito really sealed the deal on most fascinating.
Standing about 5 ft 2 with a laugh that made him 7 ft tall, Juanito showed up to the trek admittedly hungover from the night before. For each stretch of hike, he would say things like, “For you, this will take 4 hrs. For me, one hour.” We all beat him on the first day.
That night, we slept at the base of the canyon. I was passed out by 8:30 tops, but not Juanito. He proceeded to get drunk despite our 4:45 am wake up time.
He survived the next day even though the only things I saw him consume were a Coke and a Snickers bar.
The second day of the trek was pretty tough. It was just hours and hours of steep incline. But the views were amazing and we got to rest afterwards at hot springs. All hikes should be followed by hot springs.
Our group decided to go out to dinner and drinks that night. 48 hr together just wasnt enough. We counted on Juanito to know a really good restaurant in Arequipa. He tried to take us to Starbucks. We vetoed that and ended up eating at a bomb chicken place. They didn’t serve alcohol but after a little persuading, they let us go to the store, buy our own beer, and bring it in. My kind of restaurant.
After dinner, we headed out for drinks. We were all having a great time, and Juanito was getting hammered by the minute. At one bar, I decided to sing karaoke despite the fact that it was not a karaoke bar. There were microphone stands next to the dj so I just performed the songs he played. I was a hit.
Tiny Juanito disappeared sometime that night. When I met up for coffee the next day with a couple of the guys, they didnt see him leave either. Lets just hope he is back on Colca Canyon.