Arequipa, Peru: Unique Food Experiences…

After a long long journey on the night bus (over 10hrs!!!), we arrived in Arequipa in the morning. I wasn’t feeling too well, I think the altitude had effected me as we were now about 2300m above sea level. I was feeling very nauseous…

We were all hungry, so Grecia took us to an empanada café – oh my word it was VERY delicious! I got a spinach and cheese empanada with a mango con leche (mango smoothie). We were taken to the markets where we had the chance to try fruit that was unique to Peru. Among these, there was something that looked like a huge passion fruit but the pulp was white/clear – had a similar taste but sweeter. There was also something the looked like pumpkin but it tasted like cheesecake – very odd; I didn’t like the taste at all… My eyes were on the mangoes; they looked very similar to the ones back home in Australia. After I had a sampling, I couldn’t stop! I actually bought around 6 mangoes!!!

We continued on our food journey and were taken to a stall at the end of the market: this is where it got weird! We were told that “frog juice” was a delicacy. YES you heard it right – literally frog juice! Basically the lady pulled on a rubber glove, scooped a frog out of a bucket below the bench. She then showed it to us, and ofcourse we all took photos as though none of us had seen a frog before (guilty…), the frog was then stunned (BANG!) and decapitated. She then placed the frog into a pot and cooked it, put it in the blender along with chia seeds, honey and milk and blitzed the whole thing! She then sieved the contents and placed it in a mug with a few straws… nearly everyone in the group tried it, besides me ofcourse… I think there are far better things to drink in this world than frog juice – so so rank!

Finally we were shown the infamous cocoa leaves, so we all bought a bag that also contained stevia. We were told to stack about 10 leaves with a little piece of stevia placed in the middle and then to roll it up like a cigarette. Then place this in the corner of our mouths and leave it there for about 30mins or so to prevent altitude sickness. Later on back at the hotel, 3 of us did this ritual; mind you it felt like we were doing drugs BUT WE WEREN’T!!! It was actually uncomfortable to have this huge mass in the side of your cheek. Though it did help with the sickness – so believing in its properties, I opted to buy the lollies, which were way more practical…

The look out point in Arequipa was not anything special. It was honestly quite disappointing… but the walk wasn’t too bad… actually on the way back I took a different route and ended up on a street where there were loads of artist studios. I walked into one and met an artist named Gabriel; his work was unique in that he painted not on canvas but on black “felt”. After a nice chat with Gabriel (with very broken Spanish…), I purchased a piece of art and was on my way. I came across friends from the group in front of the grand cathedral in the main square. When the cathedral opened (at 5pm), we all went in to have a look around. Well most of us walked in, 2 girls were wearing shorts and singlets/vest tops so the security guard didn’t allow them to enter…

On our first evening we went to a restaurant that had all sorts of “meat” on the menu for instance alpaca and even guinea pig! We were aware that guinea pig was like “chicken” in Peru, so naturally we were all curious. So the group ordered one to share (umm not me!). it came out looking like a stunned flat animal – all the teeth were still intact, it was hideous! But the people who tried it said it was actually nice and that it simply tasted like chicken… On the next evening we went to a dinner show in the evening, where there was a live band and dancers in traditional costumes. The dancers would tell stories with the various outfits (one was about malaria – which involved a mask). The guys from our group were called up: one was asked to lie down and got whipped (he didn’t get hurt). In the next dance, the other guy got dressed up in a skirt and was twirled around, which was quite comical but all good fun! In the end they got everyone in the restaurant to join them and did a “zorba” like dance around the entire restaurant. Both the food and entertainment was great!

Towards the end of our stay in Arequipa, my body had adjusted to the altitude – partly thanks to the effects of the cocoa leaves/lollies, they really are magical!





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