The port of Matarani is just half an hour from the beach town of Mollendo and 3 hours from Peru’s second most important city, Arequipa. Since it was such a long bus trip inland with just an hour to explore the city before returning to the port, and we saw many postings on cruisecritic.com saying that it wasn’t worth the trip, we decided to check out the beach instead.
The trip there by shuttle was quite spectacular, if not exactly picturesque. Giant cliffs of grey rock, mottled with sodium nitrate surround the port and the bus travelled past what looked like an open pit mine (behind tall walls) and up and down deep gorges to finally arrive at Mollendo.
Once there we decided to do some earnest people watching and strolled down to the very busy beach area. It was obviously a popular area for families (including many dogs) to enjoy their summer holiday by the sea. Evidently many residents of Arequipa come here for R&R.
Part of me was disappointed that we didn’t see the city of Arequipa but it was actually quite enjoyable watching Chileans at play..
After 28 hrs travelling and 2 hrs (at most) of sleep, our guide picked us up at Cusco airport ankd asked if we would like to stop at Chinchero village to see women demonstrating weaving on our way to Ollaytantambo, the ancient “stone village” in the Sacred Valley. We couldn’t refuse but, at 12,343 ft. altitude, I found the short walk up stone steps to a Spanish church built on Inca foundations quite difficult (Tony seemed fine). It was a wonderful vantage point, however, to view the beautiful green and patchwork countryside around us and to begin our education in the history of the region. Here was our first glimpse into the destruction of one civilization by a colonial power.
At the women’s workshop they demonstrated how sheep, llama, and alpaca wool is dyed by boiling a variety of local plants in combination to produce the vivid shades so distinctive in Peruvian apparel. Unsurprisingly, they were selling their creations and I was overwhelmed by the selection – all quite beautiful and, especially the alpaca woolens, so incredibly soft. Unfortunately being just day 1 of a 31 day trip, I had to curb my enthusiasm and just bought a beautiful alpaca sweater jacket for my grandson. In retrospect, I wish I had bought more for gifts and simply sent them home by mail because the prices in that workshop were very reasonable in comparison to what we saw elsewhere.
A new adventure – South America! Neither of us has toured this continent (although Tony made a very quick business trip to Brazil from HK some time ago). We thought that, as we found for east Africa, a cruise that gives us a taste of many countries would be a great introduction to this part of the world.