A Travellerspoint blog

Escuela Arequipeña

The ABCs: Alpacas, Beans, and Chocolates!

all seasons in one day 70 °F

Arequipa is Peru's second largest city, with a population of just under a million. The city is framed by 3 volcanoes: Misti, Chachani, and PichuPichu.

large_IMG_4585.jpg

The city center is a UNESCO world heritage site, and many of the colonial buildings are constructed from sillar, a white volcanic stone.

large_IMG_5153.jpg
large_IMG_5099.jpg

It seems like every city in Peru has a central square called "Plaza de Armas," and Arequipa's boasts this stunning 17th century basilica.

large_IMG_4588.jpg

While Peru is primarily Catholic, there is fascinating mixture of Christian and Incan religions throughout the country. For example this Catholic altar also features a sun which represents the Incan god, Inti.

large_IMG_4602.jpg

Arequipa's religious and colonial buildings blend European and native characteristics into a unique architecture style called "Escuela Arequipeña."

large_IMG_5148.jpg

A highlight of Arequipa, was our trip to Mundo Alpaca, a live eco-exhibition of alpaca wool processing.

large_IMG_5077.jpg

First we met some lovely alpacas and llamas up close.

large_IMG_5070.jpg

Then, we learned about how they shave the fleece and separate the fibers by color.

large_IMG_5082.jpg

While llamas are multi-hued, alpacas are single colored animals, and there are only 22 shades of natural fleece.

large_IMG_5083.jpg

Next, we walked through the long process of transforming the fleece into yarn in the Museum of Textile Machinery.

large_IMG_5094.jpglarge_IMG_5093.jpg

Colored yarn always starts as white fleece.

large_IMG_5091.jpg

The exhibit also supports a resident expert in traditional weaving each month.

large_IMG_5090.jpg

We were so lucky to watch this artist work with a traditional backstrap loom:

large_IMG_5087.jpg
large_IMG_5085.jpg

Since Arequipa is approximately 8,000 feet above sea level, we also spent a good deal of time hanging out and adjusting to the change in altitude.

large_IMG_5109.jpg

On a low key day, we signed up for a chocolate making lesson at one of our favorite hangouts: Chaqchao!

large_IMG_5113.jpg

We learned the history of chocolate back to the Incas and Aztecs. We also got to check out a fresh cacao pod (left), a 4 day old dry pod (center) and hold a piece of cocao butter (right):

large_IMG_5115.jpg

Each pod contains 20-60 beans.

large_IMG_5120.jpg

Cacao beans can be processed into cocao butter and chocolate. The chocolate is made from finely grinding the toasted beans, while the cacao butter is obtained by pressing the beans.

large_IMG_5117.jpg

Aztecs used to grind cacao beans for 6 hours to make them into a super drink for soldiers and kings. After shelling the toasted cacao beans ourselves, we ground them for about 15 minutes before making our version.

large_IMG_5125.jpg
large_IMG_5129.jpg
large_IMG_5128.jpg

We also learned that cacao was a form of currency in ancient times. In the Incan culture, you could buy a large tomato for 1 cacao bean, a small rabbit for 30 beans, and a wife for a mere 300 beans!

IMG_5121.jpg

Then, they let us go behind the scenes and make chocolate!

large_IMG_5133.jpg

After carefully picking out toppings, we each poured our own dozen.

large_IMG_5135.jpg

Sarah had no trouble licking the spoon(s).

large_IMG_5138.jpg

After saying adios to Tre, we headed for the high Andes. Our update next Sunday will be from Cusco!

IMG_5141.jpg

In the mean time, have a delightful week everyone!

Posted by wintermaasz 19:49 Archived in Peru

Email this entryFacebookStumbleUpon

Table of contents

Be the first to comment on this entry.

Comments on this blog entry are now closed to non-Travellerspoint members. You can still leave a comment if you are a member of Travellerspoint.

Enter your Travellerspoint login details below

( What's this? )

If you aren't a member of Travellerspoint yet, you can join for free.

Join Travellerspoint