Christmas in Arequipa (Ho Ho Ho)

Christmas in Arequipa (Ho Ho Ho)

So my last post was a little bit of a rant, and since said rant about feeling like my travelling life is boring, it’s been anything but!! I am skipping a little bit here; winning a beer pong tournament in La Paz during ‘the drought’ with my sexy French teammate Yenn, hiking the incredible Inca trail and fulfilling one of my life’s bucket list items, a crazy UV party in Cusco with the Scottish lads and one hell of a night, hiking to the dizzying heights of >5000m on Rainbow Mountain feeling like I’m going to pass out and seeing a man nearly fall to his death along the sheer drops near Machu Picchu. Whether these stories are safe to share – well that’s another question entirely…
But I can definitely say I have some interesting stories under my belt.

However, right now I want to talk about Christmas in Arequipa. Before I do that, here’s a quick summary of Colca Canyon tour I went on before heading back to Arequipa for Christmas. This is courtesy of the couple with the drone who were in our group.

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So back to Christmas, I have been apprehensive about this day for a while. I mean, it’s such a loaded holiday. We’ve built up this idea and expectation of a traditional Christmas for years, our entire lives really. And while I’ve spent Christmas away before (in Aus, 3 years ago) I was with friends then. Now I am on the opposite side of the world, completely alone and no idea how Christmas is going to go down. Initially I wanted to be on the beach; in a cabin overlooking the sea without a care in the world. But then I decided to hang around in Sucre for way too long and ran out of time to be able to get there. So Arequipa it would have to be, given I am doing the Gringo trail across Peru right over Christmas and New year. That meant having to manage my schedule around these awkward days as you don’t want to end up in the middle of nowhere for either day.

The place, then, was Wild Rover Arequipa – completing my holy trinity of Wild Rovers across Peru & Bolivia. If I wasn’t going to be on a beach soaking the sun then I was going to party…hard. Wild Rover was the perfect place to do it, starting right from the moment we got back from the Colca Canyon. It was all the happy hour cocktails, a gigantic jaeger train, a lot of crazy face-paint, dancing on the bar and a fair amount of pool sessions. Great – as far from a traditional Christmas you could get.

Now let me tell you something, in Peru, everyone celebrates on the 24th December. They all have Nativities in their homes, and at midnight the family gathers round to un-cover Jesus (he’s covered in the nativity), go outside and let off an inordinate number of fireworks (and I can tell you, it’s not just a few families that do this, it’s ALL families that do this).
The 24th for me passed very amicably. Because of the holidays, everyone would be in the same hostel for the 24/25/26 and meant that you quickly got to know everyone. It became our temporary family for the holidays. We spent the day by the pool and the night having a sexy/naughty Santa party. While the staff were in, uhm, questionable sexy santa outfits the rest of us made do with Christmas hats. It may not have been Christmas jumpers but it was better than nothing. To me, this is fairly normal, given at home we normally spend xmas eve in the pub getting drunk. And since this was an Irish bar, well you could almost be at home.
But this was Christmas eve in Peru and as I mentioned, at midnight is when the real show starts.
As the clock struck 12 we made our way upstairs and I, not satisfied by the view, scrambled higher to get to the roof, quickly followed by everyone else. Up here we were greeted with the most spectacular sight; the ENTIRE city was alight with fireworks. Hundreds, possibly thousands of firecrackers lit up the sky in a colourful blaze that could be seen 360 degrees around the city. I have never, ever seen anything like it. Drunk as I was, I just about managed to remember to take a video but this only really shows a snippet of what it was like. It continued for over half an hour, the barrage of fireworks never even so much as slowing down. It was only because we go kicked off the roof (we weren’t really allowed to be up there) that we missed the rest, but I could have sat up there for hours. It’s like the Southbank new years firework display on acid, and I wouldn’t even care to guess how many millions of Soles were blown into the sky that night. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G.

I tried to stay on the roof by hiding under the solar panels and thinking, in my drunken state, that this was the BEST hiding place ever. Of course the security guard found me within 5 seconds… busted!

That brings us to Christmas day, and I was greeted by a headache as the first rays of sunshine started streaming through my window. But a bit of a longer sleep and a bottle of water (and a beer at 12) sorted that right out. Everyone was milling around the hostel, around the pool, the bar and lazily playing beer pong, ping pong or fussball. We made the rounds of merry christmasses, got into our bikinis and sunbathed by the pool. At 3pm it was Christmas dinner time, and the whole hostel flooded into the courtyard where they had set up two long banquet tables. There must have been about 40 of us, all waiting for our roast turkey with all the trimmings. It was the only part of a traditional Christmas that was adhered to, and it was a great sociable dinner surrounded by our temporary family. The wine was flowing, the banter was high and there was no family arguments. Then, as per usual we carried on the party until late into the night and I passed out in a happy food/drink coma at an unknown hour. Merry Christmas everyone.

It may not have been Cusco, it may not have been snowing, or cold, there may have been no fire, no crowding around the Christmas tree in our pajamas nor presents, but the fireworks around the city was something magical that I will never forget (*ting* another ‘perfect travel moment). The turkey dinner may have been lacklustre and not surrounded by family or close friends, but I did get my own Christmas present of sorts (and it may have been Swiss), so I was happy.

All in all a very surreal Christmas experience, but I can think of worse ways to spend it than around the pool, beer in hand while basking in the glorious sunshine.
Now I need to go and detox for a few days and do some cultural shit.

Hope you all had the best Christmas, and I will mostly likely see you in the New Year

xxxx

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