Moving to the Pacific Ocean

Sometimes I make mistakes.

It was a mistake to believe that Arequipa would be like Cochabamba just because it has the same perfect climate, spectacular mountain views and is of similar size. Maybe it’s not fair to compare anything with Cochabamba in Bolivia, which was the friendliest city and the city with the best quality of life I have ever lived in, but Arequipa in Peru is one of the noisiest, busiest, loudest cities I ever had to endure. Rush hour is so stressful here that I was happy not to have a gun, because I would have gone amok like Michael Douglas in Falling Down. And the ever-barking dogs would have been the first ones to die. Once I tried to film the traffic on Avenida Ejército, when a warning appeared on my phone: “The noise level around you suggests that you are in a war zone. Leave immediately!” But I found this video which closely resembles the traffic in Arequipa:

And as if that wasn’t bad enough, the city dispatches cars with loudspeakers for extra noise. Another problem seems to be that the Peruvian Traffic Police consists exclusively of attractive women, so that many men drive recklessly on purpose because they want to get stopped.

Seguridad-Vial-3.jpg

It was a mistake to believe the many people who told me that Arequipa is a tranquil and cozy city. By now I know that all Peruvians work for the National Tourism Agency and at all times only say good things about their country. You hear the same list of places that “you have to see” from everyone, and everything in Peru is “the best” and “the most beautiful”. Like in North Korea. Even when I point out that I am actually more interested in politics or sociology, people respond: “You have to see Machu Picchu.” For a country that receives billions of tourists every year, it seems to be unthinkable that there is a foreigner who has different interests than taking a selfie in front of Inca ruins that are already depicted on 22% of all Facebook profiles worldwide. Oddly enough, the same people who advertised Arequipa as “the best city to live in” before I came now readily admit that it’s very chaotic, hectic, loud and that there are no parks or green spaces to go running.

It was a mistake to believe all the friendly messages along the lines of “Don’t worry. Once you are in Arequipa, I will help you find an apartment.” Miraculously, 90% of these people disappeared, died, were extremely busy or moved away as soon as I arrived in Arequipa. The rest didn’t try to help me but help themselves by offering apartments which were more expensive than in Tokyo. Well, you do also get regular earthquakes here. One of my readers offered a “cozy house in the countryside”. I had to ask for photos several times and it turned out to be a garage in a village. She wanted 350 US-$ per month for it. Most landlords in Peru even try to rent you places without any furniture. “You don’t have your own bed, table, bookshelf, fridge, oven, everything?” “Ehm, no. I mentioned that I am traveling around the world and that I am just here for a few months.” “Oh.” I thought only landlords in Germany were that silly.

Many landlords were also openly discriminatory. “I prefer renting to foreigners.” “Oh sorry, I prefer not to rent from racists.” Scaremongering is another tactic: “This is the safest part of town. Don’t move anywhere else! All the other neighborhoods are very dangerous,” as if Arequipa was between Baghdad and Caracas on the list of most criminal cities in the world. Well, regarding the noise it actually is like Baghdad on the evening of 21 March 2003.

It was a mistake to believe any non-writer who promised that “Arequipa is a perfectly peaceful place to write”. I should have listened only to Mario Vargas Llosa who was born in Arequipa and who moved away as soon as he could. Guess where to? To Cochabamba. I actually developed a theory about magical realism while here: it was never a deliberate art form, but the result of writers not being able to properly sort their thoughts amidst all the banging doors, beeping cars, fireworks, screaming neighbors and barking dogs. That’s why The Time of the Hero doesn’t make sense and why the sequence of chapters in Rayuela is completely muddled up. Now I understand why the literary output in Russia is higher and better. I too miss my cozy Soviet Krushchovka, particularly in a cold winter where you can’t do much else than sit at home and write. Actually, even the one time I was stranded on an island in the Pacific which was used for tests of nuclear bombs, it was more peaceful than in Arequipa.

Thinking about the Pacific, I got an idea. Luckily I am not only good at making mistakes, but also at analyzing them and correcting them quickly. Arequipa is only 100 km from the Pacific Ocean. Now it’s winter in the Southern hemisphere, so there should be plenty of empty holiday homes by the empty beach. Because it’s off-season and because I am a better negotiator than Donald Trump, I found a huge apartment in Mollendo for a good price. It’s spacious, cozy, light, furnished with bookshelves and writing desks and it overlooks the sea.

Mollendo Haus am Strand

Perfect for writing. The beach seems great for running. And for watching sunsets. After all, this is the west coast. If I am lucky, I will even experience a tsunami.

But you won’t learn about that because there is of course no internet in old pirate palaces on top of steep rocks overlooking the ocean. So if you want to stay in contact, you have to write an old-fashioned letter or send a most welcome book package. Thank you!

By the way, Arequipa is really interesting to visit. The old part of town has beautiful architecture, an enormous monastery and many museums. But I discover more and more that there are cities which are good to visit and there are cities which are good to live in. The two groups rarely overlap.

(Zur deutschen Fassung dieses Artikels.)

About Andreas Moser

Travelling the world and writing about it. I have degrees in law and philosophy, but I'd much rather be a journalist, a spy or a hobo.
This entry was posted in Travel, Peru and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Moving to the Pacific Ocean

  1. kassia cunha says:

    Sorry for Arequipa.

  2. Anibal Tapia says:

    My friend Andreas, I definitly disagree I can say you are totally wrong about, Arequipa. Arequipa isnot perfect as many other places BUT You cannot judge Arequipa if you are here for only one month or just because you couldnot find a place cheaper that you can afford ..obviously not even one Arequipeño friend will try to help you if they see you are judging Arequipa in that very bad way… So why many and much more tourist come to Arequipa every year!!! I respect your opinion but I totally disagree and this isnot because I am from Arequipa!! this is because i did travel all over the world too and i could have decided to stay and live anywhere else but decided for Arequipa as many other foreign people and even people from other cities. This a city it isnot a town!!

    • This happens all over the world:
      – If a tourist stays in X for 3 days and says “this is the most beautiful city in the world” (without giving reasons), all people of X will agree and be thankful and happy and get drunk together.
      – If someone stays in X for a month or a year or 5 years and says “X has some serious problems” (and gives reasons for it), all people of X will respond “you can’t judge the city because you haven’t lived here long enough”.

    • I personally wouldn’t trust anyone, particularly not a travel blogger, who ONLY writes positive things about ALL the places they visit. After visiting hundreds of places all over the world, of course there are some that I don’t like. And others will love them. That’s absolutely OK. It would be far worse if everyone had the same taste.

  3. Anibal Tapia says:

    Amigo Andreas!! I do respect your opinion but i see a kind of pessimisum and negativity in your way of thinking and definitly this is your blog and you can write whatever but you have not the power of truth !! thanks my God in all this time you are the only one with that opinion and appreciation until now!! but obviously friends respect eachother and i do respect your opinion but i donot share it. Sorry but i always say what i feel!!!

    • I think the article made it clear that this is a very subjective opinion based on a specific situation that I look for (a place to write a book and to run at least 10 km every few days to train for the next half-marathons). Because most people don’t want to write books and run for several hours every day, my opinion is pretty much irrelevant for the rest of humankind. As I repeatedly write, this was my mistake, not the mistake of Arequipa.

      Also, I think most people are not as sensitive to noise as I am. Otherwise they wouldn’t get dogs or babies or even go to clubs.

  4. John D Lie says:

    Enjoyed your report. What about SUCRE ?
    Pls report your view, thanks.

    • I will have several articles about Sucre soon. Stay tuned! (And remind me if I forget or am too slow. Or mail me a book to motivate me. :-) )

      But to summarize: Beautiful to visit for a few days. Too small, cold (in winter) and touristy to live there. I find Cochabamba much better to live because it’s friendlier and greener. In Sucre you can’t sit in the plaza without people trying to sell you something every 2 minutes if you look like a “gringo”. In Cochabamba, this never happens. Sucre is better suited if you don’t want to learn Spanish because half the city works in tourism and is bi-lingual. If you do want to learn Spanish, I actually think there are too many foreigners in Sucre.

  5. Yaniv Rozenberg says:

    I’ve really enjoyed reading this segment Andreas , even laughed for a brief second , where would you go after Peru?

    • Thank you, Sir!

      I don’t have any fixed plans yet, just a lot of ideas:
      – If I get a contract with a publisher for a book about Bolivia, I would like to return to Bolivia.
      – Another idea is to get on a boat in northern Peru and go down the whole Amazon River, with lots of stops along the way of course.
      – Or simply continue south (Chile, Argentina) or north (Ecuador, Colombia).
      – Or something completely different. From next year on, I want to travel more for book projects with better advance planning, a concept and hopefully a contract for a book. That could be anything from walking the Israel National Trail to going on the longest possible train journey in the world (from Portugal to Vietnam). Or fight with the Peshmerga in Kurdistan.

      • Yaniv Rozenberg says:

        I would surely be the first one who will buy your book!

        anyhow , I might take a month trip in Argentina-Chile , so I hope to meet you then :)

      • Wow! Then we should meet for some serious hiking. Instead of our 60-km in one day record, we can then set some altitude records.

  6. Melisa Odalis says:

    Comprendo en parte tu critica, pero estás casi en el centro de la ciudad, cerca de una de las avenidas principales, es normal el ruido… Definitivamente la playa será mejor para escribir y hacer ejercicio.

  7. Akex says:

    Sorry you didn’t enjoy your time here . I guess it’s not for everybody. Hope you have a much better time in mollendo.

    • Thank you!

      And yes, it would be surprising if every place on earth would make me happy. There also have to be some places I don’t like. – I am actually highly suspicious of people who like it everywhere because I think they are not reflective enough.

      • John D Lie says:

        Indeed as a matter of fact: There is no absolute right or wrong, as all but everything is only based on a relative sphere.
        Regarding places, its also depends if you come just for a visit or a place to live/retire a n d another aspects is: How much money you have available to spend? In short simply too many factors to consider
        to come to a conclusion. I love to VISIT Hong Kong, Singapore, Cebu City, Kualalumpur, Bangkok for big cities and Marbella, Chang Mai, Dalat, Penang, Ubud-Bali for exotic town. A n d I have a number of avid World Travellers who stated: Costa Del Sol, Cote D’Azur and South East Asia is definitely way much more exciting than Central, South America or The Caribbean !!!😀😀😀. Question to you Andreas: have you been in those other parts of our world?

      • Of the many places you list I have only been to Singapore for one day (interesting mix of old and modern, but way too busy and humid to live) and to the Cote d’Azur. I was hiking in the Calanques for a week and that was absolutely beautiful. I was sleeping outside under the stars, but then I probably couldn’t afford more there anyway.

  8. Pingback: Ich ziehe an den Pazifik | Der reisende Reporter

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