The south of Peru is dry. High passes and deep canyons run like jagged scars through the landscape. The Andes are everywhere – if you aren’t driving through them they loom on every horizon, defining the country – everything to their west is starved of moisture, and to the east lies the green mass of the Amazon rainforest.
We are in Arequipa, the colonial-era capital of the south, framed by three volcanoes and filled with baroque buildings made from the local white volcanic stone. As the sun sets over the city, casting pinks and blues over the courtyards and fountain of the Plaza de Amas, I take in the view from the open roof top of our hotel. I sit back and relax with a Pilsen Callao.
A warm wind blows across my face, when I catch a whiff of something to my right. Sitting across from me is the jittery English Yoga teacher we had met at breakfast. He smiles at me and we slowly get chatting. “Amazonian tobacco, that’s what I’m smoking. I smoke it for three weeks before I go on my Ayahuasca ceremony.”
He doesn’t take much urging to divulge the details of his upcoming trip, for like all zealots, his mind is very focused.