Sunday, 7 September 2014

Huacachina, Ica

Huacachina, a desert oasis just outside of the famous Ica. For anyone interested in being by a beautiful lagoon surrounded by palm trees and sand dunes, this is the perfect spot. It was a rather surreal experience coming out of the hostel in the morning and seeing tall golden slopes meeting a perfectly clear blue sky. Averaging at 32°C for the entire weekend (a temperature we were informed was merely their winter weather), I was enjoying the chance to don my shorts, t-shirts, and flip-flops.

The lagoon

Arriving was an adventure - for various reasons, I ended up having to get a bus on my own from Lima, meeting my fellow holiday-makers there. This was fine until I arrived in Ica at 2 a.m., having fully convinced myself during the 5-hour trip that the first taxi I jumped into would steal all my things and leave me stranded at the side of a secluded road. Fortunately I was spared this terror. The taxi driver was nice enough to simply drop me off at my hostel, Desert Nights, and drive off sans my suitcase. The place was rather eerie by night. There was not a soul to be seen, and all I could make out was that I was surrounded by ominous black mountains and living by a big pool of water. I quickly made my way into the hostel and jumped into my bunk bed, refreshing myself for the next day.

The hostel was clean, cheap, and had everything we needed. I have no complaints. It was basic, but geared at backpackers so nothing less than I expected. Unfortunately breakfast wasn't included in the price, but they did have a little restaurant there so we could still eat. All in all, we paid a mere 120 soles (currently worth about £24) each for a 2 night stay, a tour around the local wine and pisco distillery, and an afternoon dune-buggying and sand-boarding. Not a bad deal, I thought.

'Desert Nights' hostel

The wine and pisco  tour was the thing I wouldn't have chosen, but did because my friends were keen to give it a go. However, it turned out to be so much fun. The tour guide, Jose, gave us an interesting insight into how the alcohols are made then and now, showed us the vineyards and the distillery, and then gave us a sample of 5 different drinks, some being quite disgusting, and others being rather tasty. He told us a certain pisco wine was drunk to celebrate divorces, and another wine gave you twins nine months later if drunk with a partner. Fortunately my boyfriend isn't coming til November so I was safe there!

In front of the vines

Then came the boarding and dune-buggying, which was better than I had even imagined! Sitting in a ratchety old dune buggy made of metal bars and driven by someone who seems to have a death wish perfectly sums up the Peru experience - chaotic, crazy, and wonderfully haphazard. It was an adrenaline-filled afternoon, racing around the desert over steep mountains of sand going at who knows how many miles per hour twisting this way and that. It felt like the buggy could topple over at any minute. I'm glad to say our buggy was spared this fate, but another group didn't fare so well. Seeing a few scratches and cuts on one bunch of tourists, we asked what had happened - their buggy had toppled over and rolled down a dune, and the driver had been flung out and had to be driven away to get some medical attention. But I wouldn't let this put you off though - it can happen, but doesn't often.

Me whizzing down a dune

Every now and then, our driver would stop at the top of a big dune and give us a sand-board each, which we lay on frontwards (well, I chose to lie on my stomach but some others were standing) and then whooshed down. I can't really explain the feeling of zooming down a dune in the middle of the desert at high speed. All I can say is, if you find yourself in Peru, go to Huacachina. The afternoon turned into to evening as we saw the sunset and then finished off the trip by standing on a dune looking down at the lagoon by night. It was a rather beautiful thing to see, but unfortunately the camera did not do it justice.

Capturing the oasis

We left the next morning. One day was enough to get everything done in Huacachina. It attracts tourists mainly because of the sand-boarding and has little else to offer, so there is not much point spending more than a weekend there. I'm so glad I've been - it was such a great weekend.

Getting ready for some fun!

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