Days 2, 3 of the Peru on a Shoestring tour
21.11.2010 - 22.11.2010 30 °C
Hola! So in the last post I left off with the bus ride to Huacachina. This was a very interesting trip, and we all got to see some of the more "real" parts of Lima, that being mostly shanty towns and desert. Interestingly I had found out off the city tour of Lima that the area surrounding the city only receives a small number of days of rain per year, something like 5-10% of the year, and so all water was transported from rivers closeby. This fact really showed on the busride out of Lima, where you could see that anywhere not within close range of a house or building was plantless, sandy soil. This eventually grew into sanddunes as we got further from the city, and seemed unbelievable because we were hugging the coast (surely something would have to grow so close to the water right?) The terrain was like this most of the way until we reached Ica, a small city near Huacachina, to get a taxi through the dunes. When we came closer to Huacachina we could see a mass of palm trees and other plants surrounding a large pool of water- a true oasis! The town itself was located along the banks of this lake, and was quite surreal, being also surrounded by towering sanddunes.
We all settled into the hostel in Huacachina referred to us by our tourguide, and were very satisfied with there being both a pool and bar present- widely welcome in the heat of this place! I was amazed at the sight of dunes behind the hostel- they seemed like huge walls surrounding the place, and soon started blocking out the setting sun. In the evening we all visited one of the local bars for some food and a few drinks, and were surprised that a girl from New Zealand was working there. Quite a bit of drinking and partying went on for the rest of the night, with the guys who had just arrived that morning having to make up for the time partying lost in Lima the night before. I also got to meet quite a few other backpackers and tourists from France, USA, the UK and Australia, and we all had some interesting discussions about how we had come to this place. The night was fun overall, and I headed back quite late for some well-needed sleep.
The hostel at night with sand dunes towering aboveSame dunes by dayThe Oasis in Huacachina
The next morning I awoke to people jumping into the pool- what a hangover cure! (for all). Within an hour or two some guys arrived at the hotel to pick us up for dune buggying, and only when I got outside did I see the buggies themselves- pretty noisy and scary! This was going to be an awesome day
So we all got into the buggies and the driver started the engine, gave it a few revs to demonstrate its power and started off down the streets of Huacachina. The ride through the streets in a powerful buggy, dodging people, cars and animals was probably one of the more freaky experiences of the day- our driver was great, and went a little bit more crazy just for our group. After getting out of the streets the buggy started straight for some tall sand dunes, getting screams of excitement from everyone. We then headed over a few more dunes, getting quite a few steep inclines, ups and downs and awesome speeds. After a little while, and once a nice view was found, the driver stopped the buggy and we all got out to try some "sandboarding" (a little bit like snowboarding but on sand instead of snow). So we all waxed up our boards, strapped in our feet and got to the ledge of the dune, excited about the upcoming slide down. I ended up going down on my stomach, which turned out to be a lot faster than those standing up on the board, and I was lucky enough to get quite a bit of speed down the slope- so much fun! After trying this a few times I also realised that you need to constantly wax the board or else it will go much slower over the dunes. We all went over a few more slopes then headed back into the buggy for some even better dunes- some of the best of the trip! Eventually we reached a massive slope and all got ready to sandboard down this as well. The slope looked deceiving and watching the first person go down on their board, taking a minute or two to reach the bottom, really demonstrated how far down we would be going! So I got on the board and headed down the slope, which seemed fine for the first few seconds and then quickly sped up, accelerating more as I got towards the bottom. This was an awesome experience, and we all cheered at the bottom once everyone had made it down.
Our dune buggyOur group at a stopover in the dunes
After this sandboarding we all headed back into the buggy to end the trip over the dunes, heading over some awesome sand ripples, huge slopes and steep inclines at great speed. The driver also made a stopover at an oasis, as well as a viewing point to see the whole of the town of Huacachina, which both looked awesome and can be seen in the pictures below. The trip ended a few minutes later and it was good to see both how happy and thrilled everyone was afterwards- it was a truly epic day well spent, and I'd highly recommend it to any other thrill-seekers out there (better than a lot of rollercoasters I've been on).
So with the end of the dune buggying and sandboarding, we all had some lunch at a nearby restaurant and packed up our gear at the hostel, ready to head off to Nazca to see some of the famous "Nazca Lines". An awesome part about this leg of the trip was that we would all be travelling in American muscle cars from the 1970s (think Cadillacs and Dodges with huge tailfins, heaps of chrome, etc.) This was an awesome novelty, though we did have a bit of drama getting all of the luggage loaded, resulting in some argument between the drivers, the hostel staff and some of our tour members. After what seemed like an hour of deliberation, we finally all agreed on getting another car to carry the excess baggage and so we all headed for the highway in our massive petrol-guzzlers. The scenery on the way changed quite a bit, from the sand dunes of Huacachina and Ica to the mountainous regions just before Nazca, to finally the huge flat plains of Nazca. Once we arrived at the lines, we all ascended up a tall viewing tower in order to see the patterns made in the ground from above. Out of the all the patterns making up the Nazca lines, we got to see the "hands" and an "ant"- so amazing to think that the Nazca people, thousands of years ago were able to make such huge patterns in the ground that could be viewed as pictures from the sky. It was also mysterious as to why these patterns were made- were they to attempt to communicate with gods in the sky? Did it have anything to do with aliens who could use these patterns as landing strips? Nobody yet knows 100% for sure, but then that is also part of the fun of visiting the lines- coming up with your own explanations and experience. Myself, I think that they were ways of communicating with the gods, but may have also served other practical purposes such as for carrying water for irrigation. You can see some pictures of the Nazca lines I saw in the photos below.
The American muscle cars we took to NazcaViewing platform at Nazca linesSome of the Nazca linesMore of the Nazca lines
After viewing the lines we all headed back into the muscle cars and on to the city of Nazca to meet back up with our tour leader. We met her at a hotel and were all ready for some traditional Peruvian food for dinner. The cool part about this dinner was the way in which it was cooked- our tour leader took us to the restaurant, a place which specialised in natural, organic foods, environmentally friendly ways of cooking, use of recycled materials and other eco-friendly practices, and we watched as the food we were to eat that night was cooked underground, wrapped up in leaves and left to cook under some hot coals. Cooking the food this way kept it really hot, and also made use of ancient cooking techniques practiced by the Inca people. When the food was ready, the chefs started unburying it and performed some sacred rituals to "Pachamama" or "Mother Earth", sacred in Inca culture, and prepared it onto some dishes. The food was delicious, and we all really enjoyed dinner that night, taking large portions of meat, corn, sweet potato and "chicha", an alcoholic corn drink first prepared by the Incas (have to say, though, that one must have an acquired taste for chicha, as it first tastes quite unpleasant and sour).
Traditional underground cooking techniquesDinner with the tour group in NazcaDinner with the tour group in Nazca
And with dinner finished, we all headed for a bus to Arequipa, the next stop on our tour, on what was a packed and fun-filled day. This would be the first night-bus trip on the tour, and we all wondered whether we’d be able to sleep on a coach which made frequent stops, travelled windy and bumpy roads and had air-conditioning as cold as a fridge! Regardless, I still ended up getting some sleep, due to the quality of the chairs in the coach, with footrests and reclining seats, and also some help from my travelling earplugs.
So bye for now, more in the next post about what we all got up to in Arequipa!