Saturday, October 8, 2011

Ica & Huacachina – Peru

We had spent a day in Cuzco planning our Galapagos trip and ended up with nothing more than our flight tickets for the 12th September and return on the 23rd, our research having told us that our best chance to see the animals was with a cruise and the cheapest but riskiest option being to wait until on the island in order to book a last minute deal on a boat, preferably directly with the captain.  This meant that we had a few days to play with before our flight left from Guayaquil in Ecuador and decided that we were up for a bit of sand boarding action in the small town of Huacachina, close to Ica. 

Amongst one of the worst bus journeys so far was our subsequent overnight journey to Ica from Cuzco with the bus company Tepsa.  We were traversing very mountainous terrain but this didn’t deter the driver from putting his foot down even round tight bends with steep drops and aside from the danger this made things next to impossible to sleep.  We were also told that dinner would be provided but this bizarrely turned out to consist of a packet of Ritz biscuits, a cereal bar and a boiled sweet.  Obviously we would have eaten before if we knew that there would only be a snack!  We were the only ones getting off in Ica when we arrived about two hours earlier than scheduled, the rude member of staff practically tried to push us off the bus with no warning that we had reached our destination and we were dumped in a apparently dangerous bus station amongst drivers hounding us for a fair before our bags were even on our backs. 

Incredibly tired, we agreed a fare, jumped into a matchbox cab and made the short journey to the nearby town of Huacachina.  The town is an incredibly strange phenomenon.  It consists of a very touristy but laid back arrangement of hostels and bars, a manmade lagoon and the entire place is enclosed by sky high sand dunes.  Having tried a couple of places we found a place that had reasonably priced rooms available and made our nest.  It was hard trying to stay awake until breakfast began being served at around half nine.  This did give us amble opportunity to wander around the town and find out where the hostels, restaurants and bars were which didn’t take long as it really was a small place.  The hostel we were staying at offered packages to go sand buggying and sand boarding on the dunes and were leaving that afternoon so we had a little afternoon siesta before signing up.

The man made lake in Huacachina
The buggy picked us up from outside the hostel and made the short journey to the base of the dunes before our driver put the pedal to the metal and we were flying up and over dunes.  Sunglasses and a closed mouth were essentials to protect from the sand as the buggy easily made its way up and down dunes to the screams of the Peruvian family in the back whilst me and Kate had a great if not at times terrifying view from the front.  Although the driver was well acquainted with the dunes we weren’t, so it could be scary climbing up a dune and pivoting over without knowing how steep it was on the other side.  It seemed to go on for a long time but everyone was enjoying themselves immensely. 

Kate on the dunes

In front of the sand buggy

Our view from inside the buggy

Eventually it was time to get the boards out for the first time and make our way down the dunes.  The boards were pretty basic planks of wood, curved at each end with a couple of Velcro straps on the top.  The first dune wasn’t too steep and we all went down on our fronts, holding the straps with legs splayed apart which is the easiest way.  It was great fun and I couldn’t wait to try another dune.  The dunes became progressively more inclined but our confidence grew and the next position we tried was sitting down on the board and using your hands to control the steering and brake if need be.  This was a different experience altogether and much more wobbly.  On the plus side this method was better than lying on your front when reaching the bottom as the latter was pretty painful when it got bumpy; it wasn’t so bad on your bum and easy to roll off safely once you had slowed down a bit. 

Sliding down the dunes

This time sitting down

Kicking up some sand
Kate at the bottom of a massive dune

That evening we fancied a night out but there wasn’t much of a scene, perhaps it is the off season.  We had a meal and a couple of cocktails before calling it a night.  The next day we made the effort of climbing the dunes all the way to the top in order to get a bird’s eye view of the city.  It was hard work with the soft sand and the hot sun but we eventually made it to the top.  It was even more surreal being able to see what was almost a bird’s eye view of the tiny town being swallowed up by the dunes and it was well worth the walk.  Our time in Huacachina had come to an end.  Our next stop being the multifaceted town of Chiclayo from where it was possible to do a day or two in the jungle, visit some Adobe ruins or go and get some beach time in nearby fishing villages.  It was also a healthy distance further north towards our eventual target of Guayaquil in Ecuador where we would soon be taking our flight to the Galapagos Islands.  

Windswept smiles after sandboarding

Enjoying sunset on the sand dunes

The town of Huacachina from the top of the dunes

The easiest way down

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