17.10.2011 - 19.10.2011 33 °C
We had an unusual LAN flight from Medellin, Colombia to Lima, Peru; which involved our plane landing in Quito, Ecuador, letting all the Colombian passengers off and letting a whole load of American tourists on, (while we sat there wondering what was going on as we had forgotten about the scheduled stop off). As we waited in the queue at passport control at Lima we felt a little culture shocked- the airport was big, white and shiny and the room was filled with the sound of English and American voices. We were in Peru - home of Machu Picchu and many a package holiday.
We made our way to the taxi rank where we negotiated a price to take us to our hostel in Miraflores. As we sped through the city at about 11 O'Clock at night again we were reminded that we were in a tourist hot spot - with American style fast food joints on every corner.
We arrived at our hostel, Casa Wayra and were met by the owner as we got out of the taxi. Which was a good job as the taxi driver tried to increase the price of our ride as we didn't have the correct change for the fair (the ATM's tend to only give you large notes!). The owner of the hostel basically told him to jog on (in Spanish).
The owner guy then escorted us into the hostel and asked us to pay (which is never what you want when you first arrive in a hostel). But we duly paid him and he showed us to our room, where Kerry had been waiting for us, after arriving from London a few hours earlier.
The room was basic and slightly odd - it appeared to have been converted from a previous use and so there were doors that wouldn't open and windows in strange places. But it was clean and the beds were comfortable. We chatted with Kerry until the early hours and then eventually fell to sleep.
We woke up late to a breakfast of white bread and butter (which seemed to be standard fair in South America) and discussed what we wanted to do for the next few days. After looking at the Lonely Planet and the Cruz Del Sur Coach Timetable we decided to break up our journey from Lima to Cusco with a little stop in Huacachina. The Lonely Planet explained that this small town was home to a smelly oasis in the middle of gigantic sand dunes, which promised to be a "sandy gringo playground where we could lose ourselves for days". As the journey from Lima to Cusco was meant to take about 23 hours we thought that any chance to break the mammoth coach journey up should be taken. So we headed to Cruz Del Sur coach terminal and were amazed when we got there - the terminal had computerised screens telling you when the next bus would leave glamorous air hostess types behind the desks of the counters waiting to assist you with your ticket purchase and even a bag check in area - this was not like Colombia! We quickly and easily booked our tickets to Ica (5 mins from Huacachina) and also our onwards tickets from Ica to Cusco for 24 hours later.
We boarded our double decker coach, looking (again) in amazement at the huge cream leather seats, TV screens and the general sparkly newness of the vessel. Leia and Craig were sat directly at the front of the bus - with nothing but glass between them and the tarmac. As the bus started its journey a short film was shown about the rules of the bus - one being that the toilet onboard was for urine only and if a number 2 was required you were to ring the bell above your head so the driver could stop the bus.... we all preyed our stomachs would behave!! The journey took us along the Peruvian coast line at dusk, which resulted in a stunning sunset across the baron landscape.
At about 8 O'clock at night we arrived in Ica and again negotiated our taxi ride. Our driver was a very smiley man, with broken glasses, who told us that he knew good places to stay in Huacachina, which was a good job as we hadn't booked anywhere. So after a short 10 minute taxi ride he took us to a hostel (that we suspected his brother owned) and finding we could get 2 twin rooms for only £6 each a night we decided to book.
We dumped our bags and headed out to explore the town (which looked pretty small). We found the "Oasis", which thankfully didn't smell as bad as we thought it might and as we walked round it we came to a very popular looking restaurant, called Desert Nights so of course we decided to have dinner there. We ordered chicken salads (the first vegetables we had had in days), which was delicious and decided to sample the local cocktail of Pisco Sours - which was so good we ended up ordering 2 jugs! The result being that we were all pretty giggly by about 12 O'clock, when the waiter/barman dude came over to us and started making conversation, before we knew it Kerry was wrapped in a Alpaca blanket because she was cold, we were being given a free beer and then being ushered to the local bar called The Pub, with free drinks vouchers by the barman/waiter and a couple of other gringos we had picked up on route. The night then proceeded to follow the course of Jo being chatted up by a Chilean Grape Buyer and the other 3 laughing as she gradually tried to move away from him... it was a funny night.
The next day we woke up to brilliant sunshine and to find that we were literally surrounded by sand dunes (we couldn't see them in the dark when we arrived) so after deciding that we were going to do a "sunset sand boarding a buggy tour" and paying about £10 for the privilege we went to chill around the pool - but didn't go in the water as it looked pretty dirty - but we did try to throw it at each other (standard behaviour).
After probably too much sun it was time to get ready for our sand boarding tour. We were instructed to cover our legs and to wear shoes. We turned up at the tour to find a slightly annoying group of loud Canadians were in our group so we proceeded to try and get in a different buggy to them - which we luckily achieved.
Our driver then gets in to the buggy - he didn't look old enough to drive and also had a striking resemblance to an Ewok. Plus our buggy had sharp pointed objects coming out from the back of the seats in front, which wasn't great considering that we had absolultely no leg room. But there was no backing out now - so Ewok Boy starts up the buggy and drives us up into the sand dunes. What occurred next was that we were driven at high speed over massive sand dunes - launching into the air on several occasion, which resulted in Kerry, Jo and Leia screaming their heads off and Craig grinning like a Cheshire Cat. It was really really scary but also really really fun and funny. After what felt like hours of high speed buggy action we eventually came to a stop near a group of dunes right in the middle of the desert. The scenery was amazing - not building in sight, just miles of golden dunes in every direction.
Ewok Boy then distributed our sand boards and took us to the edge of a dune. As we all had very limited experience on a board he instructed us that on the first decent we should just lie down head first on the board - he then pushed us through his legs down the dune -which meant more screaming from Kerry, Jo and Leia and more grinning from Craig. We spent about half an hour going up and down the dunes around us - and by the end we were all just about able to stand up on the board.
We then got back in the buggy and thought that we were going to be taken on another high speed ride but after only a couple of minutes we came to a halt - we were told that we were now at the "big ones". We soon fond out this meant the big dunes - as we looked over the edge of the first dune we all felt a pang of fear - it was about a 50 meter drop to the bottom. Leia took a big gulp, layed down on the board and went for it..... she then proceeded to career at high speed and slightly out of control down the dune. But when she got to the bottom she stood up, turned round and gave us all a big smile. So we all followed.
The final dune was a beast - at least a 100 meters high and very steep. But as there didn't seem to be any other option than to board down it we all gave it a go. Although Kerry's attempt was slightly thwarted as she went about 10 meters and then came to a stand still and had to be given another push to get going down the sand mountain. We were all shaking a little by the time we got to the bottom as it was a pretty nerve racking ride to the base, but thank fully we all made it down in more or less one piece (although with a few bruises).
We then got back into the buggies and were of course treated to another high speed buggy ride (and more screaming from Kerry, Jo and Leia). Then finally as the sun started to set we arrived at the top of a dune that looked over Huacachina and we sat there and watched the sun set, which was beautiful. We arrived back at our hostel with big smiles on our faces - the high adrenalin £10 tour was definitely worth the stay in Huacachina!