Our next stop was Huacachina, a little oasis in the middle of the sand dune desert just outside of Ica.
Our rep, Jose, took us to Ica on the local bus - luckily it was only an hours ride as the local buses have seen better days. We jumped out at Ica which was noisy and hot and jumped into a cab and headed straight for Huacachina.
Amazing place - it´s literally a small lake surrounded by palm trees, a few restaurants and hostels and MASSIVE sand dunes.
Our hostel was a lovely little place with a pool out the back and a 200 metre sand dune starting in the garden! We chilled by the pool for an hour and then it was time for our dune buggy experince.
And what an experience it was!!! 8 of us climbed into the dune buggy and strapped ourselves in tight and off we went. It was awesome! Basically they drive you all over the sand dunes at high speed. These buggys can go anywhere and everywhere, up vertical sand dunes and then down them. Our driver was obviously the nuttiest driver in Peru. We were at the front with the driver so, as he paused at the top of a vertical dune, we got the full experience and fear of it!!!
At one point he took out his mobile as if expecting a call and continued to drive with one hand and pretended to nearly crash into the other buggies, that was a bit scary!
We stopped off at the top of one dune (100 meters high) and out came the sandboards. Now, I wasn´t great at skiing as I don´t really like going fast down a steep mountain when I´m not in control, so you can imagine how I fared at my first try at sandboarding!!
Luckily, despite Laura being a whizz at surfing, she was as shit as me at sandboarding and went down the first slope backwards, all the way!
Not only did I go backwards, I spun round half way down & sat on my behind with my legs facing the wrong way round. Jose had to come & rescue me (with that ´Women! look in his eye).....
Why am I admitting all this?
The second slope was even longer and steeper (600 meters) and inside I was crying! But, not to be a chicken I did it, I just went more horizontally down it which seemed to work and I didn´t fall down. Laura also got the knack of it and by the 3rd slope we looked like professional sandboarder dudes!!
We also had a go at body boarding down a really really steep slope (1000 meters) which was cool.
Then it was back in the buggy for more sand racing - the driver and Jose didn´t wear seat belts and I have no idea how they managed to stay in their seats as the rest of us were thrown all over the place, seat belt chaffing could have been a problem if it had gone on too long!
The most fun we´ve had in Peru so far!!!
I dunno that it was the most fun? I think the most fun was having to go the long way round to the lagoon from our hostel to avoid being harassed some overly friendly Peruvian called Carlos who kept trying to kiss us & dance with us in his mini market/pizzeria, now that was fun!
I can still hear his pleading voice "Laurah, Hanine why no dance?"
Back at the hostel, we celebrated our sand boarding skills with a few beers and decided to extend our stay so we could have a day by the pool!
3 hours down the highway we arrived in Nazca, home of the famous Nazca lines.
We were picked up by our rep who took us to our hostel and told us that another guy would pick us up in 10 mins to take us on our city tour!! Luckily this meant up to the cemetary at Cahuachi as there didn´t seem to be a lot in Nazca to look at!!
So, we jumped into another random mans car and headed out. The site is pretty impressive, there our 12 tombs that you can look into and see the mummies, some of them still have their hair which is really really long and all in plaits and dreds. a lots of the tombs were robbed of their ceramics and the mummies destroyed in the process but you still get a pretty good idea of how they buried people, all bound up in the foetal position, with offereings of ceramics and food for the gods.
Then we had a quick trip to a ceramic shop where they showed us how they made all their pots and I bought one. I am going to have so much tat from my travels it´s untrue. I just can´t resist though!!´ And then taken back to the hostel by another bloke... They call it tag repping!
Laura says: After the ceramic factory we were ushered through another gate where Juan, an ex-miner, showed us the art of gold processing, in the form of a lot of make shift toys & rather impressive noises which he had perfected so well you really felt like you were in amongst the machinery (not). The display lasted a good 4 minutes & when he soon realised we weren´t interested in buying any gold earings he donned sun glasses, a hat, whipped out a guitar & belted out his rendition of Frank Sinatras "I did it my way", for tips. Multi talented is Jaun.
The next day we went to fly over the Nazca lines in the tiny 6 seater planes. On all the photos I´ve seen, the lines look really impressive, but to tell the truth, I thought they´d be bigger and clearer! My photos just look like I´ve taken 20 pics of the sandy ground.
The Nazca Lines are an enigma. No one know who had built them or indeed why. Since their discovery, the Nazca Lines have inspired fantastic explanations from ancient gods, a landing strip for returning aliens, a celestial calendar, used for rituals probably related to astronomy, to confirm the ayllus or clans who made up the population and to determine through ritual their economic functions held up by reciprocity and redistribution or, a map of underground water supplies.
There are also huge geoglyphs in Egypt, Malta, United States (Mississippi and California), Chile, Bolivia and in other countries. But the Nazca geoglyphs, because of their numbers, characteristics, dimensions and cultural continuity as they were made and remade through out the whole prehispanic period, form the most impressive as well as enigmatic archeological group.
The Nazca Lines are located in the Pampa region of Peru, the desolate plain of the Peruvian coast which comprises the Pampas of San Jose (Jumana), Socos, El Ingenio and others in the province of Nasca, which is 400 Km. South of Lima, covers an area of approximately 450 km2, of sandy desert as well as the slopes of the contours of the Andes. They cover nearly 400 square miles of desert. Etched in the surface of the desert pampa sand about 300 hundred figures made of straight lines, geometric shapes most clearly visible from the air. They were supposedly built by an ancient civilization called the Nazca.
Or there´s the one about the UFOs.
We were up in the air for about 30 mins and the pilot would tilt the plane this way and that so that everyone could get a good view. Luckily I hadn´t had breakfast otherwise I´m sure I would have seen it again! I also got to sit at the front as co-pilot which meant I had an awesome view.
The rest of the day was spent hanging about as we weren´t due on the night bus until 10pm.
Next stop Arequipa