Finding an Oasis

Trip Start Feb 01, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, March 12, 2006

So we had a pretty straightforward journey down from Lima to Ica...just 5 hours this time and a day ride for a change, so an opportunity to see some of the landscape. Peru is the third largest country in South America and has three distinct environments, almost all of the coast is desert which then rises up to the Andes followed by the humid and sticky Amazonian jungle which covers 60% of the country. Unfotunately the coastline is pretty ugly and the beaches and ocean tend to be pretty polluted in most areas. Ica is a fairly small city and it just seemed to be buzzing with activity..lots of narrow streets, careering yellow cabs and tuks tuks (like a three wheeler motorbike with a cab on the back) and the endless of honking of we decided to go straight to Huacachina...just 10 minutes down the road and literally an oasis in the desert. There are only 70 inhabitants and most of the buildings are little guesthouses or restaurants. We managed to find a very cool hostel, complete with its own pool underneath the towering sand dunes. The are absolutely enormous! We spent a couple of days enjoying the peace and tranquility of catching up on some reading, lots of sunbathing and cooling off.
We also took a day trip to nearby Pisco, 50km away which is home to the wildlife reserva of the Ballestas Islands, as well as the white grape that makes the yummy pisco sour cocktails. We caught a boat out to visit the bird and marine sanctuary where all sorts of birdlife including penguins, flamingoes, and pelicans and literally hundreds of seals and sea lions. Most of the young are born between Jan and March so there were lots of tiny cute seals everywhere. The area has been protected since 1975 and they dont have any predators. The following day we took an exhilirating ride into the sand dunes on an enormous dune buggy. Our crazy driver insisted on lots of driving down vertical sand dunes. The landscape is amazing...just enormous sand dunes in every direction and we watched a beautiful sunset from the top. We also did a spot of sandboarding...basically a wooden board strapped to your feet and you hurtle down the sand dunes. My attempts just ended with me face down buried in sand, so I soon took to the more conventinal sitting down position instead! From Ica we then took a long 12 hour overnight bus journey to Arequipa.
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