Bad wine and dune boards...feliz año nuevo!

Trip Start Jun 04, 2005
Trip End Apr 05, 2006

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Monday, January 2, 2006

"I┤ve still got sand in my shoes..." Think Dido ever went sand boarding?

Days after skimming most ungracefully down the magnificent dunes around Huacachina, we┤re still shaking sand from our hiking boots and trouser pockets. What an exhiliating experience! We couldn┤t have asked for a better way to see out the old year than screaming ourselves silly as we zoomed downhill, first in a nifty little sand-buggy and then on sand boards. We said "bye-bye 2005" with the ultimate adrenaline rush!

Earlier that day we┤d gone wine-tasting - the green valley in which the otherwise uninteresting town of Ica nestles is pretty much the only wine-growing region in Peru. It┤s also the home of Peru┤s home-grown spirit, Pisco (the town Pisco, which we┤d visited the day before, gave its name to the drink because it traditionally served as the port of export).

Cab driver Jose Antonio took us, Christelle (French) and Louise (British) first to Tacama, Peru┤s biggest winery - a beautiful property with quaint farm buildings (originally a monastery). We were given a very thorough tour of the cellar facilities before sitting down for a tasting. Mmmm, nope, we┤re not exactly fans of Peruvian wine! The whites are all sweet, while the reds are rough and unwooded. Nevertheless, we bought a bottle of sparkles for the evening┤s celebrations, and a bottle of rough red stuff.

Our second stop was El Catador, where Pisco is made in traditional fashion - grapes are stomped by pretty, dancing maidens, the grape must is fermented in giant eathenware jars with pointy bottoms called 'botejas', and the spirit is distilled in a huge outdoor alambic. All very quaint and interesting. We returned to Huacachina just in time to hop aboard a sand buggy, and by 4.35pm we were racing up one of the vast dunes that encircle this oasis resort. Hee-ha! Better than the best roller-coaster ride!

After an exhiliarating two-and-a-half hours (and a stunning sunset) on the dunes, it was time to freshen up for New Year┤s celebrations. Unfortunately Rich chose this particular evening to go down with a tummy bug... we┤d barely climbed out of our sandy shorts when the poor lad started complaining of stomach pains etc. He spent the best part of the evening up in the room while I had a few civilised glasses of sangria with Louise and Christelle, and joined a group of Peruvian students (whom we┤d met on the sand-boarding trip) for a meal. He did, however, manage to make it out of the room from about 11pm to 1am - we chilled out around pool with Louise and Christelle, and cracked the bottle of horrid sparkles we┤d bought at Tacama. The New Year was welcomed with a few fireworks and kisses from charming Peruvian chaps wishing us "Feliz a˝o nuevo!"
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