Pisco country

Trip Start May 19, 2010
Trip End Oct 04, 2010

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Where I stayed
Huacachina desert Oasis

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Sunday, May 23, 2010

Pisco: (from Quechua: pisqu, little bird)[1] is a South American liquor distilled from grapes

After the noise and intensity of Lima, the promises of desert dunes were very appealing. So I take a four hour bus solo to Ica, a Pisco producing region south of Lima. The drive to this town was not pretty, with slumps and garbage lining most of the highway (so no pictures for that one). I still can't believe or understand why Peruvians throw their garbage all over the place.

Once in the town of Ica (and its bus depot protected by armed guards), I catch a taxi to the nearby desert oasis of Huacachina. A few months ago, tales and pictures of this place from my long time home boy Simon were a deciding factor in my decision to go south, so expectations were high.

I met two Americans in the bus who explained to me they usually tell locals they are Canadian to avoid trouble.

Armed with my Lonely Planet guide book, I pick a hostel and head for the Oasis. The hostel is a bit dilapidated but does offer a pool and cheap breakfeast, and parrot friends. I meet a British bloke named Michael. The next morning we hiked the famous sand dunes with the results you will see in the following pictures. Pure sand as far as you can see, plus garbage, but just a little bit this time. According to the all too accurate Wikipedia, commercialization of the Oasis as led to lower water levels, for which the town of Ica responded by pumping water into it to preserve its touristic value. Sounds familiar?

Sand boarding is popular, and so is riding dune buggies. Those are basically a huge engine mounted on a tube frame, piloted by a totally uncertified driver, possibly drunk on local flavours. One again oil is synonymous with fun, just like in Whistler. It’s easy to have fun when you are burning fossil fuels. I will pass on that one. Far away I catch a glimpse of a cowboy riding his pick-up truck up and down the dunes. Crazy.

I met a Dutch girl and the next day. All three of us decide to book a pisco winery tour the next day. For 20 soles (7$ US), we are promised 3 wineries and more pisco than we can drink. You can see in the pictures it was a success! The first placed thought us about the traditional way of producing pisco products, including the part where people dance in a pool of grapes to crush them! Then came the tasting : pisco wine, pisco porto, pisco sour and of course pure pisco.

The second winery was pretty much the same concept, especially the tasting part. Fabulous. At this winery, the tastings are done by probing a bamboo pole directly into the barrels to provide tasting samples.

We then learn there will be no third winery. Probably a good idea. Money well spent.

So a great time over all, but it’s time to move on to something different: the colonial town of Arequipa and a BIG hike in the "Canyon de Colca".
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