Who needs a passport anyway?

Trip Start Sep 08, 2008
Trip End Nov 02, 2008

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Friday, September 12, 2008

12 September 2008 - Friday
Our next stop after the Ballesta Islands was at a winery in Ica. Here we were shown the full process of how wine and Pisco sours (a grape liquor from the area) was made. I didn't particularly find this stop worthwhile. It was really hot, but despite that there was not all that much that interested me. We tasted many of the alcohols, drinks and chocolates that they sold before sitting down for a small lunch. This whole tasting experience though great for raising my alcohol levels and for enlightening me in the flavours of Pisco, felt a lot like we were being pushed to buy something. I think that that much of Peru's income is revolved around tourism and thus when locals see tourists, they have to make as much effort as possible to swindle money out of them before they spend it at the next possible stop.

A lunch later, and a bit tipsier than when we arrived, we set out for what was to be a "surprise" stop. This being at the Huacachina Oasis also in the Ica province. Huacachina is built around a small lake in the desert, referred to as the "oasis of America". Here we were given the choice of going on beach buggies and sandboarding. Although I'd already exceeded my planned budget, there was no way I was going to miss this one. Everyone of us was supplied with some goggles or eyewear for the sand, before strapping into the freeriding rollercoaster. The strapping in however, didn't exactly make me feel all that secure for it as once we sped up, the straps were pretty much flapping by my ears. However, once the adrenalin got going I wrapped my whole body into those straps in the hope that they'd save me from a fateful misadventure.

I wasn't too sure whether I'd enjoy this experience as I'd never been on any form of a dune buggy. I wasn't to be disappointed though, it was GREAT!!! We would gradually climb up the giant sand dunes only to peak and speed down at breakneck velocities!! All the girls would be screaming at the top of their lungs, until some sand would fly up into our faces resulting in us clamming up to avoid chewing on it at a later stage. At points the buggies would stop and we'd swap around so that everyone got the opportunity to see the danger from up front.

Many took their cameras along (as one would) to have them experience problems later on as a result of all the sand in the mechanical parts. I would definitely recommend having a very sandproof camera case for this experience. After we'd exhausted the buggies, we were taken up three sand dunes and given sandboards. The dunes thankfully escalated in size with us not starting at the largest first. However, the first sand dune was by no means small either. Again, I was nervous. For someone who loves doing adventurous things I realised that there was much I had yet to experience. The sandboarding we'd done back home couldn't even come close in comparison to the size of these monstrous dunes.

We had to laugh at Angel who's continuous instruction to us was to "keep your arms in the table". We kept our arms and elbows well onto the sandboard to avoid grazing but when you hit any form of bump along the way, you felt every bit of the impact against your elbows and hips. So much so that the next day my hips were fully bruised. If I'd known that would've been the case, it still wouldn't have stopped me from doing it.

Back at Huacachina, we changed into our costumes and jumped into a very welcome pool to cool off and mostly to remove the sand that had manifested itself into every orifice and crevous. After relaxing for a while, we then set off to Nazca.

We arrived there quite late. But once we were allocated our rooms and unloaded our bags we again met up to explore the down and have some dinner. Many of us were in dire need of a cash top up. We found ourselves in a Thai restaurant which served us amazing food. Every order that came through made you envious. Again however, I still didn't feel like I was experiencing the "real" Peru.

Once we were stuffed we found ourselves in a Karaoke bar where we pretty much were the majority of the people there. No matter, there was a party to be had none-the-less, and party we did. There was the boys vs the girls karaoke-off (neither of them too good), and when that was over it was down to the dancing. Angel was very eager to get us back to the hostel but no one was too interested. Later on in the night, he lost it, summoned up some taxis and loaded us all in...

It was back at the hostel that my nightmare began... For some reason, I was needing a pen and when I went searching for one, I realised that the pouch that would be housing the pen, and more importantly my passports etc was gone!!! This wasn't the first time I felt my body go numb with panic, but it didn't mean that I was accustomed and enjoying of the experience. How could my passport be missing??? I'd kept such a close eye on it, and yet here I was. I couldn't rest or sleep at all during the night trying to figure out where it possibly could be, and how come it no longer was in my possession. I'd unpacked, repacked and unpacked my backpack and all other bags I had, but without any luck. Pooh!!!

13 September 2008 - Saturday
As a result of my panic stricken state I was up at sparrow fart again going through all my possessions in the hope that my passports would turn up. I then woke Angel up explaining my dilemma and asking him to contact every place we'd been the previous day to ask whether they'd found anything. He didn't seem too impressed by me, but at that point I didn't care... This was a disaster on a grand scale!!! But despite that, the show had to go on. The problem was that even though there are things to do and places to go, I just couldn't enjoy any of it. My body and mind were so tensed and stressed out about the situation that I was on autopilot, having lost all enthusiasm for the day's upcoming activities. But at that moment in time, my hands were tied and there was nothing else I could do but wait. The weird thing is that I've always gone through my life knowing and believing that no matter what happens, everything would be ok. This situation surely couldn't be too different, but this time I was relying on my guardian angels as I said, there was nothing I could do.

First stop, the Chauchilla Cemetry which is located in a desert valley about 30km outside of Nazca. On our drive there we stopped a few times to view some little burrowing owls standing outside of their burrows. They were completely camoflaged and we were lucky that our guides and drivers were accustomed to spotting them. They're very quick on their feet for owls, but guess when you're living on and under ground you adapt to your way of life.

Our guide talked and walked us through all the tombs and graves. All these tombs are wide open with the mummies exposed for all to see. Again, here there is no rain and appears as though there's no wind that will erode the graves. All they have to contend with is the heat. Most of the graves have a roof shelter covering them from the sun, but where the sun sets low and manages to touch on any of the bones, you can see that they're a bit more washed out. Apparently before this cemetry was fixed and opened up to tourists, the graves were violated by grave robbers hoping to make a few bucks on the pottery and whatever else they could steal and sell, so obviously what we saw was only the tip of the iceberg of what used to be.

Oddly enough I wasn't too perturbed by the mummies, but it is rather a weird experience having a good look at 'dead people', and very crispy looking 'dead people' at that. Very interesting learning about the way of life and thinking of old/ancient civilisations.

Many mummies later we were back in the bus and heading to go see the Nazca lines. I remember reading up and being completely fascinated by the Nazca lines so this was meant to be quite a highlight for me. But unfortunately as I'd explained earlier, I had lost much of my enthusiasm for the trip at that time, and just didn't feel up to bouncing around in a small airplane over the lines. I figured I would probably get a better view of them from the postcards in the airport terminals for free considering the cost of the flight was about $50 USD (if I remember correctly).

There were about 6 people out of the group who decided to take the flight, Nix being one of them. The rest of us just hung around waiting for them to get back. On the one hand I am sorry I didn't take the flight because I missed the opportunity to see the lines first hand, but on the other I was quite glad to skip it as it appeared that it was quite bumpy ride with the pilot swinging the plane a fair bit to give everyone a view of the lines from both sides of the plane. I think in this instance you as a tourist also need to realise that you probably won't get the greatest photos from up there and should just enjoy the flight itself and get a good look at what's on view rather than aiming your camera in the hope of getting one or two good shots.

Afterwards we were guided into a pottery making shop where I believe everyone was shown how the pottery in this area was made. It was at this point I went with Angel and another guy to the police station to make a statement about my passport in the hope of getting a verification from them allowing me to take internal flights without the need for my passport. This proved to be quite an underhand undertaking, not that I really knew what was going on considering most of the conversations were conducted in Spanish. I departed from some of my money in 'thanks' I think and also to pay for this piece of paper, whatever it would be.

Back at the hostel, we spent a fair bit of time at the pool reading and relaxing. It was about the first moment on our tour thus far that we actually had time for ourselves. So weird though because I still just cannot relax and enjoy myself not having had any good news about the passport. I feel as though everyone is looking at me with either very sympathetic eyes and being grateful that it's not them that have lost their passports, or alternatively looking at me thinking - you idiot, how could you have lost them!?! Angel had called all our previous day's stop overs but no one had them or had seen them. Still running everything through my head wondering how this possibly could've happened.

Later on in the evening we were driven to a place about half an hour from Nazca where we were treated to a meal called Paccha Manca which I was told translates to 'earth food'. This meal is apparently made for special occassions (in this case us) such as weddings or some celebrations. It's cooked underground for a few hours at a temperature of about 200 degrees celcius. The food was fantastic, consisting of chicken, pork, corn, sweet potato, potato, cheese wrapped in corn leaves, and some chillis. Finished my food and then almost fell asleep with my face in the plate as a result of my previous nights' lack of sleep.

Was glad to get on our overnight bus, and for the first time in 2 days enjoy some proper rest. This bus was the most comfortable I'd yet experienced with proper sleeper beds. It didn't take me two minutes before I was completely passed out.
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