The adventure Continues….
After proving a huge hit with the birdlife of Paracas Islands ( I like to think it was because of my blue eyes ), I arrived back on the main land, where i decided to make the short journey South to the small coastal city of Ica.
Feeling brave, I decided to shun the ´ toursist bus´ and opted to ride with the locals with a more local fare too!
Showing off my ever improving Spanish, I managed to purchase my ticket and spent a good 20 minutes surveying the ceiling and the outside of the bus, i was about to put my faith in. As we were called so my bagage was thrown into the undercompartment and on inspecting it realised that it did not lock. The image of a shoe shine boy with my pack didn´t seem too appealing and with plenty of room on the bus, decided to take it on board with me, where at least I would have to be threatened with a knife or gun, before parting with my prize possesions.
Our journey across the continuing wastelands of the Peruvian Coast, took longer than expected as our bus and its engine decided it wanted to break down twice to enjoy the lack of a view. I filled the time chatting and practicing my Spanish with a middle aged couple behind me.
Eventually our bus limped into Ica an hour late, nevertheless the sun was still shining strong and i had ample time to find my Hostel before darkness fell and the unsavouries of town took to the street in search of lost and confused Gringos.
After getting lost once, I eventually tracked down my simple hostel, tucked away on a side street near to the main Plaza. Despite being recommended by The Lonely Planet, it soon became apparent that my hostel of choice was situated on what was easily the seediest and most dangerous street in town. Men stared at me as i walked and I almost had to barge my way through the middle aged women using my hostel doorway as a meeting place and a place to whistle at the passing men.
Funnily enough i was the Hostel´s only paying guest, but at 10 soles ( 1 pound 50 ) per night, i couldn´t complain especially considering that the showers offered hot water.
I soon made my way into town, without passport and other important documents and took a seat in the very pleasant central Plaza, where I soon got chatting to two old boys, who were more than happy to talk football and help me with my Spanish. We sat there for nearly an hour as the sun began to set and i enjoyed the conversion and location.
Almost every town and City i have visited so far in Peru is centred around a central Plaza, which is home to a selection of bars, restaurants and is generally the main meeting place in the town. Most have lots of benches, trees and Icaq had a very nice waterfall. In some ways at least Town Planners have the right idea, until you venture five minutes from the centre.
That evening after a delicious Chinese meal I went to a bar for a couple of drinks before retiring for the night.
I awoke with the sun, very excited the following day as i was to be taking the short taxi ride to Huacachina, a small desert Oasis, which has become a mecca for sanboarders. I didn´t end up leaving the hotel until mid afternoon though, as i chatted to the very friendly staff and spent nearly 2 hours helping Yaneth, the 23 year old resecptionist, with her English.
As my taxi driver took me out of Ica the large sand dunes of Huacachina soon became visible and grew bigger and bigger in size until we eventually made the descent into the tranquil Oasis. No touts, tuk tuks and dodgy womwn here!
I checked into a very lively place and soon moved myself into the 20 person dorm. Lots of smelly feet and guaranteed snoring, but at least it was a good place to meet some other travellers.
Within a few minutes I was chatting to an Israeli, a Dane and a Kiwi. All feeling a little thirsty and peackish, we headed down to the poolside restaurant and endulged ourselves in the BBQ that was on offer. It was good night, with lots of good food and booze consumed for good measure. I also met a very tall and very nice Dutch girl, called Hilda and after getting along so well, decided to get up early the following day to climb the highest dune before throwing ourselves down it on a sandboard.
The following day, we were greeted by perfect blue skies ( as you might expect in a sandune location ) and were climbing the monsterous dune by 10am. The soft sand made the already very difficult trek skywards, even more difficult as each progressing step was consumed by the soft sand, which sapped every ounce of energy yo may have. Myself and Hilda made the climb a little more bearable by chatting to other budding boarders and talking up just how worth it, the climb would be once we sumitted.
Views from the top were amaxing as myself and the other guys collapsed onto the sand. In front of us the dune descended gradually to a small desert town, totally surrounded by dunes on all sides and a glance over our shoulders, revealed the severe gradient we had just conquered and a fine view over the Oasis and Ica in the distance.
Myself and Hilda were soon very happy that we had hired proper snowboards, rather than the more flimsy pieces of wood all of the others were using. After waxing the bottom of the board, it was possible to glide gracefully down the hill side if you had snowboard experience. Despite the fact that I do, I certainly got an intimate feel for the grain of the sand that morning. As lunch hour soon arrived, the group of us that had collected at the top, threw ourselves down the intense gradient, back to the comfort and relief of the swimming pool. After meeting a poor chap the night before, who had his leg in plaster as a result of attempting to hurtle straight down this very hill we were about to attempt, i decided to take things very easy and I managed to make my way to the bottom in one piece.
After emptying my shoes of sand and having a couple of hours relaxation time, I did what any respectable backpacker would do in such a place and booked myself onto a two hour Dune Buggy Tour of the surrounding dunes.
It proved a great hit as we spent the late afternoon hurtling up and down huge dunes, being knocked all over the place, with not a clue as to where we were going. The best part though, was being driven to the top of huge dunes, where we were beckoned to sanboard to the bottom, where our driver would collect us and drive us all the way to the top again for a repeat performance. Some of the budding snowboarders used it as an opportunity to show off their skills, but the less experienced ( including myself )filled almost every possible crevise with sand. Even now, almost a week after leaving the place, i still have momentos in my ears and grains of sand still occasionally empty from my shoes!
As the sun set over the desert we were driven to a great vantage point where the deep orange sun slipped behind one of the giant dunes. My camera was put through its paces and had there of been a Japanese Toursist in the group, Im sure we would have become friends!