We took a Cruz del Sur bus to Ica, a city four hours (or in Peruvian bus terms, the length of a dubbed GI Joe and a bad comedy movie) outside of Lima. We went on the recommendation of our fantastic Lima hostess, bypassing the Amazon because of budget and time constraints. The ride was lovely; I watched as the coastal views turned into sand drifts and then eventually sand dunes. Villages dotted the country side tucked away between huge mountains of sand. We took a cab from the city to an oasis, just a ten minute drive away, called Huacachina.
My beau was a bit queazy from the bus ride, but after a brief rest in our fantastic hotel, we were on our was to a 4 pm sand buggy/sand boarding tour, which was awesome. Not only were the sand dunes impossibly large (think Aladdin style), but the driver flew over the dunes so quickly that it was difficult to imagine a roller coaster ride that would be anymore thrilling. All ten or so of us in the vehicle were either screaming or holding of for dear life. I personally could not stop laughing.
Finally, the driver stopped atop a giant precipice and told us to get out. He handed each one of us a board and said, “Go.” Although I vaguely attempted sand boarding, I soon discovered that it was much more enjoya
ble/rewarding to lay on the board like a penguin and just dive down the dunes. Not many of the others on the tour were as gutsy, but I loved flying down the dunes, screaming the whole way for effect. It was kind of like sledding, but it was not cold and someone picked you up to drive you to the stop of the mountain. When we got back to our room, I shook sand out of my pockets, socks, shoes– you name it, sand poured out of it.
After a leisurely breakfast by the pool the next morning, that was invaded by a precocious parrot named Pepe (who happened to love my toast when I coated in butter just for him), we went on a stroll around Huacachina, the oasis just outside of Ica where we were staying. The folk tale of this particular oasis includes a princess who fell in love with someone who died or maybe it was someone she couldn’t have, anyway she went to the desert and cried a giant green swamp that tourists eventually came to enjoy while sunning themselves by the dunes.
Around 11 am, William, our great guide, came to pick us up for a winery tour. He took us to three different vineyards where we toured the facilities, learned the process of making wine and pisco, and drank our fill of what each had to offer. Pisco is a traditional liquor The first place was snooty and not very tasty; the second was much more fun (the guide kept talking about the potential baby making powers of the ‘perfect love’ wine, which is a pisco/sweet wine blend- yikes!); and the third was run a by a hoarder with a penchant for cultural artifacts. The wine must have been okay at the third place, but I was probably too tipsy to accurately sample it.
William drove us home, singing and practicing English all the while. We reluctantly left the desert oasis to return to Lima before our flight back to the USA. It was sad to leave Ica, but Chicago was calling us home.