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Pisco to Huacachina to Nasca (por la Panamericana)

PERU | Monday, 29 September 2008 | Views [3070] | Comments [1]

After a hearty breakfast of 4 scrambled eggs (I had Claire's eggs, she had my bread - recipe for constipation or what!) we slung on our backpacks and grabbed the smallest taxi in the world to the panamerican highway. As usual driver was very friendly to the point of making me write down his nephew's name who lives in Ica, the next down down.

Only 50km in the somewhat less salubrious single decker local bus to Ica and another taxi to Huacachina, just outside the main town. Surrounded by very high dunes (400m at a guess) the village is a bit of a backpacker village surrounding an oasis. We got a very reasonable room at a hostel and signed ourselves up for a tour in the late afternoon, leaving us time to have a wander around the oasis itself. It´s basically a slightly murky lake surrounded on 3 sides by a few small hostels, cafes and a fair smattering of (only slightly smelly) dreadlocked types making jewellery and juggling. You can also get a pedalo or boat a la serpentine.

While on our wandewr we were befriended by 2 tourism students called Giancarlos and Paola (hola chicos sin estan leyendo!) who wanted to do some language exchange and tell us about the place. Perfect! So the Eurpoean legend of the place is as follows.. Beautiful girl looks at herself in hand held mirror. STrange charchter suddenly apprears behind her (in mirror) without warning. Girl gets fright and drops mirror. Mirror breaks and broken pieces transform into the oasis. Girl turns into mermaid. Mermaid still lives in the lake and cures people´s ills. I couldn´t get quite why she turned into a mermaid but it´s  anice story to explain the curative values of the specific mix of minerals in the lake.

Acquiantances made, we had a bite to eat and then had a quick swim (decided on the pool in the hostel rather than the murky lake - yes hostels seem to have pools here!) before the tour.

Before I talk about the tour, allow me to digress about modes of transport. A TV programme called "By Any Means" by Charlie Boorman was on BBC on a Sunday evening before I left. His goal was to get from London to Sydney by any means, avoiding commerical flights wherever possible, counting up the modes of transport as he went. As a nod to him and also as a sort of challenge to ourselves, we thought it would be nice to count the modes we use as we make our way around. So far we have:

1. London minicab

2. Commercial airline (i reckon differntialting between long haul and short haul is cheating, but I will be les strict about other modes)

3. Lima Taxi (a class all on its own q.v. London to Lima)

4. Double Decker Coach

5. Speed boat (out to the islands)

6. Smallest Taxi in the world = A Daewoo with a 500cc engine if anyone is interested - my rucksack took the front seat.

7. Single deck local bus

So, now that that's cleared up we can get on with the tour. Mode of transport number 8 - sand buggy! 7 of us were strapped, in the style of a rollercoaster, into an open 4WD with a very solid roll cage for a scare the bejesus out of us trip around the dunes. We weren't really expecting much but when my stomach actually hit the rollcage above my head I knew we were in for a ride. This was allowed followed very swiflty by mode of tansport number 9 - Sandboard! Its pretty much the same as a snowboard except for the snow, unsurprisingly! I was happy to be able to put some of my new foind snowbarding skills to the test, and found that I am still pretty good at falling on my arse even in the sand! Snow tastes a lot better than sand though! Despite the sore arse I am glad the impact shorts did not make the baggage cut - not sure how much use they would get beyond one day in the dunes in Huacachina. The tour finished with a sunset and we went back to extract the sand from our various orifices by means of freezing cold shower.

This morning we arose with a strong desire not to have bread or eggs. Our wish was granted in the form of fruit with yoghurt and granola. Vitamin city! Jumped on a bus to Nasca for 2 hours. Stunning desert scenery out the window but I became enthralled by the Disney movie they were showing, ironically about the Antarctic - 8 Below i think it was called. Great stuff, I even welled up at the end. We had decided that we were going to get to Nasca, wander around and then get the night bus to Arequipa, skipping the lines themselves.

To anyone who has not heard of them (and sorry if you have) they are a bunch of lines in the desert that you can only make out from the air. They were made by the Nascas, a pre-inca society about 2000 or years ago. They depict various animals and other things such as a spiders, an astronaut, a bird, a tree etc etc. There are a number of explanations of why they were built - a star map and an indicator of the water chanels underneath the desert but people seem to have decided that they are in fact religious / shamanic and were guides to help the shaman on their various trips to the spirit world in order to cure people's ills.

As we passed by the vieing platform in the bus, and just as the film reached its emotional zenith, Claire and I said to each other at exactly the same time "I wonder if we'll regret not doing the aerial tour". This trip is not about having regrets so we got to Nasca and went straight to the airport and booked a trip. Let's hear it for mode of transport number 10: 6 seater propellor plane!

Hard to describe but amazing to see something so big, so old and so enigmatic. On ne regrette rien! Claire managed to stave off the poopypants (fear rather than dodgy stomach) and as we're both fairly crap flyers the banking turns and wind whipping us around like a kite probably did us good. Hah! We laugh in the face of turbulence now!

Back to Nasca for dinner (we skipped lunch on advice), embarassingly large Pisco Sours and a wander. Funny that its the drinks that locals point at not us. Guess sometimes you just have to accept your inner gringo. So glad we snatched victory from the jaws of defeat - we would have been sitting in some museum watching a documentary about the lines wondering what they are like.

Only an hour or so to the night bus to Arequipa.

Tags: buggy, desert, dune, huacachina, nasca, oasis, propellor, sandboarding




Hi Claire,
I am delighted to read how much you are enjoying your trip.
It is really good and reassuring to be able to follow your progress in such an immediate way.



  Mum and Dad M. Sep 29, 2008 6:49 PM

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