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Escape from Huancayo

Ica, Peru

To be honest, last weekend was somewhat of a bender. It's not a Surprise that I can leave it to Paul Simon to put things into perspective for me. After this morning's shower I layed on the roof under the menacing Huancayo clouds, enjoying the sun that did make it to my pasty chest, reflecting on the weekend with Paul's wisdom echoing in my ears.

Harry, Jimmy, Clara the Yank, Louisa the Pom and I planned our own little getaway to Ica and Pisco for the weekend in an escape from Huancayo's reliably unreliable weather. After an overnight bus we arrived in Lima at the crack of dawn with Jimmy keen on swimming in the ocean for our first time on this trip. He only lives two hits of a 3 wood away from the ocean in Southern Australia. This has had to have be withdrawl for him.

Our taxi dropped us off at beach by a group of twenty odd morning runners stretching. We dropped our pants in the morning haze and ran for the ocean. The sand in my drawers was well worth the refreshing dip before we hopped on another bus to Ica.

Ica is only city of a hundred thousand, yet was still busselling more than Edmonton after a playoff game. We had no idea when we planned our lil getaway, but we arrived on the first day of a two week festival celebrating the start of the grape harvesting season - which is quite a big deal here because Ica is the pisco capital of Peru, even moreso than the city of Pisco itself. I'm sad to say we never participated in the official ceremonies, which included cockfights and pisco making.

Instead, we were staying in a small tourist village/hamlet/resort called Huacachina just outside of town, so picked up presips and TP before heading to our hostel. It turns out Huacachina is an oasis. Not figuratively, but literally. In the middle of sand mountains, there is this smelly lagoon surrounded by lush trees, hostels, dunebuggies and heaps of foreign and local tourists. We quickly ditched our bags and rented some sandboards to hit the slopes. With each step up I slid a half step down making the small treck decievingly long, but well worth it. I reached the peak of the giant sand hill just as the sun set behind the Tatooine-esque horizon (that's a Star Wars reference for those of you claiming not to be nerds). Sliding down was a tease, as sandboarding is much harder to turn than snowboarding, so you're better off just going straight to catch some speed. Unfortunately that makes the climbing to boarding ratio much larger than desired, which in turn makes renting dune buggies much more appealing.

The night out turned out to be a bust for me. Jimmy got sick and I took him back home while everyone partied in Ica. So after he was naked on his bed I ventured to the hostel's bar by the pool and hammocks to chat with whoever I could find. The yankees I met bragged about how much they knew about Canada. I bragged about the new slang I learned. I said that Aussies, and now I, call them sepos. It's short for septic tanks or yanks. I'm glad they laughed. The Columbian I met made it worth staying in as she told me her favourate places to go in Columbia and invited me on a hike in April.

We rented a buggy, but unfortunately weren't allowed to drive it. Prolly for the best though. The dunes ran on as far as we could see to the east, with Ica and Huacachina far off in the west. The guide said we would board faster on our stomaches, which was true, but that didn't satisfy ol' Ryan. Standing up offered much more of a thrill. Unfortunately, it also offered a greater chance of catching an edge, which resulted in a full front flip and landing on smack on my back. The pain is still splitting from that one.

After washing off the sand in the lagoon and then the smelly lagoon water in the hostel pool, we headed to the town of Pisco, where we were to catch a tour of the Islas Ballestas (aka "Poor Man's Galapagos Islands") early the next morning. The hostel was family run with an incredibly hospitable son, Julio, and a daughter whose smile will make you blush. It's too bad she had a crush on one of her brother's friends. Potential wife, I tell ya! They were getting ready to party in Ica, so we shared our 2-6 of pisco with them and their pilot friends. They invited us to come along, but warned us they would only get back at 6am and we had to leave at 7am for Islas Ballestas. No problem. Turned out to be an epic night. On the way home we dropped off the pilots at the airforce base.

It turns out Julio is right, the perfect cure for a hangover is coffee. One cup a joe and a 2 hour boat ride is nothing! From the boat we saw shore birds, pelicans, vultures and sealions. I didn't get shit on and slept on the way back to shore. Perhaps that excursion would have impacted me more under different circumstances. ...or if I wasn't a sardine jammed in a boat of touristas.

Later that day we stopped off at the small surf town of Cerro Azul. The rest of our crew went to the beach after lunch, but I opted for a nap. Best nap of my life! Harry and Jimmy couldn't wake me by banging on the door, so they crawled the ledge between the girls room and ours. After dark Harry, Louisa and I headed to the central plaza for a BBQ dinner from a street vender. I tried cow heart. Not bad. The large moon offered plenty of light for a walk on the beach before I retired again for another incredible sleep.

We caught the bus back on the side of the highway between the dusty town of Cerro Azul and the sand mountains. All said and done, it was an exhaustingly good weekend.

permalink written by  ryanmyers on March 10, 2009 from Ica, Peru
from the travel blog: Ryan's First Sabbatical
tagged Sandboarding, Lima, Ica, Huacachina, Pisco, CerroAzul and IslasBallestas

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