Huacachina and Ica
Our next stop after Cusco was a tiny place called Huacachina right near the larger and more boring town of Ica. It was unique in our travels in that it seems to be the only place we have been to that exists solely for tourism. Not even the people who work there live there. The only thing in town is a swathe of party hostels and restaurants. That didn’t matter though as the surrounding sand dunes were the real attraction.
You can climb to the top of mountainous sand dunes and just run straight down the side at a million miles an hour jumping and rolling as you go. However, that wasn’t even the best thing to do there. The main attraction is strapping yourself into insane high speed sand buggies and occasionally stopping for sandboarding along the way.
The experience is akin to riding a rollercoaster without the safety factor but there are seat belts and roll bars so what could go wrong? If you ever travel to Peru do not pass up the chance to ride one of these buggies. The driver would go full speed parallel to a steep drop-off then pull a sudden turn straight off the edge. The dune buggy would even fly through the air as it sped out of the sudden dips. One of the best things we’ve done on the trip so far.
The sandboarding was really fun too although the learning curve was rather steep (was that a pun, Sean?). The first hill was a moderate size, the second quite large and the third hill was at least one hundred metres high and took a good minute to come down. Most people didn’t stand up for that one, they laid down on their boards with their hands dug into the sand. Even digging your hands right in, you quickly reached speeds that were far faster than you wanted to be going down a hill on a sandboard.
Another attraction around Ica is the many bodegas or wineries. We joined a small tour group and visited a few of them. As Ica is in a desert region, the is wine very different to what you get at a normal winery. It is sickly sweet and most of it is “pre-wine” which is then used to make pisco. Contrary to what we are used to, they gave us more syrupy wine and strong pisco than we could handle. We ended the tour feeling a bit queasy but with a few small bottles of limited edition wine. Our favourite bodega was a quaint place that was filled to the brim with antiques. The amphora looking things you can in the picture below are actually full of wine that is fermenting old school style. They stuck bamboo sticks into the amphoras to bring take out the wine which they poured into our tasting cups.
After Huacachina we travelled to Lima, our last stop in Peru and in South America. To have a nice change from hostels, we stayed in an airbnb apartment which wasn’t much more expensive than a hostel but was infinitely nicer.
As we could actually cook our own meals we went straight to the market and got all sorts of fresh ingredients and stocked up the fridge. We also had a bit of a relax with our pay TV and WiFi that was actually usable.
The “old town” area of Lima had lots of colonial architecture and more than enough churches and monasteries to bore anyone. One particular monastery we visited, well the only monastery we visited in Lima, was the Monastery of San Francisco. What made it interesting was that it had piles of bones in the cellars as it was used as a cemetery until a hundred or so years ago. It also had tunnels connecting it with other buildings in the city such as other churches and some say even the presidential palace. Exploring the neverending tunnels alongside countless bone pits, it was extremely tempting to run off from the tour group and see where you might end up. I think many people have had the same idea however as the tour guide was super vigilant of where everyone was at all times.
Supposedly the most desirable region of Lima is the apartment tower-ridden, beachside suburb of Miraflores. It was great for a wander along the beachside cliff which is covered with green parks almost the entire distance of the city.
Throughout the day people paraglide off the steep cliffs, float over the ocean and manage to land again in one of the many parks of Miraflores.
An interesting sculpture…
After our apartment deal expired, we spent an extra night in another suburb called Barranco which was probably our favourite in Lima as it felt like it was a small town in itself. It had lots of nice cafes, restaurants and even a brewery.
To celebrate our last night in Peru and South America we decided to try out one of the fancy restaurants that Lima is apparently so famous for. We went with Malabar which was recommended by some friends. Not sure quite what to do, we went with the degustation menu which included a bit of everything and matching wine.
First up was some rocks in a box. There were also potatoes in there too but it was hard to tell which was which.
Lots of fanciness ensued. Some sort of fermented fruit cheese, coconut bubbles and who knows what that middle one is. Even if we didn’t quite know what it was or how to eat it, it tasted amazing.
And then the bill came. As you can see Sean when through the typical five stages of grief:
Next stop: Cuba!