Ica: Invasion of the Moto-Taxi
Ica Travel Blog› entry 15 of 36 › view all entries
Ica is hot. Not jeans weather at all, although everyone still wears them. I have refrained from buying ¨hot weather clothes¨ and only mildly regret sending home a nice summery skirt I bought in Huancayo when I wanted to wash all my clothes.
I arrived in Ica very early in the morning and was kindly let in the hostal by the woman who runs/owns it (see review elsewhere). I spent the first day orienting myself; the hostal is in a quiet, upmarket suburban area that reminds me of Miraflores in Lima. Actually, I´m also reminded of parts of Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, without the humidity - the city is shrouded by a dusty sort of cover (though the sun still burns) and gives it a hot, hazy feel. It´s very cool to turn a corner and suddenly see, off in the distance, sand dunes looming.
Mototaxis are everywhere. They´re incredibly cute, being about 5´ in height and half the width of a normal car, with three wheels and the capacity to fit 3-4 people. However, they´re quite insistent and it´s impossible to walk down the street without some mototaxi driver trying to convince you (in a series of beeps, of course) that you want to get in his taxi, even though you´re walking determinedly in the other direction, head down.
The Plaza de Armas of Ica is open and sunny, surrounded by tour agencies, restaurants and money changers, and the city itself is lively and bustling with people. I had ceviche in a restaurant on the first day and again at the markets on my last - it´s just the thing to eat in the hot sun. There is a cinema in Ica, and not more than 10 minutes´ walk from the hostal. I had two choices: X-Men 3 or The Da Vinci Code. I opted for X-Men as it was in English with Spanish subtitles, and I wasn´t sure if I´d be able to keep up with the dubbing on the Da Vinci Code (even though I´ve read the book). The cinema feels very new and has the nicest bathrooms I´ve seen in Peru. I never eat popcorn at the movies but for 2 soles for a gigantic ¨chica¨ box, I couldn´t help myself.
Apart from mototaxis, Ica is full of people pushing trishaws selling sweet pastries (and the usual fruit, snacks and watch batteries, etc.). I don´t know what they´re called but they´re round, deep fried balls of dough very much like doughnuts but with a crunchier exterior, and they´re served drizzled with syrup. Heart attacks in a ball? However bad they are for me, all I can say is, I hope Arequipa has them! (Just as an aside: the other pastries that I had in Huancavelica are distinctively not as good here in Ica).
I had some interesting social encounters in the main plaza at night - quietly eating my dinner of chicken and chips. Children selling sweets as income is fairly common, from what I´ve seen, and I usually buy some; shortly after I bought lollies off a little girl, she came back with more as a present from some guys sitting nearby. I sort of waved thanks to them and continued to eat my dinner, feeling rather awkward. Soon after, some gypsies came along (how can you tell, you ask? I don´t know. They were wearing long floral dresses and skirts and had long dirty hair and some were gringoes) and sat next to me and the couple sitting next to me on the bench and starting talking about how they needed money to feed their baby or whatnot. Now, I´ve had some not-so-nice encounters with gypsies before (outside the Alhambra, with Nick) and anyone asking directly for money makes me wary, so I offered her the sweets instead. But she wouldn´t go away and wanted to take my hand and tell my fortune (I thought: she´s going to take my hand then rob me!) so I gave her 50 cents for her trouble and refused to give her my hand. In the distance I could see an older Peruvian woman waving her hands at me and shaking her head with wide eyes. Eventually, the gypsies pranced away to prey on more people and the lady came over to me and said she´d seen a Japanese tourist get robbed earlier and that the gypsies are always in the plaza asking for money. I thanked her for trying to warn me but admitted giving her money seemed the only nice way to get rid of her. Afterwards, I gave back one of the lollies to the guys and found out they were from Arequipa, here to negotiate the sale of a care - they´re all taxi drivers. (As another aside: taxi drivers in Arequipa work 15-hour days and make around 30 soles a day.)
The next day I spent at the museum and sandboarding (reviews elsewhere) but I also had a very cheap, very tasty lunch at a little hole-in-the-wall restaurant. The standard 3.50 soles menu bought me a big bowl of creamy, eggy soup with rice and vegetables in it, and fried pieces of calamari on a bed of rice and potatoes (why oh why) with a tomato and onion salad, plus a drink.
I quite like Ica, but it lacks something - a beach (the lake at Huacachina doesn´t count). I think that´s the only way I would be able to survive its hot weather and bright, bleached feel. Other than that, it´s lively and more blasé than Huancayo but I suspect it lacks the beauty I´m going to find in Arequipa...