February 16th, 2008 – by: Belluomo
Me on the dunes
What a relief to leave Lima
behind! As soon as I got on the bus to take me south to Ica and Huacachina
I felt everything lighten, my mood and my mental state. Lima has been different this time. It’s much nicer in the summer, but even still, as the bus rolled through the outer suburbs and then squatters settlements and shanty areas of the extreme outskirts of Lima, and then into the unpopulated desert, I felt that it’s just not the place for me. Staying in Lima would be too limiting and eventually depressing, knowing there is such great beauty out in the rest of Peru to be discovered and relished.
Many on the bus were headed for the Oceanside resorts to the south of Lima. Evidenced by the swimsuits peeking out from their shorts and shirts, they were dressed and ready to go for a relaxing Saturday on the sand by the shore. Asia, about 2 hours south of Lima, is a popular destination, especially for the wealthier Limenos. I was tempted to stop but I reminded myself that lounging on the beach wasn’t in my immediate plans and that I wanted to get down to Arequipa
without too much delay. Ica and Huacachina were on my itinerary because of the oasis and sandboarding and sand buggie ride in Huacachina, and because of the wineries outside of Ica that I didn’t get to do and visit in my last trip down here right before I came back to the U.
S. in October.
The desert landscape was familiar to me in my previous travels up the northern coast, but as always it was still fascinating. This being summer now, the balmy salt-laden air blew through the bus mitigating the harshness of the rock and sand we were passing through. At intervals a ghostly fog momentarily drifted through the dunes and hills to obscure the sun and render the view eerie and inhospitable. I glimpsed some shacks set up between the Pan-American highway we were traveling on and the sea, and I wondered how anyone could even stay the night there, so removed from any sign of life or basic services such as food and water. They must be hardy and/or desperate souls to use them as shelter. On the way, I struck up a conversation with the Canadian sitting next to me and his Peruvian wife.
They live in Calgary and this was his second visit to Peru. We discussed the obvious subjects: Peru, Canada, and the U.S. but also global warming, prompted by the movie, The Inconvenient Truth, that was showing on the bus. Strange pick for a movie on a Peruvian bus I thought! The next movie was more in keeping with what I was used to seeing. A domestic abuse movie with lots of violence and hysterics. Ahhh, I’m definitely back in Peru!
They got off the bus in Canete and I continued another hour or so to Ica where I got a taxi to Huacachina. It was too late in the afternoon to visit the wineries so I decided to maybe catch some dune buggie and sandboarding action and do the wineries the next day. I arrived at the hostel just in time for the afternoon outing since they usually depart morning and late afternoon, the latter to experience the setting sun on the dunes and not distant foothills of the mountains.
View from the top
It was a wickedly fun ride, almost like a roller coaster, due to the high and steep dunes, and the ability of the buggy to race up the peaks, pivot sharply and plunge down again. I was strapped in next to a French couple from Bretagne and their seven year old girl who exhibited remarkably little fear. We stopped for a photo and a short climb up one of the nearby dunes, and then, after an exhilarating plunge and surge up the following slope, to hang on for dear life as we took sandboards down a steep incline. The preferred method was to go head first, lying on your stomach, but another option was to sit and pilot the board. I opted for diving down head first and the trip was a thrill. After a couple runs, the enthusiasm diminished from the steep climb back up to the top to do it over again, the buggie picked us up at the bottom and continued the wild ride.
Late Afternoon Sun
We stopped again for a triple hill boogie board run. This time I thought I’d go down the first hill standing up, strapped in to the board. I did fine going down until I picked up too much speed near the bottom and lost control. As I tumbled and hit ground, I saw stars momentarily and came to lying on the hard sand aching in my back and head. I must have hit my lower back against the board, and my shoulder blade too because they hurt really badly. The back of my head had smacked the ground as well and I was slow to get up and reassure them up top that I was ok. I slid down the last two hills and enjoyed the vibrant sunset as we finally came back to the little oasis. My body was hurting but I felt that it was worth it. More than anything, I felt alive! The French I had met on the buggie invited me to a beer and I joined him and his brother-in-law on the terrace in front of the hostel to talk a bit.
Before my accident!
There was also a young Canadian couple there sipping beers and we decided to speak French so that everyone could understand, since the French brother-in-law didn’t speak or understand English so well. I was informed that Canadians learn French as a matter of course, and that this couple was both working in Ottawa for the government and French was used officially as well as English. So we discussed travel plans, and then later, as the French went off to bed, we continued in English until late at night covering many topics. They had just arrived for a ten month around-the-world tour and we had a lot in common as it turned out. I will probably see them again on my route as we are following a very similar path, at least until we reach Bolivia. I lost track of time and before we knew it midnight had struck and we all went off to bed, making tentative plans to meet for touring wineries the next day.