Departing Lima was not easy as we'd made it our temporary home whilst waiting for the Elton John concert. We had read about these majestic mud baths that the locals claim has "alien origins" and "can heal anything from acne to arthritis". Why not check these out for some cheap healing!
We arrived on our bus after 4 hours (we were told 2 1/2) and caught a tuk tuk direct to the baths. The town is called Chilca and is set right in the middle of a dessert wasteland. It seems there's not much to do here or look at, although they do host a motocross competition once a year (not when we were there ofcourse). And so we guess that this is why the locals rave about thier beloved baths.
Picture a fenced off puddle in the ground the size of a footy field with a few old umbrellas and deck chairs around its edge. The colour of the water is acid-green and bubbling in the shallows surrounded by old shoes, chocolate bar wrappings and bottles. The actual mud stank and looked like it would strip the skin off of you instead of "heal" it. The locals were all in there, camoflauged and wallowing around like happy pigs and were looking at us like we were the aliens themselves that created this miracle.
We had made the effort to go here and were determined not to waste a day and so we sat at the edge looking and cringing, trying to get the courage up to get in. I was first to crack it and say "Hell no!", but it took Kate a little longer as she was so keen before we had arrived. Finally after 45 minutes of staring and blocking our noses we left the "bath" agreeing that this is all a part of travelling and that we would never again think that we were on to something special when no other travellers had even heard of it...
It wasn't all bad though, as it was Kate's nephew, Lauchie's first day of school today and so we took a 10 minute tuk tuk ride through the dessert to try and find somewhere with a computer. We got to speak with Lauchie and see him in his uniform which was so good as he looked like a little man now and he was so excited.
Early the next morning we were taken to the "bus station" which was just a toll booth station in the middle of nowhere on the side of the highway. The nice policia that were just chilling out there were helping us to flag down every bus that drove by in the hope that they were heading in the direction we needed to go. As it was a Friday, every single bus was overloaded and wouldn't stop, the drivers just shaking their heads and continuing on. Finally after an hour of standing in the scorching sun in the dessert we were finally picked up by a double decker only to be shoved into the luggage compartment with a few other locals with no idea of what was happening outside. It was a little daunting but I didn't really appreciate it until seats came available upstairs and we were slapped awake by the rude sounds of locals yelling, babies crying and the TV on ridiculously loud. At least we could see the scenery now... yep, still a desert.
Arriving into a city called Ica we were yelled at by a local woman becuase we wouldn't push our way down the stairs and instead chose to wait for the passengers coming from the other direction to get off first. Her constant badgering forced us to tell her in Spanish to "Calm down and wait!" You should have seen her expression after that! Haha She got told off by a silly gringo! For shame.
Only a 5 minute tuktuk ride away was our final destination, Huacachina. This arrival was much different to Chilca! Driving through sand desert dunes around bends and turns we marvelled at the beautiful scenery and as we rounded a corner we saw palm trees around a tiny little pond of water. This is an actual desert oasis! It is amazing and a definate breathe of fresh air. It sits in a valley of sand mountains looking as though it really is in the middle of nowhere and after our not-so-great start to leaving Lima, it certainly was amazing to stumble into this oasis.
We found our Canadian friends, Dotes and Loz, grabbed a bite to eat and headed to the dunes! We hired out a cheap plank of wood each, they call a sanboard and started hiking up one of the massive dunes. Dotes bet us he could run to the top in 5 minutes... He made it roughly 20m before falling to his knees and gasping for breath. Not to mention us giving him s*** along the way. But to his credit it was not easy! The sand was so fine that each step forward was followed by your feet sliding 2 setps back.It was a slow and arduous task climbing this mountain, whilst carrying our boards and stomachs full of pizza and beer. Half way up we call it quits and traversed sideways along the mountain instead of up for a better sliding point back down.
Up the top we took in the views looking down on the oasis and the surrounding desert dunes. It was beautiful and made even more so by the sun setting over the desert casting amazing colours around the setting. We fooled around with some jumping shots on the camera before strapping in to the boards and rode on down. You could say it's similar to snowboarding although you go a lot slower and stop a lot quicker. When you fall off you got sand in every crevice, nook and cranny which was not fun. It was a great ride down though and definately an unusual experience. That night we enjoyed a few wines and cards games before calling it a night.
The next day we relaxed by the pool in our hotel until our tour of the local wine and pisco vineyards. It didn't start so well with the first vineyard being closed for the weekend and the fact that it was located right in the middle of the neighbouring city of Ica. We pictured heading into the countryside. The next stop though made us feel better as it was exactly what we were hoping for. We went on a tour of the making process of the national drink, Pisco. Pisco is like a brandy and is made with fermented grape juice. It was very interesting to see their different making processes.
We had read that on previous tours, not a lot of sampling was done. This cannot be said for our tour. We sampled and sampled and sampled and sampled. The pisco was hitting the spot and we were well on our way by the time we arrived to the next stop on the tour. It was a museum for wine and pisco making in the region. It was a really cool display of all sorts of random things. The best part though was all the ceramic containers, holding... you guessed it! pisco and wine. A few more samples later and a free pisco sour to finish it off and the tour ended. It was a little off putting that our tour guide/driver enjoyed a few throughout the tour also but oh well! Haha.
Relaxing for the aftermnoon by the pool was a must as we hit the nightclub that night. Although we were all a little over tired from a days drinking efforts and were not exactly the liveliest bunch. But we had a good night all the same.
Day 3 in Huacachina - survive the hangover. Pisco hurts! Poor Loz was hurting the most though but being the trooper that she is, she pulled herself together by the afternoon as did the rest of us . We organised another tour but this time it was more sandboarding. Our first attempt was just next to town. This time were were taken in a 12-seater dune buggy out into the desert. It was the most fun any of us have had in a while. The buggy went at ridiculous speeds, up and over dunes, makings turns like on a rollercoaster and scary the living hell out of us. It was awesome!
In between these rides though we were taken to the tops of massive sand dunes to ride down. The Latinos were just bloody crazy. They laid on their stomachs and went straight down with no breaks down these giant hills. They picked up so much speed that if they fell off there would have been a problem. Kate and Loz were much more tentative but still got up some good speed sitting on their arses and/or lying on their stomachs. Dotes and I hired some higher class boards and strapped our feet in like a snowboard and rode down standing upright like a giant wave or snow mountain run.
Up the top of the dunes though the view was beautiful. Endless sand dunes off to the horizon and wind gushing of the peaks making a cool effect with the sand blowing off the tops and watching the other dune buggy's racing around. It was a lot of fun and a definate highlight!
We were supposed to leave the following day but decided we needed an extra day to rest from our tiresome couple of days :) This day was spent again by the pool doing absolutely nothing and enjoying the fact that we were in an oasis in the Peruvian desert with some great new friends.