This last weekend I had some of the most amazing experiences of my life. We had Thursday off of school for Peru's labor day, so six of my friends from my UVA program and I decided to travel down to the Southern coast of Peru. Wednesday night we took a bus to Wacachina, an oasis in the desert close to the larger town of Pisco. The bus ride was only about 6 hours but we had been warned by numerous people about how dangerous it is. Just a few weeks ago the busline we took had a bus held at gunpoint, so we were obviously a little nervous. No worries though, it was completely fine and we even were shown "quality" movies like "Taxi" featuring Queen Latifah and Jimmy Fallon.
We arrived late that night and taxied it to our hostal (La rocha- yes, the name made us nervous initially but it was acutally a really cute family run hostal with no rochas in sight). Our room looked like a scene from The Snow White and the 7 Dwarfs- just a huge room with seven beds with mis-matching blankets and pillows. The bathroom didn't really work, and the mattresses and pillows looked about a hundred years old, but for l5 soles a night (about 6 dollars) you can't really complain. After dropping off our stuff we went and grabbed a quick meal of lomo saltado (typical Peruvian dish that i think tastes like beef and broccoli, but different), and wandered around the town but it was completely dead. we returned to the hostel and were going to go swimming, but the water was too cold so instead we decided we should climb one of the sand dunes near our hostel.
it didn't look that high so we all figured, "why not?" so, we took off our shoes and started to climb. after like five minutes we realized that this wasn't as easy to do. sand is not the easiest thing to climb, and after ten minutes we were like 1/3 of the way, stripping off layers of clothes, and well, dying. it got steeper as you climbed, and if you didn't hang on tightly you would slip down with the silky sand. it took like 30 minutes of essentially crawling on all fours and using every ounce of strength to pull our bodies up the dune (which we later found out was about 400 meters/ 1200 feet high). We all wanted to give up, but we pushed ourselves and once we reached the top, well, it was magical. On one side of the dune was the oasis town, off in the distance you could see the lights of pisco, and everywhere else was desert as far as the eye could see. we felt like we were in Aladdin, and in fact all of us girls decided to serenade the chicos with "I can show you the world". it was an indescribable feeling to sit on the peak of a sand dune, and look up at the stars (which you can never see in highly polluted lima) It was one of those moments where you feel completely alive, being both one with the world and in awe of its grandeur and beauty. We tried to stay until sunrise, but despite huddling together and burying various body parts in the sand, by 4 am the open air and wind got the better of us.
The next morning we woke up and before desayuno (breakfast) wandered around the hostal and found cats, parrots and monkeys. the monkey was really cute but a little too feisty and tried to steal kevin's wallet and crawl into Michelle's shirt. after breakfast, we put on our safety goggles and climbed into a sand buggy to go sand buggying and sand boarding. it was SO much fun!!! the only problem was our buggy broke down like every five minutes, and our driver would prepare it by poking it and hitting it with a knife. yes, a knife. i mean, of all places to get stranded, the middle of the desert would not be such a good one. basically we would buggy for like five minutes and then go to a hill to sand-board down. the first time was incredibly scary, but boarding was so much fun! i wasn't very good, and did a lot of rolling and ate a lot of sand, but still was amazing.
Afterwards, with ear pouring out of our clothes and ears, we spent the rest of the afternoon in the pool, lunch, and then planning our camping trip. we stocked up on a ton of water and some food and by five were dropped off in the middle of the desert with a couple of tents and a flashlight and a promise to be picked up at 8:30am. we climbed a sand dune and watched the sunset while some of us took advantage of the last bit of light and got did more sand boarding. at dark we all sat around in a circle and instead of a fire, buried the flashlight and placed a rum bottle on top- our beautiful home-made lantern. we talked, sang, ran around in the sand, and climbed another sand dune and looked up at the stars, making up constellations and looking for shooting stars. we finally went to bed, and i slept in a tent of four. it was super uncomfortable though, and the next morning we woke up sore and still exhausted.
the next morning we were picked up right on time (to all of our relief), and after a quick breakfast, and our first shower in two days, packed up and headed to Ica. there we went to two bodegas (where they make wine and pisco), and were showed how they make wine and then, although it was like 11am, tasted so many wine and piscos (peruvian's choice liqour) we were all a little tipsy. the second bodega was a veritable antiquities collection, with Pre-Incan tapestries, tools, cloths, and even three human heads. as an anthropologist it broke my heart to see all these rare and priceless items displayed so poorly, "preserved" with plastic and thumb tacs, but the owner seemed oblivious.