Okay so I've got a bit behind on the blog front. But we've been busy travelling, seeing, tasting, and bus riding.
Back in mid August, we'd arrived into Lima and had a good day there. We were back on the bus the following day, this time south to Ica. At the bus station in Lima we checked our bags in and then worried incessantly that they would go on the wrong bus to Ica, as there are two buses, leaving half an hour apart! But once more, Cruz Del Sur prove they're the best, and our bags go on the same bus as us.
We left at 7am and had seats up top, right at the front, the 'panoramic' windows. We get breakfast - an empanada, bacon butty, egg sandwich, a muffin and drink. Not bad. Shame the same couldn't be said for the scenery which is pretty bland. I've never seen so much sand, mountains and miles of sand. We watch 'The Blind Side' and 'The Ugly Truth', both in English which is a bit of a treat!
It's around 12pm when we arrive into Ica and we get a taxi to Huacachina, a tiny town of 200, a circle of buildings one street deep surrounding the filthy looking lagoon which is ringed by palm trees in the middle of mountainous sand dunes. Our taxi driver talks constantly of another hotel in Huacachina, but we are a broken record, repeating that we have a reservation at Desert Nights. Even with terrible Spanish we can figure out that he is trying to put us off Desert Nights and talk us into this other hotel. When he drops us off, we are sceptical as to what hostel we are at, but he's done the right thing and we are outside Desert Nights! Our taxi luck continues.
For a hostel with only dorm rooms it's not actually too bad, the dorm is big enough, with 8 beds, and has 4 small security lockers. There is though, a serious lack of plugs in the room with just the one outlet. There is a common lounge with TV and two computers. The bathrooms are immaculately clean and there's a restaurant out the front with tables on a sunny porch. All in all it's pretty sweet.
We walk along the lagoon, past what once would have been individual changing rooms but the town has been let go from its days of a resort for the Peruvian elite. At the end of the town in two minutes flat we hit the sand and hike to the top of the nearest sand dune ridge to watch sand-boarders throw themselves down, sitting feet first or standing like snowboarding.
Huacachina is something else; neither of us has ever seen anything like it. Dunes tower like mountains to every side of the town.
We sign up for a sunset dune buggy tour with our hostel, two hours for 40 soles each, leaving at 4pm. We buckle ourselves in, much like in a rollercoaster and tear off through the dunes, squealing when we crown ridges and plunge down near vertical drops on the other side, brilliant fun! There are five stops for boarding face first down slopes that get steeper and steeper each time. I'm too chicken, but Ryan does all five slopes. Then as it gets on for 6pm we stop high on a ridge for pictures of the setting sun behind the dunes stretching far off into the distance. Brilliant tour!
The following day we wake to some disappointingly grey skies. Hoping it will burn off later in the day we taxi into Ica to the Cruz Del Sur (we're sticking with a good thing) bus terminal to get tickets to Arequipa for tomorrow. This is after much to-ing and fro-ing on my part over whether to stop in Nazca for the Nazca lines (and deciding not to). With our tickets for a 12 hour ride, leaving at 11am sorted we walk through dodgy Ica to the supermarket for some bus snacks and then taxi back to the hostel.
Back in our sandy paradise we hire boards from our hostel for 3 soles per hour and head into the dunes. Ryan gives me a lesson (there's not much to it though!) and we do about five runs on different hills. It's hard work trekking up the dunes to whiz down and do it all over again but is so much fun! We head back to our hostel, covered in sand, sand in every orifice.
We shower the sand off and then sit in the sun by the lagoon for the rest of the afternoon, drinking big beers and eating icecream. The 630ml beers are 3 for 10 soles, which Ryan thinks is pretty choice, downing 5 of the 6! By the time the 4th beer is down, he's getting pretty merry so we have some dinner and then he struggles through the last bottle before going straight to bed, clothes still on. Good beer then!