Huacachina; Peru’s Desert Oasis
With only four days until Danni and Charley leave us to head back to the UK, we decided that the perfect antidote to the Inca Trail was some fun and sun in the desert. Off we headed to Huacachina. We took our first long haul overnight bus from Cusco to Ica with Cruz Del Sur. We paid extra for premium seats downstairs, which were well worth it. The seats recline to 160 degrees (not sure why not the extra 20 degrees, but still), they are large and downstairs there are fewer people. The bus cost around US$40 so not too shabby.
17 hours later we arrived in Ica, not quite so bright eyed and bushy tailed. We grabbed a taxi that looked like it might not get us to Huacachina in one piece for s/10 – thankfully it did, but it was touch and go. Greg had to hold his door shut!
Huacachina is a natural oasis village in the desert near to the city of Ica with only around 100 permanent residents. Its population is greatly expanded by tourists, particularly backpackers who visit primarily to go on dune buggy and sand boarding tours. We had treated ourselves to a hotel rather than a hostel, so we had nicer rooms and a swimming pool – pure luxury……..except the hotel had a major issue with water, with it often being off around the hotel. The whole of Huacachina actually seemed to have an issue with the water being brown, presumably / hopefully due to sand getting into the pipes, but it didn’t make for a nice washing experience.
Sunset on the Sand Dunes
The four of us decided that we were going to chill out and also go on a couple of arranged tours. The first night we arranged a subdued buggy trip up to the sand dunes to watch the sunset. It was beautiful, despite the fact that at the bottom of the sand dunes there is significant amount of rubbish which seems to be blown in from Ica by the strong winds. We took lots of stunning photographs that have us in a number of album cover worthy poses, tried to drink wine (not actually possible without also eating a lot of sand). That night we headed to the hotel restaurant for some pretty nice food.
Our second and final day in Huacachina together was spent with Danni, Charley and I firstly visiting the oldest winery in South America, La Tacama. The experience was rather underwhelming, with a vast plant, seemingly endless types of grapes, limited and pretty awful wine tasting. The highlight of our tour was following a lady who had bottom implants. The three of us were absolutely fascinated by the lady’s butt which could have carried the wine glasses about with ease.
Our driver offered to take us to a better winery, so off we went to Bodega Doña Juanita. The guide there was absolutely lovely and explained mainly the pisco making process. We were joined by a nice couple from Lima and proceeded to taste 14 (yes 14!) different types of pisco, some nice and some throat stripping! We learnt a technique for tasting strong pisco, which is to take a deep breath, a shot of pisco, swirl around the mouth, swallow then breathe out. The breath out could light fires.
We headed back to Huacachina, picked Greg up and headed for lunch at Desert Nights, which had already become our favourite eating spot. That evening we had a less civilised dune buggy experience booked. Us four, together with two other couples, headed up to the dunes with sand boards in tow. It’s fair to say that we were a little apprehensive having been told scary stories by Lauren and Paul during the Inca Trail. In true lady like fashion, we pushed Greg to the front assuming that he would be ok. The experience was a lot of fun and nowhere near as scary as I thought that it may be.
Back we went into town, heading for drinks at the most popular hostel, Banana, which is full of very hippy traveller types, then onto Samarana for dinner. The wine and food here was pretty grim so we headed back to the hotel.
One of the funniest things that happened in Huacachina was that every time Greg was alone, he was offered a wide range of drugs. It seemed that the dealers just wanted the females to leave so that they could pounce on him. If that’s your bag then Huacachina is for you!
The following day we bid a sad farewell to Dani and Charley who are going to spend their last night in Lima before their mammoth journey home. We will miss them, it’s been lovely to have them both around, to catch up on gossip from home and generally have other people to laugh with.
The next stage of our journey takes us into Chile, where we plan to spend a few days before heading into Argentina.