Feb 18, 2009

Peru: The Peruvian Desert, "Ica Desert", Huacachina

When I went to Peru to do disaster relief work after the 2007 earthquake, I found a side to Peru that is not well known.
I found this:

The Desert.
Who knew??
I knew about the rain forest, the Amazon Basin, the Andean Mountains, Machu Picchu, primitive living conditions & a world of ancient civilization remains.
I did not know about the desert.
I did now know about entire villages living on the desert's outer banks.

We were given a half day off work to rest & some of us headed out to Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert, about a 10 minute drive from Ica, about 165 miles south of Lima.
The Ica Desert used to be a coastal shelf and is rumored to harbor intricate fossils. It is rumored you can find complete whale skeletons, but more commonly found would be a stingray spine or sea urchin, shark teeth. We were putzing along at break-neck speed in a thrill ride, so we weren't quite fossil hunting. The dune buggy ride was amazing. Our driver was trying to terrify us. And getting lost was always at the front of my mind, how could he keep track of where we were??
The Huacachina Oasis is a resort for wealthy locals and an adventure destination for travelers. The lagoon is legendary for it's medicinal benefits and the legend of it's creation. When a native princess was kidnapped from her bath by a handsome hunter, the waters she had been bathing in became this lagoon. As her mantle flew behind her, it created the dunes & the princess is rumored to be alive and well, living in the lagoon as a mermaid.

Of historical fact, you can see the remains of a stone road next to the oasis. A wealthy ruler at some point in history used this oases as his personal resort and kicked the natives out, claiming it for his own use. I know, I know. "That's "quite some" historical fact, Val." My son's the history major, not me, go ask him.

I was stunned when our driver pulled over, rummaged in the back & dug out some pieces of plywood with formica or something peeling off -- "snowboards." He waxed them down and told us with great enthusiasm we were going to snowboard down the dunes. Several hundred feet down the dunes. While he waited in his lil buggy. Right.

It took a little convincing for me.

I tried it sitting up first so I wouldn't get too much sand in my face. Eventually I went down headfirst.



Most flights to Lima are now around $600. Once there, you can take a bus for $20-25 US dollars to Ica. It is a 4-hour, bumpy ride along the coast on the Pan American Highway. Once in Ica, you can take a cab {I'm laughing right now} for a five minute drive from the bus station to the oasis. The cab is probably a tuk-tuk, pictured here.

You can get travel info. from google rather easily.

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