Back in May we got the opportunity to travel to Peru with some good friends of ours and we had an incredible trip. We spent about 12 days seeing Lima, Paracas, Ica, Nazca, Pisco and Cusco before hiking the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu.
We arrived into Lima and met up with our friends at the hotel we were staying in, the BTH Hotel. The decor was not really our style, they seemed to be going for modern American/New York City vibe (being on vacation from the US to end up in a hotel dressed like a Vogue magazine shoot wasn’t that appealing) but our friends assured us that it was their prices and the in-room air conditioning that led them to choose it. I will say the staff were very nice and the food was good at the hotel restaurant. Luckily it was just for one night before we headed out to travel down the coast.
We had booked a guided tour, just for the 4 of us that took us from Lima by van to Nazca, stopping on the way in Paracas, Pisco and Ica. In Paracas we got to take a boat tour of the Ballestas Islands and the Paracas National Reserve and also passed by the “Candelabra”, a figure drawn in the sand nearly 600 feet tall and that had been there since about 200 B.C.
One incredible thing I learned on that part of the trip is that the area only gets 22 millimeters of rain a year! That’s so small!! Our guide explained that the Candelabra had been drawn in the sand so long ago and largely been undisturbed due to the protected inlet it was drawn on and from the lack of rain to wash it away after all this time. Why was a 600 foot sand-drawing made to begin with? Your guess is as good as mine.
On the boat tour we got to see a LOT of Pelicans, a few Sea Lions and even a few Penguins! Penguins in Peru! Who knew? I was further amazed when we stopped at a beach to admire the Flamingos. Penguins and Flamingos within a few hours drive of each other! In Peru!! We stopped again at a beach called Playa Roja – or the “red beach” that was surrounded by golden desert sands and a large reddish rock outcropping that as it erodes lends the sands a reddish tinge and the beach a deep brick red color. It was beautiful not only because of the color contrasts but because of the contrasts between desert and ocean right next to each other.
We then drove on to have lunch at a winery in Pisco, after we took a tour of the winery and got a taste (of course) of the different varieties of Pisco they make there. The food was pretty good and the Pisco was very good! After lunch our drive continued on to Ica where we spent some time seeing the Oasis of Huacachina and got a dune-buggy ride to remember.
You know how in the US if you go on a roller coaster or a ride they make you sign all these waivers saying you’re on your own if you get hurt and they have everything all padded and you fill out a questionnaire about your complete medical history? Yeah, this guy just said “hey – wanna ride my dune buggy? Yes? Pay this much and get in!”. It was CRAZY! Really and truly like a roller-coaster except being driven in this reinforced dune-buggy with roll-bars up and down the dunes. We also were able to get out to view the Oasis from the dunes. I’ve never seen a real oasis before and it was really incredible to look all around at the sands and desolation but have this beautiful, shimmering, palm-tree fringed haven just there, waiting. I imagine if I were travelling across the desert and thirsty it would appear to be heaven….or a trick of the eyes. So before we got back in the buggy, we were offered the chance to go “sand surfing”. In my mind I was picturing standing up on maybe ski’s but readjusted my idea when the guy brought out a snowboard. I then was further corrected because the board was to lie down on and slide down the dune to the bottom, dragging your feet to control your speed. This snowboard also had seen much better days but I was all in. The instructions were simple…and in Spanish and according to my friends I was supposed to stop at a certain point but didn’t…and shot further over the dunes than expected and out of sight. Daniel said that the guide made them momentarily alarmed when I went out of sight when he said “Oops she went too far!!” and they wondered what was on the other side of the dune I had just zoomed into. I popped back into view though and the guide proclaimed that “she lived” and they drove down to pick me up. It was so much fun I did it a second time on a taller dune – in hindsight I imagine it could have gone poorly if I had flipped over but the worst I got was a bunch of sand in my shoes and I lost some change from my pockets. I imagine somebody with a metal detector out there could find enough money to buy lunch easily from my donation alone.
AT this point it was getting late and our guides took us to our rooms in Nazca that were reserved for us. After a much needed shower to wash out all the sand from my hair, we ordered room service and crashed for the night.
The next day we got up early to see the Nazca lines. Similar to the Candelabra, the Nazca lines are geoglyphs dug into the sand of the Nazca desert and have lasted so long due to the desert climate. There are many different shapes, geometric designs and other patterns all throughout the desert area here that were made between 200 and 600 AD; the lines are also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The amazing thing about these lines is that they are really only able to be seen from the air but were drawn by hand long before that was possible. The scale of these lines makes it an incredible work by a people who used rudimentary tools to make the figures ranging from 450 feet long to almost 1000 feet long! The mathematics involved also is impressive to think about. So the flight over the Nazca Lines was definitely a highlight, I recommend taking the flight over the Nazca and seeing them for yourself.
After our exciting tour of the Nazca lines we hopped back in the van to drive all the way back up to Lima to spend one more night at the BTH hotel before hopping on a plane for the next leg of our adventure. Next stop Cusco!!