Published: June 20th 2012May 10th 2012
Lima and Huacachina
We know you should always make your own opinions about a place no matter what you’ve heard, but most of the people we had talked to made it sound like Lima was going to be another Quito for us. Just the thought of that put us a little on edge and we already weren’t expecting to stay very long. But, when we first got to the city it didn’t have nearly the same feel to it for us. Granted Miraflores is one of the nicest areas of the city, but we really enjoyed where we were…even though there were temptations all around us. We even saw a frickin’ Dunkin’ Donuts! Yes…we were naughty and had one. Nate wasn’t allowed to go back anymore for fear of buying out the entire store, returning to the hostel and putting on an instant 5 pounds, all in sugar weight. We all stayed Pirawana and took advantage of the kitchen for most of our meals. It was definitely a social place to be but not so crazy that you couldn’t sleep when you wanted to. They may not have had the best “breakfast” included, but that doesn’t mean we didn’t load
up on as much bread and coffee as humanly possible to be sure we got our money worth. The only downside to places like this is that you’re not allowed to bring in your own liquor. Of course that may only deter certain people…some people just make their own drinks in a plastic coke bottle to be inconspicuous. When you can get a whole bottle of rum at the grocery store for only 8 Soles (under $5), you can’t really blame them can you?
Plus, we had officially de-virginized a couple friends of ours by having them stay in their first dorm ever. At least we picked a good one, with clean, comfy beds to help you get a good night’s sleep. The only little issue we had to deal with was one smelly towel. You can probably guess that for it to even be mentioned in here that it was pretty nasty. Actually, we all scoured the room trying to figure out what smelled until Nate stuck his nose in the funk, coughing and almost throwing up in his mouth a little before Katie busted out her nag champa. Yes, she brought her favorite insense and even though
we gave her shit about it, we were damn glad she had them! Because, yes, it was really THAT gross! You’d probably rather have to pet a skunk with its asshole aimed at your nose for 10 minutes than sleep next to this thing. Yummy! Don’t get us wrong, we all get smelly at times, especially when it comes to towels since you use them so often but can’t exactly wash them every couple days. However, when you’re giving everyone in the dorm room the face of just having smelled fresh baby diarrhea mixed with dried fish, you should probably wash your towel!
We did a lot more exploring in Lima than we thought we might do, including taking a walk down to the water. Granted you won’t find an incredible beach or warm water here, but you can still get a nice view from up on the cliff. You might also want to do the “typical” gringo thing to do and imitate the statue in Parque de Amor by getting down on the ground with someone, whether your lover or not, and posing in the throws of passion the way the statue is getting it on. It was
surprising to see how many people were not only posing with the statue, but also how many locals were actually out taking advantage of the little walkway next to the road whether they were running, rollerblading, or just going for a walk to get some exercise. We would end up checking out a few different areas of the city and hitting a couple of little shopping markets along with a main shopping street where Jessie took advantage of buying a few new shirts and both of us enjoyed a cheap ice cream cone. We also decided to hit up Chinatown, which was the first Chinatown we had been in throughout all of South America. Of course the best part about Chinatown is the food! It’s hard not to take advantage of Chinese food when it’s staring you in the face. We were hoping for a fortune cookie that said, “You will come upon a large amount of money to fund your travels for another year”, but had no such luck.
Although Jessie had seen something similar in Europe, we took a trip to the catacombs here in Lima under the Monasterio de San Francisco. The tour was actually really
interesting and being right next to completely open containers of human bones isn’t something you’ll see every day. The only bad thing about tours like this is that you can’t take any photos, which meant Jessie had to just about tie her hands together behind her back to avoid grabbing her camera. Then again if you asked her, she’d probably tell you that seeing the dozens on cats in one of the central park areas of Miraflores was even better. There were TONS of cats in this park and all different sizes and colors. It was a cat-lover’s (aka Jessie’s) heaven. Parents will even bring their kids to this park to feed all the cats. In a way in was kind of weird, yet kind of great at the same time. It just reminded Jessie of how bad she wants to get her 2 kitties when we get home. Of course she’s having fun traveling, but there’s also a little part of her that’s dying inside to get her cat fix. Nate can only hope that the sight of all those cats didn’t spark the interest of more than 2! Seriously, if we can get through this trip without a
kidnapped cat it just might be a miracle.
Our other “main event” was going to a water park at night to see the light show called the Magical Water Circuit with more than a dozen water fountains with choreographed music and lights. It somehow took us about 45 minutes longer than it should have to get there after trying to follow the directions of some of the locals. The park really is beautiful, although pretty damn chilly at night, and the light show was different than anything we had ever seen before. Sure it wasn’t exactly like being at the Bellagio in Las Vegas, but still interesting. They managed to project a “movie” onto one of the water fountains, playing different women in traditional dress dancing with the music going in the background. There was also a fountain where you could walk underneath the spouts that almost formed a little tunnel, but after taking one look at how soaked everyone was who walked underneath it, we quickly scratched it off the list. Besides, we’ll have plenty of time to “enjoy” freezing our asses off coming up…we didn’t exactly need to get a head start.
If you find yourself
in Lima, we promise you don’t have to stay strictly in Miraflores to feel safe. We were actually surprised at how safe we felt while we were here. There’s another part of town, Barranco, not far along the water from Miraflores that’s a cute little place to check out. If you get away from some of the touristy restaurants, you can find yourself some delicious local food for dirt cheap. It was honestly one of the best local lunches we had had until that point. Other than checking out a few different areas of town, doing some shopping and possibly smuggling in some cheap rum and cokes to avoid paying for any alcohol at full prices, we didn’t do a whole lot more in Lima. But, we have to say, Lima was the perfect example for us of why sometimes you need to take advice that other travelers give you with a grain of salt. Unfortunately, some places really do have bad reputations for a reason. Yet, some of these places are actually just fine and 90% of the shit you hear about it is from people who have never even been there before. At any rate, we were pleasantly
surprised by what we found in Lima and enjoyed the time we had to do some exploring. But, having said that, we were still really looking forward to making our way to Huacachina and the famous sand dunes!
The bus ride into Ica is about as straight forward and easy as it gets. For us, we could quickly tell Ica wasn’t a place we were dying to spend a lot of time in, but that also wasn’t why we were here. Within about 5 minutes we were in a station wagon taxi (all 6 of us at this point plus our bags mind you) with Brandon’s surf boards roped onto the roof. How many gringos does it take to fill a taxi completely? Apparently 6 is pretty damn close because nobody in that back seat was moving more than a couple of inches throughout that ride! Once you get about 30 seconds away from Ica, you immediately notice the sand dunes all around you. After only about 5 more minutes you feel like you’re in a completely different world in the middle of the desert with no sign of other human life around. We walked around for a while
trying to find a cheap hostel and eventually found a room we could all share and split costs. It definitely wasn’t the nicest place in town, but it was cheap enough and had a kitchen so we could at least save a little money on food after making a trip back to the Ica to hit the grocery store.
Pretty much every person who comes here comes for one thing, and that’s the sand-boarding tours through the dunes in a dune buggy. Just about everyone in town is offering the same thing, so we decided to book with the place we were staying at. You have a couple options as far as what time of day you’d like to go, but we were recommended to go in the late afternoon to enjoy sunset at the end. You also have the option of using a board and laying/sitting down on it or paying a little extra for proper binding like a snowboard. Although the thought was a bit appealing to Nate, with a messed up foot already he decided not to push his luck. It’s kind of funny… Everyone pretty much leaves at the same time and all you can
hear all around you is the sound of beefed up dune buggy engines ready to go rip up some sand. Nate was DYING to drive one but we didn’t feel like finding out just how much you would have to bribe someone for that!
The buggy we were in sat 9 people and had a proper role bar cage over the top with true harness seat belts to keep you strapped in. Luckily we had a fun driver who wasn’t afraid to try scaring the crap out of us a few times, which meant we were getting jacked up before we ever even tried to sand board. Your first stop is going to be a tiny drop to get you used to the feeling of the board. Most of us would be going down on our stomachs, but there were a couple of guys who wanted to do it standing up. After our little baby hill, we were quickly introduced to a much, MUCH larger dune we would be going down. Most of us made it ok, but one of the guys with us took a nasty digger! One of the photos that Katie got of him from the
bottom looked like something out of a TV show on sports disasters. He was a trooper though and kept going down on his feet every time. Katie on the other hand decided there was no way in hell she was even going to go down the next hill as it was even higher and steeper than the last one. We have to say, there’s a part of us that doesn’t really blame her. It was pretty intimidating. Instead, she waited at the top this time and figured she would ride down with our guide. Little did she know, he was going to take her straight down the dune we just went down, but quite a bit faster than we could go on a board. No joke, you’ll never hear a better scream in your entire LIFE! It seriously started out at the top and got progressively worse all the way down the hill until they officially stopped to pick us up. We probably should’ve checked ourselves because one of us was bound to have a yellow stain on the front of our pants from laughing so hard!
Eventually we finished up our boarding and went for a quick ride
through the dunes while provoking our driver to go faster and do crazier things, which he did. Let’s face it, with things like that you WANT to feel like your heart is in your throat a few times, right? He definitely delivered the adrenaline rush we were looking for, but the best part was that he also got us to one of the highest dunes away from everyone else just in time to watch an incredible sunset. It was a perfect ending to a really fun day…so fun that we were almost tempted to go back and do it again a day later. The only thing that came even close to the rush was when Jessie and John decided to hike up one of the biggest dunes outside of town for sunset the next night and come running straight down like frolicking children! It was such great fun and John was leaping so big that he managed to split his pants a good 12 inches!! Nate would miss out on the running down part even the night after since his foot was already giving him some issues after trying to walk in the sand. Jessie and John however got some
great pictures and a little video of prancing down the dune as if they were animated characters in a Disney movie! When it comes down to it, Huacachina is like a giant sandbox for adults. We had also debated on doing a Pisco tour, but decided against it in the end even though we had heard good things about the tours.
We had a lot of fun playing in the sand but figured we should keep moving on, so we were ready to head to Arequipa….or so we thought. Too bad some of the miners in the area decided to strike and block off the roads getting into the city, which meant there was absolutely no way we were getting in until it was over. We would end up waiting for 2 days until finally going stir-crazy with nothing else to do in the little desert oasis. Brandon and Katie decided enough was enough and they would head back to Lima and fly to Cuzco instead. We didn’t really want to pay for the flight, even though we knew the bus ride would probably be a bit rough, so we stuck it out one more day. But, just to
be safe, Nate went into town with them and Troy (the other guy with us) to check out bus fares and make sure we were getting the right price on the bus tickets. The taxi driver that Nate and Troy had was a total asshole. Before he dropped them off, he was making fun of Nate and telling him he looked like a woman with his long hair in a ponytail, then made a huge scene when he dropped them off about how they can afford to pay more money for the cab because they’re white. No, he literally said this (in Spanish obviously). Nate ended up paying more than he should’ve but just wanted to be done with the dick.
After saying goodbye and checking prices, Nate went to head back into town. The same guy was actually waiting for him and trying to get him in his cab again. When Nate said “no”, the guy started calling him “mujer” (woman) and taunting him. Nate had enough, and rattled off some nasty Spanish words at the guy at full volume from the sidewalk, catching the attention of the locals around him and stopping the man mid-sentence with a
dropped open jaw. Well, if you heard the lone white boy in the middle of the street telling off a cab driver and saying “Go f&^* your mother you c%$& sucker”, you’d probably be shocked, too. Although, quite a few of the locals got a good kick out of it, probably knowing full well that the asshole deserved what came to him. Nate just laughed to himself when the guy pulled away in shock, leaving him to walk down the street gloating in victory. The funny thing was; he wasn’t even happy that he got the last word in with the guy. It was more about actually not screwing up when he wanted to say it! You can tell he’s definitely done some studying, but little did he know he would actually be using the “naughty words” from his vocabulary list. Yes, he was in a glowing mood for a good 15 minutes afterwards and couldn’t wait to get back and tell Jessie and John about his experience…which although it made them laugh, Jessie really wasn’t too surprised on the one hand.
We wouldn’t have anything else eventful happen and with the strike still in place, we decided to
suck it up and take the 16 hour bus ride to Cuzco. We had heard plenty of rumors about the winding road all the way there, but we were about to find out for ourselves just how bad it would be… Traveler Tips Getting There
Lima: We took on overnight bus with Linea for 45 S/. each. The bus was comfortable although it wasn’t the cheapest option. You can buy your own ticket by taking the combis into Trujillo. We paid 14 S/. for a trusted taxi at night to get us to the bus terminal. Upon arrival in Lima, a taxi to Miraflores cost us 12 S/.
Huacachina: From Lima there are various companies, we chose the cheapest (Flores) which runs a nearly hourly bus to Ica. We each paid 20 S/. and the trip took us 5-6 hours. A cab to Huacachina will run you about 5 S/., all six of us managed to pack into one cab for 10 S/. Staying
Lima: We stayed at Pirawana, since it had a kitchen. We paid 30 S/. each for a dorm bed, on the pricey side but the beds were super comfy.
Huacachina: We stayed at Rocha hotel, you will pay 20 S/. per person per night. The hostel was ok, had a pool and kitchen so we were happy. If you’re looking for a cheap dorm, Desert Nights is the way to go but their food us super overpriced. Eating
Lima: Again, we did a lot of cooking but ate out in Chinatown for lunch one day (not impressed) and also at a small place in Barranco. We aren’t sure of the name or if it even had one…but it was along the main bus route, just peek in at some local places and check out the menu.
Huacachina: If we weren’t running into Ica to get groceries to cook, we ate a few times at the restaurant next to Desert Nights. Their fast food was cheap and J was happy with the menu del dia, chicken fried rice. Getting Around
Lima: The local buses are great, cheap and efficient for only 1.20-1.50 S/. per ride.
Huacachina: No transport is necessary outside of a taxi to Ica, 5 S/. for the car, not per person.
There are more photos below