Ica and Huacachina
We sadly left Cusco and made our way on an over night bus at 17.30 which followed the winding road through the Andes down from 3500 Mts to the coast. As we slept in our seats we were rolled from side to side which caused us to giggle as the bus followed the hare pin bends down through the mountains. After a long but interesting journey down through mountains and along some stunning coastline we passed the town Nazca which have the famous mysterious Nazca lines, a number of animal and geometric shapes drawn across 500 km of bleak stony ground, unfortunately as we drove through the area we did not see anything.
At last we eventually arrived at Ica 11.30 the following day. Ica lies 50km inland in a very fertile valley which is surrounded by massive sand dunes, the city suffered much damage in an earthquake in 2007.We continued our journey for another 5km to a small desert oasis village called Huacachina though we knew it was an oasis, on our arrival it was a total surprise to find this small village built around an oasis in the middle of a desert, when we
view of the oasis
had only just left a busy bustling city 10 minutes before, the village is surrounded completely by huge sand dunes almost small mountain size. The first evening we climbed the huge sand dune behind our hostel. First we had to clime a very steep ridge this was hard work because each time you made a step forward your foot would slip back, and the sand was still very hot even though it was the evening, we walked in our socks without shoes on as they only filled with sand. After a strenuous climb we reached the top of the dune with a 360 degrees view across the huge sand dunes surrounding the oasis it was spectacular, in one direction the sand dunes continued as far as we could see, in the other direction was the foothills of the Andes, below our feet was the small oasis of Huacachina we stayed there until the hot sun set, which gave the sand dunes a lovely pink colour. The getting down was much quicker and a lot more fun as we stepped off the edge of the dune and ran down the 45 degrees slope down the dune behind our hostel.
following afternoon we took an exciting ride on a huge 10 seater dune buggy we were driven across the dunes at quite high speed up into some of the highest dunes right to the very top of the dune where the buggy hovered on the very edge before zooming down over the other side, it was quite a white knuckle ride at times with lots of squealing from the female passengers and yelling from the males.
Next it was sand boarding first we stopped at a reasonably high dune where we were given a sand board and shown how to control it using your back foot, and off we went down the dune, unfortunately neither of us had snow board or skate boarded before so we did not have any idea what to do. I fell onto my bottom within a few metres and then continued down the dune laying on my front, Michael managed to sand board right to the bottom. We were then driven to a much higher sand dune and tired again, my attempt was not so could, I laid on my front on the sand board which was easier and I could gain much more
taken from sand dunes behind hostel
speed going down, this was much more exciting, by now most people were laying on their boards as to stand up was quite difficult to do. We boarded down several high dunes before we had to board down the highest sand dune, standing at the top looking down was like standing on a tall block of flats, everyone was a bit nervous to go down, but it took a young girl to board down first, to get everyone else to go, the ride down was so fast the sand stung your face, you had to squint your eyes shut to stop the sand from getting in, the ride took our breath away quite literally. It was really brilliant, breathtaking and exhilarating, afterwards everyone was on a natural high. We stayed at the oasis for several days relaxing by the pool and walking the sand dunes it was difficult to move on but we bused through the mountains and then further up the desert coastline to Huaraz
The city of Huaraz is over 3000 Mts.above sea level and backs onto the snow capped mountains of the Cordillera Blanca range which consists of approximately 35 peaks they have the highest range
in the tropical world with heads reaching over 6000 mts mark and until the early 20 th century when the glaciers began to recede this white crest could be seen from the Pacific. Huaraz offers some of the best hiking and mountaineering in the Americas. We quickly organised a tour trekking the Santa Cruz loop on our arrival.
The first day there we took a bus to , a glacier not far from Huaraz the bus drove up through the beautiful valley which looked as if it was covered in different shades of green carpet. It seemed strange we were only yesterday sitting in an oasis in a desert now we were driving towards a glacier. On the way we stopped in the valley by a carbonated spring the water was a copper colour due to the different minerals in the ground. We saw during the drive up lots of huge strange tall plants with spiky leaves around its base, the base looked almost like an aloe vera plant, we were told the centre base part of the plant was edible, the tall part was cut down and the base centre part removed.
We reached the glacier after
a couple of hours drive, on our arrival the guide told us the glacier was considerably larger several years ago but due to the climate change it has receded by almost half, in front of the glacier was a glacial lake with icebergs that had carved from the glacier, Michael was excited because he was able to reach and pat an iceberg!
The following day we had another bus tour to the town Chavin to visit the Chavin de Huantar temple which was built for the Chavin cult, it was in its time one of the worlds' largest religious centres by the year 300BC at its height there was almost 3000 priests and temple attendants who worshipped and dedicated themselves to powerful mountain spirits or deities who they believed controlled meteorological phenomenas the most important being rainfall which was vital to their survival and wealth. The temple was built in a massive almost pyramid shape with many underground tunnels beneath it and platforms built on the pyramid, where the priests would perform ceremonies and sacrifices in front of thousands of pilgrims who are believed to of worshiped there at Chavin. However much of the buildings have been destroyed, been
looted in the past or fallen to ruin. Some tunnels you can scrabble through, and part of the pyramid is still standing alone with a couple of sacrifice blocks in plaza in front of the temple. We were a little disappointed about what was to be seen, but remembering it was built over 2500 years ago what did we expect.
Next morning it was the start of our trek, we were up early with our packed small rucksacks, and off we went on our 4 days and 3 nights Santa Cruz trek in the Cordillera Blanca mountain range. First we drove up through the valley from Huaraz for an hour before we stopped for breakfast, the bus then drove out of the villages and up a steep windy narrow mountain track for ages before we finally reached our starting point this was around lunchtime. Here the bus stopped and all the tents, sleeping gear, food, cooking utensils were loaded onto the awaiting donkeys, along with our chef who was there too he drove the donkeys along the trail behind us, if you paid extra money the donkeys they would carry your stuff too, or you had to carry your
Taken high up on a sand dune
own bags, we were too tight to pay out anything extra(but during our trek when we were knackered, we did wish we'd got the donkeys to carry our bags). Off we set along a rocky path which followed the mountain steam which went up through between the mountain valley, the day was very hot and the path quickly grew steeper as we went, though the beautiful mountainous scenery either side made up for any tiredness we felt.
We arrived at our first campsite early evening after about 6 hours walking, it was a flat pasture field where we had to pitch our tents we had several curious, friendly donkeys who grazed there, they kept poking their heads into our tents looking for food or tip bits to eat. Further down the valley was a spectacular view, in the distance were huge snow capped mountains with wisps of cloud floating around their summits, they looked very much like the mountains shown at the start of Paramount films and the rumour around the camp had it, that they were the ones used?
The first night was very cold and unfortunately not all the sleeping bags were very thick or warm,
so the next morning a couple of group members were extra tired due to lack off sleep because of the cold. The second day we followed along the sandy flat bottom of the valley for a couple of hours, we passed a huge emerald green lake, before we came to the sandy dry river bed, here we stopped to have our lunch before setting off along the river bed, we did have to cross several fairly deep, but narrow run off streams which caught several people out, who got very wet shoes/ feet when they tired to jump across them. Once we crossed the river bed the guide took us on a slight detour, we followed a very steep windy path starting from the riverbank which took us high up into mountain valley were we rested for a while in cattle pastures to enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding snow capped mountains from the other side of the river with their wispy clouds floating around their heads and with curious grazing cattle looking on at us wondering who and what we were ! Then we walked horizontally along a very narrow path, very much like a goat path along
the side of the mountain valley before we reached another flat grassed land where we were to spend our second night camping, along with the curious friendly cows, who thought nothing of grazing right outside the tent door! and during the night I heard there movements very close to the tent!
The next day, the walk was going to be the hardest because first we had to climd up from the campsite to the top of the mountain range, the path was ascended very quickly and sharply we struggled with the altitude and our breathing, the going was steady but slow. Once we reached the top the feeling of success, and the surrounding mountains were spectacular and the views made up for the aching lungs. Here we rested for a while taking in the views and many photos too, before climbing down the slippery shalely path on the other side of the mountain range down into another beautiful dynamic valley. We walked many hours along lots of different types of terrain, climbing steep paths up and steep paths down, following a river at times, going through pasture fields with many curious cattle blocking our path, before we arrived early
evening at our final campsite, this is in the grounds of a strange looking house which is used when booked for conferences etc. The house is looked after by a local family who when the house is not being used live in the village, there was no electricity and once darkness fell we had to use our torches and candles, the little girls of the family were very curious of us, particularly Michael and his head torch, and another chap, José's watch and its alarm, they played for a long time with the objects giggling and laughing, while messing about with the watch's alarm setting it on and off and shinning the torches into the night sky.
The last day we slept late before we were expected to take down and pack away our tent and sleeping bags, we set off to walk through the village, first we met several children who begged for sweets, money or anything edible. Our guide had warned us of this, and once we started along the path a loud cry was screeched across the village by the older boys almost giving warning to the other children in the village, we were coming. Before
Off to ride the sand dunes in the big beach buggy
setting off we had been given our usual packed lunch of a sandwich, some sweets, biscuits and a piece of fruit, by the time we had all walked through the village we had all given our lunches away to the children, and even an old man who looked like he chewed coco leaves very regularly asked a guy if he had any coco leaves, which luckily he had almost a bag left over from the walk, as the leaves can help with altitude sickness, so he gave them to the old boy, everyone in the village appeared quite content as we left the village, we did see many houses with huge Guinea pig hatches/ runs in the roofs of their homes with lots of various sized guinea pigs, being as they are eaten regularly by Peruvian people, it was different type of animal farming, even though some of us did say oh the poor things, however at our last lunch together on the way back to Huaraz at a local restaurant we ordered a roasted guinea pig along with our meals, where we all sampled a bit of pig, it tasted very much like chicken though with a much stronger
flavour of chicken, there was very little meat on it but it had lots of small bones not quite our cuppa tea really!
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