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Published: November 14th 2012
Once you head away from the coast the landscape instantly becomes desert, every which way you look is sand, rolling dunes, sand as far as the eye can see and then you get to the town of Huacachina - known as the oasis of the America and more reminiscent of the Sahara than South America -the town is built up around a lagoon surrounded by palm trees, surrounded by desert.
The stop in Huacachina was only brief, long enough for a quick wander around and a beer in the afternoon sunshine, as it was the dunes that we’d come to play in, climbing aboard 9 seat buggies we screeched off up over the dunes for an exhilarating ride, more roller coaster than driving, the driver tackling the ups and the downs at one speed only – fast.
Stopping atop one dune it was all out for the first boarding session of the afternoon – peeking over the edge of the dune, it looked very high and very steep. The boards looked very small and very flimsy, a great combination! With very little instruction – rub wax on bottom of the board, point it downhill, lie
down head first, elbows in, hold on…… - it was time to lock away the voice in my head questioning my sanity and give it ago.
Oh! My! God! So much fun, thundering down the dunes, picking up speed, it soon became a competition to see who could go the fastest and the furthest. Once we were all at the bottom the buggy would follow on down to collect us and drive up to the next dune, each dune increased in height and steepness, so that by the time the last one was reached looking over the top of it meant not being able to see the bottom.
Such a rush, would happily have spent many a days playing on the dunes but with quite a few sand burns, some bruises and sand over every possible inch of my body we drove up to the top of one of the highest dune to watch the sun set, tired but buzzing from the afternoons activities.
After watching the sun sink down into the dunes it was back onto the buggies to head towards our ‘accommodation’ for the night, a crater in the
middle of the desert. Being in the crater meant some protection from the wind that had picked up but it was still very very cold as soon as the sun disappeared.
Within the crater there was a cooking pit with a bbq - already starting to sizzle away when we arrived - a sound system blaring out from the back of a pickup, cold beers and pisco cola on tap, all that was needed to facilitate an excellent party out in the desert.
My bed for the night was a roll mat under the stars, with very little light pollution the stars were out in their thousands, and I fell asleep snuggled in my sleeping bag gazing up at the very different view to that at home.
Waking at sun rise the next morning, covered in layer of sand that had blown over me in the night, it was time to dust ourselves off and get back in the buggy’s to head back to Huacachina for some much needed coffee!
Staying with the desert the next stop was Nazca to view the famous Nazca lines
– enormous designs in the desert,
archaeologists believe the lines were created between 200BC and 700AD by three successive, different civilisations
You can view the lines from either view platforms at the side of the road, or take a light aircraft to see them from above. Given this trips record for vehicles breaking down and that the safety records of the companies that fly the tours are pretty suspect I decided to give the plane trip a miss. I’ll happily jump of bridges and chuck myself down dunes but I’d rather not put myself in line for a plane crash.
After viewing some of the lines from the view towers it was on the Nazca itself to set up camp for the night.
Before leaving Nazca the following morning I paid a visit to the Chauchilla Indian Cemetery
. Here you can view the tombs of the people of the ancient Nazca civilisation, dating from 100AD to 700AD. Because the area is so dry – they get on average 2 hours (yes hours!) of rain in a year!- the mummies in the tombs are really well preserved, you get to see the skulls, bones and even the hair of the dead. Eerie!
Leaving the cemetery (and hopefully any nightmares behind) it was on to another beachside campsite for the night in Puerto Inca
. Setting up camp on the beach early afternoon left plenty of time for a run in the hills a few beers before settling down once again to sleep with the sounds of the pacific crashing at my feet
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