Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Nazca to Paracus via Huacachina and Ica, Peru

Just on the outskirts of the town of Nazca is a viewing platform to see some of the lines, so our plan is to stop and take a look. The platform is right on the Pan American highway and easy to spot because of all the tour buses! There was a small charge to go up to the top, so armed with cameras we went up. From the top we could see the hands and the tree quite visibly. The guide also pointed out the lizard, which unfortunately the highway cuts through it and obliterates most of the figure. Too bad they did not know about the existence of the lizard before planning the highway but that’s how it goes, I guess. It was still interesting but these “lines” have got to be viewed from the air. We are now in sand desert country. Viewing the landscape for miles in all directions and we could be in the middle of the Sahara. Sand dunes, hundreds of feet high are just inches from the road and there are road crews working diligently sweeping and shoveling sand from the road – okay. Tom and I agree these guys have a career lifetime job. It may be boring and repetitive but they will be gainfully employed for as long as they want. It is in this amazing desert that we enter the town of Huacachina. This desert oasis is the sand-boarding, dune buggy Mecca of Peru. Giant, wind sculpted sand dunes as far as the eye can see fill the horizon and yes, sand-boarding is the most popular activity. The idea is to climb to the top of the dune lugging a sand board (rather similar to a snow or body board) with you, this takes the average person about 30 minutes to scramble up the sand, then once at the top lie on the board and careen to the bottom, which takes about 2 minutes. Needless to say, neither Tom nor I tried it but we have heard it is tremendous fun, the downhill part not the climbing. We were tempted to try a little sand buggying but really want to be in Paracus by dark so we left the sand covered streets of Huacachina and continued driving. Just a little north of Huacachina is the fairly large town of Ica. This is known as the wine growing capital of Peru. Unfortunately we have been spoiled with Mendoza, Argentina and Santiago, Chile wines. Peruvian wine is slightly on the sweeter side and I really do not like sweet wine. So, while usually wine growing regions attract me, Ica did not although the green agriculture landscape made a welcome change from all the sand we had experienced. Also, Ica suffered extensive damage in 2007 from a massive earthquake that rocked the region and unfortunately Ica has not had much rebuilt since then. The main square is replanted but the cathedral though still standing is condemned and many other once beautiful colonial buildings stand empty and derelict. Maybe one day it will return to being a city to visit but right now it seems as though most tourists stay in Huacachina or keep moving. We are keeping moving. Our destination is El Chaco on the Paracus Peninsula and we had been told we could safely park at the yacht harbor. I think we either had the wrong co-ordinates or the yacht harbor has sold as we were told that parking is no longer allowed. However, we ran into another couple who were overlanding who said they stayed there so who knows. What we did find is a nice stretch of beach at the end of a long road south of town that was perfect. No-one bothered us, Winston could run and play to his hearts content and we watched an amazing sunset. A good end to a long drive day and an early night as tomorrow we want to visit the island reserve of Paracus.

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