Friday, April 29, 2011

Nazca

It was hard to leave the pretty oasis town of Huacachina, but due to the less than stellar hotel staff, we were off to Nazca where we could spot a few of the famous Nazca Lines.

We decided not to take a plane tour of all the lines, seeing as we were informed that the planes frequently crash and numerous people have already died this year. This is due to poor plane maintenance and questionable piloting; however, we have been informed that harsher restrictions are now being enforced, including the requirement of two pilots. Still, it was not a risk we were willing to take to see a few large drawings.

Luckily, there are a couple of view points that you can get to via taxi, so we got to see two of the giant ancient pictures.




Nazca has actually quite a few historic site attractions, including this ancient water system, consisting of miles of these connected spiral water pits.


Our guide was insisting that we try the water, but our stomachs had other ideas!



One of the large spiral pits.



Nazca is known to have the largest sand dune in the world - which is the absolute monster of a dune seen in the background behind the mountains. It is called Cerro Blanco, and is over 2000m above sea level. If you are crazy enough, you can take an expensive tour where you walk up one of the sides for over 3 hours to get to the summit!


There were many cactus fields surrounding Nazca... which stopped us from frolicking in the meadows.







We climbed some ruins in the desert heat, the significance of which was not explained to us, but I assume they are also Nazcan and old.







This is why they are called "ruins".








We only spent one day in Nazca, and that was enough for us. The town itself was a bit of a dust pit, full of over-priced restaurants and tour companies. We were just happy our hostal had a swimming pool, which is greatly needed after walking around in the desert heat all day!

Friday, April 8, 2011

Islas Bolestras

When we missed our stop in Pisco, we were upset that we may have missed our chance to visit the Islas Bolestras. However, when we arrived in Huacachina, we found out that they do the exact same tours for an extremely reasonable price! The Islas Bolestras have been lovingly referred to as "The Poor Man's Galapagos of Peru."



On the way to the Islas Bolestras is this candelabra (although some believe it to be a kind of cactus instead) that was apparently carved around 150 years ago.







Our boat was followed by a series of birds on our way to the islas.





Our first sneek-peek of the beautiful, rocky islands.





Our captain first drove us up to this little cove full of barking sea lions.





And then we proceeded around the corner to see the many different types of birds living in harmony with one-another.





The islands were completely unique, as they were basically completely flora-baren rocks ranging from small to big.





We were both super happy, as we got to see many more penguins! This little guy was doing a little dance down the rocks for us.





Here is a rock cave full of sea lions (we could hear them through the dark) and covered in millions of nesting birds.





More birds and caves!





There is also a research station out on the desolate rock islands where people will spend months on end studying the surrounding creatures. This seems like a pretty cool job, but please note that all the birds and sea lions create quite a stench, which was almost intolerable!








A group of pelicans, with a few penguins and peruvian boobies mixed in!






A big bull sea lion came over to say hello to our group. The male sea lions look quite a bit different in Peru than in the Galapagos, as they are much fatter with squished faces.






You can see the dozens of babies scrambling towards their respective mothers, below.






We were both really glad we didn't miss out on the Islas Bolestras, as they were quite unique compared to the Galapagos - the landscape was entirely different and so were a lot of the bird and sea lion species. The only thing we missed out on were the dolphins that sometimes follow the boat!






Huacachina

So we left Lunahuana in search of the city of Pisco. It seemed like a straight-forward ride: we catch a bus going to Pisco and we arrive in Pisco. However, the bus ride seemed to take longer than expected (which is usual for South America) and when we asked the driver if we were getting close to Pisco, he would say that we were almost there... When we finally arrived in Pisco, we actually were dropped off in Ica, an hour and a half past our desired destination! We had no clue what we were going to do in Ica, as it was next on our list and we hadn't planned any kind of itinerary or place to stay! So we quickly pulled out the iPhone Lonely Planet and picked a hostel in a neighbourhood just outside of Ica, called Huacachina.

Our cab driver took us toward some giant sand dunes and drove around the corner to reveal the beautiful little oasis town of Huacachina!







And here is the pretty, yet very noisy hostel that we stayed at our first night.

Huacachina is one of the most unique places we had ever been to in all of our travels. AMAZING sand dunes surrounded this oasis town. The scorching heat can be beat by dipping into one of the many pools in the city, or even with a dip in the lagoon in the middle of the town (although this was typically a local activity).



The big draw to Huacachina are the dunes. I´ve been to the Sahara desert, and I can tell you that the sand in the Sahara doesn´t even hold a candle to the Huacachina! These are some of the largest dunes in the world, and what better way to enjoy them than to strap a board to your feet and slide (or fall) down them. Above you can see Lydia posing with one of Huacachina´s sand buggies that are used to take the tourists out to the dunes for sand boarding fun.




video


What we didn´t realize, however, was that the dune buggy ride out to the dunes was actually going to be the most exciting activity of the tour (and that is not to take anything away from sand boarding). This ride was absolutely RIDICULOUS! My heart has never pounded so hard (coming from the person who jumped of a 100m bridge in Ecuador)! First off, the buggies were all equipped with harness seat belts and complete roll cages, so safety wasn´t an issue, but safety caveat aside, our driver was absolutely insane! He was taking us up and down and side to side on these monster sand dunes with angles at about 80 degrees! We would fire up to the top of a dune, without seeing what´s on the other side, then all but fall down to the bottom, only to peel around to the next. Words can´t describe just how crazy this was (nor can the above video), but just know that it was INTENSE and FUUUUUUUN!!!!





By this time, our adrenaline was a pumping!




And again, Tyrone + either booze or adrenaline = picking up Lydia;)




Our bodies were so pumped full of adrenaline that we gained the ability of flight (granted only for about 2 seconds before we fell to the ground).









Our crazy-ass driver, posing with his tool of insanity.




The rolling sand dunes were simply stunning. Our driver took us out to the proverbial middle of nowhere for our sand boarding fun.




For the first couple of dunes, we were given the option of going down the dunes snowboarding style (standing on the board) or toboggan style (lying down on the board). Later in the day, however, the dunes got bigger.... much bigger, so we were told that toboggan style was the only safely doable option.








Lydia getting ready to eat some sand.









The dunes towards the end of the day were so incredibly big that a picture doesn´t give you the best perspective of the drop that we were taking. I would guess that the dunes we were dropping down were over 100m high, meaning we would reach speeds of about 100km on our sand boards (luckily it was nothing but fluffy sand to catch us if we fell).




video




Lydia ripping down a sand dune (toboggan style).









After the craziness of the sand boarding, our driver took us to the top of a dune to enjoy the tranquility of a desert sunset.
























We have seen some fine looking sunsets on our trip, but it´s hard to beat the colours of a desert sunset!








The Ica/Huacachina area of Peru is also known for some of the country´s best wines. This of course meant that Lydia and I had to take another wine tour. For the wine tour, Lydia and I hired a local taxi driver to take us to the various vineyards of the region. The top Peruvian vineyard, Tacama, just so happened to be in the area, so we made that our first destination.




The Tacama vineyard in Ica, Peru.














As an added bonus, we were able to take in several other beautiful sights on route between the vineyards.




The many vineyards of the region can be broken down into two basic categories, industrial producers (i.e. Tacama), who create large amounts of wine and pisco for national/international sale and artisanal bodegas, who use more traditional methods to create wines sold at the local level. Above you can see an old fashioned wine press used by one of the artisanal bodegas that we toured.




Lydia at the sampling table.




The two of us at one of the artisanal bodegas.




Definitely the funkiest artisanal bodega that we went to on the tour was the one pictured above. It was a museum/personal collection of funky Peruvian artifacts, animals, shrunken heads, and many barrels of home brew wine. Making this place even more ´funky´was the fact that our one-toothed tour guide for this vineyard ¨got high off his own supply¨ (the guy was fall-over drunk). This worked out well for us though, as he was more than willing to share his supply of wine with us! Even more funny was that fact that after we had finished drinking with him, he liked Lydia so much that he got a picture with her for his cell phone.



The first hostel we stayed at in Huacachina ended up being a bit of a party place, so we moved to the above hostel on our second night. It was a beautiful hostel; however, the staff turned out to be idiots. The brilliant hotel management took a reservation for our room, while we were staying in it, meaning they kicked us out of the hostel, because they had to accommodate the new guests! I have never heard of anything like this before!







Beautiful room, terrible staff! As the hotel took our room from under us, we had to keep on keeping on. Next on the agenda was Nazca.



To end our Huacachina story on a pleasant note though... after we were miffed about getting prematurely evicted from our hotel room, we ended up catching a taxi to the bus station with the same driver we used for the wine tour. The guy was an absolute sweetheart! After taking us to the station, he told us that he really appreciated our company and gave us a bottle of wine as a parting gift. This is coming from a guy who works his ass of for his family (who we met on the tour), making about $10 a day, working 16 hours a day and 7 days a week! An amazing gesture that put a big smile on our face as we left for another adventure.