After enjoying the delights of Machu Picchu it was time for a little more adventure and fun whilst in Peru. I was lucky enough to join some of the Bath team in Huacachina.
The journey starts in Cusco where myself and the team boarded an overnight coach to Inca. Now, this isn’t your average National Express bus, expect seats better than when you fly economy, with TV’s, blankets and pillows. Very much appreciated for the 17 hours (approx.) journey. You do get given dinner whilst on the bus, but I do advise taking some snacks and a large bottle of water too. On arrival in Inca, we took a quick transfer to our accommodation just on the outskirts of Huacachina.
Huacachina is a small desert oasis situated in Southwest Peru. The town with a permanent population of only around 100 people, is built around a small natural lake. However, there are many legends about how the lake and dunes were created. One tells of a young princess, who, whilst bathing, was discovered by a young hunter. When she fled, she left behind a pool of water, this then became the lagoon and the rolling sand dunes are believed to be created by her flowing cloak.
During your time in Huacachina, you have time to relax, enjoy a few beers and experience lots of things Peru has to offer through the excursions included.
Sandboarding and Dune Buggying.
Whilst not always possible, the group and I opted to do our dune bugging excursion at around 4 pm so that we could experience the sunset whilst in the dunes. If you are like me, and love adventure, or extreme sports this is for you! After a gentle introduction to dune bugging, (by this I mean not going too fast) the driver decided to up the ante and speed up. It felt as though we were on a roller coaster, flying over the dunes. It was such an exhilarating experience, some of those dunes are the sizes of mountains, so it’s understandable to feel the need to scream as you fly over them!
We got to sandboard down 3 different dunes over the course of the tour. The first time, we all went down on our stomachs. Going down head first can be a little daunting but it’s very much a case of, once you have taken the plunge and done it, you’ll want to do it all over again! Stomach flat, elbows tucked in, feet slightly raised and off I went, along with the loudest “Aaaaaaahhhhhhh” that may have been heard on the dunes that day. With all fears gone on the second dune, we all attempted to stand on the board. This was much easier said than done and made for lots of laughs as we all fell over in our attempts at going down the dune. To finish the tour we drove/flew over the dunes to a viewpoint overlooking the oasis for sunset. It was breath taking and a perfect way to end the day.
Paracas National Park & The Ballestas Islands.
This excursion is a full day. You’ll be up bright and early for breakfast before setting off. After a two hour journey, you’ll arrive at the small port of Paracas and board a boat for your trip to the Ballestas Islands. The journey lasts around 1 ½ – 2 hours. On the outward journey of your trip be sure to look out for the three-pronged Candelabra geoglyph (you can’t miss it, it’s massive!). This is a giant figure which has been etched in the sandy hills. There is no answer to what the 150m high, 50m wide geoglyph signifies or how it was created but some link it to serving as a navigational guide for sailors. I personally like the explanation that it was created by aliens.
You will spend around an hour cruising the islands, which are jagged rock formations. The closer you get, you begin to realise that the rock faces are covered in animals. I spotted pelicans, penguins and sea lions. The sea lions were my favourite, they were the hardest to spot due to the fact they seem like the most relaxed animal in the world just chilling out on the rocks fast asleep.
My top tip here is to take some wet-wipes as there is a small chance that you will receive an unwanted gift from the birds as they fly overhead.
Shortly before midday, we drove onwards to Paracas National Park. An area of incredible biodiversity named after the Paracas culture. The reserve itself was created by Supreme Decree No. 1281-75-AG in 1975 with work beginning in the National Park with just 3 guards. The goals in creating the reserve were to conserve the ecosystems and biodiversity, protecting threatened species and their habits. We took some time to walk around the visitors centre (one of the most impressive National Parks visitors centres I have ever seen!) learning about the reserves 335,000 hectares. A large part of the visitors centre focuses on climate change and the effects this could have, and are having on the reserve.
We then drove around to different areas of the national reserve, in one area you could see flamingos in the distance. We also saw “La Catedral” a rock formation created by the wind and the erosion of the sea. For me, the difference in this national park to ours back in the United Kingdom was incredible to see. When you say National Parks, I think a large forest and a long walk through the countryside, not vasts amounts of slightly different coloured sand surrounded by water.
Having never been wine tasting before and my only memory of being at a vineyard was when I was really young somewhere in France, I was super excited for this. We chose to take on this excursion in the late afternoon so that we could have some tanning time (very important!). We visited two different vineyards.
The first vineyard was a 25-minute drive from our accommodation. Our guide was called Enquire, he gave us a tour of the vineyard and showed us how the wine was made. He also explained to us the difference between wine we may have had in the UK (usually dry wines) and wines that are made in Peru. Peruvian wine is made with much more sugar and is therefore very, very sweet! I would almost compare it to a dessert wine. We tasted 3 different wines, the second was a dry rose wine but it was the sweetest dry wine I have ever tasted.
We then moved onto trying Pisco. This is a colourless brandy which is produced in the winemaking regions of Peru. Pisco was first developed by Spanish settlers in the 16th Century so they could stop importing brandy to Peru, it’s made by distilling fermented grape juice. I definitely preferred the wine to the Psico. I loved how sweet it was.
The second vineyard was close by and much older than the first. They stored their wines in old concrete casts which we could put in a long bamboo rod and pour out the wine and pisco ourselves. This vineyard also stored a wine which translated into ‘panty droppers’, in which you have to hold your pants up whilst you drink it because after a few glasses of this wine it’s safe to say you get a bit tipsy!