Huacachina, Peru

STOP 38 | Day 117 to 121 |

It was in Cusco we decided to part ways with our Bolivia Hop bus journey. We chose to introduce some efficiency into our schedule by flying directly to Lima. With J still feeling unwell from the altitude he was yearning to skip the long bus trip and get to sea level as quickly as possible.

Arriving in Lima we painstakingly took an Uber from the airport to our hotel. By painstakingly we had to deal with our first driver “customer shopping” by using multiple ride sharing apps and then taking the longest / highest fare (unfortunately we drew the short straw). After about 30 minutes we managed to get an honest and reliable driver.

Our hotel located in Miraflores is one of the main tourist areas in Lima. The district is an affluent residential and shopping area with many restaurants. Our hotel, Andesmar Hotel and Suites, was conveniently located with clean spacious rooms. We relaxed for the rest of the day, making our way to a sushi restaurant nearby for dinner.

Continuing with the theme of relaxation, the following day we explored the Miraflores Malecon (boardwalk). This cliff top boardwalk spans six miles with great views of the Pacific Ocean. You also got good views of surfers chasing waves at Playa Waikiki and Makaha. The boardwalk led us to Larcomar Shopping Center – a western style mall with stores such as The North Face to Banana Republic. We even found a Pinkberry, which was a welcomed treat and reminder of home! It was nice to also be able to find a coffee shop and enjoy a latte, but we did try a few Peruvian drinks – a Chicha Morada and Inca Kola. Chicha Morada is a unique drink that is made with purple corn. Purple corn is native to Peru and the drink is made by boiling the purple corn with pineapple skin, cinnamon, cloves, and sugar. It is found in most restaurants and distinct with its intriguing deep purple color. Inca Kola is the most popular soft drink in Peru. The drink is a yellow fluorescent color and reminded us of creaming soda with its super sweet taste.

After 2 nights in Lima, we then decided to take a road trip to Huacachina. The car rental company was helpful in warning us about Peruvian policeman, whom are not all there to protect and serve. In Peru, it is requirement for one to have their headlights on at all times when driving along the highway. We were warned that policemen have a reputation to pull you over, reach into your car, turn off your headlights and then proceed to ticket you for not having them on. Thankful for the warning as during the four hour drive we were pulled over several times. The policemen would always ask to check our entry stamps into the county. At one stop J even caught the policeman turning off the lights as another policeman was distracting us with conversation through the passenger side window! After our experience with police in Tanzania, combined with the warnings from the car rental company, we were reasonably well versed to deal with the police corruption. Albeit a frustrating process we managed to not have to pay any “fines”. The drive along the Peruvian coast was not as picturesque as we had imagined. Aside from a few beach communities and chicken farms the landscape was fairly barren.

We arrived in Huacachina just before nightfall and managed to find a place to stay for the night. Huacachina is a tiny town made up of a collection of hotels and restaurants around a blue-green laguna surrounded by huge sand dunes. In pictures it looks like an oasis in the middle of nowhere, deceiving as the city of Ica (with over 250,000 inhabitants) is just 4 kilometers away. The town of Huacachina caters to the tourist looking to enjoy the sand dunes with sand boarding and dune buggy rides the most popular activities. Most of the the restaurants here were overpriced (compared to typical Peruvian cuisine) and consisted of tourist fare – pizza and pasta.

The sand dunes quickly heat up in the morning sun, with temperatures rising to more than 30 degrees celsius. After putting on some socks J managed to make the hot sprint up the dunes behind our hotel, capturing pictures of the unique oasis. We then decided to take a dune buggy ride, which was an adrenaline rush with the dune buggy racing up and down the dunes (like a roller coaster ride)! Stopping to take in the gigantic sand dunes it reminded us of the deserts of Namibia. There was also opportunity for some sand boarding, or sand sledding as the boards were very basic. Before heading back into town we stopped at a picture perfect viewing spot of the oasis. We also managed to find a restaurant, Le Casa de Bamboo, which offered a few different food options (such as a Thai Red Curry). After lunch we headed back to Lima and of course the drive included several police stops along the way. Again J negotiated his way through accusations of speeding and attempts to turn off our headlights. We found the repeated words of “no comprehendo” to be fairly effective. We also reencountered a policeman who stopped us the day before with the same one trick pony routine!

We spent our last night of our travels back in Lima before our flight the next day to the USA. It had been an amazing four months and we are so thankful for the experiences and memories! Feeling a bit homesick we were excited to get back “home” (to Vancouver) and then onto our ski season in Whistler. South America was a bit rushed (as we were itching to get to the snow), but reflecting we were able to see quite a lot in a short space of time:

  • 23 Days | 7 Stops | 3 Countries
  • 4 Flights | 2 Buses (one overnight) | 2 Road Trips
  • 1 Bout of Altitude Sickness
  • Favorite Stop – Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
  • Favorite Meal – Mojsa Restaurant in Puno
  • Most Picturesque Stop – Machu Picchu, Peru
  • “Experience” We Won’t Forget – nefarious police on our drive to Huacachina


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