Monday, September 1, 2008

15 August 2008

Ica ~

The last night was fairly relaxing. Tired out and needing an earlier wake-up the next day, we planned a simple night. Wanting just a few drinks, we were personally escorted by the hostel worker to his favorite restaurant. At the restaurant we took a booth in the corner and became further familiar with a phenomenon that I’d heard about but didn’t believe. The local Peruvian women are fantastically gorgeous; this is a country of beautiful women. Anyways, these beautiful women are just crazy for white males. I think for reasons discussed earlier, whites are very popular here. This restaurant provided great evidence of this. From my seat in the corner, I watched as three different sets of couples arrived. Each couple contained a jaw-dropping Peruvian beauty who was partnered with an overweight, balding white guy. It blew my mind. Despite this new found evidence of my popularity, I retired early.

In the morning, we caught a cab to the bus station, a bus station that the cab driver couldn’t find. Finally when he found it from the highway, he pulled over on the highway, and we exited the cab on the highway, and then walked to the bus station from the highway. The bus ride to Ica took about four hours, and it very much reminded me of my bus touring of Argentina from last year. Fortunately, the ride was four hours, not sixty.

Ultimately, we arrived in Ica around noon. None of the cab drivers had heard of our hostel, so some random lady took the initiative to call the hostel, get directions, and communicate the directions to our cab driver…what nice people. Upon arriving at our hostel, it was obvious that it was far nicer than our previous one (this was done intentionally by Adam and me). In reality, I think we were the only people at the hostel. Apparently most people stay at the next town over. We are missing the excitement there, but I’m thankful for this place for many reasons.

After checking in, we left to go and roam around the city. Apparently, the town over (that we aren’t staying in) is famous for desert recreation, and everyone stays there. For this reason, we hired two guys to take us on a desert excursion. For $20 these guys picked us up at our hostel, drove us to the neighboring town, set us up with gear and a group, and then waited over 2 hours for us to finish in order to take us back to our hostel.

The town over—Huacachina—isn’t much of a town. It is a desert oasis with a hostel and some bars. The oasis is surrounded by sand dunes for 100s of miles (it’s a desert). The popular attraction is to sandboard, using a snowboard in the sand dunes. For this activity, a dune buggy with about 6 other people picks you up. You are tightly belted in and then taken on a fast, intense (and probably dangerous) trip up, down, and around some sand dunes. Without signing any release forms or even identifying who we were, we were blazing through random sand dunes in Peru. The event really caused my heart to pound, what a thrill.

After the buggy ride, we all strapped on snowboards and boarded down the sand dunes. At the bottom of each hill, they’d pick us up in the buggy and take us to a higher set of dunes. After about 5 dunes we were all tired and dehydrated, but they had one more dune for us. The final hill was very intimidating. The first two guys had mammoth falls. One of the guys hit his head and had blood all over his clothing. Adam went next and also enjoyed a wonderful fall. I then went but took it easy because this was probably the worst possible thing to do with a recently broken leg. We made it to the bottom, but the remainder of the group stood at the top of the dunes, vulnerable and scared shitless. Our drivers wanted to leave but most of the group was afraid to come down…rightly so. For this reason the drivers started yelling at the remaining to hurry up, causing the little specks at the top of the huge, steep sand dune to gradually walk down the hill. As an active skier for the past 20 years, I wasn’t intimidated by the hill, but I definitely realize the cruelty of making some first time skiers go off a double black diamond without protection. I had immense fun, but it definitely was not safe.

On the ride back, the sun disappeared behind the horizon and was replaced by a full moon. What a perfect ending to my first day in the sand. I love all of earth’s biomes but have always been negative towards the desert. Today I appreciated the beauty of the desert and now have immense respect for its beauty.

On the cab ride back to town, we discussed the earthquake that struck Peru a year ago. I remember the earthquake being world news, but I don’t remember it having its epicenter near Ica—right where we were staying. Actually, this earthquake reduced the city to rubble while killing 500 of the city denizens. It was all over world news and here I was in the city. Not only were we in the same city, but it was the one year anniversary…the anniversary to the exact second. As we arrived in the center, a PA was announcing the names of each person killed in the earthquake. By the time he finished, the town square was packed with people. We all gave a moment of silence and then listened to taps followed by sirens. Chills were racing through my body throughout the experience. Here we are, some of the few tourists (I saw no other white people that night) sharing in the sadness from 1 year ago. As I write this, 1 year ago exactly, this city was pure pandemonium: 500 people had just died and the homes people had spent their lives building were destroyed. It is very special to be part of this and to experience this. My own community suffered the bridge collapse last year, an event which completely affected me as a person. However, this earthquake was on a completely different level, and it is truly indescribable to be with the city exactly one year later. Adam and I originally regretted staying in Ica, but the events of the evening were so influential, I couldn’t imagine partying at an oasis right now.

Photo Credits:
1. Shot of Huacachina from sand dune (From Flickr)
2. Me after wiping out on sandboard
3. Final hill we boarded down. You can see the people at the top afraid to go down.
4. Adam and I with the moon.
5. Movie of Ica during minute of silence for victims of earthquake

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