Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Ica and Paracas

Our destination on Friday, June 6, 2014, was the town of Ica which meant a 2-hour bus ride north of Nazca.  As we neared Ica, I was amazed at the large sand dunes that seemed to pop up everywhere.  Additionally, I caught my first glimpse of a Peruvian cemetery, which I found quite interesting.  We arrived at our lovely Hotel Villa Jazmin and enjoyed lunch by the pool.  I believe the rice dish with a yellow chicken gravy is called aji de gallina - a delicious Peruvian food with a Swedish origin.  Later than night, Michael had his first (cold) dip in the water since beginning his mission in June of 2012.

One of the reasons we were staying in Ica was so that we could go to the Huacachina Oasis and have a sand buggy and boarding experience on the expansive dunes.  So after lunch we took a cab to Huacachina.   Although the once natural spring-fed oasis now has water pumped into the pond, it is still a charming sight.  We loved the adrenaline-filled buggy ride up and down the dunes, followed by some clumsy sand-boarding attempts down the dunes.  Michael was the champ at mastering the standing position, while Bob and I opted to ride on tummies and tushes.

The other reason for staying in Ica, was that about an hour northwest in the Paracas area are the Ballestas Islands.  The islands are supposed to be a mini-Galapagos wildlife preserve and host to millions of sea gulls, Peruvian boobies, cormorants, pelicans, Humboldt penguins, and sea lions.  Dolphin and fish populate the surrounding seas.  These islands were important in the economic development of Peru because of the huge amounts of guano (bird droppings) that were harvested here for fertilizer.  We booked a two-hour boat tour around the islands for the morning of Saturday, June 7th.  It was a much cooler day than anticipated and we did not take jackets with us.  The boat ride was long and cold - which would have been okay had the wildlife been more abundant and the sun a little more bright.  Unfortunately, the ocean water was still too warm to welcome the anticipated wildlife.  However, we did spot a couple of lazy sea lions and a few penguins and birds.  The famous "Candelabra" geoglyph was a featured highlight of the tour.  It is thought to have been created about 200 BC and is 595 feet tall.

Back on shore we had a little time to shop the markets of Paracas and grab a few empanadas to eat before returning to Ica.

 Who would have guessed that the desert could be so beautiful?  Sunset over the dunes and daybreak over the sea . . . what a vacation this would truly be! 

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