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Ica, Islas Ballestas and Huacachina

sunny 16 °C

Sunday 15th August 2010

With the next day being our two-year anniversary and the plan being to be in Paracas for it (to see the Islas Ballestas) before moving on to Huacachina, we thought we´d treat ourselves to a nice placeto stay for the night. Villa Jazmin (we didn´t just choose it because of the name, honestly!) was a piece of 16 pounds a night luxury.

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We arrived in Ica at about 9:30am and got straight in to a dodgy-looking cab who took us away from town to our piece of paradise. As we arrived at the hotel we couldn´t contain our excitement and this only got worse as we saw the amazing pool, our massive bedroom with two double beds and a flat screen tv and a humungous bathroom with a HOT, POWERFUL shower! Luxury after two months of hostel dorms and shared bathrooms!
Jaz promptly found a Spurs v City replay on the tv (80mins in unfortunately) and settled down with a packet of Chips Ahoy whilst Liam went discovering.

After a bit more football (Liverpool v Arsenal) and lazing about it was time to hit the pool, so we donned our swimming stuff, lathered ourselves in suncream and made our way out. After a while heating up, Jaz dared to go in the pool. It was FREEZING so she didn´t last very long. Liam tried it a bit later and lasted longer than Jaz managed. Lunch was eaten next to the pool and as the sun was going down, one of the hotel staff brought us our welcome drinks- Pisco Sours.

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We eventually dragged ourselves away from our deckchairs and went to get showered and make ourselves look pretty for our anniversary dinner.

We had dinner in the hotel restaurant, both of us choosing a different three-course set menu. Starters were asparagus soup or tortilla with an ensaladilla-type filling. The soup won. Then it was curried chicken or sesame seeded fish. This was a draw. And desert was cheesecake or icecream. The icecream won. We washed it all down with beer (Liam) and cocktails (Jaz) and before we knew it it was 10:30pm and we had fallen asleep with the tv on! It seems the previous night´s travels had really taken it out of us!

Monday 16th August 2010

Happy Anniversary Guapo!

We were up bright and early to catch our transfer to Paracas so we could see the Ballesta Islands. We booked through the hostel and paid $45 each (whenever somebody wants to charge you a lot in Peru, they do it in USD which are seemingly used alongside soles!) for the transfer there and back and the boat ride.
It didn´t take long to get there and we immediately got in to a queue. Our line was the first on to the boat, we all donned our attractive luminous orange lifejackets and off we went. We stopped along the way to see the candelabra (a carving in a sand wall that nobody knows how it got there) and eventually reached the Islas Ballestas, apparently home to the largest sealion colony in the world.

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The guide talked us through all the different types of birds- of which there were thousands- and we saw a few penguins and sealions. It was a very interesting trip- who knew there were penguins in Peru?!- but we both agreed that it was definitely not worth the time or money. We had been looking forward to this trip for ages and it was rather disappointing. Our advice would be that it is worth going if you are in Pisco/Paracas, but don´t go out of your way to do it.

We were back in paradise by 11:30am and sad to be checking out. We bid a farewell to the lovely staff and got in a taxi to Huacachina- a five minute drive away.

Huacachina really surprised us. Whenever anybody mentioned it previously, they had just said it was a good place to sandboard. Nobody had told us that it was an oasis in the middle of the desert and is quite simply put, beautiful. It took us a couple of minutes to find our hostel- Desert Nights but after we eventually did we dumped our stuff and went for a wander to find the United match and some food! We ended up in a cool restaurant come bar come hostel which had writing all over the walls and- more importantly- a big flatscreen tv with ESPN.

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To eat, we went for the cheapest option- a burger and chips. Bloody good choice because when it arrived it was actually two burgers and a mound of chips. Heaven. We watched the match, booked some sandboarding for the next day (s/.40 each with our hostel) and went for dinner (a set menu thing, it was ok, nothing more). We went to bed well eager for the next day.

Tuesday 17th August 2010

We chose to go sandboarding at 11 am to give us enough time to sleep in a bit, lazy so and sos that we are. We had heard from everybody that the best part about the sandboarding was the dune buggy because the sand is so thick that you cannot really go down it on your feet- just your stomach. Undeterred, we were sure we would be the ones to go down stood up...

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We got in to the dune buggy alongside an American couple, who were VERY enthusiastic- every time we went over a slight bump there were yells of ´YEEEEEEAH´ coming from them both. After a fast ride over the dunes, we made it to the top of one where our driver and instructor told us we would be going down the dune on our stomachs. A bit apprehensive, Jaz did it slowly but Liam whizzed on down.

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After sand tummying, or whatever you want to call it, it was time for another, faster ride over the dunes until we got to the top of one we could actually sandboard down. After our experience in San Pedro, we were out to improve- so Liam was going to try and stand up and I was going to try and move faster than 1mph. We succeeded, kind of.

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We had a go at a different, much bigger, dune and then got back in the buggy for our final ride. It was at this point that the driver decided it would be fun to go really fast and go over high drops. The Americans were yelling ´YYYEEEEEEEAAAAH´ pretty much constantly, Liam was loving it and Jaz had her eyes closed but was loving it as much as a person who hates rollercoasters can.

When we got back to the hostel we emptied our shoes of sand (it was like in the cartoons where it just doesn't stop!) and got showered before making our way once again to Ica. From there we got on a random Suyuz bus to Nazca and arrived that night, with Liam very excited to live out one of his life-long dreams and fly over the lines the next day.

Wednesday 18th August 2010

Doing the Nazca lines is expensive- about 50 pounds per person for a halfhour flight. With that in mind, we decided to not take the money out of the travelling fund and it was instead paid for by Jaz as Liam's birthday present (a month early but ahhh well). We got our transfer to Nazca airport at 3:30pm (it was originally meant to be 3pm), presented our tickets and passports and sat down to watch a film about the lines. About 15minutes in, our names were called and we made our way through security. After another 10minutes or so waiting, we were finally lead to our plane. It was tiny- it was full with just us two, two other passengers and the two pilots.

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Surprisingly, the take off went really smoothly- smoother than the plane we took to Rurrenabaque- and before long we were being spoken to down our headphones by the co-pilot, who was frantically pointing out the lines to us. We saw each line from both sides of the plane, which involved a lot of tight twists and turns (I was very glad I had taken travel sickness tablets earlier on!) We saw around 12 different images made by the lines including:

The whale:
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and

The tree and the hands:
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The whole trip went really quickly and the landing was as smooth as takeoff, much to everybodys' relief! Liam loved the whole experience and I quite enjoyed it, too. For the first few minutes I was quite sceptical about the whole thing, but now I just want to know where they really came from. It really does baffle you when you properly try to think why and how these lines are there.

That night we were back on a bus- this time for 13.5hours to Cuzco. We went for Tupsa, which was literally half the price of Cruz del Sur and the ride was pretty comfortable (though the road was very windy, so the auld travel sickness tablets came in useful again!) We were subjected to three films: one about a baby with wings, another with Robin Williams as a crazed priest and the final one about a monkey whop was a spy. We watched them anyway, but wouldn't recommend them! As we got to Cuzco the next morning, the bus hostess person went off on one because we were a pillow down. She subjected the entire bus to a hand luggage search and- as far as we are aware- she never did find it.

More to come on Cuzco. Tomorrow morning we start the Inca Trail bright and early, so we will tell you all about that when we are back.

Much love,
Jaz and Liam xxx

Posted by JazandLiam 14:02 Archived in Peru

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