Next stop was Huacachina, a desert town built around a natural oasis that has become a pretry big tourist attraction and for good reason! It’s beautiful. Legends say that the water and mud have a therapeutic affect. Locals and tourists (although I saw none) bathe in the waters or cover themselves with the mud in an attempt to cure ailments like arthritis and asthma. There are also legends of how this oasis came to be, one of which says that a local princess removed her clothes to bathe, but when she looked in her mirror she saw a male hunter approaching and she was startled, so she fled, leaving her mirror behind which became the lake.
The lake was created from seepage from underground aquifers, but the increase in well drilling started to threaten the supply (the cost of tourism) and so some local businesses began pumping water into the lake. This is a topic for another day, but as I travel and learn about the tourism industry it’s important to do your research about the places you visit. While I don’ t think pumping water into the lake to keep tourists coming is a bad thing, it is good for their economy, not all practices to attract tourists are as well intended or minimally impactful.
After a few chilly days it was wonderful to be in the warm desert sun. It was a stunning place. The sand dunes were incredible, nothing like I had ever seen before. It was clear that taking a ride in a dune buggy and then sand surfing was a must do! The surfing was a little intimidating at first as we pulled up to this huge dune that was so steep I thought there was no way I was going to survive going down this thing, but thankfully sand is a lot slower that snow! It was quite fun to take a tour down on my board to at least say I’d done it. A few people attempted to board down standing up, but ended up entertaining the crowd with their cartwheels and summersaults as they fell down the hill instead.
The dune buggy on the other hand, that was a wild ride! I’m not sure how we didn’t roll that thing so many times! Our driver was obviously skilled (thank goodness!) It was like being on a roller coaster, he’d drive us straight up a dune where we'd come to the top and literally just tip over the edge and fly down the other side with your stomach in your throat. Or he would take us half way up and then turn on the hill so we felt like we were all going to slide out the sides of the vehicle. After our adrenaline rush we were treated to watch the sunset over the desert dunes. It was magical, there really are no other words to describe it.
Huacachina itself is basically just a town of hotels, hostels and restaurants. There isn’t a whole lot else going on. You can climb up the sand dunes and rent sand boards to try it out on your own. The sand dunes are quite tiring to climb! Just a heads up ;) There is also a hostel in town that has a bar and plays music until about 5am and even if you are a few blocks away you can still hear it. Ear plugs are a wise investment if you do not plan on participating in the party.
The next day we took off from Huacachina in the afternoon and made our way to the town of Nazca to make a quick stop for dinner and check out the Nazca lines. The lines are a group of very large geoglyphs made in the soil of the Nazca Desert. They have many theories about where they come from; did they come from aliens, were they used to share stories or as a calendar? They really were not what I expected. I was expecting them to be bigger, like these huge trenches dug into the sand. I mean the drawings are huge don’t get me wrong, but the lines are much thinner and much less deep than I thought they would be. It is pretty amazing that they are still there and haven’t been washed away. One of the drawings, the lizard did have his tail amputated by the construction of a highway. They road was built before the lines were even discovered so now it has a road running through the middle. The tree is my favourite. The history says that these lines are almost 2000 years old. It’s amazing that not enough rain has fallen in this area to wash them away.
After dinner in Nazca it was time for an adventure! A night bus all the way to Arequipa. We were supposed to arrive around 5am, but this was one long bus ride. We started off watching Mrs. Doubtfire, a classic and I tried to snuggle up and get some sleep, but the bus ride was not exactly smooth. I could tell we were in the mountains because it was switchback after switchback and the bus driver was hustling! I was so glad I couldn’t see outside and how close we were to the edge as we whipped around corners. But then we stopped... and stayed stopped, for a long time. There was a line of trucks and cars in front of us and nothing coming the other way. Turns out we were basically on the side of cliff and some rocks had fallen onto the road. Not uncommon apparently. Finally we were on our way again. I may have gotten a moment of sleep before we finally arrived in Arequipa.
Wow! What a beautiful city! The city is at an elevation of 7810 ft which was good to help me start to acclimatize for my arrival in Cusco in a few days. Arequipa is nicknamed the White City because all of the buildings are made with sillar, a white stone quarried from the many surrounding volcanos.
I finally arrived at my hostel but sadly couldn’t go to my room yet so i dropped off my bags, found the free breakfast in the kitchen, scarfed down some bread since that was basically all they had, with a tiny bit of egg, but it didn’t matter, it was food! And then I took my incredibly tired self on a tour of the Plaza des Armas. This city is seriously stunning! Another city I could have spent more time in but I did manage to see some lovely sites, had my first visit to see some alpacas and then was able to check in to my room and prep for the next day when I was leaving at the ripe hour of 3am to head on a 3 day trek of the Colca Canyon. I think that deserves it’s own post, so I’ll share more on that story later. Part 3 will wrap up my 10 day journey to Cusco with a visit to Puno and Lake Titicaca, the highest navicable lake in the world.
PS if you missed part 1 you can check it out here