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Adventuring abroad – week 4

Filed in Blog, Peru by on May 3, 2018
by Kendra N.

This week marks a month of being here in Lima. My time here has been flying by and this week was no exception. This week we had our first holiday break, so some friends and I took our first trip out of Lima. It was so great to be able to see some more of this beautiful country. It was a great experience and I am really looking forward to my future trips. In Peru, Holy Week is a national holiday called semana santa, therefore, we got Thursday and Friday off of school. Because of this long weekend a lot of people travel. Five members of my program and I decided to plan a trip to a city called Ica, where we could also visit an oasis called Huacachina, and a beach town called Paracas. Since arriving here, I’ve only been spending time in Lima, which is its own place because it’s a giant city. On the trip we had a great time seeing other aspects of the country. Peru is so diverse and amazing; it was wonderful to get to see more of it.

Traveling is pretty easy in Peru; buses and planes are pretty cheap in the country, and hostels and AirBnBs are popular. For this trip, we booked tickets on a coach bus for a five hour ride in order to reach Ica. The bus company we chose is called Cruz del Sur and is considered a luxury bus company in Peru, although tickets are still very cheap by American standards. The bus was very roomy, clean and comfortable. It offered entertainment, including personal TVs, and a snack during the ride. The trip both ways was relatively timely and smooth. We booked a hostel in Ica to stay at for our three night trip. The hostel was very clean, orderly, safe and affordable. It offered free breakfast, a place to lock our valuables and 24-hour staff.

Some background about the area: Ica is a smaller city to the south of Lima. The area is a popular vacation destination because of it’s proximity to many other locations and activities, such as the Nazca lines. Pisco is the national drink of Peru — it is an alcohol made from grapes grown in the Pisco valley. A lot of the wine and alcohol, however, is produced in Ica. Huacachina is a small oasis town, the last remaining oasis in the region, featuring a small lagoon surrounded by beautiful sand dunes. It is only a 10 minute taxi ride from Ica. Paracas is another small city, on the coast, about an hour away from Ica. From Paracas, you can take a boat out to the Islas Ballestas, a national park of Peru. They are islands where you can see tons of birds, penguins and sea wolves. Also, from Paracas you can go to the Paracas National Park, which features interesting history that formed the terrain that now sits at zero meters above sea level, as well as amazing views, great seafood and beautiful beaches. It is also known for having the “highest concentration of birds in the world.”

Upon arriving in Ica, we tried to plan our activities for the next few days. We wanted to do some tours of the national parks in the area as well as visit the Pisco wineries that the region is famous for. By the end of the day Thursday, we had managed to book our tours. We went to the Pisco wineries and Huacachina for sand buggies and sand boarding on Friday and to Paracas and the two national parks there on Saturday. Finally, on Sunday we just hung out in Ica until it was time to come back to Lima.

Six students at a winery in Ica, Peru.

Pisco tour

Here are some highlights of the trip:

Thursday, March 29, 2018

  • We walked around Ica and saw the plaza de armas of the city.
  •  We went to Huacachina for dinner.

Friday, March 30, 2018

  • We got up and had breakfast at our hostel, then our tour guide picked us up and we went on our first tour.
  • We saw three Pisco wineries, and tasted a lot of different types and flavors of Pisco, from wine to liquor.
  • Three of us continued on to do the sand buggies and sand boarding. Riding in the buggies was the highlight of the trip for me. They are exhilarating and fun like a roller coaster, without very many ups and downs and twists and turns; it’s just a lot of fast driving and getting blasted with sand. Our buggy stopped twice for us to sand board down two different dunes. This just means that you lay down on your stomach on a board similar to a snowboard and the driver gives you a little push down the dune. It is super fun — definitely a unique experience.
  • We met back up with the others in Huacachina and decided to hike up to the top of a sand dune to watch the sunset. Climbing a sand dune is harder than it seems, but it was worth the effort.
Three students standing with snad boards at the base of sand dunes.

Sand boarding

Saturday, March 31, 2018

  • We got up at 6 a.m. to start our hour long drive to Paracas.
  • We got on a large speed boat heading to the Islas Ballestas, where we saw penguins and sea wolves.
  • We had some time to shop around at the small market stands by the sea in Paracas.
  • We got on a tour bus and headed to the Paracas national reserve. We stopped at a museum first, which told the history of Paracas (the name Paracas comes from Quechua words meaning “rains of sand”), then we moved on to a beautiful vista point, then to a beach area to have lunch and then to a different sandy beach to hang out for a while.
  • The bus took us all the way back to Ica at the end of the day, and they even got us a taxi back to our hostel.

Five students jumping in the air near the shoreline in Ica, Peru.
Overall this was an amazing first vacation experience here in Peru. We had some hiccups and stress along the way, but in the end everything always worked out. It was an adventure filled trip, full of new and unique experiences, and I’m so glad I got to share them with some great people from my program.

Current favorites:

  • Food: Empanadas!! These are wonderful, cheap and flavorful pockets of goodness.
About the blogger

Kendra N. is studying abroad on the IFSA-Butler: Pontificia Universidad Catolica del Peru program in Lima, Peru.

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