Arequipa, Huacachina, Huanchaco and Mancora19/12/2011
Our first impressions of Peru turned out to be well founded. We found ourselves in a nice little hostel in Arequipa, with a rooftop terrace were we could enjoy breakfast and a bit of book time while recovering from our monster bus trip. The town was very peaceful and beautiful, and the rumours about the food were accurate which was a great relief. In fact we enjoyed Arequipa so much we ended up staying longer then we orginially planned. We had planned to do some trekking but after careful consideration and planning we decided it made more sense to leave the trekking until after Christmas as we need to do some aclimatization in Cusco before we can safely trek around the area, and since we want to spend Christmas on the beach, aclimatizing beforehand didn't really make sense. So, after a bit of history on the Inca's and a lot of excellent food we started to head north along the coast.
Our first stop was Huacachina, just outside a larger town called Ica. Huacachina is an amazing oasis in the middle of the desert with a large lagoon in the middle and huge sand dunes all around. It was a beautiful spot and again we ended up spending 2 more days here then we had orginially planned. The highlight was a trip out on the sand dunes in a sand buggy, and then toppling down the sand dunes on basic snow boards. It was so much fun! The buggy was driven very fast (we later heard they used to go even faster but after a fatal accident a few years ago they have apparently tamed it down a bit - goodness knows how scary it must have been before!), the result being that it felt that we were on a roller coaster but you had no idea where the ride was going next. Every now and then we would stop at the top of a sand dune and all bale out to slide down to the bottom on our snowboards. Seth has done a lot of snowboarding before so he had a proper board and went down the slopes standing up - apparently it is like snowboarding but a lot less slippery and therefore more difficult. I on the other hand have never snowboarded and so used the more basic boards and basically lay on it and slide down the slope face first. What a buzz! Some of the slopes we went to were a bit smaller so I had a go at standing up and trying to "snowboard" but to be honest I was rubbish so I went back to the easy option. The slopes got bigger and the faster until eventually my board wanted to go down faster then I did and I took a rather dramatic tumble down the slope. Luckily Seth was already at the bottom to pick me up and dust me down (and laugh and take photos!) and it seemed I was still in piece.
After a few days in Huacachina we went on again to Huanchaco. This is another small town outside a larger one, this time the parent town being Trujillo. For us Huanchaco was really just a convient stopping point to break up our journey north. It was a nice little town with a long beach and plenty of bars and restaurants, although we found ourselves in a nice hostel where the food was very good and we met a few other travellers so we made ourselves comfortable. With not much to keep us occupied we headed on north again to arrive at our Christmas destination, Mancora.
Mancora is a very busy tourist town with an amazingly long beach with wonderful fresh seafood on offer and great nightlife. The sea is suitable for surfing and kitesurfing as well as great swimming - well, not so much swimming as being thrown around by the waves but it is still fun and very similar to the sea in Varkala in Kelara, southern India. For christmas we have booked ourselves into a lovely little hotel where we have our own bungalow and are just 200meters from the beach. It is laid back and quiet (much better then the first hotel we stayed in when we arrived in Mancora which was very loud) and we are looking forward to a few days of R&R as well as testing our surfing skills again - lets hope we can remember how to stand up!