From wine tasting to sandboarding

My companions for cycling to the vineyard
My companions for cycling to the vineyard

It was an easy trip on Wednesday from Paracas to Ica. The bus left at 11.30am and I was picked up by Luis in Ica at about 1pm, so didn’t even have the hassle of taxi drivers. I had booked bed and breakfast at his house, where he lived with his mother and brother and had quite a few rooms to rent, although I was the only guest for that evening. They also arranged tours to the wineries, Huacachina Oasis and to taste street food. I thought it might be a little different!

Old French oak barrel at Tacama vineyard
Old French oak barrel at Tacama vineyard

On arrival at the house, I had lunch and then a rest for an hour or so before mother, brother, Luis and I took to our bikes. (I think they liked their siesta, hence the enforced rest!) The ‘roads’ were not paved, which resulted in a somewhat bumpy and painful (at times) ride and they were also piles of sand to be wary of as they had a tendency to stop one dead in one’s track! We meandered slowly through a few villages and eventually reached Tacama vineyard, which is one of the oldest in Peru, and has a lot of very pink buildings. In the few minutes it took for us to sign in, I was eaten alive by sandflies, which resulted in a lot of scratching over the next few days.

Tacama vineyard buildings are all pink
Tacama vineyard buildings are all pink

Whilst the others waited and sampled one or two wines, I was given a guided tour, after which it was my turn to try both wine and pisco. I can’t say that the tour was particularly informative as the guide seemed to be more keen to practice his English and ask me questions than impart information but I got a little bit of an insight. I was also given a lesson in how to taste and assess pisco in its neat form and not as part of a pisco sour. I might just stick to the pisco sour in future!

Sunset near the winery
Sunset near the winery

It was already starting to get dark by the time we were ready to return. The intention had been to visit another vineyard but, given that the bikes didn’t have lights, there were no streetlights and the roads were rough, I decided it might be wiser to return to the house whilst there was still a bit of light.

The following day, Luis dropped me at the Regional Museum of Ica, which houses some quite important Paracas and Nazca civilisation exhibits, including the mummies found by the archaeologist, Tello, at Paracas. There definitely didn’t appear to have been much money spent on exhibiting the artefacts but it was very interesting nevertheless. There were quite a number of skulls, as opposed to the swathed mummies I was anticipating, which, I would have to say, were a little disconcerting, especially the deliberately deformed ones. They were remarkably well preserved, given their age, but this, I understand, is due to the dry conditions.

Unprepocessing entrance to Ica Regional Museum
Unprepocessing entrance to Ica Regional Museum

After the Museum, I walked up to the nearby shopping mall and had a coffee before strolling along to the Plaza de Armas, where I sat for a while watching the people go by. I then caught one of the many yellow ‘collectivo’ taxis back to the house, where some more guests had arrived, these being a couple of Spanish young men and an English/German couple.

Later in the afternoon, Luis took us all to Huacachina Oasis. This is the only remaining oasis around Ica, there having been 7 or 8 twenty years ago. However, with population growth and more use of water, they have gradually disappeared. I have been puzzled by the amount of fruit, vegetable and greenery in the area, given the very dry conditions and soil, but apparently, there is very good irrigation and sufficient water collected during the rainy season in the mountains for the area to produce a large quantity of crops.

Huacachina oasis
Huacachina oasis
Ica in the distance
Ica in the distance

The principal attraction of Huacachina is the dune buggy riding and sandboarding. Originally, I hadn’t intended doing this as the dunes looked decidedly steep and high. However, having arrived and, with the others all going adventuring for 2 hours, I decided to be brave. I am so glad I went. We all piled into the buggies (I tried hard not to consider the damage to the environment) along with a Peruvian family of various ages and off we charged, up and over the dunes, accompanied by a multitude of other buggies.

My dune buggy and driver
My dune buggy and driver

We had several attempts at the sandboarding, with the dunes getting steeper and higher at each attempt. To begin with they looked somewhat daunting. However, having watched others go down, I decided it wasn’t so bad. By the end, I was extremely frustrated as the last couple of dunes were very steep and high but somehow my technique was not right, so I didn’t go down as fast as I would have liked. The two Spanish men, like some of the others, were trying to go down using their boards like snowboards but this didn’t appear to be very successful. Apparently the boards weren’t good enough and was nothing to do with their ability! The sand is extremely soft and it was very easy to get bogged down, like I did.


Once the excitement finished, we trudged back through the sand to our buggy and headed to the oasis. From there, Luis took us to an area that had street food so that we could try the local specialities. Here, we sampled cow’s heart kebabs, a potato ball with meat inside and fried doughnuts made with pumpkin flour. Very healthy! Most food here is carbohydrate and/or fried and there are very few vegetables on the menu.

Unfortunately, no one wanted pisco sour so I was forced to drink beer, which was a bit of a disappointing end to a quite varied day!

The oasis at dusk
The oasis at dusk

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