Ica: An Oasis in the Desert (Literally)

The last stop on the Federle family expedition across Peru was a tiny little desert oasis in Ica. This shady, greenery-wrapped body of still water in the middle of the desert met the stereotype (minus the colorful paddle boats).8dbce9JHEHIXUrrOroPYBo7r2cexqjbHlBjUdmT3ezQ

After grabbing breakfast at a local restaurant, Chrissi and Ivo grabbed a paddle boat for about half an hour. Chrissi paddled her heart out, but we suspect Ivo was the determining factor; if you look closely, you can the left side of the boat dipping mysteriously just a bit deeper than the right side.
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Around town there were a few tiny places to eat, a few humble hostels, and a multitude of walk-in-and-rent tourist places. Everything revolved around the sand dunes surrounding the oasis, from sand boarding to sand surfing to dune buggies.

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We opted to have a dune buggy take us out to the sand dunes, where we would then go sand surfing. Initially, I was terrified of the surfing but thought I would be fine with the dune buggy– then the buggy arrived.

8QYvd3stDQPX2kV9EliRgaqIvnKROevtoWY6rb-oPLYIt often seems like the tourism industry in Peru has not been able to keep up with the massive swelling in its customer base. Sometimes this results in incredible opportunities– in Machu Pichu, for example, you can walk into areas and touch things that would certainly be roped off in other countries. However, the dark side of this lull between the incredible growth and the institution of new regulations is that sometimes tourist cash comes before tourist safety. The dune buggy excursion is a perfect example of this latter situation.

The buggy consisted of about 1,500 lbs of heaving, pitching, shaking, bone-crunching metal. There was minimal padding and getting through the dunes necessitated a terrifying mix of rocketing over uneven sand, soaring through the air, then crashing back to earth.

JkaVoonW1mctYEHtNmQ73y_JlEh7gxY8RWPtH4N110kFortunately, the trip there was without any more incident than the (I assume) normal bruises. The whole Federle family arrived at the top of what I would call a decidedly non-tropical-esque desert. Unlike the bright yellow hills in Paracas, the sand here was like a fine powder that swallowed your feet at every step. With the wide open skies and reflective earth, the sun beat down mercilessly even though I’d needed my coat in the oasis.

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Thankfully, I found the sand surfing to be about the equivalent of sledding in a big backyard– it was roughly equivalent to the pleasant rush of a kiddie roller coaster in King’s Island. I went down first with all the grace of a happy sack of potatoes…

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…leaving some sizable ruts in the sand behind me.

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Chrissi followed up by practically diving into the hill like a stunt double for Bruce Willis.

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I was tempted to photoshop an explosion behind her (then I realized I don’t know how to photoshop). 9uWPSuvuaVSRUBVuKZzCQ2eY-yo-Nv2t7DsFH99ccuo

After our sand surfing, the dreaded buggy chugged up around the hill. It was time to head back. Unfortunately, I have to report that on the way back from our last stop in an incredible journey across a beautiful country… we did have a slight incident. The teenage driver–perhaps fueled by a combination of youth, hysterically screaming foreign girls, and the power of a loud machine–chose to power the buggy over a hill that was just too high and… it flipped… approximately 540 degrees… down a hill of sand.

Luckily for everyone else, they landed sideways and still buckled inside the car. Unluckily for me, a small rip had weakened my seatbelt enough that it snapped, slinging me outside and–subsequently–under the metal buggy full of people. I am not wholly ashamed to say I emptied my lungs into the most gut-wrenching screams you’ve ever heard until Ivo and Alyssa managed to extricate themselves and single-handedly flip the car off of me (my heroes!).

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Ivo scooped me out of the sand to make the shocking discovery that nothing seemed broken. Although the topmost metal bar had landed directly on my left leg, the heaviest part was on my solid thigh bone, and the sand had absorbed a lot of the impact.

Still, though, we immediately hitched a ride back on another returning buggy and had an ambulance meet us in the nearby parking lot of a local hotel, where we were informed in very stern Spanish that we were extremely lucky. After getting a shot of painkiller in my butt and being fitted with some very attractive neck gear, we returned to find that Chrissi had sweet-talked her way into the hotel bar; thanks to her Spanish, at least the family was able to enjoy daiquiris and shade while doctors winced at my budding bruises.

Finally, with me still depressingly sober, we piled back in the car and started the closing leg of our journey home to Lima.

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It is true that Ivo tipped our driver for the day in rapid-fire Spanish commentary regarding the faults of his family lineage. However, all the fuss aside, Ica was a stunning final example of just how fascinating and colorful this country is, especially for outsiders who have never seen such landscapes before.

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From the city to the farmland to the mountains, deserts, and ocean, and of course including the foot, Peru has a seemingly infinite array of attractions. I am so grateful to Ivo for sharing his knowledge of Peru with such eloquence and patience, and I am so happy to have shared this beautiful place with my family!

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