Through my eyes

living my life without regrets

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Ica – Hostel El Huacachinero

Ok, Huacachina Oasis is a good place to go, a great place to hang out and a wonderful spot.
I must recommend the bus company again, Cruz Del Sol, the company really works like clockwork. We got to Ica on time and we got off the bus as planned. What was missing was our pick up, Mr. Eduardo. Here we are with our luggage, waiting for Mr. Eduardo, which we think is just late. After 15 minutes I have the bus company agent call Mr. Eduardo and with many excuses he picked us up 15 minutes later. His brother, who was with him in his truck, speaks English but when they talked to each other in Spanish I got the impression that something went wrong. With Peruvian pride and machismo involved, it is best to let it be. We arrived at the hostel El Huacachinero and it is a wonderful place; for Peru standards. We received a substandard room for the 1st night, now we changed into a better room, because Mr. Eduardo did not make reservations we had to do it ourselves. We arrived about 8:30 pm and wanted only to sleep that first day after having a supper at the oasis. The place is nice. All did work out in the end.
I say oasis because that is exactly what it is. A small lagoon is formed by an underground river in a valley of very large sand dunes. The water comes to the surface and forms a small lake. Around the lake are a few houses and hotels; now totally serving tourists. Plant life adds to the charm of the place. Birds flutter about, the sun beats hot during the day but it cools off rapidly when the sun sets behind the high sand dunes, cradling the oasis. This oasis is only 5 KM from the town of Ica and it is unique. We are staying at the hostel that is run well, has an inviting pool, talkative parrots, a bar and restaurant. I would recommend it to anybody.
For our first full day we took the city tour of Ica. The hostel arranged for a driver, William, (Guillermo) to take Carol and I to show us Ica. Our first stop was the chocolate factory of Helena Chocolates ( and their product is delicious. Most of their export goes to the U.S. The area around Ica grows a lot of pecans and Helena puts them into her chocolate products in a unique way, yummy! We bought only 6 candies but oh, Yum!
After that stop we made it to the Museum of Ica known as “Institute de Cultura” or Museo Regional de Ica. My first impression was that it was substandard but it was not. In a few rooms the museum creates a good overview of what the cultures of the people that inhabited Ica thousands of years ago was all about. First traces of people in this area are 5000 BC. We paid for an English speaking guide and while her pronunciation was terrible I did get a lot out of her tour. We saw elongated skulls, the beauty image at the time. Mummies that were bound hand and foot and who represented the living sacrifices made to their local gods. Archeologists found them in the dry sands around Ica. With hands and feet bound, they were left sitting in the sand as a sacrifice to their respective gods. I shuddered when I thought about being the victim or like they believed the sacrifice. Even small children were sacrificed, even fetuses. Living then was quite brutal. We learned about the images on the pottery, the deity of the condor, the jaguar and the snake. The bottles that held the potions that made the shamans visit the underworld, or the world above or just any world the drug induced state would take them. The religious believefs of the Paracas or other local tribes, the original inhabitants, were totally different from anything we know today. I became aware of nuances in their pottery found in the sands around the city of Ica. The guide was very knowledgeable; I just wished I could speak Spanish well enough so I could take the Spanish tour, extracting all the wisdom the guide was willing to share. A great place to visit and I recommend it to anyone willing to study the ancients of Ica.
After we finished the Museum tour, we again met William plus he had his nephew Fabricio in the front seat, an 11 year old young man, willing to go along for ride with his uncle. The school children are off for 2.5 months from the middle of Dec. until the End of February. It’s their summer break. Fabricio was visiting family on his vacation. So now our tour consisted of 4 people. Our next stops were Bodegas (wineries) that made the Peruvian drink called Pisco. The first well known winery, “Tacama” had a tasting room, yet after tasting their local white or rose wines, I decided there must be a better place around.
So off we went to visit a more local, less known place and we bought Pisco Puro, 47% alcohol content, clear liquor said to be good if you have a cough. Well, Carol’s cough did get better after just one drink. Her eyes bulged a little but she forgot to cough when she tasted the drink. Potent stuff, this Pisco! The famous drink is Pisco sour and it adds sugar, lemon juice and beaten egg whites to the drink. This drink goes down easy and has a kick as well. We bought a bottle of the premix without the beaten egg white from the winery as well as one bottle of Crema de Pisco, containing figs as a flavor enhancer. It tastes like Bailey’s Irish Cream. We are all set for Peru now.
The last stop was a bodega called Lasso, around for over 250 years and it bears all the old pots and looks of a successful bodega. Well known by local folks it is normally not on the list of places to visit. William was a very good guide and his knowledge of the local places is amazing. We stopped to take pictures of workers in a cotton field, picking cotton. They earn 15 to 18 Soles a day for picking cotton for 10 hours in the blazing sun. That is about US $6.-to $8. – per day. There were many children among the cotton pickers. Peru is indeed a poor country. And it showed Fabricio how some of the other children spend their summer vacation. Fabricio learned from this trip, William our guide learned from us some new English words and Carol and I learned the most, I guess on this day touring Ica. A good town, I recommend, it, take William as a guide and say hello from me. He remembers me as Hans.

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