Friday, January 21, 2011

Study Abroad Peru, Part 2: The Ica Weekend

After one week in Lima we departed for a three day weekend exploring the southern coast of Peru. It could not possibly have been more packed with more things to do.

The bus ride south out of the city presented us with the poor side of Lima – shanties with no running water or electricity ran up the hillsides surrounding the city. Poor people from rural areas come to the city in search of jobs and a better life and end up in these shanty towns until they can find a way out.

Our first stop on Friday was a guided tour of Pachacamac – an archeological site that includes the ruins of a number of pre-Incan pyramids and temples. It was hot and humid but the views of the Pacific Ocean from atop the Temple of the Sun we awesome.

Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac

Students atop the Temple of the Sun at Pachacamac

View of the Pacific from the ruins at Pachacamac

We got back on the bus and journeyed a bit further south stopping for ice cream at a little roadside stand that sold lucema (a local fruit) flavored ice cream. They also baked their own olive flavored bread that we also had to sample.

Experiencing lucema flavored ice cream

Baking olive bread

Enjoying both bread and ice cream

Ice cream break

We were on the coast and so we scheduled a stop at a local beach for a chance to swim in the Pacific Ocean. It was a bit overcast, but nobody seemed to mind. It was the first chance for some to swim in ocean water.

All this before lunch; so we took a short lunch break at resort area that offered up a variety of restaurants for us to spread out and sample.

Further south we stopped at a vineyard and distillery. When the Spanish prohibited colonial wine production because it competed with domestic wine production back in Spain, the colonies, which include current day Peru, distilled their wine into a product called pisco. Pisco is now considered the national drink of Peru; usually in the form of a pisco sour.

The vineyard

The crop

The foyer of the distillery

The winery

The winery

The winery 2

The Reception Area

We ended the day at a beautiful hotel in a town called Chicha and it didn’t take long to change into swim suits and dive into the pool. After watching a beautiful sunset, we dined at the hotel restaurant.

The pool at the hotel in Chincha

Students in the pool at the hotel in Chincha

Sunset at the hotel

Relaxing after dinner

More relaxing after dinner

On the second day we visited an organic farm, but that description doesn’t do the experience justice. Several miles across a hard scrabble road that seemed like a moonscape, we arrived at an oasis. Our hosts, Clause and Ilsa, had been farming this land for over 40 years and currently provide an organic nursery for other farmers in the area. They showed us their farm and described the obstacles they overcame over the years in order to maintain it: mud slides, government land seizures, hyper inflation, and terrorists. A unique experience was the pachamanca lunch they provided for us. The pachamanca consists of digging a hole in the ground and building a fire to heat rocks. After the rocks are hot enough, pots of meat are added, and then potatoes, sweet potatoes and fava beans are thrown on and covered with layers of banana leaves and dirt. We dined outside their home in a lush patio and garden setting.

The road to the organic nursery

Keeping cool as we cross the desert on the trip to the organic nursery

Heating stones for the pachamanca lunch

Loading in the pots of rabbit, turkey, and ?

Throw in the potatoes, sweet potatoes, etc. and cover with more hot rocks.

Cover with banana leaves

Tour of the farm

Back in time to uncover lunch

Taking lunch up to the house.

Our hosts, Claude and Ilsa


We left the farm after lunch and journeyed further south to the city of Ica and stayed at a hotel literally in an oasis. There are huge sand dunes in this part of Peru that make you believe you are in the Sahara. Our hotel rented dune buggies and we explored the dunes in depth. The experience included snow/sand boards to slide or sand board down the dunes. Sunset in the dunes was a unique experience.

The sand dunes of Ica

Checking out the sand dunes

How we got to the dunes and back

Sand as far as the eye can see

Sliding down the hill

Trekking to the next hill

Sun set at the dunes

Our hotel really was in an oasis

Students relaxed in the hotel pool that night, but hit the road again Sunday morning. Our stop this day was in Paracas where we boarded excursion boats to visit the Ballestas Islands. The islands are home to over 150 species of marine life including the Humboldt penguin, cormorants, Peruvian boobies, pelicans, and sea lions. (1374, 1380, 1387, 1390, 1391, 1395, 1420, 1425, 1455)

Boarding the excursion boat

Heading out to the Ballestas Islands

Our first approach to the islands


More birds

About to sail through the arch

And even more birds

And sea lions

All this in one weekend!

The weekend ended with our return to Lima in time to watch the Packers defeat Atlanta – a great ending to a great weekend.

Stay tuned for week two.

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