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November 16, 2004

Ica and Via Libre in another BIG update!

It has been over a week since our last update - we have been lazy! You should harass us more! We are very excited here as tomorrow Lisa, Valentin and I are going to watch the Peruvian national soccer team play against Chile in a World Cup qualifying match at the national stadium!

Lisa and I spent last weekend in Ica and Huacachina (no idea if my spelling is even close). Ica is about 4hrs by bus south of Lima. Ica is a valley in the middle of a large desert on the coast of Lima. Huacachina is a tiny oasis only 4km outside of Ica. Immediately after we got to Ica, we grabbed a taxi to our hostel in Huacachina. Huacachina is out of this world. It is a tiny little community (25 families) with about eight or nine hostels nestled around a tiny lagoon in between these massive (250f++??) sand dunes.


Compared to Lima, Huacachina was very relaxed (tranquillo). We spent our first night drinking Pisco sours and playing foosball at the hostel. The next day, after a breakfast beside the lagoon we took a taxi in the city of Ica. In Ica we visited a very cool museum that had a bunch of old mummies, some skulls showing evidence of the old brain surgery techniques (Trephinning) and a 1/500th scale model of the Nazca lines. Unfortunately, a bunch of the display cases for some ancient fabrics and artifacts were empty, having been liberated by a robbery in October.

We returned to Huacachina and in the afternoon we went on a dune buggy ride out into the desert. The dune buggy ride was incredible.


It was out of this world. The desert was just like you would imagine a sandy desert to be - an ocean of sand dunes as far as the eye could see. And these dunes were GIGANTIC! They soared hundreds of feet into the air. The actual dune buggy ride was like a roller coaster crossed with an aerobatics ride in an airplane. Our driver would take us flying up a dune and then turn us over on our side. Then we would fly down the face of a dune with the engine screaming. It seemed so steep that I didn't think the wheels were still touching and we were in a free fall! Then, we would go climbing up the next dune - it felt like we were vertical. Over the top we experienced one of those crazy zero-gravity whoop-tee-doos and then down the other side. It was a thrill and three quarters. Totally effing awesome.

After a bit we stopped at one particularly large dune and out came the sandboards! This was another crazy experience. Sand boards are a lot like snowboards. You wax up the board, strap it on sideways and then point yourself downhill. Then, things get a bit different. You don't use your edges, instead you sort of just point and lean where you want to go. It is important to lean backwards so as not to dig the nose in. Falling is actually not too bad. The sand is warm and you never really get going too too fast (although I am still cleaning sand out of my pockets and ears).


After a few runs (with the buggy acting as sand-lift) we were taken to an extra high and extra steep dune. Here we experienced riding the boards down on our stomachs. It was incredibly fast. I have the arm burns to prove it! We finished off the day with a sunset over the desert and then headed back on a twilight roller coaster ride to the hostel.

Other than our weekend in Ica, life has been fairly normal. Spanish classes in the morning, chilling out and reading in the evenings. Our DVD collection is also growing quite quickly. Lisa has some completely different experiences to write about, and I will let her tell you about them:

Lisa here, yeah apparently I do have some different experiences to talk about. But first I'd just like to mention that I thoroughly dug Huacachina and especially the dune buggy ride. Bitchin'! My other experiences involve my volunteer opportunity, at VIA LIBRE. Most days I go in in the mornings, and do menial type tasks such as folding brochures (¡Hola! ¡El es Benito!...), making posters for the upcoming outing, and wrapping Christmas presents (budget soccer balls are quite challenging to wrap). I have had the opportunity lately to see quite a lot of Lima. Firstly, we went to a school in the outskirts of Lima (read: shantytown) to give a talk about HIV and how it is transmitted to teachers and older students. It is pretty eye opeing to go to these cities. They have no paved roads and the majority live in 1-2 room houses. Pretty grim really. The school was a live in school, and we held the workshop in the library, which consisted of two tables and a couple of bookshelves with some old textbooks and encyclopedias. It's such a huge difference between Jeremy's PRESCHOOL where they have so much stuff and this school for primary and secondary education.

I've also been taken on a tour of Lima's finest public hospitals. Not at all the same as hospitals in Canada. The hospital smell does not exist here. It's very bizarre actually (not very culturally relativist of me)... there's a huge reception area which is usually quite crowded, where people wait to be filed into the appropriate departments. Then there are other hallways where usually there is some sort of reception area (sometimes consisting only of a lady sitting in a school desk) and a hallway full of chairs leading into observation rooms. The hallways aren't very wide and there are tons of people there. It is very crowded and full of dirty and sick looking people. Most of the hospitals have some sort of courtyard where there are many people selling things, as per usual. The fronts of the hospitals are gated with security guards and many people selling things (again!).

Today I went to another school. This time it was for a theatre where television actors from Peru acted out a scene to educate the childrens' parents about HV so as not to be afraid should their children be in the same class as someone with HIV. The craziest thing about this school was that I brought my camera, and the kids went nuts about it (also I am a gringa, which they thought was cool too I guess). The whole time I had at least 5 kids hanging off me and asking me things. I gave some of them my address and AUTOGRAPH!!!


Out of control really. I'm looking forward to the next trip which will be an outing with the HIV positive children to a vacation resort type place. Many games will be played and much fun will be had! For those of you who got through this update, congratulations, and HASTA LUEGO!!!

(send more e-mails!)

Posted by Alistair Howard at November 16, 2004 02:44 AM


Great update - great photos too!

Posted by: Anita at November 16, 2004 05:25 AM

Hola mis amigos!!

What an awsome weekend you had!!
Las fotos son magnifica!! Those sand dunes look amazing!!
Keep sending the great updates!!
Lookin' good Lisa!!

Posted by: Sarah at November 16, 2004 07:18 AM

Nice pix! Lisa, have you been picking? :P

Posted by: Sandra at November 17, 2004 08:15 AM

Looks like an incredible time! I love the photos of the kids! Lisa, email me if you still need game ideas and I'll try to track down some of my games files.

Posted by: Kris at November 17, 2004 10:52 AM

I'm glad you had such a good time in Huacachina! Lisa, you look good on a sandboard-the snowboarding skills come in handy eh? Hope the arm burns have healed Alistiar! JB

Posted by: Jeanine at November 17, 2004 11:23 AM

Hey Lisa, I love your "I hate Bikin'" shirt, I need one of those for work. Is it custom?

Posted by: Dan at November 18, 2004 10:19 AM

Yup, Dog's Ear in Langley. Bitchin' eh?

Posted by: Lisa at November 19, 2004 11:30 AM

More Coca-cola advertising pics,


Posted by: Dusty at November 20, 2004 12:28 PM

Do you exist?

Posted by: Sandra at November 23, 2004 08:42 AM

hola gal!
i came over here thru the net!
like your pics muchly!
it seems u weren't like any normal gringa!
i mean u were more with the locals,and your pics are great!!!
u have a great focusing eye!:)
if u had a special hostal,or hotel were u enjoyed the most during your stay in peru,do write it in my peru forum,i'll be really glad!

Posted by: fab at December 6, 2004 12:57 PM