24.03.2008 - 26.03.2008 32 °C
No sooner had we left mountainous Ayacucho for Ica at a quarter past nine in the evening, the driver switched the lights off, leaving us to try and eke out some shuteye while he wrestled the steering wheel, braked savagely, bounced curbs and generally acted in a manner not especially sleep-friendly. I did go up the front to ask whether he could turn them back on, but a hostile stare put paid to any further dialogue. The air temperature sank to a level that would make a mammoth shiver as I rugged up in my sleeping bag (bus jockey's best mate) and nursed my bulging bladder. Finally after almost busting a valve, the drivers swapped and I relieved myself roadside as enthusiastically as one could when one's extremities are imitating something sold by Birdseye.
While stowing the sleeping bag before sunrise in Ica, i was approached by a maté-sipping stranger named Greghor. We'd shared the same refrigerator and since we were going the same way, we took a mototaxi to Haucachina. Just five or so kilometres from Ica's centre floats a palm-dotted oasis amongst giant sand dunes, serving as an isolated mission in a previous incarnation. But we'd arrived for an entirely different purpose than for the quiet appreciation of those above. The old colonial barracks have become a hotel and various other buildings have sprung up to support a new sandboarding craze. In a cyclone of irony, I found myself with plenty of time for contemplation as a bowel-quake heralded a violent bout of sickness. Within moments, I was shitting a tsunami and contorted in a relative amount of pain. Luckily it was as acute as it was severe, and despite a couple of aftershocks, the seas were calm in just a few hours.
I spent the afternoon with my achilles tendon between the teeth of a particularly capricious monkey before we roared upwards into the dunes. Our driver pushed his buggy to a level which bettered even his counterpart's in Brasil (see Com Emoção), and then of course there was the sandboarding. As the shadows grew long, we hurtled down the giant slopes as fast as we dared, but all too soon the sun had dived below the horizon and we had retired to oasis Huacachina.
With Apollo's chariot's horizon to horizon gallop underway again, we followed suit toward nearby Pisco on Peru's coastline. The entire region had been struck by an earthquake of magnitude 8.0 on August 15, 2007, and Pisco was still showing the scars. The town looked as if the Big Bad Wolf's Bigger Badder Brother had huffed and puffed and blown the place down bricks and all, and now all the little Piscovites had seen the error of their ways and reconstructed with straw and sticks.
Pisco wasn't the most charming of places, feeling decidedly sketchy even though the day was far from over, so with arms full of fresh fruit we climbed aboard a combi and went down the coast to Paracas where Greghor would stay the night. The road bisected a hellish wasteland of dark brown earth that appeared blasted clean of any life whatsoever. Apparently lots of brick smelters stood here before the quake, but traces of their previous existence were few and far between. To my dismay, not a single straw or twig smelter, which would have helped supplement Pisco's alternate housing boom was within sight....at least in the places I was looking. After a brief swim and seafood snack in laid-back Paracas, I returned to Lima to stay the night.
By late morning, I was sitting amongst the rank and file of fellow aeronauts on a flight beginning its bank and ascent toward Bogota, Colombia's capital. We hadn't yet escaped Lima's mammoth sprawl, and from barely a few thousand feet it became apparent just how brown Lima was. Umber buildings carpeted almost-treeless terrain gridlocked by dusty streets overlooked by barren hills. We pierced the smog layer, and although the offshore Pacific swayed deep and blue, Lima's share bore swarthy serpents of contaminants shifting with wave motion.
I'd been expecting Bogota, so close to the equator to be hot. Instead at my new lodgings I was donning layer after bulky layer until I looked like a psychedelic Michelin Man. I had underestimated the effects of altitude, and here at 2600m, the air was chilly. There wasn't much more to do than to socialise with new-found friends; and of course the Tetra-Pak red wine certainly helped with that.