Fun, Sun & Sand in Paracas
· 14 min. read
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Our second weekend trip in Peru with Remote Year took us to Paracas and Huacachina.
Technically, the entire weekend was about Huacachina, but the first day was all about getting to and enjoying the natural beauty of Paracas.
The town of Paracas, with a population of around 4,500 people, is about three hours from Lima, so the day began with an early morning on the bus. Unlike the earlier trip to the Amazon, this trip consisted of the majority of the people in the Remote Year program. There were a few exceptions, as some of the members had contracted COVID-19 and had to isolate themselves, but for the most part, the entire group was able to make it on this trip.
I didn't know it at the time, but even though I had tested negative that morning, I would discover a few days later that I would also be one of those people who had contracted COVID-19.
Although Lima is technically the second-largest desert city in the world, there isn't very much sand in Lima. Instead, it's just pretty dry, and any rain they do have is like a fine mist. Out near Paracas, however, the dry soil changes into the gloriously soft sand that makes the area such a tourist destination.
On our way to Paracas, we saw the environment slowly change from urban to rural to untouched sand. Peru is famous for her ninety different micro-climates, and we got to witness their transformation of them on our way down the coast. However, Peru is also known for her poverty, and as we left the Miraflores and downtown Lima, we saw the poverty in full display. Along the highways, the gutters will be filled with a myriad of trash, from plastic bags to plastic bottles, broken-down lawn furniture, take-out food bags, cans, and everything you can imagine.
This is the unfortunate reality of Peru. While Peru is beautiful and the people are wonderful, there is a lot of poverty here, and the government isn't capable enough to handle it. There is also a lot of petty crime and drug use, compounding the other social-economic problems. This is partly why the Canadian and US dollars go so much further here, and why so many people are excited to see tourists.
Before we got to Paracas, we stopped at a beach in the Paracas National Reserve. We disembarked the bus and walked down a winding, wooden staircase all the way down a cliff to the beach. We had about an hour to hang out here, take in the sun, and do some swimming.
Naturally, the first thing I did was get some drone footage. It was a very dynamic environment, with lots of contrast between the orange sand and the blue-green water. Once I got some footage, I packed up the drone, stripped down, and joined some of the other remotes for a swim.
I really love swimming, and I really miss swimming. Before my trip, I remember asking myself when I last went swimming, and I couldn't remember. But in the past week alone, I was swimming in the Amazon River with dolphins on Sunday, and swimming in the Pacific Ocean on Saturday. The two experiences were very different, but both were very fun. In the Amazon, there was a noticeable current, but you could keep your footing. On this beach, though, the current would pick you right off the ground and carry you toward the shore. I found I had better stability if I landed on my knees than on my feet when the waves carried me around, but I would end up getting bruises on my knees for the next few weeks.
While swimming, I thought I heard somebody call my name, but I wasn't sure because of the rushing water. But then I heard it again, more clearly, and hurried to the shore. Mone't, another of the remotes, was flying her drone and it had lost connection. She was pretty new to flying the drone and thankfully it was the same kind as mine. I'm in no way an experience (or good) drone pilot, but I've crashed it enough times to know how to not crash it.
We were able to reestablish connection by unplugging and plugging back in the cables, but her was far out over the ocean, with water in every direction. I noticed her battery had about six minutes left, and warned her that the low battery warning would start shortly and not to panic as we still had a lot of time. I pointed out on the radar screen, the distance was going up, so she was flying further away from us. She turned the drone around and the number was going down again. She was about two kilometers away from us. Within a few minutes, that number got to one kilometer, and then half a kilometer, and then finally we could hear the buzzing in the sky above us. She was able to find us with her camera and land the drone on the beach. She then gave me a big hug, even though I protested against it as I was still covered in sand and seawater.
Mone't ended up getting a lot of amazing footage from that day, and I would say her footage is much better than mine. You can see it on her Instagram under the Peru story highlights.
A few minutes later, we dried off, got our clothes back on and headed back up the winding staircase to our bus. After about twenty minutes, we arrived at the port city of Paracas.
Some of the remotes were staying in single hotel suites, but the majority of us were staying at Kokopelli. There are several Kokopelli's around Peru, with another in Lima and Cusco. The rooms fit six people each, with three bunk beds. After escaping having a roommate the weekend before, this time I had three roommates.
After about an hour of settling into our place, we did a little shopping and then met outside Kokopelli. Waiting for us there were two, diesel-running dune buggies. These monstrous machines were not something SGI would approve of in Saskatchewan, but they were somehow deemed roadworthy here.
We got on the roaring dune buggies and ventured out of the sand. At first, it wasn't too bad, as it was mostly flatted-down terrain, but within about twenty minutes the road disappeared and we were among nothing but sand.
We would go up and down the dunes for what seemed like an eternity, with some of the dunes so high that they felt like roller-coasters, and some of the remotes would burst out in screams or laughter as we barreled down the side of them.
Eventually, we arrived at our destination - a remote oasis in the middle of the desert. Francisco said there used to be several oases (fun fact, that's actually the plural spelling of oasis) like this throughout the area but due to climate change, over half of them have dried up. These days there are only three left: this one, Huacachina and another just beyond the horizon.
We spent some time playing in the sand, taking photos with the behemoth dune buggies, and enjoying the desert sun. There wasn't much sun in Lima and for those who didn't come to the Amazon, this was the first bit of Vitamin D they've had in half a month. After some time, we wandered down the sand into the oasis below. Some of us went swimming, some got on boats or canoes but most just stayed ashore. There was even a spot for people to jump and dive off of, and some people decided to do that. I was contempt with just swimming for now.
After about an hour of swimming, we got out of the water and back to the dune buggies. As the sun was starting to set, we all assumed we were heading back to Paracas to eat. Instead, Francisco had one more surprise for us.
After driving through the sand for a little longer, we stopped on a hill overlooking the dunes. Sitting there was a van, some pillows, lights, music, a campfire, and a spread of fruit, meat, and crackers. Instead of supper in Paracas, we were having supper here, in the middle of the desert at sunset.
We spent the rest of the night there, chatting and mingling. This was one of the first times we had all gotten together and had an opportunity to get to know each other better. As the night went on though, the group got quieter and quieter and the sun slowly slipped across the horizon, blanketing us into immutable darkness.
Eventually, the music would fade away, we would load back into the dune buggies and we would venture back to Paracas. The ride back was still wild and bumpy, but the drivers took it slower this time because of the darkness.
When we arrived back at Kokopelli, we washed up and mostly everybody went to the bar to continue socializing. I was feeling pretty tired so I instead turned in for the night.
That night, a poll was done at the bar, and I was voted the nicest person in the group. However, that was also the night my COVID-19 symptoms began to set in. Thankfully, and oddly, even though I shared a room with three other people, I didn't pass COVID-19 to anybody else. Still, I didn't feel I deserved the title once I found out that I was sick and risked the health of all my newfound friends.
This day, and the next day in Huacachina, were amazing experiences, but it was one weekend that I regret the most of the entire trip. I felt fine, minus a cough, but finding out that I had a sickness and that there were vulnerable people around me, gives this weekend a bittersweet feeling in my heart. I am glad that nobody would get sick because of me. I followed the rules of Remote Year correctly, but still, I feel like I could have, should have, done something different.
Perhaps I shouldn't have gone. Perhaps I should have tested twice. Perhaps perhaps, perhaps...
For now, though, we break, we sleep, we dream, and we prepare for Huacachina.
PS: For a price breakdown of my month-long trip to Peru with Remote Year, please visit How (And Why) I Spent A Month in Peru.
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Categories: Peru, Remote Year, Travel Tips