Peru improved the further south we ventured.
Our first stop after a dusty, dragging, cabeza-numbing trek through Northern Peru. A decent stop. A reprieve.
Andrea and I flew to Peru for vacation nearly nine years ago. We spent a few days in a swanky hotel in the touristy Miraflores neighborhood of Lima before puddle-jumping to Cusco and the Amazon. This time we chose a swanky hotel in the residential San Isidro neighborhood, partly because we incorrectly thought it was near the US Embassy (I had to get a document notarized) and partly to experience something different.
While we don’t love cities — we’re devolving into pueblo people — we do like (or tolerate) quaint neighborhoods within cities, neighborhoods where you can walk to shops, museums, restaurants, and parks. San Isidro is certainly that. It’s convenient, modern, and clean.
You’d never wanna leave San Isidro if you lived in Lima. Seriously. The traffic just outside of the neighborhood is unbearable. Soul-crushing. It took me an hour to travel five kilometers (less than three miles) from our hotel to the US Embassy…. It’s the worst traffic we’ve yet encountered on this trip.
Huacachina Sand Dunes
You might not notice the Huacachina dunes if you didn’t know they were there — or if you’re favorite travel map didn’t tell you they’re there. The Peruvian desert is a monotonous, monochromatic landscape. You gotta focus to distinguish regular mountains from the sand mountains. And mountains they are. “Dunes” is the wrong description.
We hiked the sand mountains the morning after we arrived. Hit it before the sun did. The sand was still cool from the previous night, which seemingly got a quarter inch of its likely inch of annual rain. Decided that, instead of zigzagging up the sand mountains like most sane Peruvians do, we’d hike straight up. We’re United Staters, after all. Investors of the Twinkie. I nearly vomited at the top. And Paheli didn’t make it….
From the top, you get a sweet shot of the laguna Huacachina is built around. It’s a literal oasis. Tranquilo. Inviting. You’ll wanna spend days here, lounging around, taking in the sights, questioning how the laguna fills with water.
Campgrounds often enhance our experiences. Ecocamp Huacachina, a canvas tent campground on the cusp of one of the major sand mountains, allowed us to park in their lot, along with another overlanding couple from England, even use the showers. Us. Dirtbags.
The facilites at Ecocamp Huacachina were immaculate, some of the cleanest we’ve yet experienced. And while I wouldn’t classify the camp as luxurious, it certainly had an upscale feel, including a well-appointed communal kitchen and a swim-up bar in the pool. We struggled to leave the campground. Andrea and I just wanted to lounge poolside while sipping cervezas and reading books, only occasionally glancing into the pool to ensure our kids hadn’t drowned.
We spent one night wild camping (no designated campground) beachside on a winsome, though windy, cove in route south. The nicest, and cleanest, beach we saw in Peru.
The cove was surrounded by pre-Incan ruins. We found ourselves pondering what life was like for this pre-Incan civilization, as we indulged fresh-caught ceviche and downloaded Netflix shows on decently fast wifi at a restaurant on a bluff overlooking the cove.