Cumbia, Tourists, Dunes
I had to get out of Lima. I’d like to see more of the city, but not now, not after 6 months in a similarly smoggy metropolis just a few hours south. As you can see in pictures on my previous post, the whole city is blanketed in a cloud of smog. It’s warm enough, but everything appears gray and dreary until the sun goes down.
At night, the city lights up rather beautifully along the coast. And I have to say that even the trashier cumbia clubs seem to keep up appearances better than what I’m used to on Pio Nono. And they lack some of the charm–Cumbia isn’t nearly as fun if you don’t feel socially uncomfortable and at least a small part of you fears getting stabbed on the piscola. Dirty charm is what the club I saw lacked. Everyone was too friendly. The lead singer of the band, noting the out of place Australian, Brazilian, and American (Estadounidense to keep PC), showed us the basic step while they rest of the crowd took a break. I think he thought we were trying to hard. From what I’ve seen this isn’t hard to do: The cumbia that I’ve seen in Chile tends to be much looser. Everyone in the Lima club maintained their distance from one another, kept their fists firmly in front of their chests, and rigidly shuffled back and forth. And they all took the dance floor and retired from it at the same time, like a herd of dancing well-mannered sheep.
But again, this is not what I came here for.
I cut off my planned second day in Lima and caught a bus to the desert town of Ica. Everyone says Ica is four hours from Lima, but they aren’t taking into account that the interurban buses stop to pick up travelers along the highway at reduced fare. No one but these highway travelers seem to be happy about this, as the rest of the passengers berated the driver with a torrent of “¡Vamos, pues!” He didn’t seem to be listening. The trip took about an hour longer, but in general wasn’t bad.
On the bus I closed my eyes somewhere outside of Lima and opened them on the moon. Rolling sand dunes replaced the dilapidated city outskirts. The buildings were still crumbling, but somehow this felt more appropriate in the middle of the desert.
Upon arrival in Ica I caught a cab to the Huacachina oasis 6 km away. This place was more touristy than I expected (I don’t know why I didn’t expect this; the oasis is stunning). Palm trees, restaurants, and hostels line the lake on three sides, but on the fourth it opens up into the dunes. If you want to see young backpacker tourist hell, this place is fairly high on the list (One image that stuck with me was two North American girls, probably about 17 years old, with fresh blonde dreadlocks and awkward, enchanted smiles spread over their faces as a local man played a version of “La Bamba” on the guitar with lyrics adapted to describe the Huacachina oasis). But the dune buggy rides and sandboarding make up for it (see the video in my previous post).
On my second night here I caught a bus to Arequipa, 10 hours away and an in-between point on the way to Cuzco.