Before I start sharing the details of our return to the desert, I can’t write another word before I spend some time on “Tejas”.
Tejas are a Peruvian, handmade confection, specific to the region of Ica through Nazca. I do a pretty good job at staying away from sweets but chocolate’s always been my achilles heel. Tejas would, without a doubt convert me into an overweight diabetic with chocolate stained shirts. They remind me of something like a “turtle”. You know, the kind of chocolates your grandma pulled out of the box around the holidays and passed around in the flimsy plastic tray?
Well, Tejas, are similar to turtles but multiplied by 500X deliciousness. They’re covered in chocolate, stuffed with some sort of caramel-like middle with nuts and/or dried fruit. They come individually paper wrapped and when you put them in your mouth, your eyes roll backwards and you forget everything else you’ve ever tasted. I’ve developed an addiction…I seem to be planning my meals around my next Teja. It’s truly crazy goodness and that’s all I’ve got to say about that.
The Peruvian coast seems like endless desert, mountains of sand, amazing food, burn piles, abandoned buildings spray painted with political endorsements, and rocks. Feeling our reptile parts drying out, we looked forward to the much talked about desert oasis of Huacachina.
The regions of Ica and Huacachina are known to produce Peru’s best wines. As we came into Ica, we took an unplanned left turn onto a torn up road displaying a sign which read “Bodega Tacama”. We drove about ten minutes through small villages on more torn up dirt road, we made another turn, landscaped with heaps of garbage being eaten by dogs, all with the beautiful vineyard smiling at us from the horizon.
Despite our Griswald appearance, the large metal gates were opened and after taking all of our passport info, we were allowed in. The winery was beautiful in a very warped way. On the outside of the gated, secured compound were bamboo and straw shacks smaller than our van, with people non verbally saying “I know what you’re up to, you wine sampler!”.
We sipped our wine while the kids bounced on the trampoline and played at the very nice playground. Apparently happy, occupied kids make for parents likely to buy more wine. It’s rare in Peru to see such great internal marketing.
We arrived in Huacachina and the only words available were “what?!”, “NO!?”, “for real!?”, and “come on?!”. As we took in the mountains of sand and the people on snowboards riding down them, the sunset played roulette with the warmth of it’s sand reflected colors.
Once again, I kept getting accusing “free loader” looks while trying to find a spot for our van. Apparently word gets around quite quickly in a town of 200.
A nice man, by the name of Pablo, finagled us a spot next to a pile of bricks, with a backyard of giant dune, and access to a bathroom with a cold shower. Pablo, whom we eventually fed and who, on mother’s day brought his wife and son to see the van, procured this free spot for us in return for booking a dune buggy tour through him.
Peru is so forgiving and lax on rules, like playing loud, blaring music until 5am every night, or like, when the kids built a fire on the sidewalk next to our van and smoked out the whole town and nobody came to investigate in any way.
We cooked some great meals, ate on the sidewalk, got smoke inhalation, and sand boarded on the enormous dunes. I kept thinking of my snowboarding friends and how this, the opposite of snow would make for a ripping good time.
On our last morning, our dune buggy driver pulled up to pick us up. I started having doubts when he took the hats off our heads, told us to get rid of the water bottle, and singed our seat belts so tight that I regretted the previous night’s Tejas fest.
Within the first 5 minutes of our 2 hour tour, I was almost fighting back tears and clenching my teeth so hard, they’re still sore. It was ridiculous! I was screaming my head off, thinking “great! 4 months of close encounters and this is how we die?!”. Luckily, he stopped a few times and let us sand board down some gorgeous dunes, which Darin and I tried to emphasize how much we liked in order to kill more time off of our 2 hour tour. The tour was climaxed when Darin asked him if he’d ever flipped the thing and the guy went into a joyful rant about his love of this “sport”. He proceeded to show us some U-tube video of a maniac bouncing around in Baja in his truck. After that, Darin and I were both thinking, “ok, now he’s really hyped up from that video”. And so he was.
After the ride, Simon accused me of slowing us down, when, Darin, on my speechless, teeth clenched behalf, asked him to slow down on the way back to town. My arms are still sore from holding onto to the bars so tight…NEVER AGAIN! The kids on the other hand, LOVED IT!