Well, our friendly and helpful hostel owner, Ricardo, in Lima helped us plan our in-between time from Lima to Cusco. We were in Lima at the end of March and Machu Picchu didn't open to the public until April 1st. Machu Picchu had been closed since January due to uncharacteristically heavy rains caused rivers to swell and sides of mountains to slide. The mudslide actually took out a huge chunk of the railway from Cusco to Aquas Calientes, the town below Machu Picchu (more about that in another post). In any case, we were only able to obtain train tickets to MP for April 6th so we had about a week to kill before we wanted to be in Cusco.
Ricardo suggested we take a bus to Cusco (22 hours from Lima) but to break it up over a few days. We changed few things on his recommended itinerary and the things we did change we regretted later. The first stop on our itinerary was to go to the coastal town of Paracas. We were advised to only stay one night, take a tour of the islands and then head to Huacachina, an oasis in the middle of the desert.
In our experience, staying anywhere for only one night is a waste so we ignored this piece of advice. Even though the ride from Lima to Paracas was only 4 hours we would arrive to the town late in the day. We didn't want to take a tour of the islands and then hop on a bus to Huacachina because that would leave little time in the actual town of Paracas. Turns out, that is all you need. AND we decided not to take the tour of the islands. I'm not really sure why that is now that I'm home and trying to remember the details but I'm pretty sure it was all about the money.
So instead we lazed around the hotel, walked the boardwalk, cruised the main strip and wished we could go swimming in the ocean. I suppose we could have gone swimming but we would have been surrounded by giant maroon-coloured jelly fish with their long squishy tendrils swirling dangerously close. Plus the stench of the seaweed was so overwhelming that at points during our walks I had to pull my shirt-collar over my nose.
Huacachina was thankfully a much more pleasant place to be, an oasis if you will. Our hostel/hotel had a pool, a couple of parrots and a macaw and though the village was tiny, there were vegetarian options everywhere. Huacachina is just over a sand dune from the city of Ica. One minute you are driving through the crazy, scooter filled streets of Ica and the next you are cruising down the dune to sun, fun and relaxation. The oasis is a natural body of water snuggled between towering sand dunes on all sides. The purpose of the village is to cater to Peruvian and foreign tourists that flock to the area to enjoy sand-boarding, dune buggy rides and swimming. The only establishments around the oasis are hotels, restaurants, bars and souvenir shops. On more than one occasion we came across people buried up to their necks in sand despite the 35+ degree temperature.