Monday, July 20, 2009

Penguins, Sea Lions and Bird Poop…oh my!

This past weekend our group visited three very different landmarks on our excursion. Our main destination was Ica, a smaller town about three hours south of Lima nestled in the Atacama Desert. For those who do not know, Ica and the surrounding areas were pretty much devastated by the large earthquake that occurred in 2007. Thankfully, you can see signs of re-growth today.

En-route to Ica was our first destination — The Ruins of Pachacamac. This archeological site was once inhabited by several different groups (Early Lima, Huari and Inca) and used for religious purposes. Here the Inca built the Temple of the Sun, which was used to worship the sun god Inti. Luckily for us, the temple remains for all to admire. All of the ruins in this area were really spectacular and in decent shape. For me, the ruins asserted that there really were people living there before conquistadors came in and took over. You can learn about different cultures like these in history books, but until you really see the actual thing for yourself, it’s just not the same.

After Pachacamac, we continued our very long ride to Ica (thank goodness it was a private bus)! We arrived at our hotel just in time to grab lunch and get settled in our rooms. Later on that afternoon we went screaming through the dunes in dune buggies. It was like one long, crazy, scary rollercoaster that wouldn’t stop. This was every thrill seekers dream!!! The dunes are indescribable with the Andes Mountains in the background. First of all, they are HUGE and there are tons of them. I’m not quite sure how our driver didn’t get lost because everything looked the same to me (like one big sand box)!

Our driver found some really tall dunes to ride down, waxed up the sand boards and got us ready. You could either ride down on your stomach or your feet, but most of us chose our stomach! In order to go down on your stomach, you lay down on the board with your arms tucked under your body and your feet spread apart so you don’t flip over. The first time I did ok….except for half the desert that ended up in my pants! The next hill was a bit bigger and that’s when I received my sand burns. It turns out that I got going too fast and my arms slipped out from under me and started to drag on the sand all the way down the hill (OUCH)! Needless to say, my forearms look a little nasty right now! Once everybody was done sliding down the dunes, we rode over to one of the highest points to watch the sun set over the horizon. It was truly beautiful. In the end, the experience was so worthwhile! This was one of the best experiences of my life and I wouldn’t trade it for anything!

The next morning we woke up super early to see Las Islas Ballestas. These Islands are a chain of big rocks off of the Peruvian coastline commonly called “The poor man’s Galapagos or The Peruvian Galapagos.” The crashing waves have created numerous arches making the islands unique and interesting. Many animals, such as Humboldt Penguins, Sea Lions, Peruvian Boobies and Peruvian Pelicans, call the Ballestas home. There are also gazillions of other birds that claim this island habitat. Because there are lots of birds, there is a lot of bird poop or guano, which is a very important, profitable resource/export here in Peru because it is sold to farmers who use it as fertilizer. To the occasional tourist, guano is not so appetizing because is smells atrocious!

All in all, this was the best weekend yet. I wish I could do everything all over again because it was so much fun! Now if I can just get past this last week of classes, I’ll be in Machu Picchu in no time!

Lots of Love,

Stephanie


* Stephanie is participating in a study abroad program in Lima Peru, organized by Valdosta State University's International Programs and Modern and Classical Languages.


1 comment:

Melinda said...

Stephanie!

Sounds like you are having a great time =)

keep blogging :D