Sometimes it’s easy to forget that most of the coastal area of Peru is a desert.
In our quest to get out of the city for a while, we headed south of Lima by bus, to a tourist settlement called “Paracas,” which is a word from the ancient language of the Incas. It means, “Charge double for everything if your customer is a white guy.”
This applies to hotel rooms and buffet meals, as mentioned in the previous installment, Cheapskates and Stingrays, but honestly, the pricing structure of things to do is pretty reasonable, in the case of the below-mentioned activity, about $30 each.
We all piled into a van outside the hotel, where the driver romped on the gas like he had just stolen a family of Americans. It seemed like none of the other cars on the road were going fast enough for this guy, and no-passing zones here are like…wait, there aren’t any, so I can’t compare them to anything else in some bright flash of literary simile.
After twenty minutes of a thirty minute drive, we arrived at our destination.
A small building, with a covered pavilion, sat next to a structure which looked like a giant white beehive. I speculated that a miniature Jabba the Hutt lived inside, and I guessed that he wore a sombrero and only spoke Spanish. “Que pasa grin goh…ha ha ha haaaa…”
Out to the horizon was a sea of sand dunes that gave me a flashback of Camp Beuhring, Kuwait, without the camels. Our van driver handed us goggles, and we strapped ourselves into a dune buggy. Mr. Fast and Furious climbed into the driver’s seat. That explained a lot.
Within minutes, we were speeding across the sand, and up and down the dunes. There was no rhyme or reason to our route, the purpose of which seemed to be only to instill my wife with terror.
“I’m gonna throw up!” yelled my older daughter.
“That’s why you’re in the back!” I answered back.
Finally we came to a stop at the top of one of the taller dunes, the driver shut off the engine, and we disincorporated ourselves from the buggy.
I seized a teaching moment. “Your great grandma did this about six months ago. She’s 87. If she can hack it, so can you.”
“But I’ve got my whole life ahead of me!” answered my teenager.
At that point, personal responsibility went off the chain. The second part of our activity consisted of riding a sand-board to the bottom of the dune in question. It’s probably most similar to sledding, except hot, dry, incredibly fast, and with a much greater chance of open fracture.
Which of course meant my youngest and I were all for it, while the other child and the spouse would agree to participate if we didn’t die in our attempt.
After checking to be sure there wasn’t a Sarlacc pit at the bottom, I planted my tush onto this thing and hung on for dear life. The total distance of the slide was maybe a hundred yards, and a pretty fun ride.
What wasn’t fun was the walk back up the dune in loose sand. If you have a place like this in your back yard, there’s no reason to waste your money on a Stair-master.
After a few trips down the hill in this manner, the whole family was tired of walking back up. One more trip down, and the driver would pick us up.
As we climbed back into our buggy for the trip back, I assessed the value of today’s activity.
“Did you guys have fun?” I asked my daughters.
“I’ve got SAND in my teeth,” the older said.
“If that’s the only place you’ve got sand, you’re doing all right.”