As a nature lover, I felt like spending the break of the years in contemplation and peace, rather than with loud celebrations. My partner agreed to the idea of spending the last day of 2021 and the first day of 2022 in the Atacama Desert near Ica, enjoying some exploring – including that of the Canyon of the Lost – with a local guide, rituals, meditation and contemplation on the dunes as well as under the starry night sky.
We could not have made a better choice and indeed were blessed by having Luis Jhong Raffo as our guide. His genuine and profound connection with the desert made our explorations truly spectacular; no need to mention his amazing driving skills, chef skills (I shall never forget the picnics in the desert, obviously with a glass of pisco “to wash down the sand” as Luis would say) and even his talent as a photographer and video-maker.
This video made by him, using a drone, is depicting (at various locations in the desert) my humble mystic dance honouring the Earth and Nature. The moves were brought about in deep contemplation thanks to the vibes of the beautiful desert which is laced with history, ancient cultures, precious stones and healing potentials.
Luis and his wife Victoria also run a small bed and breakfast called Waranqu. This homestay is amongst the top ones I have been to in Peru. Everything is spick and span, there is a beautiful garden, a big swimming pool, a lovely lounge room with board-games and various musical instruments available; the whole place is spacious and gives a quaint feel of all the interior design. Loving animals live around freely, such as a tame parrot and a lovely cat. You may expect a truly home-like treatment and delicious breakfasts. The homestay is located in a safe and calm residential area just a short drive from Huacachina oasis, in Ica.
If you wish to learn more about the accommodation or the tours, go HERE.
Cañón de los Perdidos – The Hidden Wonder of Ica
Ica is a home to many beautiful places which I wrote about in this article, so make sure not to limit your visit of this area to the Huacachina oasis merely. There are truly much more breathtaking spots, the Canyon of the Lost being one of them.
It is probably the most “instagrammable” place in Ica, though, luckily, so far it has been nowhere near the attention that Huacachina gets.
Though in the maps, you will see the desert in which the canyon is located labelled as Atacama, the locals tend to call it “the Desert of the South of Peru” (Desierto del Sur de Perú) and there is a lot to see in the desert before reaching the canyon, which is why it is important to choose a truly good guide who would not take you to the canyon only but would be eager to explore with you.
To get there, get ready for about a 2-hour drive. The canyon is located about 80 km southwest of the city of Ica. The driver would need to take the Panamericana Sur highway (Ica – Palpa) until the 339 km entrance to Callango (Ocucaje district) and then there is a 50 km off track drive through the desert.
The desert is believed to have been a part of the ocean and there are still many fossil remains to be found around, validating that theory. It has its specific flora and fauna, among which there are buzzards, vultures, vermins, lizards and arachnids, while at the mouth of the Ica River you can see some minor marine animals and herons. The huarango and palm trees form common vegetation.
The stunning natural attraction was created millions of years ago by now practically non-existing Seco River, which shortly after leaving the canyon joined Ica River and finally entered the Pacific Ocean.
The canyon has 4 levels in which formations that have been preserved for millions of years can be observed. In the past, in some of the levels there used to be stagnant water wells formed by rain and subsoil water. However, nowadays, there is no more water to be found in the canyon.
The canyon was named after an a group of residents, the then mayor Pablo Alvites, and a journalist Maycol Herrera carried out an expedition to visit the canyon and got lost for a couple of hours. At the end of the journey, the press man made the decision to headline his report as the expedition to the Canyon of the Lost.
The 200 metres deep canyon was discovered only in 2011, though the locals have known about its existence long before that.
New Year in Peru – All Yellow, Fake Money and 12 Grapes
The celebrations of New Year only reached Peru through the influence of the Catholic Church.
Just as in Ireland people wear green on Saint Patrick´s Day, Peruvians enjoy yellow for their New Year´s Eve as a colour to attract good luck for the coming year. As yellow in Peruvian culture represents the colour of the Sun, gold, wealth, change and other positive things, Peruvians wear yellow dresses, accessories (mostly hats), underwear (extremely important) and floral wreaths and necklaces made of real or plastic yellow flowers on the last day of the year. Some would also use these yellow flowers to put them into their cars and houses.
Just as Czechs eat lentils on the New Year´s Day for material abundance during the year, Peruvians throw lentils abundantly on their family members and friends on the New Year´s Eve to ensure their material wellbeing. Many families serve a plate of lentils during the New Year’s dinner (which often starts at midnight, just as the Christmas Eve dinner), as it is a symbol of prosperity. Among traditional New Year´s Eve recipes there is also a big classic, a corn cake with meat or in vegetarian variations with mushrooms, seitan or soy meat.
Among other traditions, there is also sweeping the entrance of the house from the inside out (to get out the bad energy and cleanse space for new energy) and eating 12 grapes (each represents good luck for each month and moreover can represent an individual wish or intention for each month; people consume them usually before the midnight or as part of the dinner). Gifting with counterfeit money is also a tradition to attract money into the lives of those who were gifted.