Days 10-11: Ica – A Tale of Two Hotels

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January 21, 2013 by jiejie768

After boarding a bus on the evening of Dec. 30, our holiday vacation took us away from Cuzco (and the Collinses) and toward Ica, which would be our jumping off point for trips to the Nazca Lines and Islas Ballestas. To catch up on all that  came before, click on the links at the bottom of the page.

A windy descent out of the Andes Mountains greeted us upon waking up early Dec. 31, as we continued the long bus ride from Cuzco to Ica.

A windy descent out of the Andes Mountains greeted us upon waking up early Dec. 31, as we continued the long bus ride from Cuzco to Ica.


Days 10-11: Ica – a Tale of Two Hotels

On the final day of 2012, the Anderson clan begin to stir around 7 a.m. as our overnight bus was winding its way down and out of the Andes Mountains towards the cities of Nazca and Ica. We managed to get a little sleep during the night, though a broken window in our compartment had the temperature around 40 degrees throughout the night, and the thin blankets they provided did little to block the cold.

At the time of boarding, we were told we’d arrive in Ica, our destination, by about 9 a.m. Ica is moderately-sized city near, but not on, the Peruvian coast situated in the middle of a desert. It lies about two hours northwest of Nazca, a fact we’d learned the day before, so it was not a pleasant sight when the “Bienvenidos a Nazca” signs rolled past our windows at about 9:15 a.m. We were in for some extra travel time. Fortunately, the bus company fired up the TV screens bright and early for some extremely loud, extremely violent movies (“The Cold Light of Day” and “Transit”) to pass the time before our (still) pending arrival.

The delay drew some muttering from the peanut gallery, especially since the on-board “breakfast” was a juice box and a package of cookies that not even Lolo could get excited about (and she usually LOVES bus food … seriously). We did make a bathroom stop, as the onboard commode is a strictly-for-liquids proposition (something one of our traveling party failed to remember the night before … I’ll just leave it at that). The gas station where we made our stop was in the middle of nowhere, and hungry as we were, no one was brave (or stupid) enough to sample the cuisine at the abutting cafe.

Grumbling stomachs (and passengers) aside, we finally made it to Ica at about 11:30 and were greeted by a ferocious heat. Being in the mountains up until that point had negated our proximity to the Equator somewhat, but no more; it felt like the sun was on top us. This did not help the mood as hunger, a late-arrival and a night sleeping on a frigid bus combined to make just about all of us a little cranky.

After hailing a pair of miniature taxis and piling our luggage and the seven of us into them clown-car style, we were driven to Hotel Ollanta, our homebase for the first night in Ica. The next day, we’d be moving to a resort that Meg’s parents had booked, but it was full on New Year’s Eve so we had to spend the first night elsewhere. It was not a resort.

Though certainly not the worst hotel I’ve ever been in, Hotel Ollanta — which had no air conditioning — was not the place I hoped it would be following a long night and morning on a bus. It was scorching hot and the first room that Meg, Lolo and I were set-up in was filthy, with a dysfunctional shower and several spider’s nests dotting the walls. A trip the front desk got that changed and ultimately, the only problem with our room was the fact that it was sweltering, but so was all of Ica.

That first day in Ica was probably the least enjoyable of our whole trip. It wasn’t torture or anything, but the heat combined with a couple of drawn out dining experiences (good food, slow service) had us looking forward to the resort we’d check into as early as possible the following day. What’s more, Ica as a town had little to offer in terms of sight-seeing or enjoyable pastimes. It is a mostly blue collar environment and lacked the charm (or at least familiarity) that I’d encountered in places such as Cuzco, Ayacucho and even Lima.

Hotel Ollanta in Ica had its flaws, but the rooftop terrace provided a beautiful view of the sunset over the desert. Later, it would also provide a decent vantage point for taking in the New Year's Eve fireworks around town.

Hotel Ollanta in Ica had its flaws, but the rooftop terrace provided a beautiful view of the sunset over the desert. Later, it would also provide a decent vantage point for taking in the New Year’s Eve fireworks around town.

Pam enjoys a beer at sunset on the rooftop terrace at Hotel Ollanta on New Year's Eve. Our next hotel, Las Dunas, was among the nicest I've ever stayed in, but we were so busy relaxing, no one bothered to take any pictures.

Pam enjoys a beer at sunset on the rooftop terrace at Hotel Ollanta on New Year’s Eve. Our next hotel, Las Dunas, was among the nicest I’ve ever stayed in, but we were so busy relaxing, no one bothered to take any pictures.

We did enjoy the view and breeze on the roof-top terrace at Hotel Ollanta and the bar downstairs had reasonable priced beers to help us ring in the New Year
The dawn of 2013 once again saw Peruvians celebrate by enthusiastically letting off fireworks, and it was another pretty spectacular scene; though not quite to the level of the show from our Ayacucho rooftop on Christmas Eve. We even spent a few tense moments wondering if the house across the street was going to burn down before being assured by the hotel owners that the unattended blaze we’d seen was just a New Year’s doll, and it would burn itself out.

Shortly after midnight we turned in and dreamed of pools and air-conditioned hotel rooms. The next day, our dreams would come true. We checked out of Hotel Ollanta at 9:30 and my opinion of the place, which had risen during an evening on the roof and New Year’s with beers from the bar, dropped again when we had to pay $150 for a triple room against only $79 each for the two doubles (which isn’t a fair price for the double either, but the triple price was ridiculous in comparison).

I was in a foul mood for the cab ride across town, but my misgivings melted away when I stepped into the lobby of Las Dunas Resort. To this point our hotels had been decent, but nothing spectacular, and the change of pace presented by Las Dunas was astonishing and most welcome. We weren’t able to get into our rooms just yet, but we were allowed to wander the ground and take part in the breakfast buffet at the resort’s in-house restaurant.

The hotel included three pools, a very nice (and fun!) water slide, tennis courts, soccer fields and, most importantly (to me), a full-size outdoor basketball court. Furthermore, the daily breakfast buffet (a steep, but worthwhile 38 soles — $15) featured bacon, omelets, bacon, fresh fruit, bacon, humitas, bacon, bottomless coffee and juice, bacon, sausage, bacon, ham, bacon and bacon. I was (forgive the pun) in hog heaven. After breakfast and passing the morning and early afternoon playing cards in the cafe, we were allowed into our rooms. The rooms were another slice of heaven. In addition to air conditioning, heated showers and a shaded balcony, they featured flat-screen TVs with DirectTV, which meant we’d be able to watch the Rose Bowl (in English, no less) later that afternoon.

I’ll admit that, to the average American traveler used to domestic hotels with pools and complementary breakfast, Las Dunas probably wasn’t THAT spectacular. But for the seven of us, and especially Meg and I at that point, it was an exciting upgrade over our accommodations (which weren’t bad at all) at other stops in our travels. We spent that first day simply reveling in our newfound luxury. I shot hoops for a while, and we floated around the pool soaking up the sun. We visited the poolside bar for our complementary welcome cocktails (lemonades for the kids and non-drinkers) and a delicious tequeños plate (fried wontons stuffed with cheese, stir fry, chicken or other delicious things and served with guacamole) that would become a staple of our diet over the next few days.

As the day wound down, Tom, Ty and I headed back to one of the rooms to watch Stanford play Wisconsin in the Grandaddy of Them All on a real TV screen (to date all of my sports watching in Peru had been via grainy Internet streams). All told, 2013 was getting off to a pretty enjoyable, and relaxing, start. The next morning our alarms would once again go off and an unconscionably early hour (5:15) for our 6 a.m. shuttle to Nazca to view the fabled Nazca Lines, but at that moment, we didn’t even care.

Catch up on a our holiday vacation with the following links:

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