Our guide, Kike, showed up about 20 minutes earlier than expected so we didn’t really get breakfast but that’s ok. We set out in a rattly land cruiser with absolutely no seat belts driving about an hour to a tiny sand hill to get a feel for what sandboarding is like. More accurately so Eric could. I took no part in this even though they offered repeatedly. I went for photo taking. Eric fell a few times, but seemed to get the hang of it. Kike talked with me for a while by the car. He spoke English very well which may have something to do with the fact that he lived in Sydney for 5 years. Very interesting guy. He also told us that aside from crops which grow amazingly well out here, the other biggest industry is copper mining. All the hills around here have copper mines with enough copper to keep running another 80 years.
After the first baby hill we drove a bit down the road to a more moderately sized hill the guys could actually do a run down. Eric had more fun at this second hill as he got the hang of it and had more run time. The only down side was climbing up the sand dune every time which looked exhausting for him. He only did 2 runs there due to the effort to get to the top, but he was looking pretty graceful by the end. We could also see some more volcanoes from here. One of which was smoking quite a bit. Kike said we were fortunate to see that, but it seemed kind of concerning.
We hopped back in the car to go to stop number 3. On the way I commented on a bunch of cactus I saw growing in patches. Kike said the farmers don’t grow them for the cactus itself but for the tiny cochinea bugs that live on them. They are the little critters that make the red color for cosmetics and candies. He pulled over and offered to let me squeeze one to see how it releases the red dye. Shockingly I took him up on this offer. It looked like a little cluster of white bubbles, they were oddly spongy and soft. And they did in fact dye your fingers red when the white part crumbled away. Sorry tiny cochinea bugs. You were educational.
The final stop was actually back next to the first stop, just significantly taller. This one Kike said we could drive to the top in the cruiser so Eric wouldn’t have to climb and we would pick him up at the bottom. He must have done about 5 runs or so down this hill. Mostly I rode up and down in the cruiser to take photos from the bottom, but one time I stayed at the top for a different vantage point. We had a fabulous time with Kike, even though I didn’t go down the sand with Eric. The adventure was fun, great views, more information about the area and good tips from Kike. Also it was was essentially a private tour just for us. They even had snacks! Tiny bananas, mandarins, water, sports drinks, and chocolates to keep us fueled. Okay mostly for Eric. But I had some too.
We drove back to the city and said our thanks and goodbyes to Kike, and headed straight to the showers. Eric had unloaded about a kilo of sand per boot before the drive back, but there was still an immense amount caked all over his skin and clothing. I had a fine layer of grit on myself just from being on the dunes in the wind. After Eric showered we went into town to get a proper lunch. We tried a crepe place right next door to the chocolate place. It was delicious. Eric had a Hawaiian crepe while I had one with avocado and cheese. He tried the local Arequipeña beer and I had a limonada granadina. I think the Arequipa beer was better than the Cusco beer. We also tried a chocolate/banana crepe for dessert which was delicious.
On our walk back to the hotel we checked out the pigeon party in the square and then stopped into a tiny shop to load up on water. I think we bought about 6 liters or so of water to get us started on the canyon hike tomorrow. Then it was definitely time for a siesta in the room.
Later on we shuffled things around so our backpacks were ready to go for the 3 day/2 night journey into the canyon. We tried to get to sleep early for the earliest wake up of the entire trip in the morning.