Bananas Adventure in the Oasis
My first night in Ica Desert, I was staying at Bananas Adventure (yes, the name made me smile too), a hostel that lay on the edge of the oasis. The island-vibed hostel had a round tiki-style bar at its center, encircled by barstools that were forever rotating between members of various countries as new friends crossed borders to enlarge groups and acquaintances. It was only 2 pm when I arrived, but the bartender was already getting the party started, spinning around the circle to top-off frozen margaritas, crack jokes, and connect the guests, all while learning our origins, destinations, and drinks of choice.
A small pool lay just off the bar, flanked by over-sized lounge chairs and beautiful women drinking Pina Coladas from enormous goblets. The place had a hipster lean to it, colorful and light-hearted, with repurposed couches, easy chairs, and hammocks turned cozily towards each other in intimate little quadrants scattered throughout the grounds. The people here fell between their late twenties and mid-thirties, just couples and friends, looking to make more friends.
The hostel buildings were three sides of a rectangle, running along a shared middle space, all with rooftop lounges, and their own unique feel. I stayed in a private room, with minimalist design, bamboo accents, modern furniture, and cool stone floors. My building had open views of the dunes, and from my window, I could see kids kicking and swimming in the oasis, with the wall of sand rising high behind like a tsunami wave.
Life at the oasis was an extraordinary thing, and this hostel lived up to its name, booking tours and rides for its inhabitants that forged communal bonds with those who had also survived. It was pleasant to run into fellow adventurers at the bar and pool—there's the girl who sandboarded the dunes standing, the guy who biffed it when he tried to copy her, the Canadian man with the high-pitched scream, and the Aussie who bloodied her leg where it rubbed the sand (how is that by the way?).
At golden hour, the entire town paused to climb the hills and watch the sunset together. After night fell, they returned in long lines to the oasis, to drink and eat and dance. One night I followed music through the main streets and came upon fifty Marinera dancers. Young men in white shirts, red sash belts, and black slacks were fast-stepping with chests thrust forward, and wide-brimmed sombreros pulled low over their faces. Their lovely partners spun their skirts coyly and tripped away, barefoot on the paving stones while the crowd gathered, clapping enthusiastically in time and shouting encouragement to the boys. I climbed to the top of the stairs and watched, transfixed for the space of an hour, cheering with the crowd as we were all swept away in the passion of the dance.
It's the kind of experience that sticks with you when you're gone.
My last morning at Bananas Adventure, I went down at 7 am and took my breakfast of fresh juice, jam, rolls, and scrambled eggs, to a hammock in a cozy nook where I could see the water, and watched the light dance across the dunes while the breeze played softly through the colored flags, and the tall cactus swayed. It was such a peaceful feeling that I promised myself if I ever returned to Peru, that I would find my way back here, to this hammock and this view.
Bananas Adventure is a unique place—it will make you smile, convince you to stay up just a little bit longer, and wake you with the ever-present lure of adventure.
I think you might like it here.