Exploratory Expedition - The Ica Coastal Desert (Nov., 2021)
Perol Chico is organising a unique exploratory expedition in the Ica desert, one of the most fascinating places on the Peruvian central coast. The riding expedition will be all about adventure and exploring unknown places. In contrast to a riding holiday, where everything is arranged in advance, this ride has a more flexible day-to-day itinerary due to the many unforeseen elements and the character of the ride. The coastal desert of Ica is of a captivating beauty and its fascinating geological features and mysterious archaeological remains makes this remote region one of the most interesting places in Peru for equestrian exploration.
Extensive archaeological remains in the region attest to substantial pre-hispanic populations. The lower Ica Valley on the hyperacid south coast of Peru was once the homeland of ancient and highly civilised cultures. The riverine oases that cross the arid desert of the south coast of Peru were host to a rich history of cultural change. Over more than 2 millennia before the Spanish conquest (about 750 BC to AD 1536), at least six major cultural changes occurred here. The Paracas (or Ocucaje) culture emerged in the Early Horizon, later evolving into Nasca. Nasca’s fragmentation and collapse was followed by domination of the region by the highland Wari Empire during the Middle Horizon before, in turn, it waned and the more regionally focused Ica–Chincha society flourished before being incorporated into the Inca Empire (David G Beresford-Jones).
The Huarango tree
Well into the Early Intermediate Period (0-600 AD) the south coast valleys were densely forested with Huarango trees a.k.a. Algarrobo trees. The Huarango tree (Prosopis Limensis) played a crucial role in integrating fragile desert ecosystems, enhancing soil fertility and moisture, and accomplishing desalination and microclimatic amelioration. Prosopis is a remarkable leguminous hardwood, capable of living for over a millennium and providing timber, forage and food. Gradual deforestation eventually crossed an environmental threshold: river and wind erosion increased dramatically and precipitated radical desertification, feeding back into cultural changes in the Middle Horizon (600 - 1000 AD).
Note: The derivation of the name Prosopis is ‘towards abundance’, from the ancient Greek ‘pros’ meaning towards; and ‘Opis’, wife of Saturn and the goddess of abundance and agriculture.
Going even further back in time (eons ago) a large part of the Ica desert was once the bed of a shallow bay off the coast of South America. The water teemed with life: whales, dolphins, giant penguins, crocodiles and the megalodon, a 45-foot-long whale eating shark, which disappeared some 1.5 million years ago. Today the desert of Ica is not only an important cultural and historical sanctuary, it also holds some of the most significant fossils in the world.
Places to visit during the expedition
Museo Paleontológico de Ocucaje, Hacienda Ullujaya (basecamp), Fundo Samaca (ecological farming project of Don Alberto Benavides), the Lomas de Ullujaya, Amara and San Fernando (ephemeral seasonal oases sustained by ocean fogs), fossil zones, beaches and small fishing settlements along the Pacific coastline, a rock-shelter site called El Abrigo, pre-ceramic archaeological sites Yerba II and III, riparian Prosopis woodlands in the Quebrada Usaca (with Nasca period cemeteries along its higher edges), Cañon de los Perdidos ('The canyon of the lost', geological formation) and other archaeological sites of pre-hispanic cultures such as Cahuachi, an important ceremonial center of the Nazca culture.
Exploratory rides require a certain kind of resilient, flexible, fit and independent horse-person who is also a team-player. If you are interested in participating, please contact Eduard van Brunschot at [email protected] or through our contact page.