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A fast, fun and tasty night in Peru

AAP logoAAP 2/09/2016 Elise Scott

The four-wheel drive rolling up to the hotel could have been a clue that a picnic in the Peruvian desert might be more of an adventure than cucumber sandwiches and lemonade.

When trained rally drivers let down the tires, it was clear this would be an adrenaline-filled ride to dinner.

We were in Paracas - about five hours drive from the Peruvian capital Lima. It's where the ocean meets the desert, where kilometres of sand dunes sprawl ahead of us, interrupted with the occasional oasis.

Dinner would be a relaxing picnic in the silent desert - but getting there would be the opposite.

The four-wheel drive bounds over sand dunes, in a display that combines impeccable driving skills with the seemingly impossible.

Passengers are thrown from the seat (within the confines of a seatbelt) as the four-wheel drive navigates up and down dunes that seem as big as buildings.

As though the drivers take pleasure in the expressions forced on their passengers, the four-wheel drives are fitted with a camera to capture the laughs, screams - and sometimes terrified - faces in the back.

After about an hour and multiple stomach flips, there's a chance for some photographs and then sand boarding, which sounds easier than it is, but is as much fun as the journey there.

After a few more exhilarating sand dunes, we arrive at the picnic site - your own large, white Arabian-style marquee, backlit by burning bamboo torches with colourful rugs and cushions thrown over the ruby sand.

It's completely silent apart from the hissing of the BBQ being prepared by your own personal chef.

An array of dips, meats and deserts and drinks are served - including champagne on arrival.

It's easy to imagine a romantic night for two or a raucous celebration here. It's picturesque enough for a wedding, but secluded enough for relaxing intimacy.

There's no phone reception out here.

During the evening, guests can mill over their adventures that day - which in Paracas are abundant.

It's the place to see the Ballestas Islands, where you can get up close by boat to pods of sea lions, colonies of penguins and pelicans, and flocks of thousands of birds.

Or take a flight over to the Nazca Lines, large geoglyphs in shapes like monkeys and hummingbirds, which have baffled historians as they tried to decipher why they were made.

They're best seen from the sky, with some up to 200 metres wide.

Either way, you'll have plenty of stories to share over a glass of bubbles around your own private desert picnic.

Your drivers are ready to escort you back, thankfully in a much more subdued fashion than how you arrived.

It's part luxury, part terror but wholly a worthwhile experience.

IF YOU GO

GETTING THERE

Lima is about 19 hours from Sydney with one stop. There is no direct flight to Lima, with visitors required to stop over in Santiago. LATAM Airlines offers flights with two stops - through Auckland and Santiago - from $A2100. Visit www.latam.com. Paracas is about five hours drive from Lima.

STAYING THERE

Hotel Paracas boasts beautiful pool side bars and beachside villas starting from $A240, there's also a number of activities to do including the desert picnic and Ballestas Islands boat tour. Visit www.hotelparacasresort.com

PLAYING THERE

While there are plenty of taxis is the cities to get you around, buses are necessary to get to some of the sights. If you're worried about organising activities or transport, booking a tour is a simple, stress-free way to take it all in. Condor Travel offers several tour options - from two days exploring Lima to two weeks venturing into other parts of Peru. Visit www.condortravel.com. Remember Lima is in the southern hemisphere so its seasons line up with Australia.

* The writer travelled as a guest of PromPeru.

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