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Ica Desert



Carcharodon Megalodon ate whales. A member of the shark family, this monster of the sea had a bad attitude and teeth the size of frisbees. One of the largest predators ever, it probably measured as many as 20 meters (65 feet) and weighed as much as 25 tons. With a maw that measured 1.8 meters (6 feet) wide by 2.1 meters (7 feet) this beast of beasts could swallow a buffalo … whole!


The bones of the mighty Carcharodon Megalodon, as well as many other marine animals, can be found in the parched stretch of land known as the Ica desert. Located near Ica, Peru, this desert was once a shallow ocean basin before a tectonic upheaval pushed it above sea level. Local guides know all of the best places to find fossils in this parched wasteland, and the lucky visitor may even find a Carcharodon Megalodon tooth. Some of its teeth have survived, deeply embedded in whale bones.


The sands of the Ica desert hide more than the bones of dead fish, however. Before the arrival of the Spanish, local cultures used the desert as a sacred burial ground. Unfortunately, grave-robbing is still something of a local industry. Those relics that have survived the rampant scavenging can be viewed in the regional museum in Ica.


The desert surface is also conducive to a number of active adventures, equally as interesting. Among these sand-sports, sandboarding is one of the most popular. As the name implies, it involves sliding down a sandy dune on a sort of surfboard. You can also tear through the desert on dune buggies, mountain bikes or four-wheelers: you can rent them (and guides) in the nearby town of Ica. Most travelers stay at the Huacachina Oasis, a speck of green in the gray desert. There is a small lake there, surrounded by numerous hotels and tour operators.


Beyond its bones, burial grounds, and sandboards, the Ica desert still holds at least one mystery: the Ica stones. According to local legend, a farmer discovered a cave full of more than 15,000 stones with designs etched into them after a heavy rain. He was busted for selling them to tourists, and then sold his collection to Dr. Javier Cabrera, who maintains a private museum of the stones in Ica. The designs show many different scenes, such as medical procedures including heart and brain surgery, as well as humans hunting dinosaurs. Most scientists believe the Ica stones to be a total hoax, but the curious may find the museum to be well be worth a visit. Either they’re a legitimate historical find, or they’re evidence of how much work people will put into creating and propagating a profitable scam. Questionable authenticity aside, the stones are intriguing and make for an interesting excursion.


Fortunately for swimmers and surfers, the last Carcharodon Megalodon went to shark heaven about 1.2 million years ago (although there are those who say there could still be some lurking in secret corners of the world’s deepest seas). If you want to see one, you’ll have to go to Ica, and don’t forget your sandboard!

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