After hiking the Inca Trail to Macchu Pichu and in and out of the Colca Canyon in the space of a week I was more than ready to see what else Peru had to offer. Hiking was out, R and R in the sun and the sand were definitely in. My prayers were answered when I stumbled across the tiny oasis town of Huacachina, four hours south of Lima. Here the sole activities consisted of sunbathing and – more intriguingly – sandboarding!
From sun, sea and sand to sun, boards and sand
With every hostel boasting a pool of its own and scorching weather virtually a given, it was clear that topping up the tan would take care of itself. After spending a day lounging by the pool watching energetic souls try their hand at sandboarding in the dunes around me, I was ready to give it a go myself. With the minimal research duly conducted it was clear there were two ways to approach my new pastime.
Number one, pay five Soles – 90p – and hire a board from the hostel for the whole day, or number two, pay $12 and get taken out into the dunes on a dune buggy for two hours. The main advantage of option two was that the buggy would collect you from the bottom of the dune and take you back to the top to start the fun all over again.
To the uninitiated, i.e. me, sandboarding looks like a simple sport: take one sandboard, some wax, climb to the top of the dune, wax the bottom of the board for extra speed, strap your feet into position and then let gravity take its course. Not wanting to perform any heroics, I duly went for option one and reached the top of the dune at 6.30 am the following morning – you have to go early or it just gets too hot.]
Losing my feet on the dunes
Standing at the top of a small dune, ignoring the locals who suggested I go to the top of the highest dune straight away, I pushed off and began picking up speed at an alarming rate. All visions of traversing elegantly across the dune whilst developing my technique quickly disappeared as I realised the only way to stop was to fall over. This I did and proceeded to roll headlong to the bottom of the dune with sand lodged in every conceivable orifice!
It was at this point that I began to appreciate the limitations of option one – namely that if I wanted another go I would have to climb back up the 50ft dune all by myself. Unsurprisingly I managed just two more runs that morning both ending in the same sand-caked mess before I retreated bruised and battered to my sun lounger for the rest of the afternoon! After a dip in the pool and some lunch, with the batteries recharged, I began to think about option number two. Not only could I get a lift back to the top, but it was bound to be fun driving through the dunes and not having to wade through them myself. I duly paid my $12 to the guy in the hostel and within minutes a dune buggy was honking its horn impatiently outside.
Rampaging through the desert on a dune buggy
One look at the driver’s evil grin should have set alarm bells ringing, not to mention the fact that he insisted we wear seatbelts. This was a worry, as for most of the activities I have done in South America, caution is not normally a priority. It was soon clear why, as the next 30 minutes passed in a blur of turns, skids and swerves while the driver, cackling maniacally to himself, threw the buggy all over the dunes. It was like being on a never-ending roller coaster!
By the time we screeched to a halt with the engine about to overheat, we were all slightly ashen-faced and still hadn’t done any boarding. This time though it was awesome fun as we were in the middle of the desert, away from the town, with the sun beginning to set – a truly amazing sight. With the buggy on hand to whisk us back to the top we were able to get loads more runs in, and although the standard didn’t improve greatly it was a lot more fun. At one point we were even persuaded to go down face first on the board, in virtual darkness with just the headlights of the buggy for guidance – quite an experience as you can imagine!
The two hours flew by and at the end we were all asking for una mas – one more – having well and truly caught the bug. So remember, if you are in Peru and all hiked out, get yourselves to Huacachina, five minutes in a taxi from Ica, four hours south of Lima for some serious fun in the sun!