Sandboarding at the Desert Oasis of Huacachina, Peru
The desert oasis of Huacachina, just like many more of the places I’ve visited, has been on my wish list ever since I decided to come to South America. Massive sand dunes in Peru? A desert oasis? Sure thing I’m going! And so you can imagine my excitement when I realized that my ride from Cusco went straight to Ica, a city four kilometres from Huacachina.
The trip to Ica, however, wasn’t always smooth. First, the lorry broke down, which forced us to look for a garage where we could have the broken part soldered. When that was done, we then drove along some really winding parts of the route where, as Luis, my driver, said, not many people are willing to go through. And, looking at how twisty the road was, I could easily understand why. The ride then became much smoother, with driving through Nasca with its tomato fields and later on through the area with the famous Nasca Lines. From the road, unfortunately, nothing is visible.
When I finally arrived in Ica that afternoon, I looked up the closest shopping centre, where I stacked up on food, and went in the direction of Huacachina. Luis had left me conveniently close to the main road to there, so I knew I wouldn’t have to walk a lot. Unfortunately, it had already got really dark, which meant I wouldn’t be able to enjoy sandboarding just yet. So while walking I was also looking for a place for my tent for the night. And I found it in an abandoned sand field… right next to a massive wind-sculpted sand dune. The next day I would realize that only two of such dunes separated me from the mystical oasis of Huacachina. Why is it mystical, you may ask?
In Peru, where many lakes, rivers and mountains are entwined in mysterious stories and legends about how they were created, it is not surprising to find that Huacachina has one such legend too.
The legend goes that a princess drowned in the lagoon many, many years ago, and ever since then every year she has taken one man to the bottom of the lagoon with her. Whether the legend is true or not (or perhaps it is the inability of certain Peruvian men to swim), but each year at least one man is said to have drowned in the waters of the Huacachina lagoon.
But what this place is really famous for, at least, among travellers, is the opportunity to go for a ride on a dune buggy and do some sandboarding down the high sand dunes.
And that is precisely what I did there. (Well, at least the sandboarding part.)
I hid my large rucksack and a bag with the blanket I had bought in Bolivia in the bush and headed for Huacachina. In ten minutes, I was already there. I walked along the few streets and eventually spotted a man renting out snowboards at the other side of the lagoon. 5 soles (1.5 dollars) seemed more than an acceptable price for an hour, so I rented a large yellow snowboard, received a small piece of wax candle for a smoother experience, and off I went.
The first thing I soon realized is that the desert sand is undoubtedly not as easy to practise sandboarding on as snow. In fact, without being waxed, the board doesn’t slide almost at all. And when the wax is applied, it only lasts until halfway down the slope, and after that the ride is much, much slower. I’m sure I spent the biggest part of that hour not improving my sandboarding skills (this was only my second time on a snowboard, the previous being some good 9 years earlier), but walking back up to the top of the dune.
I spent two more nights sleeping near the lofty sand dune between Ica and Huacachina, for Luis had said he was going to the northern Peru sometime in the next few days and would send me a message on Facebook whether or not he could take me along. Unfortunately, a message never came. So on the 29th of August 2015 I left Ica and headed toward Lima, the capital of Peru, and to Ecuador.