My offering to the sand gods

Trip Start Sep 17, 2007
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Trip End Oct 08, 2008


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Flag of Peru  ,
Sunday, October 21, 2007

Huacachina is a pretty special place.  A mere 6 km from the city of Ica, it is an actual oasis in the middle of a sea of towering sand dunes.  Once a resort town for the Peruvian elite, it now hosts backpackers eager to try out a rather unique attraction - sandboarding. 

It would be an overstatement to call Huacachina a town.  It consists of a couple restaurants and hostels surrounding a very picturesque lagoon.  Mountains of sand rise on all sides.  Being as how dune buggy tours are the main business here, every hostel has a couple vehicles sitting out front.  They donīt wait until youīve settled in to try to sell you on the tours.

The lady at our hotel asked for my passport to write down details and almost in the same breath was describing their tour and pushing photos into my face.  It seems the tour is always about to leave shortly, just so you donīt have long to make a decision.  Even better, tomorrow was census day in Peru, and all transportation was shutting down.  We were stuck in Huacachina.  No vehicles meant no tours.  We had better sign up now.  (Of course, we saw other dune buggies zooming around all the next day).

In any case, we signed up and met five other German girls ready to climb into a huge buggy with Jaime, our driver.  My favorite part about tours in Peru is the taxes.  The little taxes that arenīt worth telling the tourists about.  Sure the tour costs this many soles but we donīt mention the pier tax/boat tax/being a tourist tax that will come up.  In this case it was a dollar each to drive out into the dunes.  Not included of course. 

Anyway we gently drove up the hill into the amazing desert landscape, then proceeded to zoom up dunes and (more exciting) zoom down them at break neck speeds.  It was like a roller coaster.  And it was pretty fun.  I may have shouted with glee.  At one point we paused for photos.  Jaime was very interested in photos and made me put on his ridiculous goggles and act like I was driving.  The girls however seemed very intent about getting a picture of them all in mid-jump.  Even Jaime tired of this after a while.  We piled back in and did some more stunt driving before pulling up at a set of three perfectly placed dunes to try our hands at sandboarding.

Sandboarding is like snowboarding except without cold-weather gear or safety gear of any kind.  You strap yourself onto a sandboard, put some wax on the bottom to help you slide (I believe the wax was mayonnaise), and push off.  Iīve never been snowboarding before so it was a new experience for me.  It appeared it was a new experience for the other groups too as most of them fell down the dune rather than surfed down it.  At the bottom we were picked up by the buggy and brought to the top to try again.  I got the hang of it and it was great fun.  Got sand everywhere though.

By the third "bunny" dune we were ready for a challenge, so we got driven up a monster hill.  It was a long way down.  Pretty fun to watch people attempt it.  When our turn came I fell pretty quickly but on the second try had a really good run most of the way down the dune.  A very cool feeling.  After that my board ran out of gas.  It seems that without the wax it really doesnīt slide at all.  We walked over to the next dune and up to the top.

It was at this point I realized I wasnīt wearing my sunglasses anymore.  Not just my sunglasses but my glasses as well.  They were somewhere on the face of the giant dune we had just fallen down.  I probably would have noticed sooner had my eyesight been worse but its good enough that I almost canīt tell sometimes.  And Iīm used to wearing contacts.  My best guess is that they fell off when I fell and I got up and continued on without noticing.

Now I may have let out some choice words at this point.  Okay I definitely let out some choice words.  We went back to the dune to look around and I tried to climb up part of the way.  Erin found half of someone else's sunglasses.  But it was a lot harder climbing up than sliding down and I gave it up.  They were gone.  To make matters worse, by the time we got back to the second hill one of the kids had already taken my board down and was about to take Erinīs.  So to add insult to injury I had to slog down and back up the dune to the waiting buggy.  Erin didnīt have much better luck because we still didnīt have any wax.

Jaime was very worried that something had happened to me but we reassured him and took off to chase the sunset over the dunes.  We got out to take pictures and then we drove a little more before heading back to an overlook of the oasis as it got dark.  Needless to say the end was a little ruined for me.  

We got back a little sore but to our surprise found we actually had hot water (thatīs been a little rare recently).

So in spite of losing my glasses, the dune buggy and sandboarding tour was pretty fun. 

Travis
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