After leaving Cusco we caught a winding overnight bus towards the Peruvian coast, and the town of Ica. In the process descending almost 4000m. From there it was a short taxi ride to Huacachina.
There is no better way to describe this small town than an oasis in the midst of towering sand dunes. We were hooked as soon as we saw it and set about climbing the nearest tall dune for a glimpse of the afternoon sun over the lake and the distant desert dunes. We also booked a sunset sand buggy and boarding trip.
Not having done this before we had no idea what to expect. A short walk from our hostel and we reached the buggy. These are very large machines with room for 10 people plus driver…but consist of little more than a steel frame on top of a huge motor and 4 even larger tyres. They make a lot of noise and are not built for comfort.
We strapped ourselves in as best we could before the driver accelerated away into the desert. The next 20 minutes consisted of roaring engines, screams of terror, squeals of delight and much gripping of the safety bar in front of us, as our buggy climbed, dropped and spun in all directions over the dunes.
We were all glad of a breather once we reached the top of a high (approx. 50m) dune and got out to take some photos.
The sand boards were then introduced. We were advised that we would not be standing but instead lying on the boards (they were thick wooden boards rather than thin fibreglass that we are used to with snowboards). After what seemed like only a second’s instruction, the first of the group was given a push and hurtled down the dune at a rapid pace, amid screams of joy or terror (difficult to tell). We all took it in turns to follow. The board travelled very fast and surprisingly far but was pretty easy to steer and could be slowed by dragging your feet if you fancied a more controlled descent.
After everyone had slid safety down the dune, the buggy came down to collect us and we set off at equally breakneck speed towards another distant dune, where we again stopped for photos and boarded down a slightly higher slope.
This pattern continued for a couple of hours, with the dunes getting increasingly high/steep and bumpy, until the sun set and we headed back to town. We would like to say that everyone was unscathed but there were a couple of stacks, of which one was particularly hard, as the guy involved lost his sunglasses and sat out the remaining slides…but no serious damage.
Summing up, if you come to this town, you really need to try out the boarding (you can rent out your own board) and the buggies are a quick adrenaline fix, for only 40 soles ($18 Aus) it’s well worth it. However, be prepared to be picking sand out of your orifices for some time afterwards.