Desert Oasis

Think of a refreshing lagoon nestled between endless sand dunes. Think of blue skies and sunshine and sipping cold beer in the heat. Think of palm trees and pedal boats and people splashing around in the water. Think chaffing every time the wind blows and whips up the perpetual layer of sand that coats everything. Huacachina is Peru’s beautiful desert oasis where you can just relax and forget you’re a mere 15 minutes from the large town of Ica on account of the fact that relaxing and enjoy your surroundings is pretty much all there is to do there. Oh. And throwing yourself head first down sand dunes whilst clutching onto a piece of wood.

Sunset with a dog called Negra.

The last time I went sand boarding was an epic fail. Epic. After one successful attempt at getting to the bottom of a gentle slope whilst standing up I decided I was now a sand boarder and trotted off to find a bigger hill more worthy of my obvious skill. Five minutes later, face down in the sand, wondering if there were easier ways to find out which way my legs aren’t meant to go I vowed never to set foot on these planks infused with evil ever again. So I didn’t.

After riding over the dunes in a buggy we pulled up at the top of a good, steep one and positioned ourselves on our boards and my foot didn’t touch it once. No fucking way. I shamelessly plopped to the ground and lay on it on my stomach. My buggy mates, a Canadian couple, were snow boarders and tried it standing up but there was no show of bravado from this side, I intended to survive this with my teeth intact and all my skin still attached to my face.

There is literally no way to look cool whilst sandboarding flat on your stomach.

It’s so much more fun lying down as many things are. Fnar fnar. I held onto the board, lifted my legs out of the sand to cut the resistance, shuffled to the edge… and shuffled… and shuffled… and asked the driver if he’d kindly give me a push please, then down the dune I went, the wind in my hair and the sand in my teeth. And I do have enough hair for the wind to whip around, I’ve practically got flowing lock these days. I’ve got enough hair for it to be considered girly and enough dandruff to consider bagging it into grams and selling it to unsuspecting gringos.
“A blizzard? In Peru?”
“Nah, Claire’s just taken her hat off and that hairy thing looming in the distance isn’t the Yeti, it’s just her looking for the pub.”

I legit got one of the Canadians to take this photo so I could get that “fake candid casually walking over a sand dune” shot.

I digress.

So sandboarding. More fun when you don’t cripple yourself in the process and certainly more fun when you don’t have to cart yourself and the board up the pile of sand afterwards because there’s a buggy waiting to drive you bag up. Other things that can be classed as fun include tearing round the oft mentioned dunes in aforementioned buggy but our driver seemed to be a bit of a pussy. Either that or there was something wrong with the buggy. When your driver subtly checks the engine every time you stop and constantly checks behind him during the ride, possibly to make sure nothing’s fallen off, it’s a wee bit disconcerting. But what the fuck, I’m on holiday and I was feeling the need for speed. I leaned forward until my mouth was next to the driver’s ear and asked him to go as fast as he could and make me scream… Well that’ll be the first time I’ve said that to a guy anyway.

You can rent these little boats to paddle around the lagoon but I’m not entirely sure why you’d want to. You can’t go far.

The next morning after another night of doing very little I was stood outside the hostel looking at the surrounding sand dunes, trying to decide whether to climb up one of them or not. Have you ever climbed a dune? It’s not fucking easy, let me tell you. Every step you take you sink at least half a step back, it’s exhausting and time consuming but for some reason I get these ideas into my head. I was stood scratching my arse and possibly drooling a bit because decision making doesn’t become me when I met Wayne and Stefanie, a Canadian father/daughter duo. They were pretty keen on the climbing-before-breakfast idea so off we went ignoring crucial things such as how quickly it heats up in the morning in this part of the world and how thirsty climbing sand dunes can make you. Oh come on, I’d used all my brain power for the day staring at the dune.

There are a certain set of dos and don’ts when it comes to this kind of activity and here’s your cut out and keep guide to surviving.
DO wear suitable footwear because as lovely as walking through sand barefooted is it becomes infinitely less pleasant when the sun heats the sand up to a temperature similar to that of molten lava.
DON’T do as we did and remove your footwear at the earliest opportunity unless your soles are made of asbestos. This will result in the necessity to bury your feet with every step up and the only way to get down will be to run like hell until your feet hurt too much, stop and bury your feet until the pain subsides. Expect stares and mocking from locals and gringos alike.

Considering how much I dislike sand I spent a lot of time very close to it in Huacahina.

DO take a bottle of water unless there happens to be a fully licenced bar at the top. Just because you’re not thirsty now do you honestly think that you won’t be by the time you get up there? Oh, and that bar? It’s probably a mirage.
DON’T do as we did and dismiss the need to take any form of hydration unless you wish to test the theory that crawling on all fours through the sand whilst hoarsely muttering the word “water” will bring you any form of relief outside of Hollywood.

DO wear sunscreen. The lobster look is so not in this season.
DON’T do as we did… yeah you guessed it. No sunscreen. Poor Wayne didn’t have a hat either, once that burn of his settles down he’ll be leaving bits of his scalp all over Peru.

At least the views once you’re up the dune are pretty decent.

DO treat yourself to a mean breakfast and a beer once you’ve returned to the sanctuary that is solid ground which doesn’t move every time you take a step. This is one thing we did manage to get right but then again you can’t go far wrong in Huacachina as long as you remember that the best way to get up a sand dune is in a buggy with a mad driver.

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Huacachina, Peru
Stayed at: Desert Nights Hostel

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