Day 102 – 12 Jun, 2015
The first time you see a photo of Huacachina it looks like paradise, stirring up images of a long lost traveler dragging him (or her) self through the desert only to stumble on this sparkling green pool with the promise of an umbrella drink and air conditioning. The reality is something a bit different.
Huacachina, also known as The Oasis, is located about 20 minutes from the bustling, crowded city of Ica, Peru. My expectation of being shuttled to this far off desert hideaway was shattered when we simply drove around a sand dune. There it was. Still a beautiful site, but not quite what I expected.
Some travelers will stay in Huacachina, the tourist Mecca that it has become. The giant sand dunes loom large, almost enveloping the small resort in their folds. The best views are from the tops of the dunes, looking down on the scene below, because as you get closer you realize that the lagoon itself is incredibly polluted and expels a rather foul odor that you won’t soon forget. My advice? Stay up top!
The best part of this excursion is the sand. Heaps and heaps of it! For only $12, it’s possible to ride a dune buggy up and down, not unlike the sensation in a roller coaster, and go sandboarding from as high as you dare. Exhilarating and heart stopping at times, this is one of those unique experiences that can only be found on some of the highest dunes in the world.
The dune buggy operator, no doubt, loves pushing the limits on how high or how fast we go. I am sure that there are moments when we are completely airborne. The initial ride lasts no more than 10 minutes before we come to an abrupt halt at the top of a dune. Sand boards are distributed, goggles adjusted, mouths tightly closed, and one by one we are sent careening face first down the mountain of sand. The driver whips around to pick us up and we repeat this sequence again and again. Each drop is between 50-100 meters, each one testing our nerves.
When the ride concludes and the adrenaline has dissipated, the sun starts to set and again, I am treated to nature’s best. A desert sunset never gets old.
I don’t think I realized that the town looked like a mirage… or that you got to drive the dune buggy. Love it!