Sandboarding in the Oasis Town of Huacachina
I arrived to the desert town of Ica on a late night bus and my final destination was the oasis town of Huacachina, which has a small natural lake in the middle and is surrounded by sand dunes! It is a short distance from the city of Ica, located about 3 miles west and I was trying to figure out the best way for me to get there from the bus station as I was traveling solo. When I got off the bus at the bus station, there were lots of men automatically asking me if I wanted to go to Huacachina, as it is a traveler’s destination, and they were all leading me to what I thought would be a taxi, but it was actually what they call a mototaxi, a three wheeled motorcycle with sides to it. It has room for the driver and you can fit up to four people in the back, but with more
weight, the harder it has to work and the slower it goes which I found out at a later destination when I took one with four people! There are many countries around the world that have these little mototaxis, but they may be called something different. In Thailand, they are called tuk-tuks and in India they call them auto-rickshaws. Either way, I thought it was so cute as this was one of the first times in my life that I had ever seen a small vehicle like that. I must remind you that this was one of my first times traveling outside of the United States. Prior to Peru, I had only gone to England, where my entire Mom’s family lives so it was a first time experience for me.
I was a little apprehensive at first as it was dark and I had no idea where I was going and I was putting my trust in this nice man. As we left the station, I could smell all the gas and oil and understood how it got the name tuk-tuk in Thailand because of the sound it makes! As we get further outside of town and start the journey between Ica and Huacachina, it begins to get really dark as there were no street lights between the two towns. It did make me a little nervous because I must remind you that I did not speak any Spanish at the time except a few saludos and some basic directional questions I knew how to ask. After a relatively quick trip I was relieved to arrive at the oasis. I had him take me to the hostel I pointed at in my Lonely Planet Travel Book called Casa de Arena (Sand House). Supposedly it was a backpackers paradise and it was very inexpensive. That was a plus for me as I was a college student on an independent study in Peru and had very little money. I checked into the hostel and there were a few people up and enjoying the night, but most were already sleeping as it was fairly late and so I tried being very quiet when entering the dorm style hostel.
When I woke the next morning, the first thing I wanted to do was to see what Huacachina looked like. It was so small that I quickly walked around the lake. There was a fog over the entire oasis, but I knew the sun would burn the fog off later that morning. It was such a cute little town and I was so happy that after seeing it on the back of the Peruvian 50 Nuevo Sol note and reading about it in Lonely Planet Guide Book that I was actually there visiting it. This was also my first time in a desert and I was amazed by all the sand and large sand dunes looming hundreds of feet over the oasis! I also loved that you could walk around some of the town in bare feet because there was sand everywhere and it was like you were at the beach. Many locals visit Huacachina as it is a little resort for local families to visit, but in recent years it has become a huge tourist destination because of the sandboarding on the sand dunes along with dune buggy rides.
Since I was broke at the time I wasn’t able to take a dune buggy ride, but I rented a sandboard and walked my way up to the top of the dune and boy was that a lot of work because every step up you took, your foot would fall half way back down under the pressure of your own weight. Once I got to the top I strapped on the sand board and pointed it down towards the oasis in the direction of my hostel and down the dune I went. I fell fairly quickly and got sand all over my body. I had been snowboarding before when I was younger so it was similar to that and I got the hang of it after a while, but the worst part is walking back up the dune. I absolutely hated that, but if I wanted to practice I had to climb back up to the top. Let’s just say I got lots of good exercise that day!
After many hours of trekking myself along with my sandboard up to the top of the sand dunes I was exhausted, not to mention I had sand in every part of my body and was ready for a cold shower to rinse all the sand and sweat away. During the day and in the evening I got to meet lots of other travelers from all over the world also staying at the hostel and I had a blast! Huacachina was great place to visit for my first desert experience and even though I had to move along to my next destination, I knew I would have to come back and visit again sometime in the future!