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March 2018, Huacachina – Peru
We reach Huacachina on a sunny afternoon. As soon as the bus stops, we get down in a scorching heat and realize we’re in the middle of the Peruvian desert! Who would have thought?
One local myth is that an Inca princess began to weep over the death of a warrior she was in love with. Seeing the warrior’s reflection in her mirror, she got scared and dropped the mirror, which turned into a beautiful lake. The princess turned into a mermaid.
Surrounded by endless sand dunes, here it is, lush and green, with palm trees and an inviting lagoon right in the middle: the oasis! That’s the only place you’ll get a little bit of shadow around here. Ducks and other small birds are pretty happy with it too.
No time to waste, we rush to our hostel and get ready for a buggy ride. If you don’t know what’s that, imagine a Mad-Max style roofless car with huge tires, designed for riding sand dunes.
From the terrace of our room, we can already see mesmerizing waves of sand all around. They are crossed here and there by what it looks like mad drivers and screaming people at the back of the cars.
Is it just the adrenaline sound? We’ll see.
Dune buggy ride
After a few minutes training of do’s and don’ts, we buckle up in the giant buggy. Feels like going on a rollercoaster ride. We’re a little bit scared and don’t know what to expect. The sand dunes are so high, that I can’t imagine how we’re gonna ride them without being turned over.
Off we go!
The ride starts slowly, but in a few moments we’re racing steep inclines at full speed and everybody is screaming all the way down. Up again, another bunch of screams getting down. Tons of itchy particles of sand are all over my face, making way into my nose and dry mouth.
The driver seems to be having so much fun. It’s his daily routine.
Finally, we stop. All our internal organs are twisted like hell. The dizziness takes over and we get down on sand, like vegetables. It takes a while until the neurons start kicking again.
It’s time to go sandboarding now.
What? How? Ok, easy. 🙂 We slide down on our bellies because no one in our group knows how to sandboard. But the hard part starts when you look down. The dune is steep, and it’s a loooong way till the end. Guess what? This is the smallest one, just to get used to the routine.
Stomach flat on the board, feet stretched and ready to be used as brakes, elbows tucked in, go!
If the dune buggy leaves you dizzy and motionless, sandboarding wakens up all your senses. Going down is crazy.
And just when we think crossing the other dunes is optional, the car is gone from where it left us. The driver is waiting at the end of the next 2 dunes!
We slide the dunes one by one, until sunset.
The last one is absolutely scary. I can’t even look down without getting goose bumps. It’s like 50 meters long and 45 degrees steep. Just knowing there’s no other way to get to the car, is hell of an incentive. The only one, actually.
We get back, not until reaching the best viewpoint that overlooks the oasis. We fall on the hot sand and watch the golden sunset.
What a day!
We arrive just when the pool-party is getting started at the hostel. Cocktails and raggae music are exactly what we need right now.
How to get here
Huacachina is 4.5 hours by car from Lima, and 11 hours from Arequipa. The local buses have the Lima-Ica or Arequipa-Ica route. From Ica town, you’ll need to take the taxi to Huacachina oasis, no more than a 10 minutes ride.
As we entered Peru from the south-eastern border with Bolivia, we came all the way La Paz – Copacabana – Puno – Cusco – Arequipa – Huacachina – Paracas – Lima, with Peru Hop bus company (the only one not stopping in Ica, going straight to Huacachina).
What to bring
- Cash (USD or Soles) – you can imagine how hard is to find an ATM in the desert
- Sunscreen – a sunscreen tube in the desert is much more expensive than water; bring one with you!
- Closed-toe footwear (NOT sandals) – for buggy riding or sandboarding
- Scarf – can protect you from sand, if you hold it over your nose/mouth when buggy riding
- Sunglasses – protect you from sand during the buggy ride
- Swimsuit & flip-flops – the hotel/hostel you’ll be staying at, will surely have a pool; if not, look for one, you’ll need it!
40 USD/pers/1 way (Arequipa -> Ica by bus + Ica -> Huacachina by taxi) or
25 USD/pers/1 way (Lima -> Ica by bus + Ica -> Huacachina by taxi)
60 USD/night/private double room
- Dune buggy and sandboarding tour (this was included in our room rate at Banana’s Adventure Hostel)
In January 2018 we booked one-way tickets, took our backpacks and left cozy old Europe, for (hopefully) the greatest adventure of our lives: South America. If you like our story, don’t forget to spread the word!
Happy travels and stay safe!