Imagine a true desert oasis. Miles of desolate sand dunes baking in the equatorial sun and then out of nowhere tucked between towering dunes springs a small lake surrounded by palm trees and greenery. This is Huacachina.
We heard of this place in Lima from people talking about sandboarding and we’re instantly sold. After a 5-hour bus ride to Ica and short taxi ride into the desert we came upon one of the most unique landscapes we have seen. Huacachina is small and we stayed in one of the handful of guesthouses that surround the oasis. It takes about 5 minutes or less to walk around the water and you quickly realize that everyone knows everyone in this community. Our dune buggy and sand boarding fun started at 4:30pm to beat the heat of the day and to catch an amazing sunset over the dunes. We were attracted by the thought of sandboarding but we were astounded, terrified, and thrilled with the dune buggy ride. They have big buggies that hold 14 passengers in rally car style bucket seats and safety harnesses. The roar of the buggy climbing a huge sand dune raddles your bones and manufactures an instant perma-grin, which turns into a scream as soon as it reaches the crest and descends to the steep unknown. It was like a roller-coaster ride without the guarantee of safety. After 15 minutes of stomach dropping sandy fun, we stopped to enjoy the scenery and started sand boarding.
It is possible to use a snowboard but the boards provided are true sandboards. These are the same shape and size of a snowboard but homemade from thick plywood with a white dry erase board style finish on the bottom. After we grabbed a board our driver broke two stick candles and gave us each a piece to wax the bottom of our boards before each descent. We had the option of riding down the slope laying, siting, or standing. Of course we took the latter option. Once waxed up and strapped in it is time to go. Sandboards don’t carve like snowboards so we just pointed our nose down and bombed the dunes. After we warmed up on the small dunes they took us to some huge ones with extremely steep slopes. We had a blast, ate some sand and experienced something we will never forget.
No Peruvian sandboarding experience is complete without a Pisco Sour to finish it off. Pisco is a local spirit distilled from wine and packs a 45% alcoholic punch. This national drink of Peru is delicious, and best drank on a hot day. Ica is in the region where most of the Pisco is made so we went on a vineyard/distillery tour. We visited two different wineries and experienced the grapes and process of production first hand. The process in these areas has not changed for well over one hundred years and we were shown a grape skin press and wooden screw used to operate it which was 158 years old!
We had a guide for the first vineyard who explained the process of making the wine, which they do drink, and then the distillation of the wine to Pisco, which they love. Of course no vineyard tour would be complete without a visit to the tasting room. The second vineyard we visited led us to a Pisco cellar/scary old museum. No tour needed only sampling the fruit of their labor. This vineyard turns into a discoteca at night and was all about consumption. Ica and Huacachina were an unexpected surprise and have inspired a love for Peru, which we can only hope, keeps growing.
Great pictures! Thanks for sharing! My co-worker’s family is from La Paz! She is so excited to hear you are there! She insisted I recommend you eat some “Salentas” and “Empanadas” while you are in La Paz! She said the Salentas are very much a La Paz food and each South American country has their own version of Empanadas! Of course she loves the Bolivian Empanadas the best! Also, her sister and brother-in-law live in Brazil, so she said she would give their address if you would like to visit them when you get to Brazil. These are great people!
I love you!