Another weekend = another adventure to plan, but with only a small amount of time left in Peru we had to pick our destination carefully. A few of our friends had mentioned Huacachina and after doing a bit of research we gave it the old ‘thumbs up’ and headed down to the bus station to book our (18 hour!!!) journey there. Nobody had raved excessively about it, and everyone said 2 days was more than enough but boy were they wrong! None of us wanted to leave, it was the best 2 days of the entire trip so far and now we’re all checking funds and time schedules to see if there’s any way we can make a return! Check out our Huac-adventure here….
We were dreading the journey, that’s for sure. We’d all suffered on our 7 hour Lake Titicaca bus so an 18 hour ride made us all shiver at the thought, but it turned out to be absolutely fine with just a minor glitch. The seats were super comfortable reclining beds, there were barely any other passengers on board and we got served FOOD!
The only problem we encountered was an hour delay at the police station because a woman had her camera stolen on-board. Now, theft on these night buses is not uncommon but the fact that the police make more of a deal about a missing camera than they do about road traffic accidents definitely sums up the Latin American justice system. The best part was that their idea of an ‘effective search’ involved walking around to everyone and asking “do you have a camera?” if the person replied “yes” they were asked to show their camera but if the person replied “no” then the police just moved on…. Pretty sure the culprit would have just said “no”. To top it all off there were two shady looking guys who shot out of their seats when the police came on board before over-exaggerating their search: looking under every nook and cranny with a flat hand above their eyebrows for added emphasis. I think even my limited detective skills could put 2 and 2 together to realise that they were guilty. Ah well!
When we finally arrived in Ica, we booked our return ticket and then hailed a taxi cab to take us to Huacachina for just 5 soles (£1). After just a few minutes we could see miles and miles of sand dunes – we had officially made it to the peruvian desert!
Huacachina is a tiny oasis town in the middle of the sand dunes and when I say tiny, I mean it! You could walk from one end of the town to the other in about 10 minutes and I think there’s a population of just 200 people! A small slice of paradise in Peru.
People had recommended a hotel called ‘Carola del Sur’ for us to stay in but we found a great hostel with a pool and a nightclub called ‘Casa de Arena’ which was perfectly sufficient for us. We even managed to bag an 18 bed dorm room just for the 3 of us for 15 soles (£3) what a deal (even if there was no lock on the door).
We caught a few hours of precious tanning time before heading off into the desert in a dunebuggy for the main part of our adventure. The dunebuggy was an experience to say the least – I don’t think I have ever laughed so much in my life, we were thrown all over the place and driven over huge dunes at ridiculous speeds… thank goodness for the sturdy seatbelts!
We arrived in the middle of the desert, made the most of the ‘iconic’ photo opportunities and then started to wax up our sandboards and prepare for the adrenaline rush. Sandboarding in Huacachina is a series of about 7 different dunes (all different sizes) which you can go down however you choose to, although they do get steeper and steeper! Me and Ali have experience in surfing and snowboarding so it came a bit easier to us but Vicki, who has been a devoted netball player for too long now, found it a little harder to adjust… In fact, we have an excellent video of us chanting “come on vicki you can do it!” before she trips mid-dune, realising her legs were binded to a board and smacks her face off the floor. Genius. So much respect to the gal for giving it a go though!
Eventually the dunes got too steep for all of us, and we were told not to go down on our feet because the bindings weren’t strong enough and our legs would break in an instant – lovely. So the only other option – belly slide! I actually thought this method was 10x scarier and faster than having the control (or in Vicki’s case, lack of control) of our feet. When you reach the bottom and look up at the HUGE height you’ve just slid from it’s pretty daunting but makes you feel like you’ve acomplished something superhero-worthy (even though in reality youve just slid down some sand on your stomach)
We watched the sun set over the oasis and then embarked on the final dunebuggy ride to our hostel. Despite every single part of us being covered in sand, the super harsh wind and having to walk up near-vertical dunes whilst our feet were sinking into the sand it was way more fun than any of us anticipated it to be. Indescribable!
Over the weekend, there was plenty of time to top-up-our tans, eat good food and play in the pool. We wanted to soak up the sun and the warmth, seeing as that’s a rarity in Cusco. We tried the nightbclub, but found that a room full of peruvian 12 year olds grinding wasn’t exactly for us, so we hiked up the dunes in hopes of seeing some stars instead. Sadly, it was a cloudy night but the view of the town and the lights and reflection on the oasis was just as good.
We met a few cool people, english and american travellers etc, but my favourite person was easily Eduardo from Ica, a peruvian man I met at our hostel. I think I ended up speaking to him in spanish for FAR too long whilst everyone else was in the pool or on the sunbeds wondering why on earth I was choosing to chat to a 50 year old man instead of joining in the fun. I gotta admit though, it was interesting! And once again, my spanish was pushed to a new limit – that’s what I’m here for isn’t it? Eduardo is a public speaker who works closely with the Minister of Education in hope of improving the schooling system in Ica, Peru. As I’ve been working in a school in Cusco, we had a lot to talk about. How to provide sufficient training for the teachers, correct discipline for the kids, what age education should be mandatory until, how much money should be spent on learning materials etc etc. Looking back on the conversation, I can see why he was impressed with my spanish. I wouldn’t have ever thought I was capable of discussing such in-depth stuff in english never mind a foreign language, but hey that’s the beauty of stepping out of your comfort zone – you always surprise yourself!
Overall, going to Huacachina was one of the most exciting, funny and worth-the-money things I’ve done in Peru – so if you happen to be around, get booking your trip. And don’t make the same mistake as us: make sure you go for longer than 2 days! The weather, the people and the activity options make it totally perfect for a week-long-break!