Riding a sand tsunami in Huacachina

10 Nov

We collapsed into a heap after climbing to the top of a 60 metre sand dune and paused to catch our breath. We stared in awe at the scene before us – immense, golden dunes and nestled in the middle a picturesque lagoon-filled oasis surrounded by palm trees. Huacachina was once a prestigious holiday destination for Peru’s rich elite, however, nowadays it’s a regular stop on the Gringo trail and an adventure theme park for international backpackers.

The uniqueness of this resort, just 5 kilometres from Ica, is celebrated by its appearance on the back of Peru’s 50 Soles bank-note. The permanent population is no greater than 200 but in holiday periods the resort swells – the rustic lagoon-side guest houses fill up, the bars rock until early morning and sand buggies hurl themselves over the dunes.

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From the shore of the lagoon, the style and sophistication of years gone by is clearly visible. Old but ornate buildings are framed by tropical palms and big, brightly coloured flowers in neatly manicured beds. In a wonderfully tacky contrast to the setting, we noticed a row of multi-coloured pedaloes moored on the far shore and a portly older guy renting out deck chairs – just what every glamorous resort needs!

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We’d tried sand-boarding once before whilst on holiday in Australia and although we were pretty bad at it and at times resembled ‘Eddie the Eagle Edwards’, a one time British ski jumper with the coordination of Bambi on ice, we absolutely loved it and couldn’t wait to try it again. Sand buggies lined the edge of the dunes and departed when full. Like on the roads in Peru, the drivers were certified maniacs and only knew one speed – fast! At least on the dunes there was no oncoming traffic and nothing to hit although our macho driver did seem to derive some kind of perverse pleasure by making the women (and even more so the men) on the buggy scream. The sensation was similar to that you might get on a Disney World rollercoaster – the excited anticipation as we climbed the side of an enormous dune, that moment when all you can see is the sky above, and then hurtling down the other side with your stomach still at the top – what a rush!

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Our hearts raced as we pulled up to the summit of a towering dune and our driver instructed us to jump out and select a board. Our first attempts to surf the sand tsunami were to be lying down on top of the board and diving forward on our bellies. When I tried boarding with the same style in Australia I managed to hit the only bush in a 100 metre radius and was sent flying across the sand, grazing my skin from my wrist to my elbow in the process… so I felt a little nervous as I straddled the 40 centimetre wide board and knelt down. Our driver, who had now become a boarding dude, held the head of the board in place and offered his words of wisdom: “Keep your mouth shut…elbows in…legs wide” and before I could digest his instructions he’d pushed me off and I was speeding down the slope. Now, was it ‘Elbows wide… and legs shut’? My terrified brain couldn’t compute. So I simply hung on for dear life and shrieked my way down. Gliding to a halt I smiled victoriously and crunched sand between my teeth. The dune looked even bigger as I looked back over my shoulder and as I moved out of the path of the next rider I hopped from foot-to-foot on the scorching hot sand.

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After everyone had taken their turn, the driver brought the buggy to the bottom of the dune and whisked us off to the next spot. After several more head first runs down the dunes we were feeling confident and brandishing around surf speak – “Totally bodatious man” and “Gnarly ride brother”…however, we were soon whimpering once more when faced with standing on the boards rather than lying on them.

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Some people made it all look so easy – gliding down the sand effortlessly and turning from side to side. We’d not considered our activity particularly carefully before embarking on it and we felt slightly silly trying to strap the board to our flip-flop wearing feet! The velcro straps weren’t in good condition so of course we blamed that and not our choice of footwear for our lack of skill. Again the driver cum pro- boarder offered technical advice: “Stand up and point your board down there”. ‘Thanks Pal’ we thought, ‘Do we look like we’ve got a death wish?’ We shuffled along on our bums rather ungracefully causing huge avalanches of sand in our path. On occasion we’d muster the poise to stand upright on the board, but as soon as we started to gather any kind of speed we’d take the split decision to bail out and throw ourselves back on the sand. Not great for the street cred, but at least the travel insurance was still intact!

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Resembling sand doughnuts and desperately in need of a shower, we climbed into the buggy and headed back to the oasis. We had the thirst of camels with empty humps and knew there was only once thing that would rehydrate us…yep, we’re so predictable…beer…but this time accompanied by a beautiful desert sunset.

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4 Responses to “Riding a sand tsunami in Huacachina”

  1. joanna November 11, 2013 at 1:11 am #

    Love it guys! We just finished up here and glad we survived. Even though you guys are far away from us now-we still stay connected! We cheers our beer o clock to you both! Xoxo stay safe in Venezuela!!

    • latinchattin November 12, 2013 at 1:36 am #

      You and Laurent are always in our thoughts and what a co-incidence that we posted about our sandboarding adventure when you were in Huacachina!! Glad you had a fab time and came out unscathed! ‘Salut’ and a clink of beer bottles to you both too xxx

  2. Mike January 14, 2014 at 10:05 pm #

    Hello Kate and Dan !!

    It was great to be into a part of your trip down there in Peru !!
    We had chance to “sand” the dunes with you !! You went the furthest.. England 1 – 0 France …

    Don’t know if we are the only one french guys to let you a comment ..

    Anyway, keep living this such great adventure, and thanks for everything.
    It was really nice to meet you there…

    Hopefully, see you donw here in Europe 😉

    Mike and Terell

    • latinchattin January 14, 2014 at 10:24 pm #

      Hi Mike and Terell! It’s fabulous to hear from you and yes you are the first French guys to comment on the blog so it’s a landmark day – big thanks. Really pleased you liked the post. It was awesome to share such an excellent adventure with you both and of course to take the lead for England! We’ve got to be good at something right?! Perhaps we can all indulge in something more sedate back in Europe – a night of French cheese and wine perhaps – mmm! Keep in touch. Much love, Kate & Dan x

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