In Arequipa we discovered what the phrase ‘rainy season’ really means in South America. It means if you’re outside when it starts it’s like standing underneath a waterfall, and in 20 minutes every street in town has become a river. So if you’re on the pavement you’re getting wet from above and splashback from every car that passes.
Maybe this was what made us decide to take a break somewhere warm. Maybe it was, maybe it wasn’t – I don’t remember, but it turned out to be a damn good idea wherever it came from.
An overnight bus ride took us to the desert town of Ica, and a 20 minute taxi ride took us to the small oasis of Huacachina. My first thoughts were we just walked into a tourist trap, with hostels, internet cafes and pizza restaurants around a man-made lagoon. But in Peru, even the tourist traps aren’t really that bad. Especially when you add a sandboarding tour to the equation.
We jumped in the dunebuggy (click the pic below of me posing like an imbecile in the drivers seat) and we took off. Our driver was a squat, bald man in his 60s nicknamed ‘Schumacher’s dad’, and he lived up to his name by driving up and down the dunes like a lost F1 driver searching frantically for his track. Some of the ascents and descents were near-vertical but this wizened In the process I think he realigned my spine as I couldn’t lie on my left side for a week afterwards.
It was great fun at the time though and even more so when we finally got on the boards. I’d never tried sand-boarding before but I’m reliably informed it’s a bit like snowboarding. We were all given a piece of a candle to wax our boards, so they glide over the grains, rather than stick. On the first few runs I spent most of the time on my arse, but after a while I did manage to stand-up for a few exhilirating seconds. You can also lie on the board on your front for a straight and speedy way down, with the added bonus of it being very difficult to fall off.
I never expected such a rush from a slab of wood and several mountains of sand, but I highly recommend it as a different way to spend a day. As the sun set over the Peruvian desert in a mutli-coloured mix of reds oranges and blues, we sped down the final king-sized dune and drove back to Huacachina still buzzing.