Monday 20th Oct: We arrived in Huacachina.
Early Monday morning, our overnight bus pulled into the station at Ica and already it was baking hot. We caught a taxi straight to the small oasis of Huacachina, 5km out of town, where the huge sand dunes were to go sandboarding. We had a very friendly taxi driver called William (he didn't look like a William?!) who tried to sell us a wine and chocolate factory tour, whilst showing us a scrappy notebook of comments from delighted customers who had been on this tours. However, we weren't persuaded (despite the happy customer comments the photographs didn't look that impressive!) and got dropped off at a hostel we had been recommended in Cusco.
Ellie was ill and I was still half asleep from the journey, so we decided to splash out £8 for a private room. It was a small brick room with no windows (looked a bit like a prison cell), but was clean and much more comfortable than sleeping on an overnight bus.Ellie went back to bed for a few hours, whilst I took a look around the hostel. There was a small, smelly swimming pool (similar to those you can buy from Argos), a restaurant and lots of tortoises rooming around. Apparently, the hostel catered specifically for Israeli travelers and I soon realized we were the only English girls staying there.
Huacachina is a tiny oasis in the desert, with a lagoon and huge sand dunes looming up against the clear blue skies which were much more impressive than the sand dunes we'd seen in Florianopolis in Brazil. Neither of us were feeling well, so we decided to take it easy and book on the sand boarding the following day. I went to reception to book it, the staff were very friendly and told to me in broken English that I needed to speak to 'turtle' and explained with hand gestures that they meant thesmall, fat man with no neck which I found quite amusing.
There were no places to eat in Huacachina, in fact there was nothing to do in Huacachina other than sandboard. So that evening we had to travel back into Ica to get some dinner and went to a 'restaurant' recommended by the Lonely Planet.The Lonely Planet must really have been struggling for things to write as the food wasn't very good at all and quite expensive. The streets of Ica are swarmed with tuk tuks (scooters that had been adapted with carriages on the back to carry 2/3 people, most with boys which looked so older than 16 years old driving them) with very little else to offer. So we got a tuk tuk back to the hostel, which travelled about 2 mph along the dark highway surrounded by the sand dunes, but got us back… eventually.
Tuesday 21st October: Sandboarding!
At 4pm we got picked up to go on a sandbuggy tour and sandboarding amongst the enormous sand dunes, which was the only reason why we had gone to this tiny oasis in the desert… but, it was definately worth the visit! The sandbuggy picked us up outside the hostel, it held 8 people: 2 in the front with the driver and two rows of three in the back. As we were the last two to get picked up, we had to cram in the front. Poor Ellie was sandwiched in the middle with no seat belt and a huge gear**** between her legs! The buggy then took us right up into the dunes and all you could see for miles were the towering sand dunes against the clear blue skies.
The driver revved the engine as he sped up and over the dunes - sunglasses required! Everyone screamed as the buggy swerved up and down while Ellie struggled to film the whole thing on her camera. I couldn't help laughing every time the driver went to change gear (poor Ellie!) as Ellie clung onto me and her camera for dear life. The buggy then stopped in the middle of the dunes and we were handed a rather basic looking wooden sandboard and a piece of broken candle to wax our boards with and hit the dunes.You could either strap the board onto your feet or go down on your stomach. It was much easier and faster to go down on your stomach, although quite scary as you plummeted head first down a steep sand dune. Once over the initial fear, it was great fun and bloody hardwork dragging your board from one dune to the next - there are no chair lifts in the desert!
Ellie filmed me from the bottom of one of the dunes, and I nearly wiped her out, missing her by inches, while screaming obscenities as she still managed to catch the whole thing on camera (will upload video on facebook!). Then we got to the final sand dune - oh my god!!!! It was by far the steepest of them all and I was wondering whether it was a good idea to plunge head first down such a steep dune, especially with my new nose. Even, Ellie who is an experienced snowboarder looked worried, but it was too late to turn back the sandbuggy was waiting for us in the distance so the only way was down - eek!
I couldn't hang about and think about it, so I pushed myself off, screaming and dragging my feet all the way to try and slow me down. The rest of the group followed and exhausted we loaded our boards back onto the buggy, watched the sunset and returned to the hostel about 6pm - with sand just about everywhere you could imagine. We had time for a quick shower and dinner, before we boarded yet another overnight coach to Arequipa.