The desk clerk at the Hostel Curasi slowly turned the pages of the notebook with the sample photos of the dune buggy rides. We had arrived in Huacachina, checked into our room, dropped our bags in the room and immediately returned to the front desk. The first and only thing on our agenda was a “white knuckled roller coaster ride” with one of the dune buggy tour operators. I had read that description in an article in Living in Peru and wanted to see if the description fit. Amanda was game too and we were both excited about seeing the desert in all its glory. On the final page the photos of glorious sunsets on the dunes made our decision for us. We picked the 4:20pm tour.
That gave us a little more than an hour to enjoy the Sunday afternoon spectacle of Huacachina. People strolled the walkway surrounding the lake; some picnicked while others lay napping on the beach or in the shade of the stately royal palms. A few adventurous sorts paddled small boats around the small spring fed lake to the delighted squeals of their children. The whole scene reminded me of a Georges Seurat painting. We took our time walking around the lake, stopping frequently to take photos or soak up the scenes before us. A small monument with the bust of an elderly woman told us that the mineral waters of the lake had curative powers. The restaurants were just emptying from the lunch crowd and vendors lined the walkway selling souvenirs, jewelry and other trinkets. Soon enough it was time to head back to the hostel and begin our desert adventure.
Back in the lobby, we only had to wait a couple of minutes before a representative came and walked us to the vehicle that would be our ship of the desert. I quickly took the front seat as it obviously had the most leg room and settled in. Amanda took the seat behind me, which gave us both outside seating. The buggy filled up with passengers, our driver settled in and off we went. When we approached the entrance to the desert area, we joined a line of other vehicles ready to thrill their passengers. From the moment we started up the first dune I knew it was going to be exciting. Screams from some of the young ladies behind me put a smile on my face. We flew over the dunes, racing up the sides of the monsters only to barrel down the steep incline on the other side. Sharp turns on the sides of a few of the dunes gave us the feeling that we might flip over and roll down the dune out of control. It was exciting, a total scream fest for some and there were a couple of white knuckled moments for me. They occurred mostly when the other passengers had sand boarded to the bottom of a dune and the driver and I went down to pick them up. I think he was intentionally trying to get a reaction from me. He succeeded on two occasions.
As I mentioned briefly, part of the dune buggy experience involved sand boarding. We would stop at the top of some of the highest dunes and the passengers would select a sandboard provided by the tour company. The drivers then instructed the passengers to lay on the sandboard for the ride to the bottom of the dune. Naturally, more screams and squeals could be heard on quick slide to the bottom. Amanda loved both experiences, telling me that they were two of the most exciting things she has ever done. I passed on the sandboarding. My goal was the buggy ride and to enjoy the sights and feel of being surrounded by an ocean of sand.
As the others took their turns boarding, I walked away to try and hear the sounds of the desert. A steady breeze caused the light grains to float across the surface. The rough sound as they scraped against each other reminded me a friend working in his wood shop as he sanded the wood. I watched as the footprints of man disappeared before my eyes. I looked out towards the horizon. The dunes stretched as far as I could see, waves in a dry ocean that carried no sailing ships. I tried block the sounds of people, the sight of their leavings and feel what it must be like to find yourself stranded in a place like this. We are water based beings; this environment is anathema to us. Despite the bottle of water that I knew waited for me in the vehicle, a great thirst came over me. This desert is beautiful, that dangerous kind of beautiful that will harm or kill you the minute you let your guard down. It is a place to be admired and respected. I wanted to stay.
All too soon the sun began its descent behind the majestic dunes. Our driver took us to one last spot for the sunset photo op. It did not disappoint. Twenty minutes and many photos later we piled back into the buggy for the trip back into Huacachina. A final stop at the crest of the large dune that bordered the oasis for photos and we descended into the oasis. It was well worth the S/.35 we paid for the experience.
After freshening up a bit, Amanda and I headed out for a late dinner followed by a stop for drinks at the Hostel bar before heading back to the room. Our bartenders, Yoship and Luis, entertained us for a few hours while we enjoyed some fine Pisco. It was a perfect ending to an amazing day. The next morning we headed back into Ica and caught our bus back to Lima. I couldn’t have asked for a better weekend. The entire experience was exactly what I was looking for. I hope these four entries to my webpage encourage you to come to Peru and experience these things for yourself.