Peru: Huacachina, Sandboarding in a Desert Oasis
Ask Gaia what her favourite part of our Peru trip was and she will 100% say sandboarding. Dune buggying on the other hand, well, she'll say that she didn't enjoy it but her delighted little screams would say otherwise.
Upon arrival we spent the first night in the city of Ica (Huacachina is pretty much a suburb of Ica). In the morning we visited a little zoo for about 2 soles (75 cents) that had most of the animals that we didn't see in the jungle. It was certainly not the nicest zoo that we've ever been too but it was decent if you have some time to spend in the city. I joked with Kyle that instead of spending hundreds of dollars in the Amazon, we could have payed less than 2 dollars to see the animals.
We also visited a museum which was full of ancient artifacts. There is even a room dedicated to mummies. When we walked into that room Gaia took one look before turning around and running out. The only way that I could get her to return was if I carried her so I ended up carrying my 6 year old through the display. Just outside of the museum was a miniature version of the Nazca Lines which we were able to admire, since we didn't visit the original lines. Can you believe that there is a highway built right through one of the geoglyphs?
A full day in Ica was more than enough time so afterwards we took a taxi to Huacachina. I had done some google searching beforehand and when I stumbled upon Desert Nights Ecocamp I knew that we had to stay there. It had some negative reviews such as "sand outside of rooms" (umm, hello, you're signing up for camping in the desert. If you didn't want to be around sand then maybe go elsewhere.) Another was "noise penetrates tents" yeah, it's a tent. Tents aren't exactly known for their sound proofing. With that in mind, we still decided to book and loved it so much that we stayed for a couple of nights. The facilities were clean and we had no issues with noise. The place pretty much cleared out at night despite the pool bar being open late. The desert really cools off once the sun sets. It also included breakfast and we were able to book tours right from the friendly front desk.
The evening that we went sandboarding excitement coursed through us. We sat outside giddily watching the buggy pull up. Since Gaia was little they strapped her in the middle and off we went. Within minutes we were whipping around the desert, then slowly climbing dunes not knowing when we'd drop over the top, and suddenly- there we were, rolling down the other side, little Gaia screaming beside me. After some time we parked on the top of a sand dune. Hopping out, the driver unloaded all of the boards and our group prepared for the boarding portion. I was surprised to hear the driver tell us that instead of actually trying to sandboard upright, we were going to go down on the board like a penguin. Racing face first in a giant sandbox at uncontrollable speeds was not exactly what I considered to be a good time, but I figured that I would give it a chance before I knocked it. My stomach twisted in knots as I lay on the board and down the dune I went. The guide had warned us all to use our feet as brakes. It was exhilarating and exciting. I actually think that I would have preferred it to boarding were I given the choice. Afterwards, the guide drove around with Gaia and picked us up, looking for a smaller dune for Gaia to ride on. I thought that she might be scared but when it was her turn she hopped right on without hesitation.
I was just about to ride down my next dune when the guide told me that Gaia could just ride my back. I was a little hesitant since the dune was even bigger than the one before and I had found it difficult to slow down. I didn't want to be responsible for throwing her off my back at so many miles per hour. He seemed pretty confident that it would be fine as long as I used my feet the whole time, so she climbed on and down we went. If I thought it was exhilarating going down solo, there's nothing like being responsible for another human while flying down a gigantic pile of sand with limited steering and braking. Luckily it all went find so we went off to find our next dune to conquer and a good spot to watch the sunset.
Gaia enjoyed the tour so much that she asked if we could do it again the next day but instead we went for a paddle on the Oasis and then a visit to the oldest winery in South America: Tacama. The boats were available for an hourly rate (you can bargain them pretty low) and the winery tour was a 20 minute ride outside of Ica. Tours are free and there are several a day. All you have to pay is the taxi ride to the winery.
On the last day we climbed the sand dune and did some yoga on the very top overlooking the desert and the oasis. It took us almost an hour to climb and about 5 minutes to run down but it was worth it.