We’re all familiar with skateboarding and snowboarding, but how about sandboarding?
Adrenaline-junkies and curious backpackers flock to the colossal sand dunes of the oasis town Huacachina for one thing and one thing only – to sandboard. I was the latter. The intrigue alone was enough to make me book a few nights in a hostel in the minute town to give the alternative action sport a go.
After a six-hour journey from Lima, arriving in the tiny Huacachina was a very surreal experience; a complete juxtaposition from the hustle and bustle of the urban metropolis of Peru’s capital. The rumble of traffic and colourful chaos of the city was replaced with the serene symphony of swaying palms in the desert breeze that surround the lagoon at the epicentre of the oasis.
It didn’t take me long to figure out why Huacachina is the perfect spot for sandboarding. Imposing sand dunes encircle the oasis like a city wall, with sandy peaks visible for miles around. The epitome of a desert scene, only the camels were missing.
I soon found out that ‘dune-buggying’ is half the fun of a sandboarding tour. The buggy zipped up and down the dunes at great speed, snaking through the glistening mounds of sand accompanied by the thunderous roar of the buggy’s engine, until we reached our destination – the top of a particularly big dune. Unclipping myself from the buggy’s harness, I felt as if I had been on a rollercoaster and boy was it a thrill!
The next hurdle was learning the technique. Having never snowboarded (the technique is very similar) it was challenging at first. And, unlike snow which is gloriously slippery, sand has much more traction so getting some speed up was an issue. The answer was to wax down the board thoroughly (a candle served the purpose perfectly).
I quickly got the hang of falling over and filling my shorts with sand. Not quite what I had in mind…Meanwhile my sandboarding-aficionado of a friend gracefully carved down the dune, gently spraying sand into the air at every turn.
Making it to the bottom of the steep dune (finally via my board, not my bum) was great – until I realised that unlike in ski resorts, there’s no way of getting back up to the top. Brilliant.
I justified my heavy breathing and aching legs, as I trudged back up the frustratingly unsteady sand, to the fact that the barren, undeveloped sandboarding slopes – in the middle of the vast desert – was what was so enjoyable about Huacachina. You are literally in the middle of nowhere, taking on nature. The adrenaline rush was worth it.
After an action-packed afternoon we headed back to the buggy for a shot of pisco whilst we watched the sunset. The cloudless, blue sky quickly transformed into an expanse of pink, mauve and eventually midnight blue; the blanket of stars beginning to twinkle as the sun melted into the horizon.
There really is something quite magical about the desert – the great, empty expanse of nothing but magnificent sand dunes. I know now why Huacachina is such a well-kept secret.