Adventure Logs // Adventures in Peru - Part 2: Huacachina

A few weeks ago I (somewhat spontaneously) jetted off to Peru by myself to explore on my own for two weeks. It was my first time experiencing solo travel and it was such an invigorating adventure. I'll be sharing my experiences and photos over the next few weeks here on the blog and on my instagram. You can find part 1 here. 

Welcome to Part 2: Huacachina!

After my first day of travelling through Mexico City to Lima, I woke up early to catch a cab to the bus station. I was pretty sure that I could just show up at the station and buy a ticket. I was right! 4 hours later I was leaving the bus and was surprised by the thick heat and dust in Ica. Luckily cabs are extremely cheap in Peru, because getting from a hostel to a bus station or vice versa isn't an easy task by any other method! While travelling in Europe last summer I walked or took transit to most of my hostels, but that definitely wasn't an option here. It felt like such a treat that first day to walk out of the bus station and actually nod at one of the taxi drivers vying for your business saying - "Si!! Take me to Banana's Adventure in Huacachina". Huacachina is a teeny tiny desert oasis about 10 minutes outside of a bigger town named Ica. It's mostly a tourist destination - dune buggying and sand boarding is a main attraction and staying watching the sunset or sunrise atop one of the huge mountainous sand dunes is certainly a perk! I saw Peruvian school groups visiting Huacachina the days that I was there, sliding down the small hills surrounding the lake and paddling around the water on small boats. Seemed like a fun field trip :) 

I walked out of the bus station and another traveller had tried to take the same cab driver as me. I asked him where he was headed, and since we were going to the same place we decided to share. This whole experience during my first few hours in Peru made me feel a lot less concerned about meeting people and it was cool to chat to him while driving through the dusty town of Ica towards our hostel.

I had to wait a little bit to check in, so I chatted with other travellers and honestly just kicked my feet up. I was still in a go-go-go mentality from exam period at school and was trying really hard just to relax even though the idea that I had no idea what I was going to do or where I was going tomorrow was weighing pretty heavily on me. Banana's Adventure (the hostel I stayed at) was an amazing hostel with a lovely pool, and an outdoors common area with tons of plants and cacti, shade, hammocks and decor. Super dreamy and rustic-resort like (you'll see a few photos of the back entrance a little bit further down)! Once I was checked in I got changed and decided to take a walk around to explore the little town and check out the lake. 

I was told when I checked into the hostel that I wouldn't be able to go on the dune buggying excursion that night because it was full - but lucky for me there was one more spot last minute and I quickly grabbed my camera to take out into the desert! This was SO much fun. First off, it was absolutely stunning out there. I've never seen anything like it, sand for as far as you can see. Since we left in the early evening the light was gorgeous. Our driver took us up a hill and told us all "look over there, you can see..." and then we all SCREAM as our stomachs drop as we're heading straight down the other side of what I can only describe as a sand dune cliff. Screams turn to laughter as we all look at each other and realize what we're in for during the next few hours. Our trickster driver howled with laughter as obviously this was his favourite way of starting the tour.

Our little adventure in the desert wasn't just to dune buggy, but it was also to sandboard! Believe me when I say that when you're standing on the top of a mound of sand and looking practically straight down to the little ants of people at the bottom... it's scary. I elected to lay on my stomach (promised to have the least scary to most safe ratio) head first going down. Once I did it once, I was hooked! SO MUCH FUN. We drove around to a few different locations, and some people tried doing it standing up on a second smaller hill. In between locations and photo op-stops we continued to be propelled down hills and launched over sand-cliff edges. I tried to take photos going down a hill but it didn't quite work (included anyways!). 

As we were nearing the end of our tour we were told we had one last sandboarding opportunity left: the big one. I don't know about you, but something called "the big one" didn't make me feel that excited. Oh MAN. We watched as our driver looked around and around, my only guess being that he was trying to figure out where we were in relation to this "big" hill (weren't the other one's we've been doing big!?). Our buggy climbed up to the top of a rather unremarkable dune and we all got out. "Where's the hill?" Our driver pointed to the edge of the sand a few feet away. I walked over to what I thought was the edge, and my stomach dropped. There essentially was no edge - it was so steep and so DEEP that you can't see the bottom from where you start. You can only see where you're going once you propel yourself over into the abyss (okay, maybe that's a bit dramatic, but it truly was terrifying). The great thing about this section was that there was another group of eastern european tourists that had also come to this spot with their group at the same time, all aged 50+ (my group was all young people) that were truly STOKED about this hill and one by one we watched as these brave people willingly laid face down and got pushed over the edge. I find it funny now that all of us 20-somethings were too scared to go first and had to let the "adults" who seemingly had no fear do it. We could see their little bodies, the size of ladybugs as the hill scooped back up on the other side. They screamed and woo-hoo'd and I knew that I couldn't chicken out if these people more than twice my age were having the time of their lives and surviving this thing. I was so scared! Seems silly now, but would you willingly push yourself off an edge face first where you can't see the bottom!? But I did it! And it was so fun. I didn't get any photos of that last one because the driver told me to leave my camera and bag in the buggy to keep it safe! We got to peep an amazing sunset as we drove back to the oasis and stopped for some photos.

I ended up chatting to two women Irish doctors late into the evening about their schooling, their careers, travelling, and some advice for my trip. I had a brief itinerary in my head planned out by now (remember, I still haven't booked my next nights accomodation) and incredibly they changed my mind about somewhere I wanted to go, and instead I followed their direction! I'm so glad I met them because their recommendation ended up being a favourite part of my trip. I decided I would leave Huacachina the following afternoon, but decided to wake up early and hike to the top of the sand dune that was towering behind the hostel. I brought a mini tripod along on my trip to take some photos, so I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to try it out for some self portraits! 

Walking up that edge of the sand was dizzying - each side super steep if you look down. It was really hot by the time I was climbing up and I tried so hard not to fall! Turns out the way down from the edge once you're up at the top is straight down the other side, so I did this kind of step-surfing which was pretty fun once I got going.

I packed up my things and took a cab back to the bus station and onto my next destination for the day! Leaving Huacachina left me exhilarated - my trip was just beginning and already I was having the time of my life. A two hour bus ride took me to the small town of Nazca which will be where my next post picks up. See you there!