After our wine/pisco tours, Guillermo and Patricia deposited us at our hotel in Huacachina, which is an oasis a few miles from the city of Ica. I have read varying accounts of the legend surrounding the formation of the lagoon. All of them contain a hunter and a beautiful princess. In some, the princess is surprised by the hunter while bathing and runs away, with her bathwater forming the lagoon. In others, she is admiring herself in a mirror and when she sees the hunter, she drops the mirror, which shatters and turns into the lagoon. Sometimes, she ends up a mermaid in the lagoon, and sometimes any men who swim in the lagoon drown. In any event, Huacachina is a unique sight to see.
It takes about all of 5 minutes to walk around Huacachina and the main attractions are sand boarding and dune buggying. After sleeping off the wine/pisco tastings, we were game for a dune buggy ride. Patricia had introduced us to a guy she said worked at a reputable establishment, so we headed over there and paid our 80 soles (about $30). After we filled out a sheet with our name, age and nationality – but no waiver or disclaimer language – we followed the guy around as he negotiated with the drivers of various dune buggies to take us for our ride. Ultimately we ended up with Jesus (and who doesn’t want Jesus at the wheel?), but only after he asked us directly whether we had only paid 80 soles. Apparently Jesus thought the first guy could have bilked the gringos for more. As we were first in the buggy, we had our choice of seats and Matt chose the front row, which brought back memories of my cousin Sharon coercing me into the front row on Space Mountain.
We careened around town and pulled up at a hotel where we picked up the rest of the passengers, who were Peruvians at least 25 years younger than us. No matter, they loved that we were Americans and the guy in green immediately started to speak stilted English to us as his embarrassed girlfriend shushed him. We smiled, told her it was fine and chit chatted with the guy. Our celebrity was apparent when at the first stop they insisted on having us in their photos.
We zoomed up the dunes and I realized it WAS Space Mountain and these dunes were huge! The pictures don’t do them justice. I screamed like a ten year old and had to close my eyes when we swooshed down some of the higher dunes. It was exhilarating, and though I did question our wisdom, at least we were wearing seat belts.
It wasn’t just a roller coaster ride; it also was a sand boarding expedition. After about 15 minutes of bombing around, Jesus stopped and handed out snow boards. Matt was game, but I initially declined as learning to sand board did not strike me as ideal for my fused spine. Once Jesus started explaining the concept to the other passengers, and I realized that by sand boarding they really meant sledding, I was in. (Fused spine be damned; who wants to be the old fart? Although one girl declined the fun.) As none of these kids had ever been snow sledding, Matt quickly showed off his Midwestern roots and zoomed right by them. After an hour of alternating between tearing around the dunes and stopping to sled, we ended at a ginormous dune. I took one look and said no way. But when I realized that the alternative was to ride down in the buggy, I opted for sledding.
Poor Jesus. After being an excellent guide and a lot of fun, the day ended on a low note when we ran out of gas as the sun was setting. Again, I questioned our wisdom as we sat there, in the darkening desert, with Jesus futzing with the engine. Other buggies came by and the drivers appeared to be ribbing him, but eventually one stopped and another hot negotiation ensued as Jesus bargained for some gas. A price (we think 5 soles) was agreed upon and they siphoned gas to our buggy, allowing us to see the sun set over Huacachina. All’s well that ends well, and I’m grinning as I remember the sheer fun we had. But I still won’t go on a roller coaster!