I was in Huacachina, a small oasis outside of Ica, at the invitation of a friend. He was going to do an article on a sand boarding competition that was being held this particular weekend and he had asked me to go along and do the photography. I was certainly intrigued by the offer and accepted readily. We took a bus from Lima to Ica and a short cab ride later we were cresting the top of a large sand dune and driving down into the oasis of Huacachina.
It is a restful place with a lively night life for those who wish to enjoy it. There is plenty to do during the day, though. They offer tours of the desert by dune buggy in either large or small groups, there is swimming and boating on the small lake and plenty of restaurants and bars for drinks and eats. You can also rent sand boards and try boarding the dunes. I did not get a chance to try the sport but it looked and sounded like a lot of fun from the delighted squeals coming from those trying it.
The hotels and hostels range from basic to moderately luxurious and costs range just as much also. There were lots of families there as well as the backpacking crowd. Parents with children enjoyed the lake, swimming and taking the small paddle boats out onto the water. Others just enjoyed sitting in the shade of a palm tree enjoying a picnic and each other’s company. There is a large paved esplanade that runs around the lake which has benches for sitting and watching the people enjoy the water. The delicious smells of the cooking food coming from the small restaurants makes the mouth water as the delighted squeals of the children enjoying the day becomes music to your ears. The warmth of the sun on your face brings a smile of contentment and you realize that this just might be a little bit of paradise.
The International Sandboarding Competition itself was an exciting event. For those who aren’t aware of this sport, its just like snowboarding except its done on sand dunes. The competition consisted of three events; slalom, border cross and big air.
The slalom was a timed event with the winner being the person with the fastest time. The border cross was a race between two boarders with a jump involved at about the quarter mark on the race course. Big air involved jumps and tricks like forward and back flips with a few 360s thrown in. The young men involved in this event came from all over Peru and a couple other countries; from what I understand, Peruvians are the best in the world at this sport. There were also young women in the events and they had their own competition category as well, although there were a couple of young ladies who were easily as good as some of the guys.
Photographing these events was no easy task, as I had to take a lot of variables into consideration. They involved light, background, and position on the courses, trying to capture the thrill and competitive spirit of the boarders and the heat and constantly blowing sand. It was worth it, though, to see these remarkable athletes perform in a competitive format. I look forward to returning to the event next year and if any of you reading this article think you might enjoy watching or competing in the event, contact Martin Guerra.
For those just interested in visiting the oasis, going on your own is very easy, especially if you speak a little Spanish; otherwise, there are many tour companies offering excursions to Huacachina, including Martin’s. My journey there involved a S/.45 bus ride to Ica, a S/.5 cab ride to Huacachina, S/.20 for a hostel and about S/. 50 for food while I was there.
Huacachina is just one more in a pantheon of incredible places to visit in this unbelievably diverse country. It is definitely worth taking the time to divert your travels for a couple of days. Rest, relaxation and a little fun are the order of the day in this beautiful oasis in the desert.