Hey! I traveled through Peru and Bolivia in July/August last year with 2 of my friends. After staying in Lima we took a bus to Ica instead of going straight to Cusco in order to go sandboarding for the afternoon.
I have to be totally honest, I don’t know that much about the city of Ica and what there is to do there as we only came and had time for one thing – Sandboarding! However, I will relay to you a few facts that I just read on Wikipedia for your info..
The city of Ica is the capital of the Ica Region in southern Peru. It was founded in 1563 by Spanish conquistador Gerónimo Luis de Cabrera. As of 2005, it had an estimated population of over 219,856, however, the city suffered extensive damage and loss of life during the 2007 Peru earthquake.
Ica and surrounding areas are the traditional source of Pisco brandy. Ica is home to Museo Regional de Ica, a local museum with many exhibits. On display are pre-Columbian mummies with elongated heads bearing evidence of trepanning. There are also furniture, paintings and artifacts from the Spanish colonial era.
Ica is an important agricultural region, where grapes, cotton, asparagus, olives and other produce is cultivated. It is known by Peruvians as the land of the sun, and although there are the 4 seasons, the warm dry climate makes it feels like summer year-round. Natives also claim the climate of the city can help in the curing of asthma. One more random fact that I just found; “In 2007, a prehistoric penguin, Icadyptes salasi, was found there. It was said to be around five feet tall”. 5 feet tall!! imagine walking around with 5’ penguins everywhere!!
Anyway, it takes about 4.5 hours by bus to get from Lima to Ica. We took a taxi straight from Ica bus station to Huaccacina. Huacachina is a tiny oasis town that’s basically a collection of resorts and restaurants around a blue-green laguna surrounded by huge sand dunes. The perfect place for Dune Buggying and Sandboarding!
We didn’t want to stay the night there cause our time was limited and we wanted to head on to Cusco that night but we managed to find a hotel where they let us leave our rucksacks because we booked the sandboarding with them. We booked to go two hours later so we had time for lunch however lunch might not always be a good idea before going on the dune buggies sandboarding if you have a sensitive stomach!
We all piled into the buggy and before we’d even left the village the driver suddenly stepped on the gas and we accelerated soooo fast and proceeded to speed up the first dune. As we got to the top the driver slowed but before we could say anything we realised that we were speeding down the dune on the other side – all we could do was look at each other and laugh uncontrollably! Things continued like this for a couple of minutes and then the desert levelled out and we could take in the stunning views. The perfect (except for a few tyre tracks in places!) yellow sand against the clear, deep blue sky made for some great pictures..
Time for the sandboarding.. We were handed basic wooden boards and some grease. After preparing them it was our choice whether to stand up or go down on our fronts. I haven’t been snowboarding before so I opted for the belly method but I reckon even if you’re an experienced snowboarder it’s more difficult to use that technique on the simple wooden boards! Anyway, going down on your front is scary! You’re so close to the ground that it feels very fast! Our driver broke us in gently though, we started on relatively small dunes and by the end they were huge! A great memory I have is of our group standing at the top of a relatively small dune and one guy, Travis, deciding not to check what was behind the small peak at the bottom and to continue without stopping, hoping for the best! We weren’t sure if he was really going to do it, we tried to dissuade him but to no avail. He went first and when he disappeared over the edge of the first dune, his girlfriend looked extremely worried. She called him but nothing. We all went down the first dune and couldn’t believe it when we saw the sheer size and steepness of the next one! Luckily however, Travis had seemingly arrived safely at the bottom as he had just started heading back up towards us!
The rest of the group were still terrified and we all tentatively descended the giant dune, digging our feet into the sand as deep as possible to slow ourselves! Scary but very fun!