Tag Archives: Huacachina

Highlights of Latin America

I had such an awesome time in Latin America it’s pretty hard to pick out favourite moments. But I’m going to give it a go anyway. Here are the best things I’ve seen and done over the past six and a half months, along with links to what I originally wrote about them.

Favourite City: Valparaiso, Chile

Valparaiso

Runner-up: Guanajuato, Mexico
Hilly cities with lots of colourful houses are clearly the way to keep me happy.

Favourite Capital City: Mexico City

Mexico City Cathedral

Runner-up: Santiago de Chile
Quite a contrast here between enormous, chaotic, slightly crazy Mexico City vs Clean, calm, orderly Santiago. But I could live in ’em both, I reckon.

 

Favourite Food: Mexico
Runner-up: Peru
Best street food in Latin America from the Mexicans, whereas the restaurants were at their finest in Peru.

Best course: Learning Spanish in Guatemala
Runner-up: Learning to Dive in Honduras
Who knew learning could be such fun? Learning Spanish enriched my whole experience in the continent, and diving was way more fun (and way easier) than I ever thought it could be.

Favourite activity: Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru
Runner-up: Cycling tour of the wineries, Mendoza, Argentina

Favourite Hike: The Huayhuash Circuit, Peru

The Cordillera Huayhuash

Runner-up: The Lost City, Colombia
Again, quite a contrast. The Huayhuash took me to the most stunning mountain scenery I’ve ever come across, and was the toughest walk I’ve ever done. The Lost City was less visually appealling and easier on the legs, but made up for it by being with the best group of people I’ve me on the whole trip.

 

Favourite Natural Wonder: The Copper Canyon, Mexico

The road to Batopilas, Copper Canyon

Runner-up: The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Sorry Colca Canyon, you may be deeper but Mexico’s is way better. It also gave me my favourite journey, along the Copper Canyon railway. Meanwhile, Uyuni was like a trip to another planet.

 

Favourite off the beaten track place: Mexcaltitan

Calle Venezia, Mexcaltitan

I feel like a bad traveller. I was pretty firmly on the gringo trail the entire time. Except in Mexcaltitan, tough to get to, not a lot to see, but one of my favourite stops so far.

 

Best Night out: Sargento Pimientas, Lima, Peru
Runner-up: Mazatlan, Mexico
My last night in Lima was a chance to say goodbye to two good friends I’d been travelling with on and off since Colombia, accompanied by the best music I’ve heard in ages. Mazatlan on the other hand was an entirely random night out with three Mexican women who I was introduced to by a clown.

Favourite Beach: Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Tayrona National Park

Runner-up: Mazunte, Mexico
Sleeping in a hammock on the beach in Colombia was pretty close to paradise. Meanwhile the waves in Mazunte kept me entertained for hours.

 

Favourite Market: San Francisco El Alto, Guatemala
Runner-up: Oaxaca, Mexico
A pretty small hill town in Guatemala with the biggest, most sprawling market I’ve ever seen. Oaxaca was my favourite of the Mexican markets, especially for the crammed, smokey food section.

Favourite weird religious spectacle: Semana Santa in Guanajuato, Mexico

Semana Santa in Guanajuato

Runner-up: Meeting Maximon in Santiago de Atitlan, Guatemala
Catholicism may have its heart in Europe, but the way they do it in Latin America makes our version look pretty tame.

 

Favourite Country: Mexico
Runner-up: Peru
I’ve probably bored everyone I’ve met on this trip to death by going on and on about Mexico. But I don’t care. I love it.

Advertisements

Sandboarding at the oasis

As has so often been the case on this trip, it’s the unexpected pleasures that turn out to be some of the fondest memories. Huacachina is definitely a place to fall into that category.

Just south of Pisco along the Panamericana sits Ica, which is surrounded by a desert landscape with some of the world’s biggest sand dunes. Right in the middle of those dunes sits the little oasis of Huacachina, a pretty little lake surrounded by palm trees, a pleasant little promenade, a few restaurants and cafes and a handful of hostels and hotels. And that’s it. It totally lived up to my expectations of what an oasis should be like, and I could have happily spent days hanging around by the pool in my hostel, soaking up the sun, chilling out with a book and admiring the gigantic dunes that towered all around.

The dunes of Huacachina

The dunes of Huacachina

Unfortunately I had no time for that, as I was headed south in a hurry, so I had to make the best of it and jumped straight into the other thing that makes the place a must-see on the backpacker circuit: the sandboarding.

Dune buggies!

Dune buggies!

I must admit, much like the mud volcano in Colombia it was something I was doing more because it was there than out of any real enthusiasm. Yet again, I was more than pleasantly surprised. The trip starts off round the oasis as we all piled onto a dune buggy to drive us up to where we’d go boarding. But far from being a simple means of getting from A to B, the buggy was as much as part of the experience as the boarding was. Our guide drove like a maniac across the dunes, bouncing around across the sand, shooting up the steep slopes at a rate of knots and then plunging down the other side again. It made the average rollercoaster ride seem tame and I loved every single second of it. I was giggling away like a madman as we got thrown around at ridiculous speeds, and the thought we might turn over any second made it all the more fun.

Doing stupid things makes me very happy

Doing stupid things makes me very happy

After all that, I was worried the sandboarding itself would be a disappointment, especially as I’ve never snowboarded before (I wonder why they don’t do sand skis??). We started off with three relatively gentle practice dunes, which I went down standing up, snowboard-style. And I was useless. I kept falling off, and even when I did start to get the hang of it it was all pretty slow. So when we drove off again to the serious dunes, I was hoping for something a little more fun – and I got it. The fourth dune was stupidly steep and very high, and we were instructed to go down lying on the board, head first, and using our toes to brake with. It was awesome, flying down at a ridiculous speed, with the knowledge that it would soon even out slowing you down naturally. After that, we had three more, with the final one being the biggest of them all. Most people were gingerly making their way down standing up, but I was having none of that. I wanted one final adrenaline fix, so I jumped on head first, keep my feet firmly off the ground (who needs brakes?) and plummeted down without stopping. By the time I hit the flat bit I’d gained so much speed the board was bouncing up and down off the ridges in the sand like a thing possessed (leaving me with a lovely bruise across my pelvis) but it was worth every bit of pain. I was just gutted I didn’t have time to stay another day to do it all over again.

You can see all my photos of Huacachina here