If you are in Peru and someone comes up to you and invites you to go sandboarding with him, don’t look at him like you both had too much to drink last night: sandboarding is not only a cool adventure activity today, but also one that Egyptians and Chinese reportedly used to practice over 1,000 years ago.
WHERE TO DO IT
In Peru, this is an especially awesome undertaking. For one reason because Peru is home to the largest sand dune in the world, the Cerro Blanco, standing 2070 meters above sea level. Since it is less likely that you will be able to say that you have climbed the highest mountain or traveled the seven seas, at least you have sandboarded the highest dune! Other sandboarding options include the dunes at La Huacachina de Ica or several along the coast of Camana, but trust us: if you are going to do this, go for the very top.
Peru Adventure Tours offers a custom sandboarding tour, complete with transportation in sand buggies and additional options, such as a tour of the dunes. The company is flexible in offering you a customized package, so shoot them an email, let them know what you want out of this experience, and leave it to them to plan something great. The prices are not outrageously expensive either: depending on what you want, the package will likely cost around $70 per person.
The most important part of the equipment is the sandboard, which is a little different from the snowboard you might know, mainly because the surface itself is different in consistency and texture. The base of your sandboard is harder and the laminex material it is made of makes waxing an absolute necessity before going downhill (if you take a tour package, you will be briefed on all this, but you will be an A+ student if you’ve read this article beforehand and come prepared).
MORE ESSENTIALS (AKA MUSTS)
- Go early: the main difference between sand-boarding and snowboarding (other than the obvious sand vs. snow) is the environment: sand=dessert=hot weather. So, if you are not on the dunes by 6.30 or 7 am, it will get too hot for you to do too many descends and it will be a missed opportunity. You will sleep when you are dead, anyway, as the song goes. Another interesting idea is in the late evening, once the sun has gone down: the lights from your sand buggy will create a unique experience on your way down.
- Go with the tour option or, at least, make sure you choose an option where a sand buggy regularly takes you to the top of the dune for every trip down: you will really appreciate this once you realize how much you would have to otherwise had to walk uphill.
- You pick up speed really fast: if you are a beginner, remember that falling to your side (on your backside) is always a great way to stop if you start going too fast. And the safest as well!
- Keep your clothing light: the weather will get very hot and the experience will definitely be more enjoyable if you are dressed adequately for this. That said, when you fall (for most people it won’t be a matter of if, but when) the sand is quite scratchy and uncomfortable, so you might want to avoid shorts. A pair of light cargo pants would be ideal.
Beginner or expert, however you get down the dune you can expect a fast ride down – faster than on snow! If you can’t stand up and board, an easier way is to sit on your bottom on the board, hold on to the sides, and ride it like a sled.WHAT TO EXPECT
Half the fun of sandboarding is getting there. You’ll feel like you’re on a real live roller coaster as dune buggy speeds up and down sand dunes, slipping and sliding at breakneck speeds. Fortunately the drivers are skilled and your likelihood of rolling is minimal, but even if it happens, you’re surrounded by a steel frame, so passengers are unlikely to get hurt.
Sandboarding is a truly unique adventure that you might want to try at least once in your lifetime. The fact that you are going downhill, but outside is hot and you don’t see white all around is only part of it. If you are deterred about going all the way to Peru for this (although, remember, it is the highest sand dune in the world), you can always try other locations, include several in the US (Arizona and California are a couple of good picks, with the likes of Yuma Sand Dunes, Carmel Beach or The Pit in