Under the Incan Sun: A Morning Workout and Photo Session in Huacachina

The goal was to be out at the crack of dawn, when the desert air is at its finest. Due to evening food and internet complications, a whole other story, I got to sleep a bit later than planned.  My body clock finally forced my eyes open just after the sun began its ascent.

I was out the door at 6:25 and on the dune at 6:4o.

The air was crisp.  The hill still sat in the shade, away from the sun’s glare.  I plopped my feet into cold sand.  This was a first.  The smooth chill caused a tingling feeling.  I thought: This is natural reflexology.  The intense sensation faded quickly after getting used to this new earth’s embrace.

For the first half of the hike I was in a gigantic shadow.  Ahead of me was a natural tan line separating the shade from the sun.  As I moved towards it, it moved towards me, on this staircase made of sand.

For the first 10 minutes I needed to stop and rest a couple of times.  Dormant leg muscles  hinted that they hadn’t been utilized before.

By the time I’d reached the sun and sand’s tan line, I’d achieved a groove.  I stopped for my hat and shades, took a sip of water and was off to complete my mission; to get to the top and complete a fantastic exercise session.

Pulling your feet out of the sand while pushing them upward, is an endeavor.

I thought:  Breathe the clean desert air, in and out.  Feel your lungs. Take consistent steps.  What a great cardio workout.  I love this!

39 minutes after I’d started, I reached the top.  As it was about 7:25 am, I only saw one other person, a sand border who was practicing jumps and maneuvers.  Other than him, I was alone on the summit.  I thought: It’s just me, giant sand dunes, and the brightening ancient sun.

While hiking, sinking and inching upward, and after I reached the top,  I managed to take a bunch of photos.  Here are the ones that I’d like to share.


                             See just how deep your feet will sink into the desert sand.

Looking down at one stage: You can see that the sun’s tan line is pushing to the bottom. I was making my way in the opposite direction towards the top.

This is a view of Huacachina from about three-quarters of the way up the dune, a bit higher than in the last pic.  At this altitude there was much less trash compared to farther down.  A local man told me that the government doesn’t do anything to help keep Huacachina clean.  He said that once in a while he and other locals get together and engage in trash clean up.  He agreed with me that the village is over touristed.  At the same time he made it clear that the pros outweigh the cons.  Almost everyone in the village makes their living off of tourism.

                                         Another village view from the steep, soft dune.

   Sandborder prepares for a run under his bright Incan sun.

Morning dune panorama

            Once you’re at the summit here’s a nice makeshift path for dune strolling.

                                                   Whimsically precipitous sand formations

–   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –   –

Can you think of any cool or alternative workout opportunities?  Feel free to leave a comment below.


10 responses to this post.

  1. Fantastic images ED 🙂


    • PINKY: Thanks! That’s quite the compliment from someone who takes such entertaining and wild shots. I think the key ingredient to the above shots is that they were taken within an hour of sunrise. The crack of dawn is on tomorrow’s agenda too.


  2. Awesome! Is that the whole village, nestled between the dunes like that? Crazy. What a beautiful, though arduous, morning hike 🙂


    • SARAH: Thanks! Yes, that’s basically the village. It’s the only oasis in South America. The city of Ica 250k inhabitants is only 5 km away. There are some homes scattered around on the way. There’s also a shanty-looking village that I could see from the top of the dunes. Yes the hike was arduous because I’m not used to it. It took a little time to get that extra wind going, but once I did, it felt great. The morning is the best time. The dry sun beats down pretty hard by noontime. After 3pm and towards sunset is a bad time because that’s when tourist-filled dune buggies are flying around.


  3. Absolutely beautiful pics; must be amazing to be there and see this in person. The second one from the bottom is my favorite – I wish I could see it larger!


    • ADIRONDACKER: Thanks! Yes, I also find the place to be amazingly exotic. I don’t know what happened to that photo that you’re referring to. Was strange that it didn’t enlarge. Anyway, I’ve fixed the problem and now you can click and see an enlarged version of that photo.


  4. Posted by Al on May 17, 2012 at 00:52

    Awesome pictures. I´m really curious about how those dunes stay put -I know most are supposed to mover over time- but not these, obviously, or the village would be buried. Did you ask the locals about that? I also wonder what kind of economy the village subsists on… or did, before tourism, I mean.


    • AL: I asked a local if it was bad for the environment, especially the dune buggies that lug tourists around the dunes in the afternoon. My reply was that yes it’s bad but the money brought in from tourism outweighs the negative effects placed upon the environment. My guess is that these sands shift over time, but slowly enough where it’s not so noticeable in a lifetime.
      Economically, Huacachina is only 5 km from the city of Ica (population 250k), so my guess is that their economic well being is/was tied to this city. Before tourism, my guess is that the people of the village scraped by/lived hand to mouth like so many still do throughtout the land/the world.


  5. Posted by Annie on May 16, 2012 at 17:06

    Wow! Gorgeous photos! Love the top one with the reflection. I’ve never had the pleasure of hiking up a desert sand dune. How high is it? So steep too! Did you imagine how it would feel if you slid down it? 🙂


    • ANNIE: When I saw that reflection photo before taking it I couldn’t believe it. I thought that photo opportunity was amazing. There’s a reason people get up super early to take photos. 🙂
      The dunes are about 300 feet or 91 meters high. What makes it such a workout is because you sink into the sand, making it a challenge. As for sliding down, it’s really impossible, you can just fall into the sand and you won’t move very much. Going down is fun, fast and very easy.


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