When I was a kid, I always looked forward to riding the giant slide in local fairs or carnivals. There was something about sliding down from such a height that was so thrilling. Another favorite was the roller coaster, with it’s slow uphill ascents, loops, lurches, and sudden drops.
Trying out sandboarding and riding a 4×4 off-road vehicle around the La Paz Sand Dunes during the Lakbay Norte 2 media tour earlier this year brought back the thrill of these childhood amusement park rides, but amped it up to the next level.
We got to the dunes in Laoag, Ilocos Norte mid-afternoon after our morning visit to Kapurpurawan Rocks in Burgos and a delicious lunch at Herencia Cafe. We took a quick ride up a steep incline which our guide told us with a wry smile was called “Devil’s Drop.” That in itself was very encouraging. From afar, the drop-off point didn’t seem so bad, but from the top, it looked pretty scary.
We were given two options – we could opt to slide down with the board strapped to our feet and surf the sand (like snowboarding or wakeboarding) or we could sit on the board and hold on to the sides to maintain our balance. Before each person rode down, the guide waxed down the board to prevent too much friction and ensure that the board would slide down properly. If you’re sitting, someone has to give you a little shove to set you on your way, while if you’re standing you can just maneuver yourself forward when you’re ready.
Shredding the dunes is not as easy as it looks. Unless you have an excellent sense of balance or a natural skateboarder or surfer, you’ll probably fall on your first try, but that’s just part of the fun. Falling doesn’t hurt at all and the sand was surprisingly soft (it hurts more to fall on water if you’ve tried surfing).
Izah of Tripadora and Brian of Manila Bulletin.
I fell several times going down the first time (thankfully photographer Roland Fontilla of Imagineer Digital was able to snap a shot of me standing in between all of the semplang shots, so I look like I actually made it all the way down.) However, after you get the sense of the board and how to keep your balance, you’ll find yourself (hopefully) surfing the sand smoothly down.
While the ride down was a blur and over in seconds, the real challenge was climbing up again to bring the board up for the next rider. I was out of breath going up and my shoes were heavy with sand. Others advised using the board to dig into the sand going up, which was a big help.
After another slide down (this time in a sitting position, which was even faster than sliding down standing), I decided to try out the 4×4 off-road ride. With its sloped terrain, the wide expanse of the dunes is perfect for this extreme sport.
For those who have never tried riding a 4×4 vehicle, I would say it’s like being a aboard a crazy roller coaster, except there’s no track and you’re not strapped in. Think of the dunes as the huge playground of a maniacal driver who thinks he’s in Gran Turismo. This is one of those times I recommend you don’t bring a camera because it could get seriously damaged if it hits against the jeeps railings or walls.You will also be needing the full use of your hands (and arms) to clutch to the rails so you don’t get thrown off the jeep.
The screaming started as soon as the jeep accelerated quickly down the hill, kicking up sand from its wheels. The rugged vehicle sped over the rolling hills, and the scenery just whirled by at breakneck speed. At one point, the driver drove up a steep hill, then suddenly stopped. We all breathed a sigh of relief and paused to catch our breath. Then, he let go of the brake and let the 4×4 fall in reverse, as we went back to screaming our lungs out. It was the best adrenaline rush I’ve had all year.
The crazy ride continued around the dunes until we reached a high vantage point, from where we could spot the ocean. Our driver finally stopped for a few minutes to let us admire the view before we made our way back to the rest of the group sandboarding. As the sun set, we had to head back to reach our dinner appointment. Some opted to ride the 4×4 going down to where the van was parked, while a few of us were left to ride the remaining boards down. If you’re an adrenaline junkie or just want to try something new, I highly recommend heading up North to try this. 🙂
- According to BlauEarth, the best time to try sandboarding is early morning (before 10 am)or late afternoons (after 4 pm) because the sun can get really harsh around noon.
- There are times when you are torn between taking photographs to document an experience or just enjoying the experience. I think this is one of those times that it’s best to just shoot as quickly as possible, then keep your camera in a safe place and enjoy the ride.
- Dress for the outdoors. Wear shorts or pants and shoes suitable for hiking up the sand, like mojo sandals or rubber shoes. Others opt to ride barefoot.
- Bring water, as the combined heat, exertion of climbing up the dunes, and constant screaming from the 4×4 ride will leave you very thirsty. There’s no place to buy water nearby, so be sure to bring a bottle or two (per person) for the afternoon.
- Sandboarding costs P2,500 for one hour, maximum of 4 persons per jeep. LEAD Movement’s sand adventure package includes the 4×4 adventure and sand boarding.
For sandboarding and 4×4 adventure tours, contact the LEAD Movement, the group that has pioneered sandboarding in Ilocos Norte:
+63 (77) 772 0538
+63 (919) 873 5516
NOTE: This activity was sponsored by Flying V as part of the Lakbay Norte 2 Media Tour organized by the North Philippines Visitors Bureau (NPVB) and Manila North Tollways Corporation (MNTC).