“We’re losing it!” I shouted in a mixture of excitement and panic as the 4×4 jeepney we were riding stirred dust across the vast arid land. The big ball of fire is slowly dipping in the horizon, and the sea pine trees — which under normal circumstances I would find delightful — were blocking the view. We’re losing it, I whispered again, this time in a tone that was coming from a place between sadness and frustration. We just lost the sunset.
But there was no time to be unhappy. The vehicle accelerated under the twilight skies, illuminated by the afterglow of the sunset that we just missed. The weak sunlight hurdling the horizon became our guide and there we were in the middle of a desert in Ilocos Norte, just about to start our sandy adventure. Up and down the sand dunes we went while we struggled to keep a good grip on the safety bars. Taking photos was a challenge because not only did we not have enough light, I certainly did not want to be in the the next day’s news about a blogger who accidentally and stupidly got thrown off the vehicle.
We were in the middle of Paoay Sand Dunes, one of the many thirsty lands in Ilocos. On the plane while approaching the Laoag runway, my eyes were treated to view of spectacular landscapes, which are patched with many mini-deserts. This place was one of those. Paoay Sand Dunes is an 88 sq km parched paradise that lies adjacent Suba Beach. It is one of the two most popular sand dunes sites in the province, the other one being La Paz in Laoag City.
Our vehicle slowed down to a halt on the peak of a sand wave. Our guide hopped out of the driver seat and asked who among us were interested to go sandboarding. I raised my hand like it had never been raised before! Never mind that I had never tried it, not even once. Never mind that I was wearing tight pants, which would get extremely dirty after. Never mind that I had just recovered from a terrible case of asthma. The desert be damned, I just missed the sunset and there’s no way I will miss this!
I got on the board, bent my knees to a fighting form, and slid down to the valley! But not before crashing. Halfway on the way down, I lost balance and faltered. Picked up the board. Climbed back up. Let’s try again! The second attempt was perfect. I reached the base of the sandy cliff without touching the ground! Ha! I was getting lost in the delusion that I was the best sandboarder in the world of all time ever ever ever when the rest of the group called us back up. It was time to get moving, for the light was dwindling.
No point of that ride was comfortable. When its gigantic wheels roll on the rugged terrain, we at the back of the vehicle could feel every muscle in our body tremble as if we were in those fancy massage chairs. The difference is, this was not relaxing at all. We needed to hold on for our dear lives for this one. It is quite funny that while I stood there, I had this awful feeling that my body would get sore that night (and it did) yet I wanted more — more dunes, more shaking, more sandboarding! The farther we got and the longer our ride went, the more I wanted to stay there. Alas, the dark was blanketing the desert.
How to get there: From Laoag, one option is to take a tricycle to Paoay Sand Dunes. Here, you may rent a 4×4 jeepney. The cost of the tour is usually P2500 inclusive of the ride, guide fee, and the use of sandboard. The jeep can carry up to 5 pax so you might want to divide the cost among the group if you’re part of one.