I try to hold on tight to the loop bars at the back of 4×4 jeep we were on but the large un-even size of the bars which are both larger than my grip were already a challenge. Besides, there was another person in front of me hugging the bar tight while screaming her head off. I let-off a scream as well as soon as I saw our way down the high ridge. Then it’s a strategic balance of rooting my legs inside the jeep to keep me from flying out as our jeep descends. The brief landing didn’t give us enough time to breath as our jeep make its way up the ridge and there are more ahead. Of the many times I’ve been to Paoay Sand Dunes in Ilocos Norte, it has never been this fun until now.
My boyish eyes were filled with wonder when I saw this wide expanse of dessert first time around when I was still in middle grade school. I strolled on it again early during the decade of 2000 many years after Tom Cruise carried his Guns here on 4th of July, various incarnations of Panday drew and clashed swords here and giant Mechas battle it out for glory. Cinematographers may have already played around the sands here, but it won’t be surprisingly long until the active adventurers turn these sand dunes as their playground.
Paoay Off Roaders and Adventure Group gave us a taste yesterday night of what to expect that morning so everyone was up and about ready for some adventure as early as 5am. But not without signing our wavers first as this activity has a degree of risk involved. Getting off from Mira de Polaris, one of the newest hotels in Laoag, we drove off just before the sun has gone up at the sand dunes. The guys weren’t there yet so we enjoyed the cool pastel morning at the Paoay Sand Dunes.
I have always thought that the stretch of sand here in Paoay would be really dramatic in good light and it does. Starting it soft with cool pastel hues painting the sky and the warm sands then shadows lending in a touch of mystery as the shadow stretches on the side of the ridges. There’s a small community up there as well who lives a pastoral life. The Sand Dunes of Paoay covers an area about 85 sq km stretching to both municipalities of Currimao and Pasuquin. National Committee of Geological Sciences considers this place as one of the country’s National Geological Monument.
Our small quiet moments with the sand were over as soon as the 4X4s arrived. It was a pretty straightforward drive climbing up a few exciting ridges until we reached a big drop where we stopped. This is where we would try the new sport introduced here which is Sandboarding. Inspired by the sport in Dubai, Laoag-Eco Adventure Development (LEAD) Movement introduced the sport in August 2009.
Mark Manangan of LEAD showed us the basics of strapping ourselves on board, mounting on the sand properly, where the base of the gravity should be on our way down. It’s is recommended to have rubbers shoes since it’s easier to strap and hold on to the board. Sandals are possible but it can burn up to your skin when the board gets hot. Mark then proceeded with his sandboarding.
It seems easy to see and some did made a finesse start while some found their face flat on the sand, nonetheless it was fun. I was there so I had to try it out as well. I’m familiar with boards since I used to skateboard and think it’s the same principle in balance. I strapped myself up and got ready. I mounted myself and then go. I started sliding down the sand and leaning my weight to my back legs as I descend. It wasn’t as fast as I would have liked it but it was still great.
As soon as everyone was satisfied with their sandboarding experience, we were on our way back and boy we were in for a surprise. Our 4X4 went down the high ridge where we sandboarding leaving any trace we had. But it wasn’t as scary as I thought when we got to the middle as it felt like were just riding down. But have I told you we have a pretty crazy driver on our 4X4 so on our way back instead of going through the paved way we took to the rolling ridges and were treated to one heck of a roller coaster ride.
By the end of the course everyone on our 4X4 was just exhilarated. It was really fun and the most fun 4X4 experience I had. Paoay Sand Dunes really have something going here and I can certainly recommend it. Among the old favorites site in Ilocos, this is one great addition to the region and also my favorite leg on our Lakbay Norte tour.
Paoay Off Roaders and Adventure Group
4 x 4 ride with sandboarding: P 1,000-1,500 per person
Contact Person: Gilbert Santos 0928-947-3518
Email: [email protected]
4 x 4 ride with Sandboarding: P 2,500/hr
Contact Persons: Glenn Guerrero/Reny Tan 0908-885-3669
Mira de Polaris
Dr. Gretchen / Francis Ranada
Ferdz Decena is an award-winning travel photographer, writer and blogger. His works has found print in publications such as Singapore Airlines’s Silver Kris, Philippine Airlines’ Mabuhay, Cebu Pacific’s Smile and Seair InFlight. He has also lent his expertise to various organizations like the Oceana Philippines, Lopez Group Foundation, Save the Children and World Vision, contributing quality images for their marketing materials.