Sunday, February 13, 2011

Ilocos Diary: La Paz Sand Dunes

A most unexpected invitation came from Pam Aragoza, owner of La Preciosa restaurant. After making arrangements with me for early lunch the following day, Pam asked if I wanted to experience a 4WD safari at the La Paz sand dunes with her husband’s non-profit adventure ecotourism club called Pinakbet, which stands for Province of Ilocos Norte Adventurers, Kampers, Bikers, EcoTourism.

When we arrived at La Preciosa, there were two 4x4s parked on the sidewalk. Deca, Pam’s husband, took the wheel of one, and Monching, Laoag City’s information officer, took the other. Together, we convoyed to the sand dunes, which was a mere 10 minutes away.

The terrain was undulating and, judging by the track marks, some daredevil stunts had been performed there. I began to doubt my decision but I had not heard of anyone getting hurt.

The group’s president, Mike, arrived in his own 4×4 followed by two others. I was assigned to ride with Mike and, before long, we pulled off the main track and began climbing the first of a series of monster dunes at what felt like a treacherous pitch. I looked suspiciously at one particularly track that dropped at a nearly 90 degree angle, knowing full well that escape was no option. True enough, Mike revved up to the crest of the dune, following a parallel but less steep trail. He tried twice but we couldn’t gain enough momentum to cling to the top so we slid down on both occasions. Mike found a less cumbersome trail and finally we were on top of what they had ominously called “devil’s drop.” Ready, asked Mike. I choked on my yes, and before I can say, para!, the 4WD took the plunge, and my heart with it. All I could manage was a scream but when I touched level ground I was swept with the elation of having survived.

When the guys had enough of playing, everyone gathered at the veranda, a flat, elevated area on the dunes that served as the perfect spot to enjoy the tangerine sun starting to dip on the shadowy waters of the China Sea. With perfect timing, Mike offered me a rousing shot of gin tonic and amaretto mix. A case of San Mig light was unloaded. Fried springrolls were passed around. We chatted gaily until the sun made a final curtsy and stars overran the sky.

Posted May 22, 2010 in travelswithgusto.wordpress.com

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