A Solo Traveler’s Sand Dunes Experience

La Paz Sand Dunes verdict: Solo traveler friendly destination! (provided you talk to the right people)

For the record, this is my first haphazard trip, ever. In fact, I planned to not plan this time for the purpose of just going with what comes up and to experience the thrill of not knowing anything about where I’m going to but then anxiety kicked in and I couldn’t help but browse a bit about my next destination: Ilocos Norte.

While on duty in San Nicolas, I had the chance to ask a few people about which sand dunes is better: La Paz Sand Dunes in Laoag or Paoay Sand Dunes. La Paz seemed to be favored by the locals so off I went. But before that, I had to browse my Facebook to search for tour operators. I found a few and contacted them one by one but they couldn’t seem to accommodate a single guest. A trip around the sand dunes would cost 2,500 pesos good for five persons already. Obviously, I cannot shell out that huge amount for a 4×4 experience but I really wanted to try. Luckily, there’s this guy, a tour operator whom I spoke with. He gave the number of one of his drivers. I then called him up and asked if he could squeeze me in one of the groups he would take for a ride. After a few calls, he decided to give me an early ride alone if there are no groups where he could squeeze me in since his schedule was not until 10 am. There were no other guests so I agreed to pay him 500 pesos instead for a solo ride. In short, it was an under the table agreement between me and the driver. No registration fee was collected. I just had to sign the waiver. He earned extra money without his boss knowing while keeping his turn at 10 am. I got to hit the sand dunes for the price of one head. It’s a win-win!

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Registration Area

When we were about to start, I was surprised when he told me that I had to stand at the back of the vehicle for a better experience. I was like “OK sure!” Oh God, did I just say that?!

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Zebra – the 4×4

He drove quite fast which almost gave me a heart attack. It was my first time to ride a 4×4 standing and holding on to steel bars around the back of the truck. The feeling when you’re standing and sitting beside the driver is TOTALLY different. It was heart-pounding and nerve-racking in every ascent, descent and bumps.

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Before we hit the sand dunes, he briefed me on what to do during ascent, descent and in bumpy areas. I tried my best to follow his instructions and I think I pulled it off quite nicely – just hold on (tightly) to the bars when going up, push the bar when going down and bend my knees in bumpy areas.

Going up was easy except for those parts (I think) around 50-60 degrees in angle. We went to numerous ridges and after our second stop, my hands were totally covered with dirt due to holding on too tightly. Yes, I was scared. I had no idea it would be one hell of a ride but I enjoyed it.

Kuya was kind enough to take pictures of me in every stop. There are four stops. The first one is somewhere overlooking a river. Luckily, the sun rises there as well. Second would be on the other side where you get to see the Sierra Madre mountain range and the majority of the sand dunes. Third would be by the beach. It’s black, rocky and fishermen go there to fish. The last stop would be at the starting point of the sandboarding area. It will cost you 150 pesos for sand boarding lessons and as per Kuya – UNLIMITED tries. I was tempted, but then I saw how steep the area was. That means I have to climb up every time I slide down and that doesn’t sound good.

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First stop – overlooking a river

 

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Second stop – overlooking the South China Sea and the Sierra Madre on the other side

 

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After a few more shots in everywhere that says “Sand Dunes” and “I Love Laoag”, I decided to go back to the hotel. Kuya even drove me back!

 

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Sandboarding area

 

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Sandboarding area. How many tries can you make if you have to climb this after every slide? 🙂

For inquiries, please contact Benedict Agcaoili 0916 985 9848 (driver, not 4×4 owner). If you are traveling alone, it’s better to contact a driver but they are hard to find online so I hope this would help you guys.

Fast facts:

  1. There are more ridges in La Paz Sand Dunes than Paoay. The latter is flat.
  2. La Paz is privately owned while Paoay Sand Dunes is controlled by the local government. Registration fees collected go to the owner.
  3. Number two is the reason why Paoay Sand Dunes is sometimes closed as the government controls the influx of guests to preserve its natural beauty.
  4. You can either ask for a pick up from your hotel or go to La Paz via tricycle. I’m just not sure about the fee.
  5. 4×4 drivers have their scheduled turn from around 6-10 am and then sometime around 4 pm in the afternoon. If you cannot make it in the morning, then you may opt for an afternoon trip. It’s better if you could start as early as 6 am to avoid extreme heat. Besides, you get to see the sunrise.
  6. Everyone stands at the back of the vehicle except for one. Adrenaline junkies, this is for you!
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