Riding the Dunes in Ilocos Norte

Paoay Sand Dunes, an 88-hectare spread of sand and wild landscape, is a favorite not just of tourists, but of budding sandboarders and surfers. The undulating sands here have been immortalized in the Hollywood movies, Mad Max and Born on the Fourth of July. Eighty-eight hectares of pure sand, the sand dunes is adjacent to Suba Beach, where fishermen harvest daily fresh seafood from the deep blue waters.

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Paoay Sand Dunes is a protected area and classified as a non-disposable public land. “People here feel a responsibility to take care of the area; there is a ‘no littering’ rule; and the barangay organizes regular clean-up of the place,” says NMYL Ilocos Norte Chapter board member, Jessie Galano.

The 7km stretch of sand offers tons of attractions. There are trails for thrill rides on a four-wheel drive, and two allotted areas for sandboarding, a sport using a skimboard to ride down a sandy hill. One sandboarding area is for beginners, with the ride starting at a 10ft point, and the other for the more experienced rider, with the jump-off point at about 20 feet.

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Sandboarding is an exercise in balance, as you slide down and feel the wind in your hair. When I gave it a shot, I managed not to fall flat on my face, and despite the tiring walk back up to the starting point, I did it about a dozen times. With my back to Suba Beach, I looked out at the lines and footprints left on the fine sand, and the vast horizon that towered over it.

Later that night, the winds howled as the big, yellow, full moon, slowly climbed the sky. Our 4x4 drivers, Manong Elmer and Joseph, maneuvered the jeep across the sand, with only moonlight and the faint headlights to guide our way. A brahminy kite, a bird of prey, suddenly passed in front of us, spreading its wings just two feet away. It was a day that was truly breathtaking.

HOW TO BOOK YOUR SANDBOARDING ADVENTURE IN PAOAY, ILOCOS NORTE

An hour on a 4x4 truck costs P2,500 for three to four persons; inclusive of use of sandboard. For 4x4 and sandboard rental, contact Paoay Off-Roaders c/o Jessie Galano at +63918/ 461 0610; for ATV rental, book through the Ilocos Norte Hotel and Convention Center at +6377/  670 8817.

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