Michael Breitung Photography

Huacachina

As a landscape photographer it’s my desire to find and capture beauty in nature. During my travels I’m searching for spectacular landscapes, secluded beaches, grand vistas and often when I have found those places, the photos I take just don’t do them justice. But in some cases it can also be the other way around.

The compositions I photograph only show an excerpt of the reality around me. I can decide what to show and what to leave out of my photos. So it’s always a subjective view I present.

The first few days of our travels through Peru we went from Lima to Paracas and from there to Ica by bus. We crossed a desert like landscape filled with ruins, walls and lots of waste. It was a bit depressing to see that wide landscape filled with all those structures, which most likely will never be completed, all those walls, which block the views and seem to serve no obvious purpose.

In the following article I will show you none of that. The photos I took in Huacachina are more like a dream, a very selective view of a place, which is the opposite of the calm, untouched desert my photos depict.

But before we reached Huacachina we made a short stop in Paracas to visit the coast once more. Paracas is actually a quite nice town with many little restaurants, hotels and a small harbour. My highlight were the many peruvian Pelicans, which calmly glided through the water just a few meters off the coast.

A colorful peruvian Pelican

Many people who visit Paracas do so to make a trip to the Islas Ballestas and the Paracas nature reserve. Since we had been on many boats and seen penguins, boobies and sea lions already, we skipped the Ballestas and only did a guided tour through the nature reserve.

Most of the time during that tour we were either driving in a too small minivan or had to spend time in one of the restaurants, which occupy a beach in the reserve. This was actually part of the tour and we would really have loved to rather explore the reserve in those wasted 90 minutes.

It was also very crowded and while in Ecuador I had the impression that national parks and reserves have the purpose of preserving nature and regulating the number of visitors, here it seemed more to serve the purpose of attracting visitors and demanding an entrance fee.

Normally I don’t write that negative in my blog but this really was one of the worst tours we ever did. If you visit, rather do a guided quad tour like friends of us did a few days later. They had a much nicer experience and saw much more, completely avoiding the masses.

Afterwards we went to Huacachina, a desert town a few miles west of Ica, built around a little lake surrounded by enormous dunes. It really is a spectacular setting and from afar it looks beautiful. But once I walked around town and started exploring the dunes reality set in.

There’s so much waste and dirt. The dunes in parts are covered by plastic bottles and bags, some of them partly hidden by sand, others dancing in the wind. In the afternoon and during sunset dune buggies race through the mountains of sand, engines and passengers screeming as they speed up and down the slopes. If you are looking for an adrenaline kick, do sand boarding or party with other backpackers in town, it’s the right place.

I was there though to explore and photograph the dunes, looking for, as I have written above, beauty in nature. The dunes themselfes are beautiful, but what is done to them kind of obscures that beauty. Only during pre-dawn it really reveales itself. The wind during night has washed away most traces of men, the darkness hides the waste and the shapes that emanate from the gloom create truly magical views.

While the town was still asleep I was out there wandering and photographing the dunes, finally able to enjoy the landscape.

The town of Huacachina and Ica in the distance A man looking down on Huacachina from a huge dune

In the evening I also went out each day and with time I was able to ignore the noise of the buggies and concentrate fully on my photography, exploring the shapes created by light and sand through my viewfinder. Usually the wind was blowing very fierce then and when I returned to the hotel in the evening in was completely covered in sand.

A man wanders along an endless seeming dune ridge View upon the dune landscape in Huacachina during Sunset The sun sets behind the Huacachina desert Dune textures formed by the winds

After three days it was time to continue our journey. In the end I had a great time photographing the dunes of Huacachina despite the negative aspects I listed above. Maybe one day tourism in Huacachina will focus less on action and more on the extraordinary landscape. It would certainly benefit nature.

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