Paoay, Ilocos Norte | Charging at the Mad Max Vibe of La Paz Sand Dunes

Yohooooo, Kuya be kind to us” she shouted at the driver of the 4x4 truck as we make sure our hands were gripped into the handlebar like glue. We were just about to go over the first mound of sand almost 30 feet high when she issued that reminder. Not that kuya had a habit of giving a flying eff of slowing down, it’s just that he follows to heart the unwritten rule of the faster, the better. He then accelerated the truck into a dizzying speed, shaking the four of us huddled at the back. The engine struggled a little going to the apex of the hill but once gravity took over, hellacious yells from my female companions almost busted my eardrums. As we slid through the downhill path like one of those post-apocalyptic vehicles driven by looneys in Mad Max films, I felt a different kind of rush.


A Unique Geological Landscape

A desert-like heavy concentration of sand dunes stretching more than 85 square kilometers is almost unheard of in the tropical and lush setting of the Philippines. In this part of Northern Luzon though, Mother Nature carved an exceptional landscape almost mirroring the desert dunes found in other countries.

Marky Ramone Go with Monnette Santillan

In 1993, the Ilocos Norte Sand Dunes – to which La Paz Sand Dunes is a part of, was proclaimed as “one of the National Geological Monuments of Significant Geological Formations in the Philippines” by the National Committee on Geological Sciences (NCGS).

This vast picturesque sandlot also became the main shooting location of a number of well acclaimed local films that includes; Panday and Himala.

Thrilling Outdoor Actions Abound

The smooth sandy setting quickly gets your mind to start imagining various exciting activities. Aside from riding a 4x4 truck, one can also go sand-boarding or you can put your complete motocross riding gear and create your own motocross trails at the uneven surface of the sand dunes.

Ilocos Norte

The scenery comprising of a fiery sun slowly sinking against the golden sky and calm sea waters couldn’t have been better as we wrap-up our 4x4 ride. She – (now my former girlfriend) – seems to have finally ran out of animated yells and towards the end of our roller coaster ride, her expression was replaced by electrified giggles – just as the 4x4 truck we were riding bowled violently through the 5th desert hill – which happens to be higher than the rest.

We got off our truck giving everyone a high five while sensing each other's overflowing glee. After a few moments recuperating from our desert stoked feeling,  our guide led us to another sand hill where he pointed to an almost 60 degree slope going downward. "We're going sand boarding" he told us in Tagalog.

Marky Ramone Go

Our guide then demonstrated the proper form of riding a sand board - as if one is surfing the waves of Baler. It looked easy, but once he started sliding down and as we watch him glide like a snake almost effortlessly, we all felt a mixture of enthusiasm and dread.

I reckoned it was only sands – soft fine granules in case I fell off from the board. I took the first turn and as I closed my eyes to gather courage, I felt a tap on my shoulder “Ready?” our guide asked me. I opened my eyes and gave him a nod. A slow push behind my back and I was descending down smoothly all the while gathering a stoke feeling and never losing balance until at the landing spot. At the flattened end of the sand-boarding trails, I let gravity took over as I crashed butt-first on the ground. Feeling doped, I repeated the turn at least two more times. 

Ilocos Norte Road Trip

Our experiences at the La Paz Sand Dunes definitely belonged at the top of the charts of our Ilocos Norte road trip. We started off at Vigan to Paoay and ending at Pagudpud – with stops at a number of interesting places in between.

This route of Luzon has always been a favorite of mine when it comes to venturing into a long road journey. Who knows maybe someday when I finally master driving a motorcycle, I will put on my motocross off road gloves and enjoy this part of the Philippines aboard a two-wheel monster.