Sand boarding

Trip Start Sep 28, 2011
Trip End Ongoing

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

This is a new one.  By a new one I mean the most horrible, stinking, retching, twisted stomach of a hangover I've ever experienced; at least since downing seven straight tequilas at an after show Christmas party in 2002.  Picso.  Never again.  Now I've got to throw myself down a sand dune while traveling faster than the vomit I'll spew on my face.  This has the potential to be not very pretty indeed.

It's so hot here that to go out during the day would be suicide, so you can opt for an early morning session or later afternoon.  Most go for the afternoon, as you have the opportunity to see the desert sunset, and the light is better for taking photographs.  The hour draws nigh when the boots are donned, the buggy fueled, the lotion slapped on, and the bum is squeaking.  What the hell am I doing?

The party is around ten strong as we set out in the dune buggy, a monster of a vehicle with a raucous engine and massive suspension.  The driver throws the beast into corners at break neck speeds, up and over dunes and down steep sandy sides with wild abandon and fearlessness.  I'm managing to hide my terror with excessive laughter, but my insides are all over the place, mostly left back on the sand behind us.  It's not far from being on a roller coaster, and I hate roller coasters.  I've managed Big Thunder Mountain in Euro Disney when I was a kid and that's it.  I wouldn't even go on one for toddlers.

We skid to a stop dangerously close to the ridged edge of a dune, and pile out onto the sand.  Most people use the sand boards by lying on your front, but a couple select the snow boards and bindings to try it standing up.  I remember my epic snow board failure in Whistler some years ago, which resulted in a heated argument with my now ex girlfriend, aching bones and muscles, and a lost top-of-the-range Pulsar watch I won in an FHM letter of the month competition.  I'll stick to lying face down.

Here we go then, standing at the top of an enormous sand dune with a bit of wood in my hand.  Our guide waxes the base, and one foolhardy adrenaline junkie hurtles down to the bottom.  I'm thinking up excuses.  What if I play the too hung over card?  How about I'm only here to take pictures?  I curse that there are girls on the tour and pace around the buggy trying to find a way out.  Perhaps I can go down a less steep section?  Eventually I run out of time and I'm called up.  Invoking the long dead spirit of my childhood self, reminiscing about sledging down a tiny hill on mums tea tray in winter, I lay face down on the board, and pray.

My fear resides in that I know what this is going to feel like.  I don't have any issues with hurting myself, as the sand is softer and more forgiving than snow.  My problem lies, as I've said before, in that feeling of leaving your stomach behind as you hurtle into oblivion.  I brace myself for the inevitable as I'm pushed over; but it never comes.  What does is a tremendous amount of speed, and a hell of a lot of fun, despite the initial grimaced look of terror plastered across my sandy face.

I've let out a giddy, childish squeal of glee when I finally come to a halt.  Let's get back up there and go again.  The only decent hill near our home growing up was in my primary school playground, and by decent that was only when you were really small yourself and you thought everything looked massive.  With mild winters, we never really got the chance to sledge for great lengths of time, or for greater distances than a few feet.  Here I was in a giant sandpit, with endless dunes to slide down from great heights.  Try it, and you'll feel like that kid again.

The landscape itself was mesmerising.  It's mystical, romantic, powerful and vast.  It draws you in to the passion of it, reminding you of a Turkish Delight advert.  My first real experience of a desert.  Another bucket list ticked off, although I'm slightly disappointed by the lack of camels.  I guess I'll wait until the Sahara for them, and continue on my hunt for an Alpaca farm.  I miss their stupid heads.

After five or so runs, including one where I totally fly down and go the greatest distance, the sun is beginning to set.  It's a shame as I'm really starting to get the hang of it, as we're driven from dune to dune, but the pressing sun down curbs the fun for now.  The cameras are out in force as we take wonderful pictures with perfect light, the low sun shadows black over the dune crests.  It's astounding.  It's a dream world.  It reminds me of when I was training as a Jedi on Tatooine.  The only thing missing is a pair of beautiful eyes to share it with, visible through a wind-blown headscarf, atop a Black Andalusian.  But Alas; Ali is in Costa Rica.


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