Monday, August 23, 2010

The mountains behind the dunes were hidden by the haze of blowing sand. The experience of walking on windblown sand would be familiar to anyone who has stood in the shallow tide at the beach. Everywhere you place your foot, the wind starts to carve away sand, undermining your stance. The sand drifting close to the ground shimmers like a silk sheet, creating the optical illusion that you are walking the wrong way on a great conveyor belt. Without the proper equipment, it was all that I could do to keep the sand out of my ears and eyes. I had to walk with my head down, only rarely glancing up to get my bearings and adjust my walking trajectory. The path that I chose to the top of the dune was deceptively shallow looking with nothing by which to judge the scale of the dune. As I started to climb I felt like I was under a cresting wave, being pulled down by a current of sand as a wall grew in front of me. When I finally gave up trying to climb the dune, I turned around to find myself in a pit with steep slopes on all sides. As I tried to climb out, the wind was dumping sand over the edge of the dune and the ground beneath me was sliding back into the pit faster than I could climb out. I finally found a seam where two slopes met and by staying in the seam which was relatively shielded from the wind was able to slowly crawl over the rim of the pit. Now, completely turned around I was barely able to make out the treeline from whence I had entered the dune field and made my way towards it. Safely under the cover of trees I spent the next 45 minutes dumping sand out of my clothes and brushing it from inside my ears and around my eyes.

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