My weekend plans had involved the Indian Ocean and swimming with dolphins, so obviously I found myself in the back of a 4 x 4 minibus full of Japanese students just about to slip over the edge of an extremely steep, extremely white sand dune while an Aussie driver reminded us to "Buckle up - this one's a doozy!"
I'm amazed at how often I suddenly look up and wonder what I was thinking to get myself into these situations.
I've already written about seeing the Pinnacles - a vast expanse of shifting sand with large rock formations scattered throughout. The sand there was shades of orange, unmoving, making it hard to believe that the large rocks were because the sand had all been blown away hundreds or thousands of years ago. But this area was different. The sand was pure white, the sky a brilliant blue, and the ocean was peaking out from behind the dunes. The wind was so hot and blew the fine sand into everything, including my camera. (The photos here are the last ones I was able to take with it before it broke. Even now, I can't get the other photos off it.) Including my hair.
Oh, my poor hair.
But first, the 4 x 4ing. It's the only time during the trip the driver insisted we had to buckle up, and waivers had to be signed. Then, he drove the bus into this vast expanse of white, and up, up, up the dunes before pausing at the very top of one of them.
"Ooo... we're beginning to slide!" he cried out as teenaged girls squealed and even the boys gripped hard onto their seat belts. I just felt my eyes getting wider and reminded myself that if it wasn't safe they probably wouldn't be doing it.
And then... boom! Down we went, at top speed! Slipping down the hill, watching everything tilt to 45 degrees out the window, and thinking "but if it wasn't dangerous, would they insist upon a waiver?"
I scream loud.
Up and down the hills, bumping and jumping while the driver laughed and the rest of screamed or whimpered or giggled, and I felt queasy, worried I would throw up from the bumps and leaps into the air the bus was somehow managing to make, until finally we came to a halt at the top of the same tall dune and everyone piled out.
Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. Sand also turns very very cold when it's in shadows for short periods of time. I'm sure there's a physics lesson in there someplace.
Sandboarding, depending on how you do it, is either like tobogganing or like snowboarding - you either go down sitting on the board or standing on it. Either way, you need to wax the board in order for it to go far, it needs a certain amount of weight or it won't go very fast (and thus won't go very far), and if you scream loud enough, you'll go the farthest.
The last one might not be as true as the first two, but I certainly found I went very very far as I screamed the whole way down the hill. I know, I like to sound so brave on my trips, but you don't understand - I was going down a hill! In the sand! In the heat! I could have been killed by... um... roving bands of... sand demons... or something....
Don't judge me!
I wasn't the first one down, but I was the first girl who went down, and I totally went the farthest of anyone who did. Which just meant I had the farthest to climb back up the damned hill afterwards.
Two things: Sand is very hot in the sun. And sand is also very hard to climb up.
All in all it was a great time, even if I did ruin my camera and have sand caked so hard onto my skin that it took me almost thirty minutes of scrubbing in the shower to get most of it out - and I still had sand in my hair two days and three showers later. It was a great adventure, one I would happily do again should the opportunity present itself.
But really, if you get the chance - screaming makes you go further. Totally the truth.