The sand dunes around our little oasis are impressive. When we awake in the morning our little place is still in the shadows of those dunes. It takes a little longer for the sun to reach us and the same is true late in the afternoon. The sun sets quickly, around 5.30 PM we start to see long shadows creeping along the sands near our oasis. This is the ideal hour for a ride in specially made dune buggies (pronounced “boogies” by the locals) and with an experienced driver, who knows his way around, it is fairly safe. Or so I thought.
The collection hour for all our passenger buddies is 4.30 PM. The buggies start up and each one is filled with gasoline, up to the hilt, but even filled more with testosterone. This is for grown up boys playing with their toys and you can take a ride on their toy. For 45 Soles per person (about $ 18.-U.S.) those drivers are thrilled to show you what they can do. Right off the start, before even backing out of the driveway, it is evident we are in for a different experience. Each passenger has to sit in a bucket seat and each passenger is given large safety glasses and the driver checks that the 3 point safety harness is clicked on correctly. I was so strapped into the front seat that my body could only wiggle, only my hands and head could move; my legs were pressed against the protection in front of me.
Off we go, down the Main Street of our little oasis to the entrance gate of the State Park, because all those dunes are part of a State protection system. When we encountered a slow car in front of us, or even a parked vehicle, this monster machine just drove over the median or the sidewalk to get around. The curb it had to climb was inconsequential. Like a little pebble on the road, the huge tires hopped right over the bump. Each passenger paid the park admission of 3.60 Soles and we were on the sands.
We took it easy in the sands for about 10 seconds, just to get out of reach of our small town and then… full force, hell-bent, screaming and howling at a G-force increasing speed. Each gear of the manual transmission was used to red line and the buggy responded accordingly. Straight up one sand dune, and then, without warning, a sharp right hand turn down into a gully, as steep as the ascent. Down shift and again, sand blasting behind us, down into the depths of the valley, only to be seemingly trapped between two smaller hills with a winding ‘road’ in between them. Hairpin curves, our tires spinning, and sliding around each corner, we are having ‘fun’. Each person howls and shrieks and the sand penetrates our clothing and hits us in the face. The fine sands which blow about normally are now piercing our skin like fine needles; hence the safety glasses. It is wild, but it seems like everybody is having a fine time, well, we paid for this, right. No time to recover! Our driver nonchalantly uses every trick in the book to ‘almost’ turn the buggy on its side. I say almost because it seems impossible that the buggy does not tip over, yet it never does; does not even come close. Our driver knows his stuff. The dune buggies were made for this treatment.
On and on this ride goes until, all of a sudden, we stop. We stop? Yes, we stop in the middle of nowhere. Everybody climbs out of the bucket seats and now, out from a net hanging on the back of the truck come the boards. Each passenger gets a sand board and we walk a few yards to see a drop off we are supposed to slide down. I am holding my camera and take photos instead. My age shows or my experience kicks in because I have been on a sand slide before and remember it took days to get sand out of crevices I did not even know I had. But our buggy is loaded with young guys and gals. Testosterone rules! Peer pressure adds to this, too. Each person straps on a board and the most daring go for the ride down the sand dune. Each one falls and all are now covered in sand. Head to toe. It might look easy on TV but this is the real thing. Not one person makes it to the bottom without taking a spill or sitting down halfway down. The disappointment is great. The dune buggy picks up the sand boarders at the bottom and off we go. Another race starts but this time we are joined by other trucks and a kind of chase occurs.
We find another, steeper longer stretch of sand. Everybody jumps out again, but this time, one of the drivers shows how to lie belly down on the board, elbows tucked in and legs held wide and low to use as brakes. Well, what a difference this makes. I almost joined them for a slide down this hill. Testosterone must not be that high in my system any longer because reason prevailed. I took a video. Each one of the belly sliders, guy or gal, made it down safely to the bottom of the dune. Naturally, some will never learn and insisted in sand-boarding down, standing up on 2 feet, trying to negotiate this hill. None made it; they just added more sand to their faces, inside their pants and another layer of fine grains inside their ears, in their nose, and so on. Like I said, this fine sand creeps into everything. The belly boarders had fun, especially the gals, now being on even term with the guys.
Ok, back in the dune buggy and again, with all the speed the buggy is willing to give to a very high, very steep sand dune. This time the question is, who will sand board and who will belly board. Yes, there are those who insist on conquering this very steep hill standing. Even a guy who previously did not manage the belly ride well is trying to impress now with a standing performance. No, he did not get a standing ovation. He fell; in fact so many times that he looked distraught. Oh, what hormones can do.
Carol and I had a good time watching, seeing the sunset from the top of a dune later on and admiring the young people do their stuff. The dune buggies, the drivers, the weather, the experience was worth the admission. We had a good time. We were back at 6.30, covered by the flying sand because we were sitting in the front seat but otherwise we survived another ‘adventure’.