Planet Hiker
2004-12-29 Christmas in the desert, Huacachina, Peru


It was difficult to accept what my eyes were telling me... After spending about two weeks amongst some of the tallest mountain range in the world, the snow capped Cordillera Blanca, I was in a desert and there were sand dunes all around me. The scene was very simple and beautiful - there was only yellow and azure. An elegant line was dividing the two worlds as it ran in smooth curves, outlining the peaks and cup shaped valleys. All the elements were in a slow unified flow, merging with themselves and then rising out again. There were no distinct shapes. Everything was part of something else while being itself.

A face of a dune gently rose, reaching for the sky, only to curve and descend, becoming a valley. Its top, being more exposed to the wind, had decorative ripples running in an intricate pattern, like a silk tablecloth as it settles after being dithered. The ripples faded with the acceleration of the slope, into a soft surface that left the feeling of being out of focus. A snake like edge was formed on the other side of the dune. It ran down its back and then up and over other hills for as far as the eye could see. Across it, sparkling gold sand leaped and danced in the air whenever Wind, the architect of this wonderland, reminded of its presence.

"Perfect place to spend Christmas", I murmured while strapping into the sandboard. The Velcro straps loosely fastened me onto a piece of yellow painted plank that had a pointed nose and the name of the hotel drawn with red letters over it. Don't know if the contraption was sophisticated enough to qualify for the title of "low tech", but I fad full faith in it. If nothing else, the mountain wasn't moving and compared to surfing, this should have been a walk in the park. I bravely pushed off and in another second was tumbling down, with my head repeatedly being dipped in and out of the sand. The good thing is that the sand is a very forgiving material when it comes to head-in collisions. It may even be kind of fun, assuming you remembered to keep the mouth shut.

After a few more dippings, a dune-buggy pick me up, along with couple of other enthusiasts - tourists of course - and we all headed for the tiny oasis of Huacachina, composed of a little lake and surrounded by palm trees (just like in a real oasis!). Christmas dinner was on everyone's minds as the buggy rolled in, shaking the walls of the precariously founded hostel with the roar of its cut exhaust. But the dinner wasn't to be served till midnight, as dictated by local tradition. This did give plenty of time for a desperately needed shower. However, by about 11:00pm, everyone was pissed, agitated and cursing over all traditions - "What's wrong with eating when all normal people do, and then just chilling out till midnight?" When food finally was served, shoving and pushing we rushed to make a line for a roasted pig, undercooked turkey and watery mashed potatoes. There was also salad of undeterminable composition... It tasted a little bit sweet, a little bit sour with plenty of mayo to maintain the mystery - appropriately for the holiday.