I always thought of myself as an athlete. I’ve always picked up on any sport that I was introduced to, but sandboarding is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. We got up early in the morning to go to Valle de los Muertos, Chile’s version of Death Valley. The people who had been there the day before said we didn’t want to be out there when the sun was at its hottest, so we got up at dawn to head out to “Death Valley”.

As we were driving down the sandy road, the scenery was beautiful. Who would have thought that sand and rocks could be so amazing? Hot, but beautiful! I made sure to pack a couple of water bottles because I didn’t want to be like those people in the movies with dry mouths and scratchy throats from the heat.

We got out of the truck right around 8 a.m. It was already hot, and you could see the heat waves rising off the sand in the distance. I didn’t mind a little bit of heat, but I definitely didn’t want to be out there at high noon. The truck driver told us he would be back in four hours and he pointed to the top of the sand dune. I thought he must have been mistaken because that was the highest mountain of sand I’d ever seen. I thought to myself, “Is he serious? He really wants us to walk way up there?” But I didn’t want to be a party pooper, so I took a deep breath, took a swig of water, and hauled myself up the dune.

Going up a sand dune at the Atacama desert

I was the first one to the top, and when I turned around, I saw this endless desert. There were shades of brown, red, orange, and purple spread across the horizon. I was excited to be there and even more excited to try sandboarding for the first time. A few of us reapplied sunblock because we were sweating so much. I unpacked the sandboards and passed them around. They looked like a cross between a skateboard without wheels and a snowboard.

Sand boarder

After about 15 minutes we were all ready to roll, or rather, glide. We all lined up across the top of the sand mountain. Then we counted down, 3…2…1!, and pushed off. It was hilarious, because I only went about two feet before I fell! I looked up and no one had gone anywhere. We just assumed it would be like gliding down snow, but it wasn’t. It was much harder. By the time we got back up the dune to try again, there were other sandboarders. We watched their technique and tried to mimic it. By about 10:00, my legs and stomach muscles were on fire! By 11:00, my whole body was hurting. But I DID make it from the top of the dune all the way to the bottom without falling. At the bottom, I checked my watch and it said 11:27am. I figured there was no need to walk allllll the way back up, and I was HURTIN’! So I limped over to the meeting point and waited for the truck. All in all it was a great experience. I don’t know if I’d do it again, but it was great! J