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Saturday, February 28, 2009

sand surfing

Medanos de Coro sand dunes 
A full face plant would have been the only way I could have had more sand on my body. A crust of scritchy dust clung to my arms, and my scalp was coated with a crunchy texture. Not that I mind being a little scruffy, but sometime you crave a good dousing with a garden hose.
A few minutes outside the breezy colonial city of Coro, tall cacti stand sentinel just before you reach the wind-combed 100-foot sand dunes called the Médanos de Coro. Drifts of gold sand threaten to reclaim the road, and hastily parked cars get trapped when drivers pull over without noticing unstable ground.
In the late afternoon, families toiled stiffly up steep inclines, sinking calf-deep with each step, their progress loosening a silent cascade that flowed like water. At the top, the ground hardened, and gusts painted your skin and blew surreal patterns into the hillsides. At the apex of one tall dune, two people jumped into a tiny yellow toboggan and flew down towards sea level, screeching like they were riding a runaway roller coaster.
I'd jumped off a bus to wander here, and now I couldn't get any to stop for me. Four or five of the local ambulantes, smartly draped in head coverings, looked concerned and encouraged me to start walking, but with nothing in sight but sand, there didn't seem to be anything to walk to. So I stuck out my thumb, and then watched private cars zoom by alongside the buses.
The vendors called me over to the median strip and one beckoned for me to follow him. Where to? He pointed to a shiny police SUV with tinted windows. Not one to willingly get arrested, I balked, until he explained that they'd offered to give me a lift back to town. The commanding officer took off his sunglasses, pulled out a lined notebook and very studiously took down my name (why didn't I give a fake one?) and country of residence. On the way in, they radioed in that they'd found a stray U.S. tourist named Bay Coe and were delivering her safely to the bus station.

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