Climb every mountain - even those of sand

ALANA DIXON
Last updated 12:02 11/02/2013

I was perched precariously on a slim wooden board, on the brink of that delicate tipping point between stability or plunging face-first, full-throttle, down the steepest sand dune I'd ever seen in my life.

All around me, under an already-burning sun, the white-hot sand of the Huacachina Oasis, on the Peruvian coast, rippled . . . sand I was afraid would feel like concrete if I came off.

Just to make it clear, I'm not the most adventurous person around. Whenever people suggest doing something extreme like zip lining through canyons or bungy jumping or diving off a cliff, I'm not the first to put my hand up. Despite having lived my whole life only an hour or two away from the best skifields in the country, I've never skied, let alone had a go at snow boarding, and even though I've always dreamed of being able to surf, I've never actually given it a go.

For me, the easy part of my visit to Huacachina was sitting passively, tightly strapped in the back seat of the buggy as we roared and bounced over sand dune after sand dune. It felt like we would be jostled almost clear through the roof, but I loved it.

Our driver tore through the scenery - seemingly out of place, as if somebody pushed massive mounds of sand to form the dunes in the middle of a town - with incredulous skill: this clearly wasn't his first rodeo.

But it was my first time here, and when we pulled to a stop and it became evident it was sand boarding time, I started to get that sandpaper feeling in my mouth. (Some of it might have been flecks of stray sand that flew in there, but to be fair I think it was more the nerves.)

I decided to take it, cliche as it sounds, one step at a time.

I climbed out of the buggy onto the fat tyre and dropped onto the sand. I watched as other people slid down the dunes head first, whooping and yelling.

I stood patiently waiting as the guide waxed the board.

I dropped onto my stomach.

I gripped the handles. I tucked in my elbows. I held my breath as my board started to slide.

At first I was whimpering, then what started as a strangled cry for help turned into cheering and whooping of my own.

I think my smile grew exponentially as the board gained speed, careering down the dune, skimming over the bumps and hurtling through the sand, leaving a wake of grit in my path.

Finally, the gradient of the dune mellowed out and I whooshed across the flat surface of the sand.

It wasn't anywhere near as scary as it looked from the top, we all said to one another as we crowded around.

From the bottom, the dune looked just as steep as it had from the top, but suddenly it didn't seem as insurmountable.

It might not sound like a lot to some people, but to me sliding down a red-hot sand dune that far from the ground was a pretty big deal.

I know over the next few weeks I'm going to be tackling far scarier things than sand boarding - but giving that a go made the prospect of life on the other side of the world a little less daunting. I stood up, and headed for a bigger dune.

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