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city on the plain

The following morning I set off towards the end of the valley where sand dunes shimmer in the distance. I round a corner and find myself confronted with a veritable tent city near the base of the dunes, an American flag flying in the centre of a ring of tents. A lone figure is seated next to the flag with a newspaper. A couple of trucks from the convoy that passed me on the road yesterday are parked nearby. I pause, slightly startled, and then continue to the information board and outhouse just past the settlement. After contemplating the information on the boards, I decide I am more curious than alarmed and walk towards the man, waving a greeting.

Eureka dunes.

Eureka dunes.

The man welcomes me into the camp and it transpires that the excursion is part of a Christian drug recovery programme. Mike is one of the volunteers managing the programme. He has spent a lot of time in Death Valley and so I get out my detailed map and we discuss where might be the most interesting areas to explore. We continue to sit, chatting about topics ranging from small number bias in epidemiology to art and books, families and travel while Mike plies me with food and water. The participants of the programme are climbing the nearby mountains and dunes and after a while they start straggling back into camp, complaining loudly of heat and tiredness.

As the numbers in the camp grow things liven up. Dan, another of the volunteers is an astro-physicist, who flies satellites around the moon for a living, but he is still amused by launching toy rockets into the terrestrial atmosphere. A couple of potato bazookas are part of the camp paraphernalia and men, who quite possibly have had more dangerous weapons at their disposal in the course of their lives, start firing potatoes into the dunes.

Loading up.

Loading up.

Blessed are the peacemakers.

Nice t-shirt: "Blessed are the peacemakers."

You might not believe that Dan flies sattelites around the moon for his day job.

You might not believe that Dan flies satellites around the moon for his day job...

...given his excitement at launching model rockets.

...given his excitement at launching toy rockets.

That's it!

That's it!

Mike invites me to join them all for dinner and the campfire circle in the evening and I agree. When I tire of firing vegetable projectiles into the brush, I go to set up my own camp at a distance sufficient for the general chaos to be somewhat muted and go for a walk in the dunes.

Peace in the sand dunes.

Peace in the sand dunes.

Sand and wind is a beautiful combination.

Sand and wind is a beautiful combination.

Me, on the dunes.

On the dunes.

Tent city, far below.

Tent city, far below.

{ 2 } Comments

  1. Babs | November 23, 2009 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Your photos of sand are pure poetry!

  2. julie | November 27, 2009 at 10:52 am | Permalink

    I agree with Babs. All your photos are poetry, she’s absolutely put her finger on it. I read your article in the cycling magazine today and was able to show it to my friends who exclaimed with admiration about what you are doing. Nice to see some photos (and such nice ones) of yourself, in the landscape.
    lots of love Julie x

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