Travelogue LXVIII: Dune du Pyla

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJuly 6th, 2017 I’m back after a hard and good year, for a summer of study in Bordeaux and the Rheingau. Much more about all of that later. For now, this weird, sun-baked place–the Dune du Pyla, all 60,000,000 cubic meters of it, the largest sand dune in Europe, and surreally out of place in the green French countryside.

Over the past decades, it has swallowed up countless trees, roads, and houses. The day we went, it was an easy 100 degrees on top, bone dry, and windy. Imagine being on the set of Mad Max, but with an ocean and a good number of Japanese tourists.

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The view from the top, out over the Atlantic.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe hiked up the steps someone had kindly laid up the back side of the dune. From the top, one has the feeling of falling straight down into the ocean below. Despite the selfie-taking tourists and beach-goers, it’s a strangely silent and isolating place. The sand eats up all excess sound and if you happen to be looking in a direction where there aren’t any people, it’s possible to feel quite shockingly alone.

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Up the stairs, slowly being eaten away by the sand, to the top of the dune.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe slid down the sand to the ocean, and burned the soles of our feet bright red. The water was calm and perfectly cool, and we ran in fully dressed and didn’t want to come out again.

By the time we made it up to the top again, our clothes were completely dry. Within minutes, we were back in the green and on a bus to Arcachon, and within an hour we were surrounded by bordeaux-drinking French and consuming massive amounts of mussels in white wine sauce. It’s a surprising place, this world.

 

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That slope down to the beach was much steeper and longer than it looks. Especially on the way back.

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If you look at the sand up close, it’s a shockingly unstable thing–constantly shifting and blowing, little rivulets running down everywhere and filling in cracks and making new ones. 

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C’est moi! On the edge of the world…

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