“Gemma!” I shouted, looking around for her “Gemma, look I can do it! I’m going really fast!” I couldn’t see her but I knew that if she was watching she’d be proud of me. Even though a few minutes earlier she’d been telling me that being good at sand boarding isn’t about going fast, it’s about having control of the board. I knew she was wrong, and I think deep down so did she. And now I was proving it by going really fast… I probably looked a bit like James Bond.
We’d arrived in San Pedro the day before. It was our first stop in Chile and the most expensive place on our travels so far. The town itself is a small oasis in the Atacama Desert with nothing else around it for miles. The downside of this is that an average tasting meal costs the same as what a fancy banquet might cost, the upside is that you’re in a small oasis in the Atacama Desert with nothing else around it for miles! But I think I mentioned that.
The other upside to being in San Pedro was the sand boarding. So far we’d spent an hour trying to work out which way round the board went and how to climb up the dry desert dunes. The answers were that ultimately it doesn’t matter which way round the board goes if you can’t do it anyway and you climb up the dunes slowly, with great difficulty and little breath. We’d both taken a while to get to grips with sand boarding, but now I was flying!
There was no civilization around us for what felt like forever. Stretches of desert sand, picturesque dunes, rocky valleys and a clear blue sky made the perfect landscape for an afternoon of sand boarding. In fact, it made the perfect landscape for pretty much anything. An empty place for a carefree mind.
Gemma had finished her last run and was sat at the bottom waiting for me. She’d had enough of trekking up the dunes in the desert heat with her sand board in tow and I couldn’t blame her. But I’d needed one more run just to show her quite what the pro I am.
“Careful!” I heard from somewhere down the dune. It was Gemma’s voice, and although I thought I’d heard her say ‘careful’, I was pretty sure she’d meant ‘well done Tim, that’s really fast. I am proud of you’. I took her praise and ducked my body down to go faster, and to look as cool as I possibly could.
And it was at this moment, when I was looking probably the coolest I’ve ever looked, that I hit a lump in the sand. And then I was truly flying, but this time against my will. I hit the sand, my glasses flew off and my back bent in a way I’ve never felt my back bend before. Then the back of my head smacked into the sand.
“Are you ok?” I heard Gemma shout. I was beginning to wonder whether she had said she was proud earlier, or whether, actually, she’d said ‘careful’. Careful, in retrospect, would have been more helpful.
“Yes” I replied, and then began to wonder if I’d ever walk again. I didn’t move for a few minutes before Gemma, despite being completely knackered, clambered up the dreaded dune once again to help me.
“I went really fast…” I murmured as Gemma helped me down the hill.
“Being good at sand boarding isn’t about going fast” she told me “it’s about having control of the board.”
I knew she was wrong. And I think deep down so did she.
“But… I went really fast.” And as I tried my hardest not to move my neck, I saw it in her eyes. I had made Gemma proud…