What’s that? A misadventure? Inconceivable!
No world, it’s true. I made a mistake. Here’s a story about what I did so you don’t do the same. I suppose I’ll start – as all the best stories do – at the beginning.
While on a walking tour in Valparaíso, Chile, my guide casually mentioned that if we wanted to take a day trip out of the city, the sand dunes near Concón were worth the 40 minute bus ride. A quick Google search told me that I could rent boards at the base of the hill, which sounded like enough fun that I decided to give it a go. Following is a list of everything I did wrong, in chronological order for your convenience.
1. In hostel living, there’s always a reason to go out. It’s always someone’s first day, last day or miscellaneous Tuesday. The night before I went to the dunes happened to be a night out celebrating a last day and a day off. This meant that during my planning process I was pretty tired and more than a little bit out of it.
Mistake #1: Making plans when hungover for an extended bus ride into the unknown for a physical activity in that South American sunshine is a risky idea at best.
2. Most of the friends I had made in the hostel at that point were either leaving that day or weren’t interested in a trek to the dunes.
Mistake #2: Sandboarding is more fun in numbers. I spent my time trying not to run over small children when I could have spent my time purposefully running over my friends.
3. The guide had said “the sand dunes near Concón” which I for some reason interpreted as being in Concón (again, I was a little out of it). I told the driver I was trying to get to Concón instead of saying I was trying to get to the sand dunes. When we drove right past these big mounds of sand and the driver told me we still had another 15 minutes or so to go, I somehow rationalized it. I actually thought, “Wow, if those big sand mounds aren’t the dunes, the real ones must be gigantic.”
Mistake #3: Know where you’re going before you try to get there (unless you’re up for an adventure).
(Side note: For what it’s worth, what I saw of Concón was pretty unimpressive. Unless you have a reason to go there, I would skip it.)
4. After I finally turned myself around – with the help of a lovely woman who managed to understand my broken Spanish and embarrassing sign language and literally took me on the bus with her – I made it to the dunes. It was at this very moment that my stomach started growling and I realized there was nowhere around to buy food.
Mistake #4: Don’t think that there will always be a mini-market or fast food place around to satisfy every craving. If you’re planning to be gone for a few hours at midday, pack a snack, at the very least.
I know what you’re thinking: this girl is an idiot. During this adventure, I was. I was underprepared, ignorant and lucky I was able to turn things around. In the end, I did actually have fun at the dunes. Getting lost was enough to wake me up and walking to the top of this adult-sized sandbox helped me sweat out everything left in my system from the night before. I was able to silence my stomach, boards were only 1000 pesos to rent for an hour and the view from the top was pretty fantastic. There was a pleasant breeze off the water and I found a few smaller hills to slide down before resting in the shade. At the end of my hour, I flew down from the top, laughing most of the way until I capsized in the soft sand. The bus ride home was uneventful and that night I ended up sampling the seafood this port city is famous for in the company of some wonderful people I met at the hostel.
If you’re in Valparaíso and think the dunes sound like fun, here’s what I would suggest. Get a good group together and pack a picnic lunch (don’t forget a few bottles of water, you’ll need them!) Depending on your budget, either rent a car or take a bus straight to the dunes. Spend an hour sliding around, return your boards and have a picnic at the top, overlooking the water. Pile back into the car/bus and head to nearby Reñaca or Viña del Mar. Cool off in the waves and spend the rest of the day relaxing on the beach. And don’t forget to invite me!