Sand in my arse: Dune du Pilat


Fancy a trip to the Sahara? Worried about the harsh location/ incredible heat extremes/ lack of places to stay? Well forget that and get over to France for your sand dune experience with all your home comforts nearby!

Dune du Pilat or Dune de Pyla as it is sometimes referred to is the biggest sand dune in Europe and stretches for an amazing 8km along the coast of Western France. As sand dunes traditionally do I guess, it is moving! And at an incredible 4.5 meters a year! This has had such an impact on the local area that so far it has swallowed countless trees, a road junction and even a hotel!!!! In all my travels, never yet have I seen something so dramatic like this!

 

View of the dune from across the sea

 

 

After anxiously walking for around 2 hours along the coast towards the colossal and seemingly out of place dune I was disappointed to reach a dead end (although it did provide a very beautiful viewpoint). So next day the challenge began.

View from the viewpoint…so close yet so far from the dune!

I was determined to climb the dune properly, none of this stairs malarkey(!), after all, how hard can it be to climb up some sand?! Within minutes, whilst grasping for breath, and holding on for dear life(not that you really ‘hold on’ to sand), I regretted this decision! With each step I took I rolled back half a step in the sand, it took a while but in a spider-like motion I gradually managed to climb my way to the top.

People climbing to the top!

The view from the top was spectacular. I was 4/5 times the height of the trees below and could see inland for miles. On the other side, I could see right out across the picturesque coastal line and for miles out to sea. The sea was a combination of stunning shades of blue and green and sported a very lucky few in their yachts.

Sea view from the dune

 

Land view from the dune

I sat at the top admiring the view and enjoying the glorious French sunshine. There were a few tourists arriving, just as out of breath as I had been, and it was lovely to see their faces light up at the wondrous view before them. Some people had kites and one man had a kind of half parachute with a seat attached. With my slight fear of heights it petrified me to watch him rise to such highs in this insecure-looking contraction, but at the same time it did also look like great fun!

Proud to have reached the top!

 

Flying above the dune

After admiring the views, I began to descend the 114meters back to ground level. And I decided the best way to do it was on my bum! It was great fun sliding all the way back down, and knowing I was on route back to solid ground lessened my fear of heights somewhat and enabled me to concentrate on appreciating the view before me and the experience I was having.

Sliding back down to solid ground…

The climb and the descent were amazing and I would do it again tomorrow, however I might choose to wear bottoms that don’t let the sand in quite so much….sometimes the best experiences leave sand in the wrong places….

I would like to point out that these pictures do no justice to the height or steepness of this dune-it was VERY high and VERY steep!