But for now the desert is here, in all it's subtle beauty. It's odd to call it subtle, since it is so huge, but it is subtle, in its colours, its shapes, and most of all, in its life.
The desert is an eco-system, and during my trip there, I learned about the life forms that live and thrive and interact there. Without Tommy, our guide, though, I would have thought nothing lived there except a few scrubby plants.
First we visited Dune 7, which is the largest dune in the world. There are others that are higher, but apparently for sheer number of sand grains, this one is biggest. Melissa climbed to the top, and I went part way. It's s hard climb. The sand is fine and soft, and so every step sinks in and also slides down, so climbing is two steps up for every step climbed. The bottom of my calves became sore quite quickly. The dune became steeper the higher you went, and Melissa needed to use her hands near the top, since she had to lean forward to keep her balance.
A man from Michigan informed me that there is a much bigger sand dune in northern Michigan. I just smiled and nodded.
Walking back down is rather fun, though. It's like skiing, as each step glides down as the foot sinks in the sand.
Here is my first step, followed by Melissa, who having made a snow angel on the ship's deck, had to make a sand angel.
Tge life. The above is a head-stand beetle. It's a picture of a picture because, although Tommy had brought several beetles in a jar, he couldn't show what it's like when they get to drink. This area gets between 3 and 15 millimetres of rain a year. Yes, milimetres. It's within 15 kilometers of the coast, and so even though it gets so little rain, there is often fog, which is an important part of the ecosystem.
This beetle gets all it's water from the rain. People here talk about 100 milllimeter rain and what they mean isn't the total depth, but the distance between rain drops. The beetle fortunate enough to be rained on will drink the entire drop, which for something of its size is like one of us drinking seven litres at a time. Its shell is waxy which helps keep the water inside its body. The beetle provides a travel mug for other creatures.
The spider can dig only a few centimeters in two hours, but it's tunnel is half a meter long. WHile digging, the spider uses its web material to stick the sand grains together, so its tunnel doesn't collapse. Unfortunately the wasp is able to enter the tunnel. When the two meet, they fight. If the spider wins, it eats the wasp. It the wasp wins, it stings the spider into unconsciousness because it needs it alive. The wasp lays an egg and the resulting larva eats the spider as it grows.