Content and Images by Ross Cairns
We were so wonderfully naïve as we bedded down under a full moon on the Dunes edge. A few photographs, a discussion on whether to roast marshmallows with a cigarette lighter and the unfurling of bivvies signalled the end of the nights ride. The silver fingers of moonlight reaching out and illuminating all around us, perfectly outlining the ridges and swales we had ridden across to arrive at our fateful point.
The sand had been soft. A roasting Australian summer had steadfastly refused to deliver rain for the last 2 months and the Dunes didn’t hold a skerrick of moisture. Ever present winds had turned the sand over and over so all hopes of a rideable crust were crushed. With 2 psi in the tires, granny ring and momentum were the order of the night as we left our lights off and guided ourselves by moonlight.
No moonlight reached the ground in the valley below our bivvy however. The dunes edge was as steep as sand could possibly form, as if the dune were recoiling from the horrors hidden amongst the trees below. The breeze gusted, faltered and then died. Then there was stillness and that was the moment they chose to come.
An otherworldly storm erupted around us. It started as a distant buzz, then slowly built in intensity until the air was impossibly thick with their wings, thirst and malice. They’d found us and we were sitting ducks.
I’ve stayed in places with mosquitos in the past but this was another level. Armed with nothing but a 40F bag and a neo-air, I was hopelessly outgunned. Through those layers of down they made a unbelievable roar and it was only a matter of time before they found my fist sized breathing hole left my completely closed hood.
I was slowly being cooked. Desperately needing to vent my bag but to expose flesh was tantamount to suicide. I rolled off the neo-air and let the sand drain away heat. Rolling over and over until my dew covered bag resembled a crumbed fish.
Hours later, I finally slept and before I knew what was happening the sun was threatening to climb over the horizon. Foolishly we chose to clamber from our bags before the first rays could hasten the retreat of the horde. We payed for it with blood.
Have you ever tried to deflate a neo-air on the run and fit it back into a bar bag? It would be funny if it wasn’t for the desperation. Escape! Just get me out of here! And so it was that I was abandoned to my fate as Ollie and Heidi finished first and left me to deal with the swarm on my own. There was no grace or precision in those moments. Only sand covered items being jammed into bags as fast as fumbling fingers could manage.
Finally I finished, saddled the moonlander and made a desperate break for the safety of the ocean. The first rays of sun poked over the horizon as we made our way back to civilization and the lure of coffee and bacon.The best rides don’t always go smoothly. The best rides don’t always turn out as you expect. Sometimes the best rides don’t go well at all. Sometimes the best rides are ones spent with friends with a knowing smile that comes from shared experience. Sometimes your weekend needs a healthy dose of type 2 fun.