1. Find a good size sand dune. Hike up it for seven or eight minutes.
2. Admire the view.
3. If you can still wiggle your toes in your shoes, promptly remove your shoes and fill them both with sand the way you'd fill your face at a pie eating contest. Shove your feet into your shoes. It's ok if some sand overflows out.
4. Strap yourself into your snowboard and, one way or another, make it down to the bottom of the sand dune. Popular methods include rolling end over end, zooming straight down, and shimmying your weight forward a little at a time.
Congratulations. You have now sand boarded!
San Pedro de Atacama is in the heart of Chile's northern desert. As such, it is home to sandboarding. Fortunately, this has nothing to do with waterboarding but is the sandy cousin of snowboarding, except that there are no chairlifts, it doesn't hurt when you fall on your bum, and you don't want any hot cocoa at the end of the day.
I've been snowboarding and surfing just a couple of times but enough to know I'm goofy foot (left foot back) as opposed to natural or regular (right foot back). There are too many possible "goofy" jokes for me to choose one, so feel free to make up your own. Once we all got our boards, those of us who'd snowboarded before were sent up the dune. I'll admit, I was nervous! The way the dune sloped, it suddenly got quite steep and looked like a cliff! It was one of those moments when you know you won't actually get hurt, but it was still a little unnerving.
But I didn't truck up a massive sand mountain and collect half of it in my shoes just to chicken out, so off I went. It was fantastic! There's much more friction on the sand than with snow so I felt like I had much more control over my speed and direction. What's more, I managed to avoid rolling end over end. Phew!
It was terrific fun and the views were unreal: sand dunes surrounded by red rocky mountains with snow capped active volcanos in the background. The spot was known as Valle del Muerte (Death Valley) after a Frenchman told his Chilean colleagues he wanted to name the area Valle de Mardi (Mars Valley) due to its intense red color. Too bad for Frenchy, his thick French accent made Mardi sound like Muerte and the name stuck.
Afterwards we headed to Valle de la Luna to see sunset and to explore a cave. The cave deposited us in a gorgeous spot surrounded by nothing by rocks and stars.