A land of sand and galaxies
Loonse & Drunense Duinen
Ten years long Dutch WideOyster contributors Bas van Oort and Dirk Wijnand de Jong explored the world until they realized they hardly knew their own country. ‘Expedition Backyard’ was born. In four seasons they explored their own country like it was their last quest. Through the eyes of real world travelers they discovered the swamps of the Netherlands, and also islands, but most surprised they were to find a true sand desert in Brabant.
There we stand, just admiring the view. The same mist we felt on our skin back in the woods now hovers below us like a transparent veil covering the sand. If you stare at it long enough, it seems like a ghost floating slowly above the heathland plants. The scene gets truly magnificent when the sun first creeps up just above the blankets of leaves. In an instant, the dark plain lying at our feet becomes a murky, watery orange world with twisted stumps rising up from it like curious phantoms.
It feels like we’re part of some kind of adventure film. Blissfully, we run down the hillside, kicking up the sand in all directions as we go.
If you stare at it long enough, it seems like a ghost floating slowly above the heathland plants
We decide to explore this sandy plain by sticking close to the edge of the woods. There’s a sudden bend to the right a couple of hundred metres further on, which reveals an even larger, longer and hillier stretch of desert. As far as our eyes can see there’s nothing but sand dunes, one ‘mountain’ after another, ever-changing hills made of billions of millions of grains of sand. And then to think that there are seven times more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on Planet Earth. That fact suddenly comes to mind when I shake an entire galaxy out of my shoes at the top of a metres’ high sand dune.
SAHARA OF BRABANT
I can still remember the first time I visited a really ‘real desert’. I woke up in a bedouin tent in the Sahara. There were microscopically small grains of sand in my buttcrack, in my mobile phone and – even weeks later, after I’d returned home – in my ears. But what made the biggest impression on me was a trip to a thirty-metre high ridged mountain of sand, where a sandstorm suddenly descended and erased all my tracks, leaving me feeling totally disoriented. Suddenly, the horizon looked precisely the same whichever way you looked. At that moment I realised just how crucial a bad decision can be in a place like that. My second such experience, this time in Peru, served to underline that. A glimmering object in the sand caught my attention. When I got closer, I found it was the skeleton of a young woman, completely intact, with just a few remnants of flesh and clothing in places.
What made the biggest impression on me was a trip to a thirty metre high sand dune
As Liva and I continue our walk over the ridged, sandy landscape of the Loonse en Drunense Duinen, we find ourselves part of a climatological formula. It states that the higher the sun rises above the trees, the quicker the mist evaporates and the more layers of clothing one has to shed. In the summer, the day and night temperature in this nature reserve can vary by as much as fifty degrees Celsius, it’s not called the Sahara of Brabant for nothing. And as if that weren’t torturous enough, the glimmering sand also acts as a kind of mirror and blinds you totally.
The adventures of Bas van Oort and Dirk Wijnand de Jong in their own country can be followed via www.instagram.com/expeditieachtertuin. Recently, the most beautiful photos and stories were also bundled in a cool coffee table book, which immediately ended up in the Bestseller60. In 256 pages Expedition Backyard shows that you don’t have to sit on the plane for hours to see something beautiful and magical, or to go on an adventure. For sale in the bookstore for the temporary introductory price of € 29.50.
Somewhere in the distance there’s the sound of a spotted woodpecker tap, tap, tapping and the ominous call of a buzzard flying overhead
We decide to seek some shade and cool down in the woods. There’s no path to follow, so we dive into the echoing forest, passing two immense fir trees, walking over a carpet of pinecones, thousands of them. I love it here, the mystery of the silence and the echo. When a branch snaps somewhere, you suddenly straighten up in a heightened state of alert. Who knows what kind of creature is hiding in the bushes? Somewhere in the distance there’s the sound of a spotted woodpecker tap, tap, tapping and the ominous call of a buzzard flying overhead. That kind of bird information is something I mostly receive via a ‘live feed’. It goes like this; I WhatsApp three or four clues to my brother, Gertjan. For instance: ‘small, brown songbird, sitting on a branch, has a crest’ – and he replies immediately with a photo of a woodlark and information about its call, areas where it is found and its characteristics.
Just before we finish our trip through the park, three deer take a parabolic leap over a tree trunk along the path. ‘Roe deer’, my brother corrects me immediately. ‘And, by the way, they make a dreadful racket when they bellow. Sound just like a dog with a nasty cold.’
Explore the Dutch Desert Loonse & Drunense Duinen