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The sand shifted, slithering out from under my toes to tumble down the slopes of the dune on either side of me. I walked along the thin ridge, my legs burning from the strain of climbing the dune, and the wind continued to prick my skin with the little harsh grains. Through my squinting eyes I could see my friends climbing up the Singing Sands high above me, moving slowly but steadily up the white mountain towards the faint smudge of a gibbous moon at the peak. As they often do when hiking, my feet soon failed me, but I contentedly sat on a little plateau in the dune and surveyed the land as the wind constantly slithered through the sand around me, making it mound or fall, or sneaking it into my jacket pockets or up the legs of my pants.

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The figures above me looked tiny, a row of travelers completing yet another adventure. I was curious about what the view was like from up there, but my own landscape was so brilliant and immense I wasn’t disappointed. The Singing Sands rise from the shrubby and arid Gobi Desert seemingly out of nowhere. They run in a long line, like a mountain range sprouting from an otherwise flat plain. I could see our little envoy of trucks blending in with the lines of dry bushes and grasses at the edge of the dunes. Some of my other traveling companions who also had not attempted the climb wandered like lost camels, content to listen to the wind and follow the hawks that rode it over the humps of sand.

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Strange marshy areas dotted the bottom of the dunes and soon I struggled up to explore what kind of organisms would inhabit such strange areas of moisture. Little tadpoles and small sparrow-like birds hopped and wriggled through the pool of sorts. I sat with my aunt Rachel to watch them, and we were soon joined by other friends. It was around this time that I felt and heard a hum flow through the ground under my crossed legs. It passed through my spine and vibrated softly through my boots hanging over my shoulders before sighing through my head. It was so subtle and so gentle that at first I thought was the distant drone of a van driving across the desert as we’d often heard during our daily lunch break. However, I soon realized it was the song of the sands I was hearing, the wind-sand music that gave this part of the desert its name.

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Leaving the dunes was a strange feeling. Running down the side of a sand dune is immensely freeing, at the same time as being gritty and messy as the sand travels up your bare feet and into every nook and cranny of your body. And staring at the shifting and blurring sand is a kind of meditation, but at the same time I was wrapped up so tightly in my kafia that only my eyes felt the heavy sunlight because without the protection the sand bites your cheeks and stings your neck. The Singing Sands were incredibly peaceful and yet mercurial and intense at the same time, something that was very hard to get my head around. We left the dunes to continue our journey through the desert feeling exhausted but absolutely thrilled with our experience.

Photos by myself

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