Through the sand to the Milky Way

Through the sand to the Milky Way

A loving couple’s talk in the sand 10 km ahead of Goblin Valley.

“It’s gonna be better after this hill, I’m sure.”

“Really? So climb up there and see yourself! I’m not moving!”



Not a long time ago we took this side road from the paved road, that was supposed to be a shortcut. It didn’t matter there was a table: “4WD vehicles with high clearance recommended.” They haven’t build a road yet, we wouldn’t be able to manage with our bikes and trailer. So we bravely cut our way through the red sand.

In a bit there is a proper swearing going on, when my bike turns violently in different directions and I drown in the deep sand. On the left there’s high sand dune.

“Where did you get us? Why didn’t we take the paved road? What am I, a mountain biker or what?”

“This road is 20 km shorter than the other one which is not fully paved as well,” says the chief of navigation.

He climbs up the hill as he was recommended and comes back with the news, it’s much better behind the hill. It’s half 4, the sun will wet in two hours. “We have to make those ten kilometers by then,” I thought.

2,5 hours later…

What happened since that last thought we could summarise simply: F…ing sand! The attempts to ride finish after few metres with a sudden change of direction and sinking of the front wheel. So we’re pushing most of the time, average speed 4km/h. Pitch dark. The dogs are loaded and unloaded in and out of the trailer depending if they make us mad by disappearing somewhere or it’s really hard for Tom to pull the full trailer in the sand. We have our principles! We don’t talk much, I’m pissed off terribly. Everything hurts and you can’t see within a meter. Finally he also realised this wasn’t a road for loaded bikes, when we had to push my bike uphill first and then come back for his. What a surprise there’s sand in the desert!

When we reach the crossing with the original road finally, we can see IT’S PAVED! There’s asphalt throughout the whole road. But we took the shortcut as the chief of navigation recommended. The chief of navigation is sent to the hottest hell and advised not to come back. Repeatedly!

A board at the entrance to Goblin Valley said the campground’s full. And we’re “delighted” by the news about the entrance fee. 13 $ for the car with up to 8 people, 10$ for cyclists per person. It’s clear that the American national and state parks encourage ecological means of transport. We fill up on water and head away to find a place to sleep. At the end we set up the camp by the road, before crawling inside the tent we had to remove all the thorns from our pants and dog paws that sticked there on the way to the hotel under million stars. We came to Goblin Valley mainly because of the night skies but running around with the camera is the last thing on my mind now.

In the morning we head to the Little Wild Horse canyon. It’s one of the few non-technical slot canyons where you can take dogs. Once more checking the forecast for the thunderstorms as we really don’t want to be flushed down the canyon. We are still young and haven’t seen Patagonia yet :).

Little Wild Horse is even better than we imagined. Narrow crossing between the pink and red walls. Phoebe is little cautious but Lolo is enjoying every second of his exploration. He’s jumping over the rocks in the way, disappearing somewhere ahead and then coming back for us. In a while we’ll come to the water. They mentioned on the board at the trailhead there might be water, as well as the girls we met on the way here said they had to cross some water but we probably thought it would evaporate in view of our famous visit. Well, it didn’t. And nobody had warmed it for us. It’s red, cold and muddy. Two options we have. Either take off the gore tex shoes or cross in them. When we imagine how long they will be drying off and how red they’ll become, we decide to be brave and cross barefoot. Lolo is rushing to the water getting excited about the swim but we call off his plans. Tom take both dogs under his arms and carry them through. The water is up to mid thigh. I don’t want to even imagine what’s at the bottom. Icy, but no so bad as crossing glacier rivers in Iceland. At the end it’s quite fun and we repeat it on the way back. At least we wash our legs when the shower isn’t on offer.

We returned to the bikes that we left at the trailhead and found the message from two Germans who live in Alberta and completed the journey from Ushuaia to Alaska, although not on bikes. I’m putting it in our travel journal as a nice memory.

On the way back to the valley we’re looking around in search for a camp spot. We’re little nervous as it’s cloudy and today was supposed to be The Night when we would take pics of the darkest skies. We hit the side road, where some RVs were camping already but we followed further to get us the best view on the expected appearance of the Milky Way. Suddenly I can hear a sound of a cricket, slightly unusual though. The only problem with this cricket it’s not a cricket! “Oh yeah, baby rattler.” I’m hitting the brake! I passed the beast like it wasn’t there. Of course, as you can hardly see it in the sand. It’s truly a baby, maybe that’s why the sound wasn’t very distinct. We didn’t really believe we would see any, as it became quite cold for them.

We’re camping under the goblins, erosion shaped sandstone sculptures. It’s getting dark but the clouds are covering most of the sky. I’m disappointed as well as relieved because after yesterday’s late bedtime and a good dinner I’m ready for my sleeping bag. We have to get out to brush teeth last thing before going to sleep.

“So, I’ve got some news for you, one good and one bad. The bad one is we don’t get to sleep yet, the good one that the clouds are gone.”

It’s well past midnight when we finally crawled into our sleeping bags. I’m dreaming about wading through the sand that dissolves into the Milky Way. Just behind me there’s somebody pedalling on a bike. It’s a baby rattler :-).

Follow Luba Lapsanska:

Older woman, 33 years old, experienced. She stopped being a doctor and started being a traveller. She likes animals more than people because they don't lie. She also likes looking at the the world through the viewfinder of her camera.

2 Responses

  1. love it. Wish we could tour with our 30kg. Labrador


      Oh you can! I know about a couple from Czech Republic, who toured around Europe with their labrador. With a little bit of training 😉

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