On the way to the south of France we come across the unexpected Dune of Pilat. Of course we couldn't resist climbing to the top.
We really had no intention of visiting this dune or even knew of its existence. So when this large white shape came into view; slowly revealing itself from behind the trees it caused quite the stir in the car. Within seconds we were wide eyed, pulling over, and saddling up for a summit attempt. Fortunately, with no real plans we had plenty of time for such a spontaneous a detour.
Far to excited we began forging our own route straight through some dense scrub. We later realised how completely unnecessary this was, due to the fairly clear pathway we could have used further down the road.
Of course this made the dune look all the more magnificent when we emerged into an opening at its base. It was certainly a surreal looking landscape, and something we weren't expecting in the south of France, just 40miles from Bordeaux.
Climbing up the slopes was no easy task either. The sand was soft and fine sapping your energy with every step. The addition of the immense heat underfoot from the sunbaked sand added to the already difficult ascent. The trick then; was to take a few steps then burry your feet away from the hot surface sand. This gave your feet adequate time to cool before taking the next few steps. This was as you can imagine quite a slow process and we all attempted running up the dune at some point to alleviate the heat and speed up the process. While this worked momentarily, it proved to be far to exhausting. We all eventually referred back to the albeit slow but sure, burying technique.
The dune is the largest of its kind in Europe; created by winds from the Atlantic blowing sand in from an offshore sand bank. Over the years it has increased in size as it pushes it's way inland engulfing the local forest and even some homes.
Once at the top we had time to catch our breath and take in the scenery. In one direction we could see out toward the vast Altantic sea and in the other lay the seemingly endless Landes pine forest that dominates this area.
The Landes pine forest is the largest maritime-pine forest in Europe, originally planted to halt erosion and rehabilitate the land. Before the forest was planted in the 18th century the area was wet swampland and sparsely inhabited.
Although the descent was steep we found the best and most fun way down was to run. The soft sand that made the initial climb so difficult provided excellent cushioning for slowing you down. As with most things it was well worth the initial effort to get up there.
If your in the area, I’d definitely recommend making a visit to this unique and spectacular landscape.