The Sounds of the Desert in Peru

I can feel the heat rising off the surface of the ground as we walk across the desert sand. We are walking as far away as we can from the bus we just got off so that the sounds of the highway are muted. I walked away as far as I could allowing myself the security of being able to see the bus. I dug myself a little ditch and sat down on the slightly cooler patch of sand.

The sun is beating down, the impact on my body would be escalated had I not caught waves of relief from the gusting wind. I can feel and hear my shirt blowing in the wind as I sit quietly and patiently for the natural sounds around me to come through. I hear nothing, just a still silence. Looking at the sand I can see slight movements of the grains but their movement is so minuscule relative to the landscape that it too is inaudible. No matter how hard I try to hear it I cannot.
I listen again and hear the sounds of cars and trucks speeding by on the distant highway. There is no movement and sound produced from any vegetation because there is none. It is a desert after all, known for its lack of water and limited life. No one ever talks about the lack of sounds associated with them. Now I have realized how sound carries through the open air.I feel the wind tunneling by my ears. The uncomfortable almost pressure like feeling that almost fills my ears. When the cars and trucks aren’t driving by there is an almost dead silence. A lack of life. There is the faint sound of the whistling wind. It is so incredibly hard to find a space like this in our day and age. When I was walking away from the bus the only sound I could hear was the sound of the sand compressing under my sneakers. In the absolute silence it was the only sound I heard.
My mind wandered to biblical times, thinking of Moses’ Journey through the desert. How hard must it have been to only hear the sounds beneath your feet and the distant wind. The lack of sound could in a short time drive you mad. I searched frantically through the wind to find a sound, a rustle, any audible movement but there was none. Across the sand off in the distance there was a mountain range. The sand, the rocks and the mountains are still, anchored to their place where they naturally occur.
Listening to the sounds of the desert was not relaxing. I know people often say that you can think best in a quiet place but this was far from peaceful. It was too quiet, no sounds of nature to cut the frantic thoughts that raced through my mind. Even the sounds of the cars began to become natural sounds, I was not bothered by the sounds as much as I would have been in a more lively environment. The sound of the cars and trucks in the distant started to sound like waves almost, coming and going getting louder and softer. The sounds around us are often ignored or overlooked, sounds like these that would normally bother me turned into sounds I wanted to hear. In a lifeless desert, I needed something to remind me that I was not alone.

My little friend on the desert, he enjoyed the little water I could offer from my water bottle.


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