Traveling for Sport

My big goal in life is going to every country and territory in the world. This involves going to places that are disputed territories like Western Sahara. Western Sahara has a long and controversial past. It is like a lover being fought over by several burly men but she just seems to want to do her own thing. I think they all want her because they have to fight for her, because truly, she isn't that pretty.

Spain had her, Morocco mostly controls her now but Algeria claims a bit of her too. No western country recognizes Morocco's sovereignty over Western Sahara and on every map that I have seen the area is called Western Sahara, not Morocco. But all of this is really just politics and I don't give a damn about politics, I care about people. Having the desire to go absolutely everywhere can get a little sticky and political at times but really, that's the fun of it all: to see our differences and to see our similarities. 

To get to Dakhla I had to fly because of time constraints. Actually it was less the constraint of time and more of the constraint of my ass on a shady bus flying through the flat monochromatic desert for 23 full hours from Marrakech. I had heard stories of crashes and breakdowns and I wasn't about to take the bus just for "the love of adventure". I would be on a plane thank you very much and get there in just under 6 hours including a layover. I had also heard rumors of trouble by Laayoune and I'm not about to get jacked up (again).

I did not know what I would do once I was in Dakhla but I had heard it was a kitesurfing mecca and if anything, maybe I could learn to do that for a few days. It was Ramadan but I was assured by several people that this wouldn't pose a problem to me because there were tourists there and things would be open. "No Problems" famous last words. I had only 4 nights there and so I would split it between the windsurfing camp and the town of Dakhla. I hadn't been able to find that there was anything to really DO in Dakhla but I was sure I'd find SOMETHING to do. 

I didn't book in to a kitesurfing camp so when I flew in I walked into town from the airport and wandered for a bit. I thought I'd check into a hotel for my first night and then make my way to a camp the next day. I found 3 different hotels, all of which cost over $100 a night. These were not $100 a night hotels in a great vibrant city. This place was a bloody ghost town and the vibe was shady. I found a taxi to take me to the camp that minute. The taxi dropped me at a cop shack in the desert and the cop said he'd find me a ride in a private car to the camp because all taxis had to stop there. Bloody hell. The cop was super nice and strangely well dressed. Like, fancy leather shoes and an Armani Exchange shirt kind of dressed. And cute. He was definitely cute.

He hailed me a ride with a couple of men with fishing gear in their beat up little car. I hopped in the back and these rough looking men struck up a chat. I found out that they are professors who go fishing when they're not teaching. They had a great hold of English and kept the conversation going through the 30 minute ride. My fear of this town disappeared and I was very sorry when they dropped me at a sand dune. Wait. Whaaaaat??? Oh, go BEHIND the dune and I'll see the camp. More cops materialized who grilled the men and I think may have given them a ticket for whatever reason. 

I followed the path and as I rounded the corner was whipped in the face by a lash of fierce wind and sand. I found someone to help me, checked in, and set my bag in my room. Hmmm, there was nothing really here. A fantastic view of the beach, a fire pit and a smattering of travelers but no other amenities. At least the beach is great! I'll hit the beach! I step outside (thinking the wind had died down) and was lashed again. WTF?!?! The wind never died down. Silly girl, that's why Dakhla is famous for kitesurfing! You need lots of wind for that. Shit. I never got to swim in that water, it was too painful.

I had one kitesurfing lesson and nearly killed myself. While I liked the power of it I knew I would never be able to kitesurf on this trip as it takes about 2 weeks to actually figure it out enough to be able to go out on the water and properly do it. And at this camp, kitesurfing is all there is. And honey, I mean ALL there is. Let's just say that in the next 3 days I read a lot and occasionally found sand in areas of my body that I was sincerely puzzled by its presence. One day I hitched a ride with one of the kitesurfers back into town. I found a nice little B and B to stay in for my last night but I found absolutely nothing open in town. No restaurants open, just a couple of sad produce stores where I stocked up on fresh olive oil, bread, and a few bananas.

When I made my way back to Dakhla town to stay I wandered around the desolate center and along the boardwalk. I was glad I came to Western Sahara but at the same time, my money would have been better spent elsewhere. If you are not a kitesurfer or not out to see absolutely everywhere I wouldn't recommend it. It's out of the way, not much here and it's very conservative. On the other hand, I was exposed to the kindness of rough men, the marvelous flavor of real olive oil, and the beautiful flowing dress of women who dress in Mauritanian style. You truly do learn something new every single day.