What an incredible day. I can’t believe all the things we saw. The biggest problem I’m running into in Sahara is that describing the way things look and happen isn’t good enough; it’s all about the way it makes me feel. Walking through an occupied, UN city like Dakhla, I can describe what I see, but that is nothing compared to all the things I feel. Luckily, what I felt most today was awe, so I’ll do my best to describe it.
The UN said their most important rule was to stay on they track. So, naturally, we went off-roading.
Since there is not all that much to do in town, our hotel set up an excursion for us to what is called La Dune Blanche. We didn’t know what it was, but eager to leave Dakhla we were happy to climb into our 4WD this morning. Our driver, Sidati (I think), was Saharawi, meaning he is native to Western Sahara, and does not at all consider himself Moroccan.
We didn’t get stopped by the police leaving the city, which was already an improvement to Laayoune. The landscape is unlike anything I’ve ever seen around here. I’ve seen amazing deserts in Arizona, Oman, Jordan, and Morocco, and they’ve all been completely different and equally beautiful, but the Sahara is something else. It was flat and bleak, but somehow still sandy and textured. I really can’t explain it. We drove by camels and a massive cherry tomato farm hidden under tarps and tents.
Our first stop was to this collection of camper vans and tents along the beach. We pulled in and I completely forgot where I was. Suddenly we were surrounded by surfers and other tourists. It was like this strange outpost for windsurfers and kitesurfers. People had told us there were other tourists in Dakhla, but this was the first time we’d seen anyone. And now they were everywhere. Dakhla is famous for kitesurfing, apparently, and in the Winter, Europeans come down in their camper vans and hang out until it gets too hot.
After snapping some pictures, we got back in the car and drove along the main road that heads in and out of Dakhla. We didn’t stay on the road for long, though. Once we hit the end of the peninsula, our driver shifted gears and we left the paved road behind. I’ve been off roading before, but it never ceases to amaze me how someone can drive a car like that. We drove over rocks and through massive piles of sand, and somehow the car was absolutely fine, even though we were all a bit shaken up.
After a while of driving through the desert, we came upon the ocean. The shore was covered with flamingos! I’ve only ever seen them at the Phoenix zoo, but they really are just as pink in the wild! When we got close enough they got scared and flew away, and it was the most beautiful thug to see them take off from the water and fly.
Finally, we reached the dune. There were all sort of little sand dunes throughout the desert, but La Dune Blanche was different. A tiny ways into the water, a massive white mountain of sand came out of the ocean, glowing white. It almost looked like a mirage – it was so perfect. We parked on the beach, and got out to explore.
The water was shallow and warm so we could walk up to the dune. The sand was so soft that our footsteps only lasted a few minutes before the sand evened out again. The sky was so big, and the whole surrounding area was vast and beautiful. We were surrounded by a sea of sand on one side, and the ocean on the other. The sand was so white, and the sun was so bright that the sky seemed white too. It felt like how they show heaven or paradise on TV shows. We climbed all the way to the top, and then down the other side and into the water. It was so warm and perfect. It was one of the most magical places I’ve ever been.
We could have been there for minutes or hours, and I would have had no
idea. Eventually the tide started coming in, so we had to head back to the mainland. When we got back to the truck, our driver was sitting in the ground next to the 4WD preparing Saharawi tea for us! He had dug down and made a tiny fire in the sand out of paper, and we watched as he boiled water over it in a little teapot and mixed in tea leaves and sugar. While the second pot of tea boiled, he poured one glass of tea, and continually poured it into each cup over and over again until every glass had a good layer of tea foam on the top. It was so sweet and warm, and we sat on the sand in a circle and drank while talking about Morocco. Luigi asked him if this is Morocco, and he said no, this is Sahara, and that it’s different.
Eventually we got back in the car and left the white dune behind. We drove back through the desert and onto the main road, which was a relief, until he continued past it and we started off-roading in the other side! We went to what he called “La Source”, which it turns out is a source for sulphuric hot springs. I guess a lot of people come to shower because the water is really good for your health. We didn’t have time to shower, but I gave my feet a good wash, and got splashed by a lot of the water.
Our next stop was a little fish restaurant on the side of this sandy slope heading down towards the ocean. From the outside it looked like a rundown shack, and I guess it was, but once you got down there there was a beautiful deck with chairs and tables full of locals eating oysters!
Apparently the region is famous for oysters, and it was all people were eating for as far as you could see. We sat down at one of the tables, and they brought us a plate of oysters that minutes earlier were pulled out of the water. I’ve never loved oysters, but I of course tried one, and they were actually pretty good! While we slurped them down, we watched men pull giant nets full of oysters onto the landing and start cracking them open.
Mack and I weren’t big enough fans to have a whole meal of oysters, so we asked about other fish. The man came back moments later holding two giant fish that had just been pulled out of the ocean. We pointed to one, and soon enough we were all sharing the most delicious grilled fish with vegetable on a beautiful big tray. I don’t know if I’ve ever had such good fish!
That was our last big stop, and we got back to the hotel around 5. After relaxing for a bit and regrouping, we went for dinner at a restaurant called Villa Dakhla. I had camel and potato pie, which was incredibly delicious.
Now we’re back at Dar Rio Oro settling in for the night, and it’s hard to believe we’re heading back to Rabat tomorrow. Today was incredible.