I am not a religious person at all, but Dakhla always seems to bring out some kind of irrational spirituality in me. Maybe it is the desert, the locals, or just your total reliance on something as fickle as the wind. In Dakhla in the summer time the wind is more reliable than anywhere. If you had asked me before my most recent trip, I would have said that it was infallible. Last year we went for 4 and a half weeks and only had 3 days of light wind and our largest sails were 4.5m or 4.7m.
This year we only had 1 day of 4.5 weather and 4 days f 5.3m weather. Now I am sure that many of you are thinking of two week trips where you haven’t got out at all and think that I should button it. But in Dakhla, perhaps more than anywhere I’ve experienced, there is nothing whatsoever to do other than windsurf. The only commonplace activity seems to be fishing, but in Dakhla it’s completely pointless, because although you catch fish literally every 30seconds, they are always tiddlers with spiny backs. There is nowhere to go and visit, and its all sand (although possibly the Tropic of Cancer which is actually just a signpost and some sand). There is no booze. There is nothing to buy other than piss-poor fake clothing. There is not even a smidge of culture (museums, concerts etc.) to speak of. There are some real Arab-chav architectural monstrosities in town that were entertaining the first time I saw them but soon started to really offend me. Even sitting and reading is thoroughly unpleasant because you are at the complete mercy of the flies.
So the sense of bitterness that I am sure is coming across does not relate just to the lack of wind.
We had 5 days of awesome windsurfing at the best freestyle spot in the world but my ungrateful tone is due to a long string of mishaps that were thrown down to us from on high. Our baggage arrived 48hours late, apparently this is normal for Royal Air Maroc who prioritize hold space for frozen fish over tourist baggage. This is particularly surprising because the King or Morocco, who still owns the airline, is on an enormous drive to boost tourism along the Moroccan coast. This, in the end, proved to be a minor inconvenience, because the first 4 days of the trip were not windy.
However, on the way back from the airport with our gear we had a lorry-strap malfunction and my board flew off the car and bounced along the road. The rails were totally ruined. Fortunately, I learned to repair boards whilst working in Egypt and, ever the pessimist, had epoxy and glass with me. I was just about able to fix it up, but it is no longer a looker. Initially, we were staying in a kitesurfing camp called Rio Aquila but we were forced to move after Jon (my kitesurfing buddy from Architecture School) had his iphone stolen from his pillow whilst he slept! Hugh had his iphone stolen from the very same campsite on the last night of our trip last year so this year we were being super careful, we just never thought that they would be so cheeky as to come into our tents while we slept.
We moved to an awesome camp called kite1max about 2km upwind of Rio Aguila. The food and hospitality was just incredible. The downside though was that kite1max is 2km further upwind from the speed spot. With the wind being on the light side it meant that we did a serious about of dragging kit upwind. Probably over an hour each way if you include the walk across the spit back from the speed spot as well.
The final major piece of misfortune came a couple of days later when up the top of the lagoon (very fortunately right next to Club Mistral) my brother Hugh got stung by a stingray on his ankle, through his boot and wetsuit. This really did seem like an act of God. The Club Mistral staff were very quick to act and soon got the pain down by submerging his ankle into very hot water and a whole bottle of bleach. He did have to go to the delightful Moroccan hospital for an injection, which threw up by far the darkest episode of the trip. Even darker than having people steal from your bedside in your sleep.
Just as Hugh was being given his anti-venom injection, directly into his vein, the needle point of the syringe fell off, the doctor picked it up off the floor and gave the injection, complete with a sizable bubble in the syringe, before Hugh was able to say anything. As it turns out, only a bubble of 1cm3 is big enough to cause real problems, but it did make for one hell of a nervous 12 hours as we tried to get hold of our medic friends in the UK to find out whether he was going to drop dead.
These four bad things did all happen in the first week of the trip, but our bad luck was by no means over. I broke a footstrap and UJ at the speed spot on 2 consecutive windy days meaning that my sessions were cut short. Jon had great trouble getting a police report for his insurance and we got stuck without a means of getting home at the police checkpoint for a couple of hours one night. All these events had us believing that we had majorly offended the Dakhla deities in some way, and as the trip went on we started to pray more and more to that vengeful Dakhla God. In some ways he answered us by not sending any more disasters but he didn’t send any wind either. If you asked me whether I would be going back in 2013 a couple of weeks ago I would have given a definitive no, but having edited our minimal video footage into a little clip and re-watching our videos from previous years, I have remembered just how good the speed spot is. Now I think I might be going back sometime soon.
Saharwi Style 2 a Windsurfing video by ukjacksaw
Contributed by: Jack Sawbridge