There’s a vast beach on the way into Dakhla where a lot of travellers stop. 4x4s, big white camper vans, the odd hitch hiker and the occasional cyclist. We’d met a couple of people on the way through Morocco who were heading to ‘Camp 25’, as it’s known locally, so we decided to pop in and say hello. About 40 or 50 campers were lined up in a semi orderly fashion, a few tents were pitched on the sand and the 4x4s parked on the sand as well, perhaps because they could.
Camp 25 is a free pitch. There’s no running water and you get the key for the toilet from the soldiers who have a post in the camp.
It’s a beautiful spot, with a lagoon where the water is crystal clear and you can watch the tiny fish scavenging your leftover food when you wash your dishes in the sea. At dawn flamingos fish in the shallows and at night the stars hang from the universe lower and brighter than I’ve ever seen before. There’s nothing like a private view of the bigger picture to give perspective to the caricature I’ve drawn of the world around me. The importance I give to human constructs fades as the desert night electrifies the heavens. I don’t mean to sound dramatic, but you can’t underplay beauty like the Dakhla night sky.
Camp 25 is also a good spot to pick up travellers’ gossip. We’d met 3 other cyclists on the road in Morocco planning to head down through Mauritania. Tony, a Belgian guy travelling in a VW surf bus tells us that he saw all three of them in Boujdour and that they’d teamed up and were travelling in convoy with a Moroccan cyclist. We hoped they’d arrive in Dakhla before we left so we could join the convoy, but they didn’t show up.
We were also part of the gossip. People on the beach had heard about our rear wheel problems long before we arrived.
We also heard other tales during our stay on the beach. The German cycle tourists who’d traded in their two bicycles for one 50cc moped and were riding it south through Africa to Madagascar along with all their gear. And the British guy travelling by motorbike who’d passed a long dead cow in Mauritania when it exploded and covered him in its remains. And then the heartwarming and heartbreaking stories surrounding the beach dogs at Camp 25. How the majority of one litter ended up in northern Europe, adopted by travellers and how others are poisoned at the beginning of each new season. And Syncro, the puppy from Tagazoute, who wandered alone into a restaurant, was adopted by Tony, and lived next door to us on the beach for a couple of days. It was unclear whether Syncro would be allowed over the Mauritanian border.
It was on this beach that I built a new back wheel for the tandem, helped by a Swiss guy’s bike tools. It was also here that we had our best meal of the trip, cooked by Titus, who we’d first met in Rabat at the Mauritanian Embassy. A fantastic pasta bake with cake for afters. ‘Have as much as you like’, he said. I really, really wanted to oblige.
Dakhla beach was an unintentional community, travellers brought together by wanderlust, many of them setting up camp for three months or more, some spending their days kitesurfing in the lagoon, others armed with a broom sweeping the desert outside their motorhomes and finally, the likes of us, just passing by, dipping our toes into the lagoon and the lifestyle before heading off down the desert road again.