Driving in Morocco is hazardous in many ways and off-road driving on the ‘piste’ even more so as we discovered when we hit a large field of Fesh-Fesh!
“Fesh-Fesh, what is Fesh-Fesh?” I hear you cry.
Fesh-Fesh, as the Arabians call it, is the by-product of thousands of years of erosion; sand that has been worn down from it’s granular size into a fine dust, not too dissimilar to talcum powder.
What makes Fesh-Fesh so dangerous is that you don’t see it coming until you are in the thick of it as we discovered whilst driving a 90 mile off-road route from Tafraout to Taouz along the Moroccan/Algeria border in the South-East.
When encountered it can spell instant disaster, as its smoke-like plumes can quickly obscure vision and it’s quicksand like qualities can leave you with a sinking feeling. Tread too deeply or too slowly and expect the Fesh-Fesh to envelope your vehicle. Luckily for us we had aired the tyres down on the friendlier, slightly forgiving, soft yellow sand prior to hitting the Fesh-Fesh field.
In a slight panic and with Emma crying “whatever you do, don’t stop” in my ear I nailed the accelerator and was thankful Bee-bee’s gas guzzling 3L turbo engine had the horsepower to get us through it. A quick glance in the wing mirror revealed the volcano-esq clouds slowly engulfing Bee-bee as the power and traction got sucked from the vehicle. Wrestling with the steering wheel I attempted to aim the car at the surest tracks ahead and by some miracle after about 500m managed to find some firmer ground.
Once airborne, this billowing dust can linger, creating havoc for anyone following in your tyre tracks. Due to its powdery qualities the Fesh-Fesh adheres to anything it can settle on, and it wasn’t until the following day at our campsite that the Fesh-Fesh really started to cause me some real problems.
Whilst doing my daily undercar crawl I inhaled a face full of Fesh-Fesh that had gathered in the chassis rails, my nose started streaming instantly and a bout of sneezing begun that has lasted 8 days and counting. A full-on dry cough developed and a quick email to Doctor Lois, our resident expedition doctor, revealed the rather over-priced cough sweets I had purchased weren’t going to do much.
Inflammation of the airways or ‘Sahara Lung’ as we called it was the diagnosis and not much can help except a Ventoline inhaler and time. After a week of sleepless coughy nights I still have a croaky voice and the slightest of dust sets of a sneezing fit that has slowly been depleting our supplies of Anti-Histamines!
Despite feeling rather poorly and sorry for myself I would still rather drive that track on a daily basis than commute to work everyday!