My stomach wasn't the only place where a storm was brewing. The morning after our return to the comparative civilisation of Merzouga a sandstorm whipped up and started filling every crevice with gritty dust.
Sandstorms aren't really storms of sand, they're just high winds in a place where everything is perpetually covered in drifts of desert. If you had high winds in a place like Australia's Fraser Island, the largest sand island in the world, then you could have a sandstorm, but all it takes to reduce visibility to practically nothing in the Sahara is a bit of a breeze, and when the sirocco is whipping its way through the land, the chances are reasonably high that you're going to get caught.
We got caught, no doubt about it. We'd already decided to stay an extra day to recover from the bruising that a camel trek over undulating dunes gives your thighs, but the excessive heat wasn't helping my continuing problems with my gut, and worse still, Peta had finished her book and there's precious little to do in the desert. We were going stir crazy, and despite the sandstorm outside and the scary prospect of driving while ill, we decided to throw caution to the driving winds and head north. It was fun.
Driving through a sandstorm is an experience, especially in a tiny Fiat Uno over corrugated roads in the scorching desert heat. On the way in we'd wondered why the roads of southern Morocco were lined with rock cairns, even those roads who had long since been paved with bitumen, but driving through the storm it became obvious: you can't see the road at all when sand is blowing across it in snaking patterns that hide all the detail. We crawled along the road, all the time keeping a lookout for hubcaps on the side of the road (we'd lost one on the way to Merzouga, and presumed that the piste had rattled it off the car on the way in), and despite the clouds of sand pouring into the car through cracks in the doors and air vents that said they were shut but which obviously weren't, we made it to the main road where the storm calmed down and the road stopped rattling quite so much.
We'd gone out in a blue car and came back in a peach one, but at least we'd survived. I just kept thinking of that poor, lonely hubcap, somewhere out in the blistering desert, wondering what on earth had happened. Fiat Unos just weren't designed for desert driving, I guess...