09/03/2012

CALIMA!

Half our island has disappeared!
A calima came in yesterday - at first just a haze in the air. Sitting outside the bar at 7pm we could see Las Galletas on the coast 5 kilometres directly south, and Mt Teide to the north. By 7.30 they had gone, smothered in a thick brownish fog of fine sand that had blown in on an easterly wind from Africa.
Every surface was gritty, our eyes stung, sinuses ached from breathing dust, and we had to buy another drink to wash the taste from our throats.
Today, on my morning walk, if I looked straight up the sky was blue, but the horizontal view told a different story. Cho mountain, 500 metres away, was hazy, a further kilometre along the road, Guaza mountain was only a murky outline, and Mt Teide might as well not have existed.
It was a weird feeling driving to the shops later. Most familiar landmarks were missing, leaving me and my little car isolated in an eerie, shrunken world.
There used to be only two or three calimas a year - now we get two or three a month. Apparently it's due to vehicles replacing camels and breaking up the surface of the Sahara. Heavy lorries with huge wheels, careless mining practices, adventure tourism and cross-desert races in 4x4s are destroying the fragile balance of nature.
When you fly into Tenerife you will see beige areas that look like concrete bases for some vast building. These are the plastic covers to keep the sun off and the moisture in banana plantations, every acre of them covered in layer after layer of African dirt.
We can see the top of the calima now, which means it's settling, clogging the pores of every leaf.
We washed our car on Wednesday - you wouldn't think so now.

1 comment:

  1. I saw this when living in Egypt. There it's called Khamsin. Khamsin is the Arabic word for 50 as these sand storms often blow for 50 days.
    The sand gets everywhere, I was forever sweeping it up and dusting and it inspired me to write a poem, which was shortlisted in a comp once.

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