Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Hot Winds & Sahara Sand


I knew that something had changed since our morning walk, when I stepped over the threshold yesterday evening, even before my other senses kicked in, there was a warmth on my skin that I’d missed for months now. As I descended the half dozen steps from the front door the lack of wind was startling. El Médano is famous for its wind; it’s the wind and kite surfers’ town, for goodness sake. Then I glanced over to where Montaña Roja should have been, and it wasn’t there, or at least not that I could see.

Years ago there was an episode of “The Twilight Zone” in which the folk of a normal, middle-class American suburb wake to a thick fog. The citizens driving off into it on their way to work in the city all return, because the fog is so deep and impenetrable that they are afraid. It turns out that the entire suburb had been whisked off to another planet by aliens, and the fog is to discourage them from venturing outside their zone. That program always, always comes to mind when we have a calima this dense.

Calima is what this is, not fog, nor mist, but dust; so thick in the air that you can taste it. It’s known as polvo en suspensión (suspended dust) here. I should have known when I woke with painful sinuses. They are my personal barometer, but when we walked along the beachfront I didn’t notice it that much. It did cross my mind the day before, when I heard the weather forecast – high winds on the eastern islands, those closest to Africa. Yet all day I was working away indoors and didn’t notice the wind drop, nor the light become translucent.

Winds from Africa bring sand and dust from the Sahara, and when the winds abate it hangs in the air ominously. There is often a mild scattering hanging around, veiling the farther mountains so that their features merge and become indistinct, but it’s a couple of years now since I remember a calima this heavy, and in 25 years I could count on my hands the number I’ve seen. The worst lasted a couple of weeks, but often they disappear miraculously after a few days, sometimes overnight even. They are most common around this time of year.

The horizon was lost in the haze, but this paddle surfer was taking advantage of the unusually calm waters to practice his sport. Doesn’t he look like a phantom emerging from the water!

It’s especially bad news this year because the last thing this parched and arid south east coast landscape needs is dust. The flora everywhere is already skeletal and dirty-looking.  It’s been about a year since it rained, and whilst that might sound wonderful to those of you further north, or even here in the holiday resorts, it’s sad to see the hillsides looking so barren and forlorn. Usually at this time of year they are dressed in their springtime best for a while until the sun god takes his toll again. In Gran Canaria reservoirs are said to be 26% down on their normal capacity. Hopefully, our underground reservoirs in Tenerife can take the strain. Even when the sun is bright on the coast,   the swirling mountain mists and trickle their water into the porous, volcanic earth which seeps into the caverns below.

Compare the photos below. The first one of each scene was taken yesterday evening, and the following one is a shot taken from a similar position  at around the same time on a normal day.

This morning there is breeze in El Médano, and although the sun is ghostly behind the dust, it’s not so dense as it was last evening.  The tv is advising those of us with allergies to stay indoors as much as possible over the weekend, so by Monday we should be back to normal.


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

10 thoughts on “Hot Winds & Sahara Sand

  1. Always good to read your blog. I receive it via the Secret Tenerife link ~ but will try to do the techno thing so that I can read your directly as you taught me something as a twice a year visitor I didn’t know, about the underground reservoirs. We often wondered where the water came from as we’ve never seen a river…… dense or what. We too love El Médano it feels a real lived in town not just a resort and the coastline/beach is so beautiful. Thanks for reminding us.

  2. ‘whilst that might sound wonderful to those of you further north’

    No it really doesn’t 🙂

    Apart from liking the rain anyway (it is infrequent despite populist propaganda), the drought is having a serious affect oop north as well. The government is talking about increasing the amount of desalinated water produced in order to feed the thirsty northern farmlands.

    • Really I meant northern Europe when I wrote that (Guy is always telling me I should explain things better). I know there is a problem north of Teide too – it just doesn’t look as parched as the south does, and the fire risk must be off the scale I imagine. If it isn’t now it certainly will be by summer. I’ve always thought desalination should have been a major priority for the cabildo anyway – just given the increase in both population and tourism.

  3. Oh so THAT’s what it was! I thought it was mist when I woke up to find that the sea and mountains had disappeared 🙂

    • It isn’t often as bad as this, but often what you first think is mist is just dust in the air. It usually isn’t sufficient to set off sinus problems for me, but when it’s so heavy it hurts! It’s already gone from El Médano. Yesterday afternoon I could see a line in the sky where is clearly still hovered. That’s something I’ve never seen before, but looks like it will all be over by tomorrow.

  4. LOL – my northern weather radar was on sensitive mode.

    The northern hills might seem less parched but they actually look like they normally do at the end of summer rather than the end of winter, which is worrying. The risk of serious fire in the summer is a real concern if the rains don’t come this month or over the next couple.
    We’ve been walking in the west quite a bit lately and even at altitude the plant life is brown and thirsty looking with the normally perky aeoniums in a sorry state. I compared photos with ones taken around the same time in previous years and where there were swathes of glorious wild flowers in fields of green, there is only dying flora.

    Even carnaval didn’t do the trick. We’ll have to Google ‘how to do a rain dance’ if things don’t change soon.

    • You should know me better! But Guy did give me a telling off last week about assuming that folk understand what I’m talking about, and that I should be more specific, so I guess he’s right :=)

      I think they need to start hammering home the fire risk potential right now. Even though the pines renew other flora doesn’t, and animals losing habitat isn’t good. Driving back from Icod de los Vinos a couple of weeks ago we wondered why the pine needles weren’t gathered to help reduce the risk (especially with so many unemployed folk who would appreciate some worthwhile work!). We assumed that firstly gathering them might destroy habitat too, and secondly Pilar thought that basically, bureaucracy was an issue, yet I’m sure I’ve seen it done in the past.

  5. Hope it clears up! Hadn’t heard of that dust issue before.

  6. It’s already cleared from my town, and the island was predicted to be clear by tomorrow morning, which looks right. I think that there must similar along the Costa del Sol coast. I certainly remember being there when fiercely hot winds were blowing across the Med. Hotter, in fact, than I’ve ever experienced here, but I don’t remember the dust – then, that was a long time ago!

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