Calima, a Saharan blast

February 16- February 24, 2020; 2899 nm and 340 days after departure from La Rochelle

Yeah, we were able to experience an extreme weather phenomena, called Calima. (See title pic) It is a hot, oppressing dust and sand-laden, southerly to southeasterly wind in the Canary Islands region. It is particularly prevalent in winter and it blows out of a high-pressure over Northern Africa and the Sahara.  

first impressions of Las Palmas; after the dry and volcanic scenery of Lanzarote it was a pleasure to see green nature again

After a couple of days finding our way around the huge city of Las Palmas we organised a car to get to know the rest of the island. It was a beautiful sunny and clear day when we started our trip.
To get an impression of the diversity landscape of Gran Canary, we decided to drive up north and then along the west coast down to the south of the island. Our first bigger stop was at the west coast in Aldea de San Nicolás where we found by chance a nice picnic area. Hungry, but not prepared for a picnic, we were very happy to find as well a nice-little-beer-garden-kind-of-eatery in this leafy bower. Named “Parque Ruben Dia”. There we filled our bellies with some local delicacies and had a little stroll afterwards.

The Parque, the little restaurant and in the back the beach…

Close to the eatery was a little black pebbled beach and “El Charco” ( the Lagoon) . El Charco was only interesting as the locals have an unusual Fiesta del Charco each year in September. We read that they try to catch fish with their bare hands and splash each other with water. We saw pictures of where it looked like hundreds of people descend on the Charco, launch themselves into the water and were trying to catch as many fish as they can. 🤷‍♀️ Looked and sounded like a fun festival but unfortunately it was only mid February.

with the lagoon on the left

Happy and energetic after our rest we headed further south, direction Mogán and then down to the coast to Puerto Mogán. It was a pleasant drive, with nice views and sometimes even greener parts. We realised that it was getting more and more hazy but we thought that came from the see as we got closer to Puerto Mogán.

it did start to get haze; at a short stop halfway to Mogán

We were keen on visiting the village as my parents plan to come to visit us end of August. It seemed like the perfect place for all of us. A nice little village with lots of cute apartments to rent very close to the marina where we can berth Altimate. Yeppeeeee

the beach of Puerto Mogán, no clouds but dust from the Sahara

Meanwhile the haze was very strange but we didn’t really care about it. We drove back to Las Palmas and the view was getting worse. Altimate was already covered in red dust but at this time we still did not know that it was the start of Calima.
The next day, it was Sunday and Luisito’s birthday, was really strange. It was a much hotter day, with very strong winds and this fine dusty sand in the air being transported from the Sahara. The visibility was very poor and everything was covered in red sand which gave the surrounding an unnatural orange touch. Breathing felt a bit dry but was not really an issue though it seemed that nobody was outside because of that. The few people we saw in the morning ( when we went to the sanitary area) were mostly wearing mouth protection or had a scarf wrapped around their mouth and nose. We as well decided to stay in and used the day for writing the blog and other indoor works.

beautifully covered Altimate

From the news we heard that it was the worst Calima since 40 years, the airport was closed and they had to cancel some of the starting carnival events. I did not feel that it was “such a big thing”. Though I hated the dirt/dust/sand; even inside the boat everything was dusty. As a result we had to clean every single inch of the boat and had a whole load of washing (which we had to do anyway to be honest😉) to get rid of the dirt.
The following day was already a bit clearer and as we still had the car we thought we’d visit the ” Jardin Canario” the botanical garden. It made us wonder that there were no cars to be seen anywhere near the entrance. Surly the garden was closed but why? At the entrance gate we got enlightened:

That was rather funny to us, closed because of some sand. 😉
Instead of walking in the park and absorbing dusty air, we followed a route from our travel guide by car. Caldera Bandama, one of the biggest extinct volcanic crater of the island was our first stop. It was impressive but due to the still low visibility it was not as spectacular as it certainly would be with a perfect sunny day.

at the tip of the volcano, looking down on the crater; the visibility still poor due to Calima

Somehow it was again a strange day. This time not because of the weather conditions but because of the rather empty streets and the villages we visited which appeared to be extinct. In the little potter town La Atalya, we hardly saw anybody, the same in the second biggest city of Gran Canaria Telde. Almost nobody on the streets and all the restaurants and cafes closed. And I was desperate for a coffee. That is not funny for El Capitano when I crave for a Café con leche! Our last try was Agüimes. So we headed further south another 20 km through a maybe nice countryside. Who is watching the scenery when dying for a coffee? The same here only a handful tourists and everything closed. What the heck is going on? Meanwhile (it was already late afternoon) we BOTH needed some energy. Eventually after strolling through empty streets, almost resigning, we found it. One corner bar was open in the middle of its perfectly restored historic centre of Agüimes and it was filled with tourists craving for coffee.😉

two camels in Agüimes

All in all the day was ok, not as expected (though we didn’t know what to expect) but it ended quite funny and we got the answer to the empty villages. Mondays, some German speaking sailors meet in the marina in a bar to exchange some infos or just to chat a little. Most of the sailors live already for some years in Las Palmas. So knowing the local habits, they explained that the next day was a bank holiday. As it was a Tuesday they just made the weekend longer and turned Monday as well into a holiday. Nice idea if you know it.😉
The evening was funny. Some sailors started to sing German Carnival songs as it was Carnival Monday. I think they were inspired by the disguised waiter…

in Las Palmas the men love to dress up like women

which were serving us. Those guys made us curious for the upcoming carnival days.

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