February 16th, 2007
There’s a huge dried-up salt lake just outside Larnaca, on the way to the airport. December and January are supposedly the rainy months in Cyprus and the salt lake fills up and becomes home for a few months to thousands of flamingoes who migrate here every year from Africa.
December and January were very dry months though. Hardly rained at all. In fact, there’s a serious water shortage on the island; hose-pipe bans and fines for offenders etc. I’m doing my bit by only drinking beer! (yeah, yeah – I know – water is a rather vital ingredient)
One thing I have discovered is that the Cypriot clouds don’t know the meaning of the word drizzle! To quote a Bernie Taupin lyric – ‘And when it rains the rain comes down’. I’ve always thought it a rather obvious statement, having never seen it go in any other direction! But I kind of understand what he was getting at now. When it rains here, you’re trapped. Step outside for even just a few seconds and you’re completely drenched.
In fact, just last week I’d been sitting in the early morning sun on the balcony – not a cloud in the sky and quite warm, as forecast – and I decided to pop out and do a bit of shopping. The trouble is, I can only see half the sky from the balcony, and whereas there wasn’t a cloud in the sky in the bit I could see, the sky behind me was obviously telling a different story!
Anyway, as it was a lovely day I went out in shorts and a T-shirt. Five minutes later the heavens opened and did their bit to replenish the dwindling water stocks… and make me look a complete fool! They even threw in a bit of thunder and lightning for good measure.
Needless to say, I got absolutely soaked, and learnt a valuable lesson: Don’t trust the weather forecast, and always remember that it has a well-defined sense of humour!
There were quite a few very similar heavy downfalls of rain back in October, not long after I arrived. The locals were delighted as it had been a long, hot, dry summer. I just thought ‘I can get this in Hastings!‘
There was so much rain in October that the salt lake started to fill up, and the flamingoes started to arrive. There were several hundred of them. But the thing that puzzles me is, how did they know? Who told them? A passing swallow on his way south? I can understand how nature builds in the knowledge that come December there will be water and shrimps in the salt lake outside Larnaca, Cyprus. You can just imagine them looking at their watches and saying ‘Come on lads! It’s party time!’ But how did they know that there was water and food in the salt lake two months early?
By December the salt lake was dry again so they all buggered off. And with the almost total lack of rain in December and January, they didn’t return. Once again, how did they know that there hadn’t been any rain? Do they send out an advance party to check and report back?
Anyway, there’s been a moderately substantial amount of rain in February so far, so I imagine the salt lake has started to fill up again, and I imagine that those naughty little bottom-feeding flamingoes have returned. I don’t know; I haven’t been out that way for a while. But I’m told that it can sometimes get too deep for them to feed. I’m hoping that Steve will return from the UK soon so we can drive out there and take a look and maybe take a few photos before they’re all gone again. I imagine it’s an amazing sight – there can be up to about 12,000 of them.
That’s it for now. I’ll write again on Monday.
Photos of the flamingoes reproduced without kind permission from those very nice people at Images Of Cyprus.com – but I’m sure they won’t mind!
Photo of the Salt Lake borrowed from Wikipedia
Stamp courtesy of Cyprus Postal Services