Nine days ago on an un-seasonally hot day, perhaps the hottest day of the year, a desperate man, with no apparent reason, rode his bike from the eastern Algarvian city of Loule lighting fires as he went westward, the last of these was a fire on the top of the Foia peak of the Monchique hills. A seemingly innocuous and small fire, but one full of menace, it defied early attempts to stop it and instead it started a chain of wildfires that raged for a week and have left scorched earth and pain and devastation in its wake. Yesterday finally the blessed rain came in from the west and brought the first healing balm to an earth in distress. A small but welcome palliative.
For the first time in a week after witnessing every vicious turn of this fire I drive down the western edge of the mountain. I am overcome. Where there was lush verdant green, ancient cork oaks, maritime pines and sweet chestnut as well as the ever-present eucalyptus, there is now scorched earth and the sickening sight of colours which are lifeless and out of place. instead of a million shades of green, I see muddy grey browns and blacks, the colours of greed, of heartlessness of pitiless gain at the expense of life.
A cold vice-like pain encircles my heart and I start to feel the tears surge through me, this beautiful mountain, this emerald heart of the south, with her jewel like presence and form has been despoiled, dishonoured by this terrible fire. A fire not of natures own hand and cause, but by a minion of someone who was paid to commit arson for gain.
A small oasis in the midst of devastation.
The terraces from directly above.
I refuse to simply let ugliness and pain become a new kind of normal and although nature in her patient resilience will recover I feel that perhaps in some small way we can help. We have 2.5 hectares of black terraces which we would like to re-seed with wildflowers, perennials and annuals, local species which are also bee and pollinator friendly to extend our little accidental nature reserve further for all the many birds, animals and insects who have little food and shelter left here. To turn something vile into something lovely and give back to this beautiful mountain some small joy and thanks.
If you wish to donate to this cause, please use the button below. We are putting in 500 euros of our own, but would need 2500 to do all the work. In the end we will seed as much land as we are able to depending on how much more we can raise.
Rustam and Tamasin