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Archive for October, 2009

It's hard to beat starting your day with a sight like this.

We were just admiring the magnificent view of Mount Teide from the putting green outside our gate this morning when José and Glenn came wandering past. There followed a short conversation during which each showed due deference to the other’s native tongue.  So Glenn, Jack and I spoke in Spanish and José answered in English.

It made me smile.

The conversation ended with us all  agreeing that we were living “en paraíso”.

And indeed we are.

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Look hard and imagine yourself here, then follow the link and make it happen!

There’s nothing quite like nights drawing in to bring home the fact that you’re in for a long, cold winter during which any semblance of a sun tan carried over from the summer hols will fade inexorably to milky white dotted with goose pimples and a vaguely blue aura.
But the new season also brings some very good news.

Last week we launched Tenerife Magazine, a brand new online magazine, Tenerife’s first in fact, and to celebrate, the nice people from Sands Beach Resort in Lanzarote have placed an unbelievably wonderful offer on the table that could have you digging the suntan lotion back out of the bathroom cabinet before it’s had a chance to gather dust.

Not only do you get a bright, interesting magazine full of Tenerife features, sports and events, but you also get the chance to win a free week at a stunning resort on the neighbouring island of Lanzarote.
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All you have to do is become a fan of Tenerife Magazine on Facebook and your name will automatically go into a draw for a week’s FREE accommodation at Sands Beach Resort.
Could it possibly be any easier?

If you’ve never been to Lanzarote you can only imagine the peace and tranquillity of Costa Teguise with its neat, white buildings, sweeping golden shoreline and lush palm trees wafting lazily against an impossibly blue sky.
At Sands Resort, all the villas border picturesque swimming pool plazas or hem the soft sand beach of the private lagoon so that the minute you leave your villa, you’re in sunbathing paradise.

With the draw being made at the end of November, you could soon be dreaming of a Golden New Year to go along with your White Christmas.

So what are you waiting for? Delve into the thoughts of Tenerife’s premier writers and win yourself a week in the sun at the same time. Luvly jubbly.

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Last week we had a meeting in the south of the island at 10am and not being sure how bad the morning traffic into Santa Cruz would be, we decided to set off by 8am. It’s a journey that would normally take us just over an hour so we were erring on the generous side.
At 7am I leapt out of bed and went into the kitchen to put the coffee on. Through my sleepy haze I could see a dozen or more ants running around the draining board. Raising my eyes I noticed a thin black highway of ants running up and down the wall above the sink and slowly, as I scanned the worktop I saw the thin line running to and from the old plastic container in which we keep peelings and egg shells that are destined for the compost heap.

The night before, I’d taken some eggs out of the fridge to make an omelette and had just slightly knocked one against the other (well you know what they say about making an omelette without breaking eggs). When I looked down, there was a small hole in one but as I couldn’t be absolutely certain that it had only appeared that instant, I didn’t take any chances and put it in with the compost peelings. Clearly, I had inadvertently given the local ant population a midnight feast.

View of Los Cristianos from Montaña Guaza

View of Los Cristianos from Montaña Guaza

Immediate action was called for. The ants were ‘tapped’ back up the wall until we could see where they were coming from and then rounded up from all over the worktops and herded back whence they’d come before spraying the wall with ant spray (sorry environment – short on time). We were planning to hike up Montaña Guaza after the meeting and so had to make up sandwiches, pack clothes to change into, hiking shoes and water into the rucksack. Not to mention, have some breakfast.
By 7.30am we were still in our dressing gowns and hadn’t even drunk our coffee.

Half a headless chicken hour later and feeling like we’d already put a full day in, we were driving at a nifty pace up the motorway until we rounded the corner just shy of Santa Úrsula (about 8 km into the journey) and ground to a halt. For the next 45 minutes we watched the clock race and the speedo’ crawl until we finally reached the Tacoronte turn off and took the exit. We crossed the bridge and headed back on the westbound carriageway.
An hour after we’d set off, we were back at the Puerto turn off and heading towards Icod to take the shorter, but considerable slower route over the mountain to the west coast.

Normally a spectacular Tenerife drive to be enjoyed and savoured, it seemed today like just about every other vehicle had developed a top speed of 15 kilometres an hour, causing much high blood pressure and an inordinate amount of swearing. Eventually we arrived at the southern end of the motorway and picked up speed, only to grind to a halt once more in the rush hour traffic heading into the south from the west side of the island.

We finally arrived in Los Cristianos at 10.50 am, the perfect time to not find a parking spot. A brisk ten minute walk later, we arrived at our meeting, 3 hours after we’d set off.

Meeting over, we drove out to Montaña Guaza and parked up. A quick change of clothes, a swiftly swallowed butty,

A barren landscape

A barren landscape

some slapped on sun cream and off we set. We knew we were in for about a three hour hike so Jack set the pace like a greyhound out of the traps. All was going well until the directions we were following told us to ignore the path straight ahead and detour off into the barren, arid wasteland whose only identifying features were a grid of trails leading in every direction, none of them reflecting the instructions in the book.

After going miles out of our way, we finally tracked back to the path we’d left in the first place but by then the humidity and greyhound pace had sent me into light headed land from which I could not escape. No amount of ‘head between the knees’ would banish my near faint and I had to concede that I wasn’t going any further.

We got back home at around 6.30pm to find several ants on the worktop where they’d presumably spent the day running around, directionless and thwarted at every turn. I knew just how they felt.

Some days the Gods are just not with you.

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We were hiking in the Chinyero Reserve on Tuesday and when we finished

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

we headed to the Las Fleytas bar and restaurant for our customary post-hike beer. The restaurant has a deservedly good reputation for tasty, plentiful food and is also known for its almond cakes.
With Richard and Nikki (and of course Basil, the Tenerife Dogs spokesman) as hiking companions, I thought introducing them to ‘almendras’ would be the perfect excuse for me to finally get to try one.

We ordered our beers and I hesitantly asked if the barman had ‘almendras’ as I wasn’t sure if that was what they were called.
He shook his head and said he didn’t have any.
Disappointed but now having the ‘taste’ for something sweet in our heads, Jack was despatched inside to see what they had that would serve as an adequate substitute. He re-emerged moments later with a broad grin on his face and a plate containing four large, circular almond cakes.

He later told me that the barman had said that they never have almendras for sale and when Jack had pointed to the cakes in the glass food cabinet under the bar and asked, “So what are these?” the guy had said, “They’re almendras”, before adding, “Oh! You meant you wanted these?”
Jack’s raised eyebrow must have been a recognisable clue because he then realised what he’d said and tagged on “almendras dulces” to the order.

I have to say, looking at the large, flat, biscuits I was very disappointed. I had expected soft, moist sponge with an almond essence and I dunno, maybe even the slightest hint of vanilla icing on top, or desiccated coconut maybe.
As it was, Basil got an unexpected few lumps of biscuit.

For biscuit lovers, it was probably perfectly nice. But for a cake lover, it was definitely a disappointment and a complete misnomer if you ask me.

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Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Hiking in the hills above the south coast last weekend, the landscape was dominated by dried up terraces overgrown with brown weeds where only the lethal leaves of giant Agave plants punctuated the arid monotony.
A derelict farmhouse told its own story. Set into a hidden valley with the mountains at its back and the Atlantic Ocean laid out at its feet, its once crop-rich lands were today in ruins, a back-breaking life of toiling terraces long since abandoned in favour of the easier and more lucrative option of providing shelter, food and drink to sun-hungry tourists on the coast below.
You could see the attraction. Up here the earth was baked, the only rainfall coming from dense low cloud and the rarest of winter downpours. Just negotiating its contours on foot brought on a sweat, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to plough, sow, weed and harvest the unyielding earth.

Bordering the ocean on the coastline below, the developments of the last fifty years spread ever further westwards, closing gaps between resorts and swallowing small fishing hamlets into their hungry jaws. Down there the terrain was just as barren as up here but everywhere it was dotted with the green swathes of a golf course here and a banana plantation or a hotel garden there.
Despite the distance, I could hear the amplified instructions of an aqua aerobics instructor and imagined her class in their five star swimming pool, unaware that life even existed in the mountains that provided their holiday backdrop.

Further along the road there was a picnic laid out on long trestle tables and forty or fifty hunters were gathered. In all probability they lived quite locally, spent their working days serving in the hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and banks at the coast below and retreated up here at the weekend to don their hunting clothes and get back in touch with a way of life which seems mostly to have been lost. Apart from one or two notable exceptions, these guys all had huge bellies overhanging the waistband of their camouflage pants and were smoking big, fat cigars as they wandered the two strides distance they had left between their parked 4x4s and the tables containing their generous lunches.

I couldn’t help wondering if anyone had done research into the life expectancy of the Canarios over the last fifty years. I wouldn’t mind betting that, for all its severity and deprivation, the old way of life would have kept their grand parents a whole lot healthier than many of their descendants are today. It would have kept their hills a lot greener too.

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Sri Lankas wildlife takes some beating

Sri Lanka's wildlife takes some beating

A couple of nights ago Jack and I were watching a video of our last trip to Sri Lanka (sad I know, but until you’ve lived with Spanish TV for 6 years, don’t knock it) and we were reminded of the incredible variety of birds and animals that you find on that island paradise. Kingfishers, cormorants, weaver birds, parakeets, fireflies, monitor lizards, elephants – and that was just in the space of one trip down the Mahweli River in Kandy.

By comparison, the island of Tenerife is rather thin on the ground when it comes to wildlife – Whiskas being the exception of course.
We once had a bizarre conversation with a Brit ‘swallow’ on his last winter sojourn when he casually informed us that wild deer roamed the pine forests around the edge of Teide National Park. When pressed, he had to admit that his information was based solely on the existence of several traffic warning signs which clearly showed the outline of a deer within the red triangular framework. We assured him that there had undoubtedly been a cheap job lot of deer warning signs for sale and the Tinerfeños were using them to advise drivers to watch out for ‘mouflon’, in their typically mas o menos way (which incidentally is the reason why bends only ever occur at 3 kilometre intervals on Tenerife…there was a sale of ‘bends for 3 kilometres’ signs – okay that’s completely unsubstantiated, but I reckon it’s true).

Mouflon are in fact wild sheep with incredibly impressive long, curled horns like some sort of mythological creature. Which is quite appropriate really as we’ve never, ever seen one. Jack thought he saw some on a ridge in the Anaga Mountains once but they were too far away to be sure and to be honest, I thought they looked more like goats. The mouflon allegedly inhabit parts of the Teide National Park and graze on rare species of plant life so they’re considered pests and apparently are killed if spotted by rangers.
Still, the point is that in six years of travelling the island and never having seen one, it seems highly unlikely that they should warrant the use of warning signs to alert drivers to their presence.

He may not be monitor sized, but hes a handsome chap neverthless - Lagarto Tizon, native to Tenerife

He may not be monitor sized, but he's a handsome chap neverthless - Lagarto Tizon, native to Tenerife

Other than the illusive mouflon, we’re pretty much restricted to lizards or run-of-the-mill rabbits, rats, bats and assorted domestic animals. Even the birds, although some are clearly spectacular, pale into insignificance alongside Sri Lanka’s 400 plus species.

But then yesterday afternoon, just as I was leaving the car park to drive to a meeting in the south west of the island, I had to brake hard to avoid hitting a kestrel which swooped down right in front of the car, grabbed a large lizard in both claws and then struggled to achieve height with the weight, flying low in front of the bonnet until it adjusted its carrion and finally flew over the banana plantation wall.

The wildlife might not come up to Sri Lanka standards, but it can still put on a show for you when you least expect it.

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It’s a weird thing about Los Silos. Venture there during the day and you’ll find a sleepy, picturesque village with an Art Nouveau bandstand, a church that looks like it’s constructed out of icing sugar and egg whites; and beautifully restored traditional architecture. But go there for one of its fiestas and you’ll find yourself knee deep in dreadlocks, harem pants, patchouli oil and peace and love.

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

Hippies and batucada in Los Silos

And that’s exactly how it was last weekend when Los Silos staged the Boreal Festival of the Whale; out came the Neo-hippies in their droves.
As I wandered up towards the whale skeleton that stands as a sculpture on the headland I had to snake my way through jugglers, a girl practising her Zuni Poi Swings who nearly had my eye out, trainee stilt walkers and a dreadlocked, bare-chested, uni-cycle rider.
The air was thick with the smell of musk, patchouli and the Tree of Moses and the peace and love was positively palpable.

Beneath fluttering, silk pastel flags stalls lined the promenade. In between the juggling paraphernalia, homemade jewellery and henna tattoo stalls, there were information points extolling the adoption of earth-friendly practices in businesses and homes.
At some point some baby turtles were released into the sea but it must have been a very low key launch because I managed to entirely miss it.

A large stage was filled with equipment, chord practising guitarists and roadies muttering “uno, dos” into the mikes. At one point several people including myself thought that the band had started and one woman began to dance but then the song just fizzled and the “uno, dos” began again. I concluded that the sound engineers were rubbish and that the waiting bands were refusing to perform with such an incompetent mixing desk.

Satisfied with my made up explanation and feeling slightly giddy from the atmosphere, I headed off to Garachico in search of rock and chips.

Reaching the tiny harbour the smell of leather and burgers assailed my

Leather and chrome at Garachico

Leather and chrome at Garachico

nostrils and the iconic chords of Kings of Leon soothed my ears.
The car park was lined with the chrome, leather and glass of motorcycles and milling around them were black leather-clad bikers and their chicks.

I grabbed a burger and wandered the rows of bikes feigning any kind of knowledge whatsoever of what a great bike looks like.

I felt like I’d wandered into the anti-Christ of the Eco festival. Goth T shirts and black studded belts and wrist bands replaced pastel hemp. Tattooed fire-breathing dragons and bloodied knives replaced butterflies and wispy spirals and boots the size of astronaut’s moon walkers replaced flipflops.

With just a handful of spectators out front, the bands took to the stage. No sound checks were necessary here as the mixing desk was in the über-efficient hands of a professional sound production team and the opening chords rang out across the harbour, bouncing back off the frozen lava streams on the hillside.

Saturday night in the Isla Baja region proves that the culture on Tenerife can be every bit as diverse as its geography.

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