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Archive for the ‘Walking’ Category

“Probably many people have shared my feeling of disappointment on landing at Santa Cruz…but even so, the utter hideousness of the capital of Teneriffe was a shock to me”
Florence Du Kane, The Canary Islands, published 1911

Santa Cruz may be a long way off rivalling Florence, Venice and Paris for inclusion in the list of the World’s most beautiful cities, but nevertheless it has come a long way since Florence Du Kane and her sister disembarked at the dirty port in 1911.

Dominated for many years by the ugly and smelly skyline of the CEPSA oil refinery, nowadays visitors arriving by ferry and cruise liner are greeted by the sexy, sleek curves of Santa Cruz’ 21st century icon, Santiago Calatrava’s Auditorium, its cobra head blindingly white against the cobalt sky.

Once on dry land, the city opens her doorway with the lake-filled Plaza España and its strikingly eclectic blend of Franco symbolism and urban modernity. Below the surface lie the fortified remains of a city that withstood three attacks by British naval forces, the final encounter leaving Horatio Nelson with just one arm and the British fleet marched back to their ships in disgrace.

Santa Cruz lends itself beautifully to exploration on foot. Avenidas overhung with the scarlet flowering branches of flamboyance trees provide shady walkways through its compact centre while palm-filled plazas beckon with the aroma of freshly filtered coffee and the cry of wild parrots in the canopy. The magnificent Parque García Sanabria is an open air art gallery set within acres of mature botanical gardens which showcase Tenerife‘s amazing capacity to grow exotic flora to Jack and the Beanstalk proportions.

Art lovers will be hard pressed to drag themselves away from the canvasses of religious Masters in the Belles Artes gallery or the contemporary eclecticism and surrealist imagery housed in the architecturally stunning T.E.A (Tenerife Espacio de las Artes). Shoppers will find air conditioned plazas filled to their designer label roofs with VAT free bargains and city centre streets where household chains and small independents sit cheek by jowl with pavement cafés and tapas bars.

Architecture, sculptures, markets and museums are all within easy walking distance of the port and the city centre but like any city, Santa Cruz can be difficult to navigate if you don’t know your way around and you can miss many of its finest attractions.

For that reason we have written and published a guide to exploring Santa Cruz on foot which will show you the city’s best profile and give you all the information you need to get the most from your visit.

The Santa Cruz City Guide features a guide to the city’s attractions complete with the time we think you’ll need to allow to get the most from each one; two routes from which to choose deciding on how far you want to walk, what you want to see and do and how much time you have available, and an easy to follow map with clear timings and directions.
Best of all, it’s in PDF format sent to your email in-box so there’s no waiting for postal delivery or wandering around trying to find a shop that sells it. You just print it off before you go and start planning your trip. We’re pretty sure it’ll be the best €3 you ever spent.

So avoid sharing Florence’s feelings of disappointment and make sure you get to see the very best of Santa Cruz.

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Around 5pm on Sunday afternoon I decided to break free from the keyboard, take advantage of the warm sunshine and head out from home for a walk.

My circuit took me through the banana plantations, along the headland, across a ravine and back along a quiet, palm tree lined road until I reached the junction with the main road. Reluctant to end my idyllic rural walk with a hundred metres of busy tarmac, I opted instead to divert through the tiny hamlet of Los Rechazos which lies hidden behind the main road.

Presumably before they built the ‘new’ road, this would have been the main thoroughfare. Barely wide enough for a single vehicle to drive down, tiny cottages with Hobbit-height front doors donate most of what little pavement lies outside to window boxes and planters filled with tumbling geranuims.

Rounding a bend in the lane, I spotted a gathering ahead. Four small, dilapidated tables teetered single file on the pavement with a chair either end, on which eight elderly people were sitting, marking off numbers on bingo cards. Some were using paper cut-outs to cover the numbers, others were using assorted old buttons, and the ‘cards’ were dirty old paper ones which looked as if they’d been handmade many years ago. On the other side of the street, about two yards away, two women were sitting. One held a cloth bag which she shook continuously while the other reached in, pulled out what looked like a child’s building brick, and shouted the number across the street.

I walked quietly past the intently concentrating faces and smiled to myself. So this is what passes for nightlife in Los Rechazos? Street bingo – I can see it catching on.

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The best place to be if you need a reminder of why you love Tenerife

Sometimes events conspire to make me wonder why on earth I continue to live in a region of Spain.

A week or so ago I was chatting to my brother who lives in the UK and after my groans about the stagnant feel of the tourist market at the moment and the slowness of work, he said:
Oh well, the World Cup starts soon so at least that’s something to look forward to.”
Except that it wasn’t. Well, it was…and it wasn’t, because although I love the World Cup and would happily watch every single game (in the unlikely event that deadlines permitted), Spain is one of the few countries in the world that is not actually airing all the games on free-to-view TV.

But the World Cup is all about embracing nations in the love of the beautiful game! For God’s sake, Andy, get out of Spain and get back to Britain where you can at least watch the footie!” said my bro’.
I laughed and explained that the list of reasons in the ‘for living in Tenerife‘ column far outweighed the ones in the ‘against living in Tenerife‘ column, but a seed had been planted.

Only showing one live game a day and concentrating on Spain performances is indicative of a country that exhibits astounding levels of insularity. Hamstrung by outdated monopolies and an autocratic business culture, Spain has a complete aversion to looking outside itself for anything, and ‘best practice’ and ‘benchmarking’ are not just conspicuous by their absence – they’re an anathema to Spain. When the rest of the world saw the financial crisis looming and took damage limitation measures, Spain carried on with business as usual which is why it’s now facing financial melt-down. I could go on…

A couple of days later Jack and I walked the Chinyero Volcano route for a new walking guide we’re preparing and within 5 minutes of setting off I had mentally registered any number of things I loved about Tenerife. The smell of the pine forest; the fact that I could see the sea from almost everywhere on the island; the unrestricted ability to walk wherever I wanted; La Gomera and La Palma on the horizon…

Some time ago, when we first set up Tenerife Magazine, Joe Cawley wrote a short piece entitled ‘10 things I hate about living in Tenerife‘ and clearly it rung a bell with lots of people who added their own pet hates to the list. So when I got back from my walk, I compiled a list of ‘10 things I love about living in Tenerife‘ – mainly to remind myself why it is that I continue to live in Spanish territory. It’s not an exhaustive list, it’s just the ones that popped into my head and I’m sure others will have their own reasons which will be nothing like mine.

I just wish Tenerife wasn’t in Spanish territory and could sub-contract its World Cup coverage from the BBC. That’s number one on my ’10 things I wish about living in Tenerife’ list.

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Generally speaking, I prefer circular walks to linear ones; somehow I feel that you get double the scenery for the same energy output.

So last week when we went walking in the hills above the south west coast, we took what was essentially a ‘there and back again’ walk and decided to make it circular by finding a different route back to our starting point.
We were making good, downhill progress on a dusty, unmade road until we reached the point where there should have been an old path cutting off over a barranco (ravine) and back through the abandoned terraces to our starting point. But endless searching for the start of the path proved futile, despite the fact that we could see it quite clearly running up the other side of the barranco.

We were left with no choice but to cover the 1 kilometre distance by following the main road which stretched into endless switchbacks for 3½ kilometres in searing calima heat with no pavement. A completely unacceptable end to what had been a glorious walk. Fed up, tired and disappointed, we arrived just a few hundred metres from our starting point to find a newly-erected Cabildo (Island Government) board showing the start of the very path we had been trying to find from the other side. Frustrated and annoyed, we resolved to return and complete the final section the way we had wanted to.

Yesterday we went back into the hills of the south west to do what we considered to be a linear walk. But we discovered that we could in fact easily turn it into a circular one by returning along quiet country lanes through picturesque hamlets, enhancing what we had initially feared might be a fairly uneventful route. The Cabildo had cleared access and put in signposts and wayside markers, making it easy to navigate the many paths and turn them into a thoroughly enjoyable walk.

When we finished we drove back to last week’s route to do the final section of the path we’d failed to find. We parked up and followed the directions given on the fancy Cabildo sign at the start of the path. Within minutes we’d been followed by barking dogs snapping at our heels; we’d taken several wrong turnings through completely overgrown and confusing terrain with no clear path; and we’d finally ended up in what looked like someone’s driveway where two parked vans completely barred the way.
Frustratingly, we could quite clearly see the path climbing up the other side of the barranco – the side we’d been completely unable to see last week – but we couldn’t see where it emerged as it disappeared into undergrowth.
Re-tracing our steps, Jack tried shimmying down the barranco but ended up on a sheer precipice, speared by spiky seed heads that impregnated his shoes and buried themselves into his feet.
Clearly the Cabildo had put up a nice sign at the start of the path but then had done nothing. Any path that may have been there had long since been reclaimed by nature and by man.

You may find some paths have been usurped for 'other purposes'

A couple of old guys whose back yard we’d practically walked through twice, came out to offer their help, one indicating that the path was where Jack had tried, the other sending us in the opposite direction.
Jack sat on a rock and extracted the spikes from his feet while I explored another possible lead which once again led to a precipice over the barranco.
“Right” I said, eventually. “Let’s drive back to where we couldn’t find the path last week and try doing it that way round”.

Less than convinced, Jack agreed and we set off back down the road we were learning to hate as it zig-zagged its way interminably covering very little real distance. After a kilometre or so, we spotted the house where we’d come unstuck and there appeared to be a path alongside. We parked the car and set off to see if the owners were in fact using a public path as their private garage.
“You’ve got the notebook, haven’t you” I said to Jack. The notebook contained all my scribbled descriptions, directions and timings that would turn our experience into a detailed walking guide.
Jack’s face looked as if I’d just asked if I could use his dog and his Granny for target practice.
“It’s still on a rock on the path where I took the spikes out of my feet” he said.

With not another word, he got into the car, drove back up the road which we’d both decided we’d be happy if we never saw it again in our lives, and retraced the gauntlet of snappy dogs and overgrown barranco to retrieve the book. Meanwhile, I followed the path to be confronted by two large, growling, slavering dogs guarding what appeared to be private land with not a path in sight.

When Jack got back with the car, we called time on the whole fiasco.

Some walks are just not meant to be circular.

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