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Archive for the ‘weather’ Category

As a Canary Islands resident, using the local airline to island hop between Tenerife and its neighbours is an easy, convenient, time saving and economical way to travel.

With flights lasting 30 to 45 minutes, there’s barely time in between take off and landing for the flight attendants to make one swift traverse of the aisle, so by way of an in-flight service passengers are treated to a plastic cup of water and a Binter Canarias chocolate wafer biscuit. I don’t claim to be a biscuit aficionado, but these are something special.

A few weeks ago we had arranged a flying (literal and metaphorical) trip to La Palma with good friends Linda and Robert and we arrived at the Tenerife North Airport for the 6.30pm flight to be met with the knowledge that flights were being delayed and cancelled due to a storm which was in full flow across the Canary Islands.
The two flights before ours were cancelled but amazingly, we were called to gate, boarded and took off just a half hour behind schedule.

The airline operates with a fleet of ATR-72 airlines which can take off and land from short runways but which are not very good at smoothing out air pockets. That Wednesday night as we headed off over the Atlantic Ocean, the plane was buffeting and rocking us around like the crew of early Star Trek episodes on the bridge during a battle scene.
As the contents of my stomach began to feel as if they may make a break for freedom at any moment and the rain lashed the windows from the storm, an announcement came over the public address system that, due to turbulence, the in-flight service would not be available on our flight.

Twenty minutes later we could feel the aircraft descending and the buffeting increased significantly. I looked around at my fellow passengers. Some were chatting to their neighbours as if this was the most normal flight they had ever been on, others had their heads in their hands, and the lady directly across the aisle from me had her eyes closed, Rosary Beads threaded through her fingers and was silently mouthing a prayer.
I felt surprisingly calm and accepting of what was increasingly looking like my final few minutes of life and I smiled an apologetic smile at Linda for being inadvertently instrumental in her and Robert’s demise. No words passed between any of us.

Then we began to climb again and the pilot informed us that we were returning to Tenerife as conditions for landing on La Palma were too difficult.
It’s hard to say whether my disappointment was more for the fact that our planned break was being swallowed by the storm or that we now faced a further 30 minute flight back to Tenerife at the mercy of the gods.
And just to add insult to injury, I hadn’t even had my biscuit.

When the wheels finally touched down back at Tenerife we re-arranged our flight for the following morning in the hopes that the storm would have abated by then. It did not.
We started to board at 7.10 am the following morning while the rain bounced off the runway and when we finally took off, it was to a near repeat of the previous night’s flight. We rocked and buffeted our way across the Atlantic while the fasten seat belts sign remained resolutely illuminated and the Binter biscuit was nowhere to be seen.

Thirty minutes later we landed at La Palma airport where the rain had stopped and a clear sunrise was taxiing behind us on the runway. The relief at once more being on terra firma where the sun was shining was as palpable as a cream cake onto which the flight attendant placed a cherry, or should I say a chocolate biscuit, as we left the aircraft.
Fitting reward for still being alive I felt.

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As I sit here I can barely hear myself hitting the keys on my keyboard.

Beyond the window that fills one side of the room, the storm rages unabated. Leaves, branches, young avocado fruits, broken tiles and bits of plastic roofing are rushing past in an angry roar that’s filled with dust and dirt.

We got the warnings days ago, it began as a yellow alert for high winds and speculation across the island was rife. “They’re calling it San Andrés”, they said. Presumably as it was being forecast to peak on the 29th November, the Eve of San  Andrés, or Saint Andrew’s day and a day of celebration on the island.
Then on Saturday the alert changed to red.

Yesterday afternoon we removed all the plant pots from the top of the terrace wall and stashed them in corners, huddled together for protection. We dismantled the tarpaulin that acts as a tent for the dogs who usually sleep alongside the wood pile – they were being upgraded to sleeping inside. The patio table was dismantled and placed in the garden shed, the chairs stacked and wedged against the wall.

Then we waited.

The evening was ominously calm and we began to give ourselves false hope that maybe the warning was unnecessary, maybe the storm had switched direction. We’d forgotten that the phrase ‘the calm before the storm’ was rooted in reality.
At midnight we went to bed and still all was calm.

At 12.24am the wind came out of nowhere and ripped through the avocado tree like a nuclear blast.

The storm had arrived.

Gusts tore through the garden, hurling debris across the roof, deafening us with its ferocity and discharging a constant rifle fire of branches and leaves against the patio doors just feet from where we lay.
The gusts raged for 20 or 35 minutes at a time before falling silent into a lull when snatches of sleep were  grabbed, always tempered by the ominous knowledge that this thing wasn’t over.

At around 4 am the storm moved up a gear and with it, our fear factor grew.
Now branches and debris were hitting the roof constantly and the deafening roar joined forces with the rattling of the door to ensure that sleep remained a distant relative.

Around 5 the storm abated to just  strong winds. I could see the shadow of the avocado tree as it took on an almost rhythmic swaying against the prevailing wind. It lulled me finally into sleep.
At 6.45 am an almighty crash woke me with a thump of my heart against my ribs and we were out of bed in an instant. A large branch of the avocado tree had smashed onto the roof just yards above our heads and crashed to the terrace floor in a cascade of roof tiles.

By daybreak the storm had switched again to 5th gear.

We ventured out to check the damage in our garden and in the golf course on which we live.
The driving range had been torn to shreds, its flooring ripped from its fastenings and flapping in the wind.
Trees had fallen all across our neighbour’s garden and across the golf course. The roof of another neighbour’s patio had been ripped from its posts and large sheets of plastic roofing were flying across the golf course.

Swirling dust storms made it almost impossible to open my eyes and the wind roared harder. A bamboo fence was ripped from its anchor and flew past me, uncomfortably close.
We retreated to the house from where I am now typing this.

We’re in a lull right now but the red alert is in place until 3pm.

It’s going to be a long day.

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As we ate breakfast on the terrace yesterday morning, the sun was being very coy.
Typical. Pretty much all summer the default setting for our weather has been clear blue skies and sun, sun, sun. But Friday was the start of the annual craft fair of Pinolere in the hills above La Orotava and if belly of the donkey was going to make a re-appearance anywhere, it would be there.

800 meters above sea level and hemmed in by barrancos to the east and west, Pinolere is a community of some 700 inhabitants living in the shadow of Tenerife’s mountainous spine, and more often than not, beneath a sea of clouds. It may mean that Pinolere is never going to topple Playa de Las Americas as Tenerife’s number one tourist destination, but the clouds bring high humidity ensuring that everything here grows in abundance.

Birdsong whistles (€3) make great gifts for kids

But yesterday, as we snaked our way high above the coast of Puerto de la Cruz, the sun finally broke free and the clouds ran for their lives leaving another glorious day in the La Orotava Valley.
Even though it was barely 11.30am when we arrived, the car parking was choc a bloc and we ended up parking on a small dirt track which led off to fincas set amongst the vines of the valley. Bemoaning the fact that we hadn’t thought to bring ropes and crampons, we toiled up a near-vertical street, back to the site of the craft fair wishing that the clouds had chosen to descend as sweat trickled down our backs.

The last time we visited the fair, the trademark bruma (cloud) had entirely obscured its location but yesterday, under clear skies, the true beauty of our surroundings was nothing less than awesome. The emerald, forest-clad slopes of the upper La Orotava Valley rose to dizzying heights in a shimmering heat haze beyond the thatched roofs and vines of the hamlet.

A Crafty Piece of Work
For the majority of Pinolere’s inhabitants, the land provides their livelihood and allows them to be almost entirely self-sufficient. For generations, the community have been basket weavers, iron workers, charcoal producers, carpenters, farmers and muleteers. It’s only recently that they’ve ceased to construct their homes in the traditional manner of many of the country dwellings of Tenerife; walls of dry stone roofed with chestnut wood entwined with branches and then thatched with straw.

25 years ago Pinolere made plans to introduce a new aspect to their local fiestas and came up with the idea of showcasing the wide range of crafts and skills that they held. Calling it ‘The Day of the Traditional Canaries’, they brought together all the craftspeople from the local area and invited them to exhibit the best of their products. Over the course of the years that event has grown from a local fair to the Canary Islands’ largest showcase for crafts made from traditional produce.

Handmade ceramic dolls, €24

The Pinolere Craft Fair is set in 10,000 square metres of terraces and pathways that meander as randomly as the surrounding barrancos and contain hundreds of stalls filled with jewellery; woven baskets; clothes; hand carved furniture; ceramics; pottery; toys; herbs and spices; cheeses; jams and mojos; cakes; glassware; cane furniture; iron and copper ornaments…the list is endless.

As we made our way up level after level filled with stalls, the stone-built thatched houses provided small exhibitions on the history of wheat production in the area and a short-lived refuge from the hot sun.
Arriving finally at the top level we reached the welcome sight of a large guachinche where the aroma of sizzling pork pinchos (kebabs) and the sight of condensation running down the side of cold beer bottles was too much to resist. Finding a small section of vacant wall we sat down to enjoy our pinchos and beer and peruse our collection of purchases while gawping at the incredible scenery.

Our haul of goodies

It’s probably a good job that Pinolere doesn’t enjoy this kind of weather continuously or the fields of wheat, vines, vegetables and cereals would soon get replaced by villas and apartments and we’d have lost something really, really special.

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Puerto's more usual weather. If only it had been like this for Clive and Karen!

At the end of last week I got one of those ‘out of the blue’ emails that occasionally wing their way to your in box. Someone I used to work with more than 20 years ago was coming out to Tenerife and was hoping to look us up.

Clive and Karen are staying in Los Gigantes but they spent their honeymoon in Puerto de la Cruz 27 years ago and wanted to re-visit some of their haunts from all those years ago.  I was really looking forward to seeing them on Saturday for a good old reminisce and catch up.

To date, Puerto has always been kind to our family and friends, putting on her very best sunshine face for them. But not so this weekend.

As we walked towards Plaza Charco, we spotted Clive and Karen sitting, shivering at one of the tables.

“Why didn’t you tell me it was 15 degrees colder here than in Los Gigantes!” joked Clive as we got in earshot – well, when I say “joked”…

I don’t think we’ve had a colder day this winter. It was dark, overcast and drizzling, in fact, it was very like Bank Holiday weather in the UK, except probably about 10 degrees C higher, not that Clive and Karen appreciated that as they were dressed for considerably hotter and sunnier weather. They’d had to buy a fleece and a wrap to keep themselves somewhere near warm.

We spent a couple of hours in the Plaza bravely persevering with the cold lager before finally giving in and heading to the warmth of the Frigata bar on the harbour where we had enough time to get the feeling back into our fingers before Clive and Karen had to go for the bus back to Los G…and warmth.

Today is even more horrible than yesterday. Although the sun has threatened to break through the cloud on several occasions, to date it has singularly failed to do so and we’ve had intermittent heavy showers. Great for the garden, rubbish for holiday makers.

I feel very sorry for anyone who’s come out to Puerto for Easter and can only apologise on her behalf. I just hope the rest of Tenerife is managing to put on a better show for Easter holidaymakers; although, looking at the webcams, I suspect only Clive and Karen in Los Gigantes are getting some proper sun.

Looks like the east and west of the island wins out on the weather stakes again!

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Anyone who knows the Canary Islands will affirm that Carnaval (carnival) and bad weather are inextricably linked. So when the Spanish Met Office showed the island this week – Carnaval week – to be on orange alert status, no-one was really too surprised.
Thankfully Opening Night Parades (where they actually happened…) passed off without weather incident but Sunday night was a bit of a wash out here in Puerto de la Cruz and lacking a Paddington Bear outfit, I didn’t bother venturing down to the Plaza. But after a damp start, Monday turned bright and sunny and the traditional Monday night party looked good to go.
Tuesday is the Gran Coso Apoteosis (closing) Parade in the capital city of Santa Cruz and so naturally, the entire island is given a Public Holiday in order to attend (this is a very civilised island as far as workers are concerned and Public Holidays are declared at the drop of a sombrero). Consequently, the Monday night street party is usually one of the best.

We’d heard reports of bad weather starting to come in from other parts of the island during the evening; strong winds mainly with some early reports of heavy rain, but here in Puerto de la Cruz we set off to walk the 3km into town at around 11.30pm beneath clear, starry skies in a balmy 21°C, sweating considerably by the time we reached Plaza Charco.

Marge Simpson and her twin sister, out on the town without Homer...d'oh!

Despite fewer numbers than in previous years, the atmosphere was buoyant and the standard of costumes was, if anything, better than ever. Almost entirely absent were the all-in-one Dalmation costumes which have dogged us (ouch!) for many years, particularly amongst the young. There were fewer gangsters too and those that did wear the black trousers, white T shirts and braces, added some excellent facial designs to lift the effect. Pirates were still strongly in evidence but the authenticity of costumes (well, Hollywood style) was very high.
My favourites amongst the rest of the highly original, witty and professional outfits were the N’avi, who looked nothing short of sensational; two Marge Simpsons and Shrek and Fiona – all incredibly authentic looking.

Somewhere around 3am/3.30am – it’s difficult  to be exact, time has a way of skipping continuity at the Carnaval street parties and you can lose entire hours amongst the madness – we noticed that the breeze was starting to pick up. By 4am it had turned into a decent wind, gusting plastic beer cups and debris all around the harbour. The gusts grew stronger and the atmosphere took on a hurricane party feel with groups of revellers climbing onto the wall of Casa Aduana and dancing into its headlong blast.
A male Marilyn Monroe who had spent the entire evening swishing up his dress to reveal his underwear suddenly went into reverse mode as he reproduced the famous ‘Seven Year Itch’ scene to brilliant effect.

The atmosphere took on a distinct 'hurricane party' feel - madness.

At around 4.30am we left the party and headed home. As soon as we moved away from the coast the wind dropped and we were back into sultry, still, clear night that left us once again sweating by the time we reached home. Lengthy make-up removal meant that it was 5.40am before we finally got to bed and at 7am I was woken by the sound of the wind howling around the house and sending debris from the trees smashing against the patio doors.
By 7.30am all was once again still as the grave.

When we finally dragged ourselves out of bed at 10.30am, it was to clear blue skies, unbroken sunshine and barely a flutter of a breeze but reports showed that much of the rest of the island was being lashed by heavy rain and strong winds.

The orange alert remains in place for the foreseeable future; of course it does, it’ll be here as long as Carnaval is.

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Barranco de Santo, Santa Cruz

We set off down south yesterday at 1.30pm to go to a meeting in Los Cristianos. It had been a drizzly morning in Puerto de la Cruz, nothing particularly spectacular, just showers and the occasional bright interval.

As we drove through Tacoronte the sky looked as if the end of the world was nigh. Nothing unusual there, this is Tacoronte. But as we continued into La Laguna it was really strange to find that we were driving through thick bruma (low cloud), or at least, that’s what we thought it was. The further we drove, the thicker the cloud became and we realised this was actually fog – a real pea-souper of a fog, the kind I haven’t seen for many years.
Traffic crawled through the slip road from the TF5 to the TF1 and gradually the fog lifted.

Passing through Candelaria in steady rain we could see gushing torrents of water cascading over the side of the road bridge and strewn rocks over the hard shoulder where they’d fallen down the cliff sides.

We continued through the rain, commenting on the amount of debris that was filling the hard shoulder and the inside lane of the motorway and realising that there must have been a helluva lot more rain on this side of the island than we had so far witnessed in Puerto.

When we reached Arico the mobile phone went. It was John Beckley, the guy whose office we were heading to for the meeting. John told us that the Cabildo (Island Government) had issued a severe weather warning and were advising people to switch off all their electrical appliances and to avoid all travel. Schools had been closed and the island was on full alert. John advised us to turn back.
We’ve seen storms on Tenerife before and knew that this was sensible advice.

Taking the next exit we headed back up the TF1 towards Santa Cruz. The sky grew progressively blacker and raindrops the size of small swimming pools began to hit the windscreen. I knew we were in for an outburst. Within a minute the heavens opened and torrential rain lashed down onto us obscuring visibility and sending all the traffic into a braking frenzy. We slowed and left a vast distance between us and the car in front, the wipers on top speed trying to keep the windscreen clear. In seconds the surface was covered in water which was spraying up from lorries and a Titsa bus in front of us causing even worse visibility.

As we approached the turn off for the TF5 at Santa Maria the traffic ground to a crawl. Through the driving rain we could hear sirens but couldn’t see anything until they were almost on top of us and we had to pull as far into the side as we could to let Policia Local pass by. We crawled all the way onto the TF5 until past La Laguna when the rain began to lighten a little and we finished our journey without incident.Back in Puerto it had rained, but it was nothing like we’d witnessed on the east side of the island.

Within minutes of returning, the thunder and lightning began and we

Avenida Venezuela, Santa Cruz

unplugged all our appliances and went back to good old fashioned pen and paper to work. But the storm never really came very near us and after a couple of hours we plugged everything back in and turned on the news.
We were horrified to see the devastation in Santa Cruz. By 4 pm the island had been put onto a level 2 alert, more than 25,000 homes were without electricity and almost 130 litres of rain had fallen in a single day. Avenida Venezuela was under water; the trams were swimming; people’s houses were flooded and the Barranco de Santo was a raging torrent.

This may be the island of eternal spring but when the weather hits, it’s a small island in an archipelago which is exposed to Atlantic storms. Thankfully they don’t hit very often but they’re no stranger. In the six plus years that we’ve lived on Tenerife we’ve seen plenty of tropical storms.

Last week the British Guild of Travel Writers was on the island and Tenerife was courting their good impressions. When I spoke to several members they were complaining that the weather in the south had been quite cloudy since they got here and it wasn’t as good as they’d been expecting. They went home on Sunday…phew, that was close!

Photos from La Opinión

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