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Posts Tagged ‘volcano’

As we drove around the wide El Guincho corner of the fancy new road on Sunday night we saw the line of red tail lights ahead in the darkness and thought “uh oh”.
A small patch of flat earth lay just before the opening of the tunnel that took six years to build and replaced a ½ km of road with 500 km of space-age concrete tubing.
What about parking there?” I tentatively suggested, following the Golden Rule of fiesta attending on Tenerife which clearly states ‘as soon as you see vehicles beginning to back up, park at the very first available space you see’.
But we were still a good 2 km from Garachico and fatally, we nudged forward and the opportunity was lost.

Fun exhibits in the town

It took us 20 minutes to crawl, bumper to bumper through that tunnel before we finally emerged and Jack did a nifty u-turn manoeuvre, drove up the slip road to El Guincho and parked to one side. Within seconds others were following suit.
We joined the ranks of fellow car-abandoners all walking in the direction of Garachico, and it now being 9.30pm, desperately hoped that the scheduled 9.45pm start for the fuegos (fires) would follow the usual Tenerife mas o menos punctuality.
By the time we reached Garachico our numbers had swelled and we joined the thousands already crammed into El Caletón and the harbour area.

Once every five years the charismatic little town of Garachico commemorates the event that changed its history; the night Arena Negras volcano erupted and sent rivers of burning lava down the cliffs to engulf its streets and destroy its harbour.
Almost overnight Garachico’s status plunged from Tenerife’s wealthiest town, to the town that got buried by an eruption. Any other place might have thrown in the towel at that point, but not the folks who have Glorioso en su Adversidad (Strength in Adversity) embroidered on their coat of arms. Garachico rose from the volcanic ash and re-built its town and its pride. Today it’s one of Tenerife’s most popular excursions where folks flock to swim in the delicious rock pools hewn out of its trademark frozen lava.

At somewhere around 10.30pm a small procession arrived at the harbour carrying the candlelit Santísimo Cristo de la Misericordia. When the procession came to a standstill we saw the first bonfire flare up on the cliffside above the beach and large drops of molten fire began to drip from the road above the cliff into the flames. A cheer went up  from the crowd and all heads turned to watch as fire after fire was lighted. With the rocks ablaze, the street lights all went out and we were plunged into total darkness, the glow of the fires blazing on our retinas.
As the fires spread around the cliffside and a pall of scarlet smoke began to rise, our eyes were drawn to a flare in the cliffside, high above the road. A fire sprang into life, the flames licking the rock face as they gained strength from the breeze. In seconds, a ball of fire broke free from the conflagration and to roars of “fuego!” from the crowd, began to careen down the hillside leaving a fiery tail in its wake. But its progress was short-lived and to theatrical disappointment from the crowd it came to rest.

Seconds later four fire balls began their descent, this time gathering pace and strength as they fell and bounced off the cliff face. Roars of approval, shouts of “bravo!” and wild applause greeted each new fireball as one after another they scorched down the cliffside to the barranco where the Bomberos were waiting to douse the flames.

Finally, their display spent, the fire chasers took a well deserved bow to tumultuous applause and we turned our backs to the cliffs to face an explosive kaleidoscope of colour splitting the night sky over the harbour.
To an impassioned performance of classical music; rockets, flares and air bombs burst open sending cascades of illuminated colours across the sky and sound-waves ricocheting around the harbour.
As Handel’s Messiah Hallelujah reached its crescendo, a full sized Christ on the crucifix burst into golden fire on the cliff below the mirador, every feature of the face alive in its flames.

When finally the fireworks climaxed, we made our way through the beautifully garlanded and paper-flowered town, booms still ringing in our ears, and headed towards the tunnel and the long trek back to the car.
Provided Mother Nature doesn’t try to upstage the night with her own version before then, it’ll be 2015 before Garachico next stages the Fuegos Del Risco and I for one, can’t wait.

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I noticed on the news yesterday that Lufthansa airlines were offering compensation to holidaymakers who got rainy days while they were away.
I reckon it’s a fairly safe bet that the UK won’t be one of the 36 destinations for which the insurance company will pay out, but I guess Tenerife might be. The chances of seeing rain at the coast anywhere between June and October on Tenerife are low enough even for me to consider giving good odds.

We’ve had weeks and weeks of cloudless searing heat here so, for those of us who live on the island, the occasional cloud cover we’re having this week is a merciful relief.
Of course, if this is your two weeks R&R away from the sort of ‘barbecue summer’ that sent Noah heading briskly towards the woodshed, the last thing you want to see is clouds.

But worry not, there are so many excellent things to do on Tenerife that you should really look on cloudy days, not as disappointments, but as opportunities.

So, here is my list of things to do when it’s cloudy in Tenerife; it’s by no means exhaustive
:

Beat the clouds – if you absolutely must have the sun, you can pretty much guarantee finding it in Teide National

Life above the clouds

Life above the clouds

Park and at least you get to see a bit of the island in the process. Simply drive up through the pine forests to emerge above the clouds and into the blue. In this volcanic wonderland you can take a cable to the top of the world (well, nearly); eat lunch in Spain’s highest restaurant; wander amongst incredible rock formations at Roques García or simply soak up the sun. But be warned, the air at this height is thinner and the sun’s rays more intense, slap on the factor 25, wear a hat and drink plenty of water.

Go wild – leave the barren landscape of the south and head to the north’s verdant Puerto de la Cruz and Tenerife’s number one ‘must-see’; Loro Parque.
Dolphin, sea lion, Orca and parrot shows are all great fun and entertainment while the penguins at the incredible artificial iceberg are compulsive watching. You’ll need at least five hours in the park so give yourself plenty of time for this one.

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

See summer in the city – the island’s capital city of Santa Cruz has a surprising number of things to see and do and cloudy days afford some respite for wandering the shops (tax free shopping), chilling out in the tranquil Parque García Sanabria, exploring the museums and galleries or just kicking back in one of the pavement cafes and watching the world go by. And if the sun re-emerges (as it usually does in Santa Cruz), you’re just a hop and skip away from the island’s best beach at Las Teresitas and the best seafood lunch at beach-side San Andrés.

Tour mini-Tenerife – at Pueblo Chico in La Orotava. Spend a

Its a small world at Pueblo Chico

It's a small world at Pueblo Chico

couple of hours wandering around beautifully crafted models of the Canaries in miniature with meticulous attention to detail and lots of funny bits.
When you’re done, head up the hill to the full sized La Orotava, the jewel in Tenerife’s crown, and explore the streets of the old quarter. You’ll find parks and gardens, historic houses lining narrow cobbled streets, old monasteries, a Gothic church and some nice little antique shops.

Take a hike – along some of Tenerife’s stunning walking trails. Summer can be murderous for tackling some stamina-sapping parts of the island so take advantage of cloud cover to trek the parts that don’t have wide vistas crying out for sunshine, like Masca Barranco or Hell’s Ravine.

Dive in –to the deep, blue Atlantic at one of the island’s fascinating dive sites around the coast of Las Galletas or take the whole family and head to San Miguel marina for a trip in a Yellow Submarine…all together now; “we all live ” tum ti tum.

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mooch – around one of Tenerife’s museums. Now before you yawn and skip to the end…not all museums are dull. Science and Cosmos in La Laguna is an oversized playground of optical illusions; Man and Nature in Santa Cruz has some gruesome mummies and the Anthropological in Valle Guerra is like Tenerife’s version of the set of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’. And on Sundays they’re all free to get in.

So…bring on the clouds, see if we care!

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Those blessed with powers of observation will have noticed that there’s been blog silence here for a couple of weeks.

That’s because we’ve had our 19 year old nephew staying with us and he’s 24/7 maintenance. From the moment he drags himself from his pit at the crack of 10 am to his self-imposed curfew at 1 am, the most common phrase to fall from his lips is “What are we doing now?”
In the few short hours that don’t consist of organizing excursions, driving and playing board games there’s the shopping, cooking, cleaning up, washing, and exhausted sleep.

sardines, wine or beer and a bread roll for €3 at Puerto de la Cruz, oh and a live Latino band too

sardines, wine or beer and a bread roll for €3 at Puerto de la Cruz, oh and a live Latino band too

Having spent as much time with us as he has with his parents since he was old enough to toddle next door to our house and ring the doorbell, we were no strangers to the demands of his company and were prepared(ish) with a list of things to do and places to go.

What we were not prepared for was fate giving us the finger by, just a few days into his sojourn, the car’s power steering packing up and leaving us with an astronomical bill and three days without wheels.

Now for someone who loves walking on Tenerife, this shouldn’t be an issue, but for some reason, hiking repeatedly up the hill, along the banana road, along the pavement til it runs out and down past the Botanical Gardens into La Paz and back again in the hot sun very quickly lost its appeal.

Even the little everyday things like running out of drinking water, which is usually cause for no more than a “D’oh” and a short drive to the supermarket, turned into a two hour outing with the nephew moaning about carrying a five litre bottle back.

It’s at times like this that I question the wisdom of living on a golf course in the middle of banana plantations at the foot of the valley.

Having cleaned out every bank account and borrowed to get the car back, the ‘plans’ resumed and Teide National Park was the first place we headed to for a spot of walking in the volcanic crater.

Exploring amazing rock formations in Teide National Park

Exploring amazing rock formations in Teide National Park

The nephew started out with bounce in his step and an eagerness to examine every rock underfoot but the decision to climb a small volcanic cone and then run down into its crater…and back again, allowed the altitude to do what it does best and by lunchtime there were moans of “I can’t do any more uphill”.

That night was the town’s annual Sardinada and several hours on foot walking around town, queuing for sardines and watching the Latino band. The following day was ‘Embarkation Tuesday’; an all day on the feet affair without the car as the consumption of beer is a mandatory (oh alright, preferable) component of the day’s events.

Another hike through Las Cañades, a coastal walk to a former pirate fort and several T shirt shopping trips later and the nephew has been safely dispatched back to Blighty leaving Jack and I exhausted, skint and seriously behind with work deadlines.

Grabbing a flag from a greasy pole suspended over the harbour; one of the watery games at Puertos July Fiestas

Grabbing a flag from a greasy pole suspended over the harbour; one of the watery games at Puerto's July Fiestas on Embarkation Tuesday

Then yesterday, worried that he was late for an appointment (in the Canaries that constitutes an oxymoronic statement) Jack sprinted back to the house for some forgotten paperwork and strained a muscle in his calf. The shock and pain of the incident was however alleviated when, on looking up how best to treat it, he discovered that it’s an injury normally associated with athletes …there’s always a silver lining.

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“I’ll mix us a small aperitif” shouts Sarah above the din of the steady disco beat emanating from the speakers and the constant whirr of my hairdryer.
It’s Thursday night, Sarah’s last with us before she returns to Doncaster and makes final preparations before leaving for Sri Lanka and 2 years as a project worker with VSO.

It’s been a busy day; up with the lark at 9am (larks sleep late in Tenerife), fruit for breakfast, make up the bocadillos for lunch, pack the rucksacks, grab the hiking boots and head off into the hills for some crater walking.
Parking the car at the visitor centre in El Portillo, we set off to do the circular Arenas Negras walk.
The north coast of Tenerife is laid out like a jewelled carpet 2000 metres below us as we traverse the crater, climbing steadily until we reach the flat retama scrublands with their myriad of earth tones where the debris of millions of years of volcanic activity has created a landscape where lakes of white pumice sit beside rivers of russet, brown, orange and crimson.Hiking the Arenas Negras trail Into the lunar surface, a vast canyon yawns, its sheer slopes layered in a cross section of volcanic evidence.
We sit on a bed of white pumice and, beneath Teide’s icy stare, tuck into our bocadillos.

The landscape turns black as we skitter and ski our way down the loose descent of the eponymous Arenas Negras before joining the wide pista of Siete Cañadas which will take us back to our starting point.
On the way, Jack teaches us how to ‘get in step’ Marine-style by way of a short stamp with the right foot to the back of the left heel which, almost imperceptibly, changes the lead foot. I’m extremely impressed by this revelation and we practice changing step in perfectly synchronised route-march style for several hundred yards, causing general hilarity and Sarah to drop her sunglasses, undetected, somewhere along the 2½ kilometre stretch.
We begin to re-trace our steps but luckily, I ask a couple of German hikers who are heading towards us if they happen to have seen the escapee ‘fendis’ and they produce them from a top pocket, thus saving us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
Unluckily, they then ask us if we can give them a lift back to their car which they’ve left at the Parador; a 40 minute round trip completely out of our way, thus causing us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
With the compulsory customary beer at the end of a Tenerife walk and the long drive home, there’s little time to relax before we have to head off for the bus and Sarah’s vodka aperitif gives us a much needed boost.

A second aperitif in Plaza Charco and then it’s off to Mil Sabores for a meal that does exactly what it says on the menu; a ‘thousand flavours’ racing around our palettes, the final lap being performed by the best profiteroles and tiramisu ever to grace Canarian crockery.
A couple of mojitos in ‘Elements’ bar round off a perfect evening and it’s near 2am when we arrive home, to find that Sarah left the freezer door open when she mixed the vodkas. The ice bag is now floating and our nightcaps are tepid.
On Friday night, at 10.30pm, a text arrives from Sarah:
“Hi, just got home to find I accidentally switched the freezer off before I left…whoops!”

Is Sri Lanka ready for Sarah, I wonder?

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It may come as a bit of a surprise to the citizens of San Francisco, but for a few days last week, San Francisco moved its geographical location from America’s west coast to an island a couple of hundred kilometres off the coast of Africa.

I can’t understand why Tenerife isn’t considered a prime location by movie makers. There are ancient forests, mountain ranges, arid badlands, tropical beaches, quaint villages and a towering volcano surrounded by an enormous crater, all within the confines of one relatively small island.
The crater itself would be perfect for any number of sci-fi movies and is just crying out as a backdrop for velociraptors and T-Rex’s. Mind you ‘One Million Years B.C’ was made there, but that was nearly as long ago as the title of the movie.
I did literally almost stumble across a robot in the crater once. I’m still kicking myself for not taking a photo of it as later that day I read a report about it on the BBC news website and discovered it was destined for Mars (it just didn’t look that interesting – that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it).

So, when I parked my car beside the harbour at Puerto de la Cruz and noticed the four-mast schooner in the bay, maybe I should have paid a bit more attention. Instead I thought, ‘Hmmm, that’s not normally there,’ and carried on my way, my mind barely registering, first a 19th century horse and carriage and then a group of people kitted out in what looked like outfits favoured by early American pioneers as I hurried to reach the bank before it shut.

As it turned out, a Russian film crew were in town filming scenes for a new movie called ‘The Passenger’, part of which was set in San Francisco at the end of the 19th century, with Puerto de la Cruz, playing the part of San Francisco.

It might seem strange that these sights didn’t stop me in my tracks. What can I say? This is a town where I’ve seen men dressed as weeping widows following a 20ft sardine, herds of goats being dragged kicking and screaming into the harbour water, drag queens in fancy dress and 6-inch high heels running a marathon and gorillas on motorbikes. A few people in Wild West costumes just didn’t seem that out of the ordinary.

 

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