Islandmomma

Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age


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I Love the Smell of Dawn….

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I love the smell of dawn on the Tenerife coast. The air bears scents you don’t smell during day nor during  night – a mixture of ozone, the scrub of the dunes, and a freshness, which melts under the warmth of the sun. The silence, as the first light seeps along the horizon, is vast and exquisite. It surrounds you as the landscape stands on tiptoe, waiting for the new day’ s first sounds, and you hope it be the cry of a bird, or the whispering of ocean to earth,  and not the ugly sounds of men.

It has to have been an awfully good drop of wine which has made me sleep in and not want to get down to the beach.

I am ridiculously happy with this photo, because it’s taken me 3 years to achieve it!  I knew that sooner or later the sun would be rising in line with this pathway down to Playa Cabezo. I’ve taken snaps here before, but never managed to get it quite so framed as this morning. I must have taken about a dozen, but this is also the only one where that wave is trickling in just that way.


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Waiting for the Storm

Phases of a stormy sunrise

Phases of a stormy sunrise

The pictures were taken yesterday. This morning the sky met the ocean in endless grey, and Trixy and I were drenched on our morning walk.

You read that with a shrug of the shoulders perhaps? It’s a common occurence in some climates of course, but not so much in south Tenerife. The last time I remember dog walking in the rain was three years ago. I felt sorry for my neighbor scurrying out with her wee dogs in the half light, dressed only in leggings and sweater, holding another sweater over her head. Looks like she doesn’t have the right clothes for rainy days!

We are momentarily in that weird calm as one swathe of rain clouds have passed over us, and another is fast approaching. The next one is looking denser and is driven by high winds, gusts up to hurricane force are forecast, although that will probably be in the north.

Main beach El Médano mid-morning

Main beach El Médano mid-morning

By mid-morning the first phase past, El Médano’s beach looked almost normal …. except for the absence of people. This is how it normally looks early morning, folk walking and running and exercising, but by mid-morning the sunworshippers are normally out. The market was cancelled, not that many folk had turned up it seemed, the ones who obviously had come for that were wandering aimlessly around, as bars and cafés decided to chance it and set out their tables. These businesses rely so much on good weather, almost all have terraces, and many have nothing but terrace. They wouldn’t make a living from the number of covers indoors.

The two events I’d planned to go to this weekend are postponed until the storm is past, which leaves the usual dilema, what does one do here on a rainy day? Museums are open and free Sundays, but the drive to Santa Cruz and then the walk from the parking to a museum are not appealing. So, it’s looking like a possibly productive weekend.


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February Sunrise

I don't often post pictures just for the sake of it. I think of this blog as more about the writing than the photos, but this morning's sunrise was, quite simpley, too lovely not to share.

I don’t often post pictures just for the sake of it. I think of this blog as more about the writing than the photos, but this morning’s sunrise was, quite simply, too lovely not to share.

It hadn't looked too promising when I first got down to the Paseo Maritimo

It hadn’t looked too promising when I first got down to the Paseo Maritimo

...but as I waited it began to spread and glow. Glorious morning.

…but as I waited it began to spread and glow. Glorious morning……would be so nice if this day fulfills its promise.


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Seizing the Supermoon

Another 24 hours and all our supermoon stories and exchanges will just be another footnote to 2012, moments seized, enjoyed, recorded and then committed to the archives in our minds. This, then, is what I will file away.

We meet at the appointed hour 19.30. The intention is to suss out the best spot and then retire to eat or drink until well before the due time of 21.15 to stake our claim. The early evening is balmy and calm,unusual for this stretch of coast. This is my home turf. It will not be the first time I’ve photographed the moon rising out of the ocean from the sand dunes at the end of my street, but it’s a first time in this spot for Maria and Colleen, and I think they like what they see. There are rocks and sand dunes and junipers, all perfect for framing photos. I think they like the gelato from my favorite ice cream parlor too! We sit by the little harbor and savor the pleasure. They are finger-licking good.

We rouse ourselves and saunter back along the beachside road, chatting companionably and not at all hurried. We step onto the beach, and it’s then I draw a sharp breath. In the lavender and rose  twilight sky the moon is already there, and well on its way to the heights.

One of the odd things about living in the Canary Islands is that we are in the same time zone as the UK, an hour behind the Spanish peninsula and most of Europe. The thing is that most information on tv and internet fails to mention this. We had failed to deduct the hour, the “una hora menos en Canarias,” as the ones which do bother to differentiate, say.

I fall to my knees on the nearest dune and fumble my camera out of its bag. The closer to the horizon the bigger the moon seems to be, we missed its hugeness,  but it is, nevertheless, quite breathtaking. The colors are gentle pastels. It isn’t yet dark. Its progress is slow, so we get lots of snaps anyway. Then Colleen suggests going a little up the coast to La Tejita, to see it rising over Montaña Roja, so we trot, quicker now, to her car, which is the nearest, and turn for a couple of last shots over the beachfront wall, as darkness descends and paints the world in other shades.

La Tejita is one of my favorite places on the island, but I know that without a tripod my pictures won’t amount to much, so I spend more time simply inhaling the scene than snapping. The ones I do get are noisy and dark. I have to max the ISO in the absence of a stable tripod, but the effects are a bit unusual.

There is a yacht anchored in the shelter of the mountain, and out at sea there is a string of fishing boats, twinkling like the proverbial diamonds on velvet.

I have no idea what produces that shaft of light, grease on the lens perhaps? But it looks effective. It’s enough. Sometimes in the snapping you don’t have time to take it all in, so perhaps my lack of tripod is no bad thing tonight.

Happy and fulfilled, we retire to what is one of my local bars to admire in comfort and sip mojitos.

The next night, yesterday, finds Maria and I a bit further down the beach, a part which is more rocky and a bit wilder, though it’s bounded by hotels and apartment blocks, you still feel closer to the ocean. This night, of course, we know the time, and we make our way down to the shore as darkness falls. Tonight there is a breeze as usual, and along the horizon a skein of deep purple cloud hovers, but doesn’t touch the ocean. There is a line of light, and we hope that we will see the moon rising before it disappears into the clouds. In the meantime, there are diverting images, as the sun sets way behind us, its crimson is reflected onto the thick, dark clouds, and that reflected light, in turn, is reflected onto the muddy sand, turning it lilac and moody.

The wet beach is a gift of reflections and images, even the ugly hotel on its edge looks pretty, as its lights flicker on and are echoed, and a girl appears soundlessly and seemingly out of nowhere, riding her bike along the shoreline.

It’s getting darker, and the waves are creeping up the beach, the breeze is getting stronger and shearwaters are calling out to each other, their spooky, unreal cry. We talk of famous photographers who spend hours in freezing waters or mountainsides, waiting for that one, perfect shot. We begin to think that we have missed it, that in the dark we haven’t noticed that the clouds have descended to the sea and obscured our moonrise. We are about to reach for our stuff and turn tail, when a mere sliver of intense scarlet emerges, again there is a deep intake of breath and a scurrying for lenses and equipment.

Without a tripod, in this darkness I have even less hope that I did last night. It is impossible. I shoot a couple of frames, and then turn the camera off and stand in meditation. It’s a brief but intense experience. The moon will soon be hidden by the cloud, but it glows from red now to orange, and it is a huge as one expected it to be. I’m posting a couple of pictures only to give you an idea of how it was. They can’t really, but you can see what distinct experiences the two nights were.

This morning, as I walk Trixy, there is a silver shadow in the sky, which is fading as the sun’s brilliance begins to dominate the day. I rush home for the camera and return within five minutes, only to find that I took out the battery last night to charge it, and failed to put in the spare. Ah, well, as a photography experience this supermoon hasn’t been too great, but as an appreciation of this universe, it’s been pretty impressive.

 


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A Dramatic Sunset: My Reward for Procrastination

I’d been glued to the keyboard all day yesterday, all the while gnawing at the back of my mind were chores I needed to do in Los Cristianos. Now this is only a 15 or 20 minute drive, so it’s no big deal, is it?  especially when you consider the distances some of you drive daily without thought, those of you who live on continents, rather than on islands, of course. Island living definitely alters your perspective sometimes. Procrastination can become a way of life.

Finally, I dragged myself out in time for the business day re-opening. Although in the resort areas loads of businesses and many shops now stay open throughout the day, there are probably just as many which resolutely close their doors either at 1pm or at 2pm so workers can lunch and siesta the afternoon away, before returning at 4 or at 5. In Los Cristianos mostly they close at 2, so I aimed to be there for 5.

The advantage is that the parking is much better in the afternoons. Deliveries seem to be concentrated into the morning hours, and generally if you think about making an appointment with your lawyer or accountant or any other professional you think “before lunch”.

The other advantage is that you get everything done much more quickly because there are fewer folk around, not only are less locals doing businesses, but in Winter at least, the tourists are ambling back to their hotels and apartments to clean up for dinner. Yesterday, in fact, there were a few visitors mooching about the shopping area, because we have winter right now. That is, it’s the few weeks of the year we get at some time between December and March, when temperatures drop a bit, so not exactly beach weather then, we even had a few drops of rain over the last couple of days.

Fred, my faithful, old car, not being in the best of health these days, I was aiming to be home before it was too dark, but as I drove out of town the skyline caught my eye. Brooding, purple clouds were hovering over the horizon, and the sun, not far from its setting, was playing hide and seek with them. I pulled over, and sat and watched for a while, and the allure proved too much. It’s clouds which make those dramatic sunset pictures, and who knew what these fleecy beauties might do.

Playa El Callao’s 400 m or so of bedraggled sands mark the terminus of Los Cristianos, most of it is pebbles with a few parched-looking junipers surviving here and there.  Although it is within the resort it certainly isn’t a tourist beach, and its scraggy-ness isn’t unappealing. It’s close to where I lived in 2009.  It’s tranquil, last night only the slapping of the waves on rock from the wake as the ferries came and went could be heard, other than a couple of dog-walkers calling or whistling their pets.

I trudged down to the scrubby beach, on the approach dodging the dog poo, plastic bags and other fast food detritus, wondering whether the photos I knew would make this forlorn beach look like paradise were fair.  There are so many times I scratch my head over things which seem to me obvious: why isn’t this beach “adopted” and prettified? There is a smart hotel right next to it, The Arona Gran – what do its residents think about this beach? If there is some reason (and right now if you asked the town hall will tell you there’s no money, obviously) it isn’t being developed, at least why isn’t it kept clean? There were quite a few folk around, walking down to the beach or headland to watch the sunset.  I’m very much in favor of “wild” beaches myself, but how can the filth be allowed?

Fact is, the Canary Islands in general have benefited enormously from the Arab Spring, from rioting in Greece and other problems which have made people think twice about holidaying in other places (not that the queues at the employment offices get any shorter), and whilst enterprising and imaginative promotion is done in some quarters, in others it leads to complacency.

So I have to say that whilst these photos represent Nature’s passion and splendor, and it’s very true that sights like this are the norm here, what lay behind me was mankind’s disgusting mess.


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Dreaming of Lazy Lunches

Just a couple of weeks ago this beach would have been full of children enjoying the last days of their summer break. This is the little village of Tajao, about ten minutes up the east coast from El Médano, and as different from El Médano as that resort is from Playa de las Americas.

On the weekend it will be busy again.  If you ever wonder where local folk go for their family Sundays, this is one of them.  The beaches of Arona and Adeje are for the young if you’re a local, and the beaches of these small, coastal villages throng with families enjoying their leisuretime.

Now, weekdays, you could have the beach to yourself, (there wasn’t a soul there the day I went last week), and afterwards you can feast on fresh fish in one of the nearby restaurants,at a price which won’t break the bank. This is the sort of place I think of when I think about lunch.  Usually it’s fresh fish and papas arrugadas, or lapas or calamari to start with.  I have to admit that the salads often leave something to the imagination, but almost make up for it by their freshness.

A few weeks ago I was lolling on a rock in a little village similar to Tajao, when a small fishing boat gingerly approached the rocks on the other side of the bay.  Some local guys went down to hold the boat’s line, and help one of the two crew onto land.  The second crew member handed up a very large tuna, which was then carried up to one of the restaurants nearby. You can’t get much fresher than that!


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Of Big Swells and the End of Summer

It’s strangely quiet outside my window today.  A few kids are splashing about in the pool, but nowhere near the hooting and screaming of the past few weeks.  This morning in the silent supermarket there were still lettuce and tomatoes left on the shelves – granted a bit tired-looking, but for the last four to six weeks the shelves have been bare on a Monday morning after the weekend rush, (well, even on a Monday afternoon – it takes them a while to restock here).  It’s a sign the summer residents are gone or about to go, and life is on the cusp of change.

To an outsider it may seem as if everything is the same year round in El Médano, but if you live here the changes are obvious.  There will be parking again.  Once the annual fiesta is passed in another couple of weeks, the stage which occupies a corner of the main town square, will be dismantled and put into storage for another year.  Although there are always tourists, there will be fewer, and they will be mostly people here for a purpose. The spirit of El Médano, certainly for visitors and foreign residents, is very much sports-oriented. We come at the very least for the good dog-walking, and then, depending on your level of fitness, for windsurfing, kite surfing, running, cycling, swimming or power walking and more. Mix this with the folk from the old fishing community, throw in a few “hippies,” and you have the odd blend of people who rub together easily to give the town its quirky character.

In August, however, it turns into a family resort, as does just about any stretch of beach on the island with a few houses nearby.  When I strolled into the center with a friend to enjoy a glass of wine or two the other night, we were surprised to see the  climbing frames and equipment of the little playground in the square swarming with kids at midnight. Like so many indefatigable ants they were climbing, running and, of course, screaming to their hearts’ content. El Médano isn’t known for nightlife, more often than not, arriving home after dark, I’m surprised by how quiet it is, but not in August!

The other great precursor of the season in the south  that the landscape has turned to desert. Oh, the well-watered public areas of the resorts are lush and colorful as always, but the natural landscape is parched and thirsty, dying for some rain you might say.

From the approach to Montaña Roja it looks as if nothing could survive, vegetation is wilted if not skeletal.  It’s an easy walk up to the top, which is about 170 meters I think (from memory), and the views from up there are extensive along the coast, over the airport, and to the mountains beyond on a clear day.  Saturday, when I went with the photo group, it was clear-ish, and the views revealed a harsh landscape, seared by the summer sun, and apparently devoid of life, except some scrubland between the beach and the road.  Nothing much was growing other than the resilient tabaiba.

Wave beginning to build

From the times I lived near the beach in La Tejita I remember the big waves seeming to mark the end of the season too. From the hilltop on Saturday we watched for around an hour or so as the waves built and came crashing down onto the sands, the crests already being blown back out to sea by the strong winds, sometimes forming brief rainbows along the peaks of the wave.

La Tejita isn’t a surfer’s beach, although there are always waves as ocean meets the shore.  The waves break far too close  for surfing, but yesterday, when I went with Maria to take a closer look at the beach, there were a few bodyboarders out there catching a ride, and even a couple of hopeful surfers.  Not very long rides maybe, but definitely exciting. Waves rose, glittered like jeweled, turquoise glass, dragged sand from the shoreline and tossed it up in their foam, before creaming onto land.  They say that the waves come in sets of seven, every one bigger until they die away and you wait for the next set.

You can see from the color of the rock how the mountain got its name.  Anyone wonder why this, despite the barrenness at the moment, is my favorite beach in the south of Tenerife??

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