Islandmomma

Searching for Stories Around the Islands of the World and the Freedoms of Third Age


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An Evening Stroll: Photo Essay


One of the great things about being a dog owner (or is that being owned by a dog?) is the enforced exercise, though, honestly, do you need an excuse to walk along the shore here? I was brought up fairly close to the sea, and whenever I’ve been away from it I’ve missed it – a lot. Most days I thank the universe that I have this at the end of my street, makes up for a lot!

It had been a fine day for wind and kite surfers, but as dusk began to fall and the tide came in the waves were becoming gentler and this driftwood tossed up on the rock pools was caught in the sun's final rays.

It had been a fine day for wind and kite surfers, but as dusk began to fall and the tide came in the waves were becoming gentler and this driftwood tossed up on the rock pools was caught in the sun’s final rays.

At sunset the colors of the island skies aren't confined to the west. As if the spectacle is just too intense to contain in one place, the hues bleed along the horizon. This, looking almost east, through junipers which frame the walkway to the beach. The windsurfer just happened to speed past as I clicked!

At sunset the colors of the island skies aren’t confined to the west. As if the spectacle is just too intense to contain in one place, the hues bleed along the horizon. This, looking almost east, through junipers which frame the walkway to the beach. The windsurfer just happened to speed past as I clicked!

Turning the corner of the harbor wall to face west, there is a huge stone with a hefty iron cleet on top. Whether this was part of the original fishing village or a piece of art I can't honestly say.

Turning the corner of the harbor wall to face west, there is a huge stone with a hefty iron cleet on top. Whether this was part of the original fishing village or a piece of art I can’t honestly say.

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We Don’t Do Sunsets in El Médano

I had to laugh this week when I read a “review” of a restaurant situated on the boardwalk in “my town”, El Médano. It claimed that it was the perfect place to enjoy a tipple whilst watching the sun go down over the horizon. Now, there are many fine and even wonderful views from the boardwalk, and even better ones from other parts of the coast, but to see a decent sunset there is nowhere you can sit in comfort and sip your wine at the same time, while someone whips up a tasty meal for you – unless you take a picnic to the beach perhaps – haven’t tried that, so I can’t say for sure.

The picture above is about as much as we see of a sunset in summer, over the mountains and far away, in other words the reflection of the glory on the clouds. Granted, in winter I’ve snapped some pretty nice sunsets, but not whilst sitting in a bar. Although, come to think of it, probably there’s a nice winter sunset from Manfred’s Bar, but I can’t think of anywhere else. Although sometimes what happens is that clouds  echo the sunset; catching the colors, turning them candy stripe pink and puffing them along the horizon like so many rosy cottonwool balls.

That pink sometimes shades into lavender and melts along the horizon right around the island, it’s a pretty sight,  but not the evening we took our walk, and granted, if I hadn’t stopped to snap so often we might not have been slopping around in tidal pools as we made our way back for tapas. When Guy was visiting, we decided to walk one evening,  before eating, to Bocinegro, that’s the smaller of the two volcanoes which mark the perimeter of the beach.

Bocinegro is an after thought, a punctuation mark at the foot of the iconic Montaña Roja. It’s an easy walk, almost a stroll – unless you forget about the time and have to clamber over wet rocks in the dark, as we did that night!

The sky was darkening over the foothills even as we circled the beach, the sun just tinting the underbelly of the cloud mass behind us.

The sun was sinking fast.  Coastal sunsets at this latitude don’t linger long. They are often dazzling, but over quite soon, and night descends fairly quickly.

Nevertheless we made it to the top of Bocinegro’s 118 feet in good time. It’s just about the right length of walk to work up an appetite, but not overdo it. Guy was in training and I had a wonky knee. Being so familiar with the area I didn’t worry too much about losing the light, but as we reached the beach I had to fumble for my torch (always useful to keep a torch with your camera bag I’ve learned!) The night had turned to pitch black, and the moon wasn’t up yet. We skidded on the loose stones as we neared the beach, and then picked our way between damp sand and rock pools, as tiny fish skittered to hide from the torchlight, but it was worth the slithering and sliding for the views of nighttime El Médano from a different angle to usual, as the lights flickered on along the bay.

I don’t need another reason to be thankful for living here ….. as you might have gathered from my previous post!……but this did give me another, I have to admit. Being such a lover of early mornings, I often find it hard to burn the candle at both ends, so I’m not that much of a night owl, but I’m thinking that from time to time I should break my habits, take a siesta and go out late with the camera again!

 


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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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Just Another Day in Paradise?

Just kidding, people. There used to be a T-shirt back in the 90s with words to that effect, or a little cruder, to be honest, and whilst petty bureaucracy and inefficiency have been taking their toll of me to a huge extent of late, there are times when living here is, well, heavenly!

Yesterday, for instance, my day began like this:

And ended like this:

And for once the bit in between was entirely satisfactory :=) But no time to scribble about it now, I’m off to inhale a bit more of the wonders of Mother Nature, but I will fill in the gaps ….. soon.

 

 


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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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On Sleeping in a Cave: or A Childhood Dream Comes True!

There is the scrapping sound of small rocks falling.  I lie still, and wait for another sound, holding my breath, then, Austin’s voice from the darkness;

“Was that you?”

“Nope, it wasn’t you either then?”

“No.”

“What was it then?”

“Just some stones falling. Rocks fall.”

The same sound again, as stone dislodges from the rock face, perhaps disturbed by a small animal.  I know already that we are sharing this cave with a mouse and two spiders, any of which might have dislodged small stones to make the noise we heard. I wrap my arms around my body to fend off the 1º below temperature, and relax again.  My nest in this cave is really quite comfortable, and apparently I drift off to sleep.

This day began sunny and bright in El Médano.  We drove up the twisting road from Granadilla de Abona, on Tenerife’s south east coast, through Spain’s highest village, Vilaflor de Chasna, and into the Teide National Park to the familiar sight of the bizarre and preternatural landscape that is the caldera at the Park’s center. Along the way, the atmosphere had changed from sunny to chill as we passed Granadilla, then to shifting mists as we drove through the pine forest above Vilaflor, to emerge into the sunshine again as we entered the crater.

The landscape had alternated from parched near the coast, where we have had little rain over the last year; to verdant in the forests, where the mists, captured by the trees, are fed to the earth below; and back again to arid as we neared the National Park. The flora had reflected the climate, the pines and eucalyptus on the roadsides lower down were wilting and dusty, and at the top were only dry skeletons of the broom, tajinaste and rosalillo that had flowered last summer, but in between almond blossom flourished, we saw trees were laden with lemons and oranges, and the first California poppies were hiding in sheltered spots.

We had donned light jackets quickly on arriving – although the sun was bright there was a wind chill factor bringing down the temperature. Austin had promised me this hike for my birthday, but we hadn’t been able to do it at the time, and I was looking forward to it tremendously, especially after the theft of my Blackberry (see previous post) which had upset me more than I liked to admit.  It had been a bleak kind of week up to Thursday, but it was all set to change beyond my expectations.

Austin hoisted his heavy pack onto his back.  He was carrying everything except for my sleeping bag, and other than that, I had only my extra clothes (though plenty of them), camera equipment and some odds and ends, like binoculars, in my own pack.  Still, it was heavier than I am used to carrying when hiking.

We set off along the trail known as Siete Cañadas which is a hikers’ favorite, being well- laid and easy. It begins by the Parador and emerges at the crossroads of El Portillo, on the other side of the crater, from where roads descend to La Orotava, or along the backbone of the island to La Laguna, either way a stunning drive. The air was so clear that the colors of the landscape seemed almost unbelievable, they were so bright and vibrant, and turning back to look at this mighty mountain, El Teide,  which dominates the vista on just about every inch of the island, I was already beginning to get a sense of the surreal.

We had only been walking for about twenty minutes or so, when Austin veered off the path and motioned me to follow. Two minutes later we were inside the heart of the rock formation you can see below, which had been making my imagination work overtime as we approached it. Even after living close to this landscape for so long, its eccentricities never fail to amaze me.  These rocks look far more like something from a science fiction movie than anything which belongs on this earth.

Inside the formation was even more like being in another world.  We perched on rocks and ate lunch, the spiralling, volcanic pikes rising around us like guardians, protecting us from the fierce sunlight.  We could only wonder at the forces which had created these shapes, as Nature threw them up from her soul millions of years ago, crenated, twisted, their layers reflecting the origins of the planet.

Collecting all our rubbish, we set out once more. For me this was destination unknown, a birthday surprise, but it turned out to be surprise upon surprise. As we blinked again in the sunlight Austin gestured upwards with his hiking pole:

“That’s where we’re going,” he grinned.

I swear I caught my breath. Behind the rocks rose Alto de Guajara, at 8,917 ft (2,718 meters) one of the highest peaks in the National Park. I’ve seen it described as the third highest, but a marker along the route seemed to indicate otherwise, it might be fourth or even fifth, still, it was high and craggy and, well, er, very high, no matter its credentials in comparison to the surrounding mountains.

More interesting than the height is the legend.  Guajara was a Guanche princess, daughter of  Beneharo, ruler of one of the kingdoms into which the island was divided, and wife of  Tinguaro, the brother (or possibly half-brother) of Benecomo, the ruler of another kingdom. The Guanches were the original inhabitants of Tenerife, a stone-age culture when the Spanish Conquistadors finally took the island for the crown of Spain after fierce fighting.  The Guanches fought hard and long, andTenerife was the last island of the Canarian archipelago to fall. One of the heroes of the battles was Tinguaro, who was slain, after ferocious fighting, at the battle of Aguere (the present-day La Laguna) in 1495. Heartbroken, Guajara withdrew inland, and finally, in her despair, threw herself from the peak of the mountain which now bears her name. That she met her end in that way can never be confirmed, but the story is in keeping with others relating to the time following the Conquest. Were we, perhaps, about to meet the ghost of a Guanche princess?

We turned off the Siete Cañadas trail and began to hike upwards on what is designated as Hiking Route 15. It took us higher and higher along a narrow pathway marked by stones through scrubland dominated by broom.  When we met a few walkers returning along the same path we had to stand to one side to allow them to pass. I began to slow down, constant climbing always takes its toll on me, and, as always, I vowed to get fitter before the next hike. Austin’s fitness level is amazing. He takes part in triathlons and trail running, and he forged way ahead at times, despite carrying most of our overnight gear.

Eventually, we reached a crossing of pathways, affording us a stunning view of mists creeping up a valley. Hemmed on each side by rock face and crags, the mists would advance, fingering their way along the mountainside, and then just as quickly withdraw as if stung by some unseen presence.  We knew that below the mist and cloud lay the south east coast, Granadilla and El Médano.  We stopped to put on warmer clothes. It wouldn’t be long until dusk, and already it was getting cooler. It was then that I cursed not bringing an extra camera battery.  I’ve never needed to carry one for the amount of photos I expected to take on this trip, and I’d tried to keep baggage to a minimum, but the cold air was already having an effect, and I stopped snapping, aware that I would regret not having enough battery for the surprises which were promised ahead.

“We’re almost there,”Austinsaid cheerfully, and we moved on and upwards at a fairly leisurely pace.  It wasn’t long before he darted off into the broom, and I assumed that he was answering a call of nature, and plodded on, but, from waist-high in bush, he called me over to follow him. We scrambled over rocks under an over-hang which formed a shallow cave, and onto a natural platform of rock.  There two enormous rocks almost formed another, smaller cave, and the shelter had been extended by previous visitors with rocks, branches and dead grasses to roof it in and shield it from the biting winds which sweep across the hillside.  It was a scene straight out of my childhood dreams.  People had also strewn dried grasses on the stone to make a natural sleeping place.  It was so perfect I wanted to cry (as you will see in the video which will be in the next post!).

Austin got busy right away, placing ground sheets over the dried grasses, and stowing our packs as we staked our claim to our resting place for the night. First, another treat in store, everything stowed, we donned yet more warm clothing, and walked on a bit further around the mountainside to catch the sunset. It was so much easier to walk without packs, and at one stage I actually ran to make sure I didn’t miss the scene.

As the sun dipped behind the mountain to our right, its last rays lingered on the hillside across the valley, and way around over the heart of the island it dappled the dark volcanic cones and sands. Cursing my lack of sense in not bringing a spare battery, I snapped what was, essentially, the reflection of the sunset, because we were facing south east, and the lavender hue was bleeding along the horizon above the mist and tinting the low cloud below us.

Returning to our cave (do you know how incredible it feels to say that?!), Austin produced vacuum-packed dinners, which he heated up with water boiled on a small burner.  My first taste of real camping food! Better than I expected, plentiful and hot, it was good and warming as the temperature inside the cave fell to minus 1ºC.  Followed by bananas and hot chocolate, I really wouldn’t have changed places with anyone in the swankiest restaurant in the world, as overhead the heavens began to shine with the achingly endless display of stars which the clear skies of the Canary Islands yield up at night. To make my night complete a bright shooting star crossed above us.

As we put on so many layers I now lost track, and zipped into our sleeping bags I felt like a child at Christmas, albeit a very chunky one! I’d dreamed of camping since I was a small child, and this kind of camping really was a dream come true, to be almost out in the open, to have only rock and dry grass between me and the night sky, and to experience not another sound in all the universe, just utter silence……. except for the soft rock fall, that is.

Not only all of this, but promise of something even more wonderful the next morning. Sleep didn’t come easily, but it seems at last that I did doze off, because, apparently I snored something rotten!  For the rest, well, that’s enough writing for today, but soon, very soon, and, what’s more, with video!

Please note that camping, as such, is strictly forbidden in the National Park. What we did is bivvying – not using tents, nor driving anything into earth or rock, but simply sleeping under natural cover, and of course, we took all our rubbish home with us.


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An Unexceptional Sunset

I suppose it was obvious of late that I have been a bit disenchanted with the flow of life here.  There are some reasons, which I will come to one day, but not today, because I had one of those random experiences which make me blot out the crap and remember my passion for the island.

I was doing normal chores, I’d done a bit of shopping and went to pay my rent.  The real estate office is in Plaza Roja, close to where I live, and of late I’ve gone back to carrying my camera everywhere with me again. I’d stopped doing that during the move, and the not-doing-it kind of stuck. When I came out of the office around 6-ish the sun was going down, and so I thought I’d stroll over to the harbor to see if it was going to be a spectacular sunset. It showed no signs of being out of the ordinary, although ordinary is pretty good here, but it was pleasant after the heat of the day, so I walked along the boardwalk and onto the shore opposite to Montaña Roja.

This shoreline is pure volcanic lava frozen in time, sharp and sinister rocks which creep darkly into the ocean, and where countless rock pools form at low tide.  I took a few snaps. It wasn’t ideal. Foreground too dark, sun too bright, it was too early. As I picked my way amongst the rocks, the haunting cry of a curlew, who circled round in his search for easy pickings, and a lone, wee plover bobbing amongst the dark rubble.

There were few clouds around, and the sunset didn’t look like amounting to much, so I trod my careful way back to the promenade and the corner of the harbor, and as I ducked under the small bridge there it was the photo which had been worth waiting for, and which made me smile to realize that this was just an average day.

After the sun dipped beneath the horizon the sky took on a rosy afterglow, not as sensational as it can be perhaps, but pretty, and the for-once calm waters in the harbor and across this small bay turned that unreal shade of metallic blue they achieve after sunset and before sunrise.

I sat for a while longer, because you never know what may happen next at this time of day.  The old boys who hang out by the boats next to the slipway decamped for warmer places, it was beginning to get chilly, and the gulls circled as if they were surveying the waters one last time before they went to rest, and somehow all the things which had been nagging at me faded, not away, but into the background for now at least.


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2011: A Mixed Bag: Posts-That-Never-Were

York, England

My visit to York was very personal, too personal to write about any time soon, but I did make time in the mornings for a walk in the chill.  There was a serious cold snap whilst I was there, unprecedented they said…..coming from some quite balmy weather in London, and a heatwave on mainland Spain I really felt it – to my bones!  Still, I loved the walking and managed just a few snaps.

Said if before and I’ll say it again, the thing I love about cities is the energy, and despite the cold there were people out running along the riverbank, and even people learning to kayak (goodness knows what would have happened had they overturned and fallen in!), and it was motivating to see.  York is a gentle city compared to many, but still has that buzz.

Romeria Vilaflor, Tenerife, Canary Islands

There is no doubt that, as a foreigner at least, you can get romeria/fiesta burnout, which is probably why I wrote about an abandoned house by the roadside and not about the Romeria in Vilaflor the day I went there. It was a charming fiesta, more casual than the huge event I’d been to in La Laguna a few weeks before, but still with all the traditional ingredients – oxen pulling carts laden with children or folk in traditional dress….and the whole village seemed to be in traditional dress….the plaster saint, to whom homage was paid with folk dances and songs, strolling minstrel groups, goats and horses, toiling along dusty roads in the afternoon heat.  Vilaflor is Spain’s highest village, and steep, it trails down a hillside, so he was carried from the church at the bottom to the church at the top, followed by, well, everyone, plus some tourists like us.  It was very mellow, marred for me  by some young drunks, which is surprisingly unusual at these events.


Fiesta in Amparo, Tenerife, Canary Islands

This is likely the best fiesta I didn’t go to! 20,000 artificial flowers were made by residents of this barrio of Icod de los Vinos to celebrate their saint’s day. I passed through twice during the time of their celebrations, but never at a time when there was anything happening!  Still  the decorations were stunning, quite the most elaborate I’d seen on the island, and in this rich arable area many contained real fruits and vegetables, so rather like a harvest festival in England. Tradition has the women out collecting poleo (so far as I can make out this is pennyroyal, not a herb with which I’m familiar) which is also used prominently in the decorations.

Katrina’s Visit, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Making new friends is always something nice to look back on at the end of a year, and getting to know blogger Katrina Stovold of TourAbsurd.com was a great pleasure in early Fall. Her posts about the island can be found here.  Katrina is a witty and inquisitive person and I’m sure we would have gotten along in any event, but I was secretly delighted that the places she chose to visit were not the usual tourist haunts. Sure, it’s hard to get away from tourism on Tenerife if you only have a week to spend here, but there were a few places on her agenda which most don’t bother to see. We went to  Garachico, Icod de los Vinos, Santa Cruz’s Museum of Man and Nature, and the Pyramids at Güimar, for instance….where Katrina displayed her amazing affinity with cats! As luck would have it, the one day we decided to chill on the beach at Los Cristianos fierce winds blew in from the Atlantic and sent us scurrying!

La Caleta, Tenerife, Canary Islands

I mention La Caleta because I had several seriously good meals there during the course of the year, most at Restaurante La Caleta or at 88, and one over the other side of the bay at Celso. Some of it was in the course of research for this wee post for Tenerife.co.uk but truthfully I didn’t need the excuse, this what-was-once-a-small village really is the gourmet capital of South Tenerife so far as I am concerned, and it’s also very pretty at night and has terrific ocean views by day.


Guildford, England

Guildford has become a staple on my English itineraries since my son moved there, but I was so glad to have discovered it! This is why:

Waiting for him to finish work on the day I arrived, I grabbed a sandwich and coffee from Starbucks and sat on a bench by the river. It was warm, but refreshingly so after the heat of Sevilla and Barcelona. It felt very…..English!

Las Galletas, Tenerife, Canary Islands

Las Galletas I mention mainly because it’s an illustration of my mantra “Always have your camera with you”.  It’s somewhere I go reasonably frequently.  I had breakfast there just a couple of days before Christmas.  Driving back from Santa Cruz a few weeks ago I could see the sunset shaping up to be memorable, and even though I put my foot down I knew I wouldn’t make the best part of the coast to photograph it there,  so I dodged off  the autopista and headed for Las Galletas.  It turned out to be not quite as spectacular as I’d expected, but it was worth the detour :=)

Pinolere, Tenerife, Canary Islands

The annual craft fair at Pinolere was delightful, as always, though very frustrating this year on account of being broke!  There were wonderful jewelry, musical instruments, scarves and shawls, woven baskets and more on which I could have spent fortunes.  I contented myself with edible goodies on the basis that at least they were fodder, and came away with delicious cheeses, honey and some coffee liqueur for my dad. The highlights were this ecological carousel, which knocked me out, and performances of medieval-style plays by a local group, both of which proved that yesterday’s entertainments are quite as valid today.

Of course,  I can think of dozens of other things I didn’t record here, but, yes, I think I am done with 2011 now, in more ways than one. Not sad to see the back of it, bring it on 2012!

 


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Of Art By the People for the People: Rock Balancing

I don’t make any bones about the fact that I normally try to stay away from the tourist resorts.  They simply aren’t my cup of tea, for one thing, they have no history or sense of community…….or do they?

The other week I was persuaded to go to Playa Beril to snorkel.  I’m not very brave with waves and such, but I adore to have my face in the water (I’d actually prefer to have it under the water, but that’s not in my current budget!), and this beach is really as safe as it gets, with a surprising amount of sea life to see so close to where tourists stir up the bottom.  It’s still all pebbles, sandwiched between the psuedo-sophisticated Playa del Duque and Playa Enramada (probably yet to be “developed”), and just at the end of the beach there is an area which is all pebbles, and where what seems to be spontaneous “street” art has broken out.

The entire area is covered with these rock balances, which, so far as I can make out, is the correct way to describe them.  No-one I’ve spoken to knows how it began, and because it’s an area I don’t know that well, I can’t even tell you how or when or how long it has taken to grow to this stage, but it is now quite remarkable, giving a very mysterious kind of atmosphere to the beach, especially at sunset. I was quite captivated the first time I saw them in broad daylight, but since I was there to snorkel, it was one of the few times I didn’t have a camera with me – not even a phone!  For a couple of weeks now I’ve been itching to get back.  I actually wanted to go at sunrise, but the other day found me in the area just before sunset, so I thought I’d make the most of it.

I was tip toeing between all the works of art.  In some places there are so many it’s actually hard to walk around them.  I do want to go back at sunrise, and I also want to go back and try the infamous HDR, about which I’ve had so many snidey thoughts, but which I know would have taken these photos to a whole different level….

Of course, it also taught me that there is beauty to be found everywhere, and that people, perhaps as a reaction against the swathes of concrete covering the coast, have created their own art.  Even if it was started deliberately by the local authority, it certainly has been claimed by the people now.


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Quite Simply the Most Breathtaking Island Sunset I’ve Ever Seen

After our experience last Saturday in Vilaflor, and seeing so many wonderful photos of the star-filled Tenerife skies on the internet,  Maria and I decided it was time to explore night-time photography.  I didn’t feel ready, but as always, one should take the plunge, go for it, just do it.  Procrastination gets us, precisely, nowhere, nothing, zilch, and it’s in the making of mistakes that we learn.

We assumed that it’s better to go on a moonless night (information which the internet has subsequently confirmed – I found this marvelous site recently, and now I simply hang on every word!), but thought it best to go when there is some moonlight to suss out the best places when it would be easier than with no light…….and we had NO idea what we were letting ourselves in for, nor what a learning curve it would be!

We set off around 8pm from the coast, and by my favorite route from the south, via Granadilla de Abona and Cruz de Tea, a quieter route, though it can be a bit scary when the mists shroud the road.  This night we were just ahead of the mists, snippets of cloud spied on us through the trees, but never impeded our travel. It’s so quiet, in fact, at this hour at least, that you can stop, as we did, without fear, on a curve to let a momma partridge herd her two babies across our path.

After that delightful moment we meandered up to Vilaflor, where we stopped to snap Mr Potato Man (and, in fact, Mrs Potato Woman too) which we hadn’t been able to stop for on Saturday night.  Nice emblems of that quirky festival.

We were also enchanted by the view down to the coast.  The route up which we’d just driven was now hidden by the Mar de Nubes (Sea of Clouds) a regular and impressive feature of the island landscape.  You have the same sensation of being above the clouds that you have whilst flying, but with mountains and islands emerging from the mass, and that uneasy feeling that the fog is following you as it slithers its way upwards.  Those terraces below are where we stood on Saturday night to open our minds to what was in store.  The horizon was just beginning to turn pink as the sun was sinking.  Although we were facing, more or less, east at this point, when you are up high you can see the colors of the sunset leaking all along the horizon.  It’s beautiful and slightly disorienting.

Onwards and upwards; we cleared the forests, but stopped on the first bend.  By now the sunset had deepened and was casting a rosy glow across the clouds beneath us.  We couldn’t wait for a better vantage point, we thought, because sunsets and sunrises wait for no man.

The island of Gran Canaria can be glimpsed there, on the horizon.

The warm glow of having experienced Nature’s wonderful display in our hearts and minds, we set off again, only to find……..and this is where words fail me………that Earth’s kaleidoscope had shifted, changing those gentle shades of rose and lavender to jewel-bright reds, oranges and deep purples.  The was no prescribed stopping place, but once again, you can’t wait, we pulled over on the opposite side of the road at the first opportunity and pulled out our cameras.

I tried lighting the foreground with flash to see how they would look, because the foregrounds on the others weren’t actually as dark as they appear to be in the photos, neither, or course, were they are bright as they appear to be here.  Part of the amazing learning curve that this night was turning out to be.

As we  wandered around the ridge on which we had stopped a little the colors changed, the sky darkened and night fell, bit by bit, not with the same suddenness as on the coast.  Even so I find my photos puny in comparison with reality.  I’m not sure if it can ever be captured, though I’ve seen some very impressive attempts.  Certainly, I have much to learn, but I hope these photos give you some idea of the awe we felt, since both words and my photographic ability fail me utterly.

Concentrated as we were on the scene before us, the vibrant sunset colors, the sea of clouds hanging like a night-time blanket over the hillsides and spotting the lights twinkling on other islands, we didn’t quite realize just how dark it had become until we turned around, only to be met by another, equally breathtaking sight – the blue-velvet night display of a million, million stars, suspended in space.  I drew breath and cursed.  The little I knew about night photography told me that I needed a tripod, and I didn’t have one.  Maria did, clever girl.  I’d thought of this drive only as a rekkie, not as an opportunity like this, but the moon wasn’t up, and the sky was achingly clear, and it felt as if we were looking into the future.  I only had one good photo, which you see here, by dint of putting the camera upside down on the top of the car, so that it was stable, everything else I tried was a huge fail, but I include the only other one I’ve kept.  The line of light from center to left of the photo is a passing car – another lesson learned, although because this is such an awful photo I think it gives it interest.  After a while I gave up and just drank in the experience.  It isn’t my first time, seeing this, though it’s a sight I’d never seen until I came to live here, but it was somehow very special, maybe because of the chat we’d had on Saturday, knowing just a bit more about what it was I was seeing.  Slowly, as dark overtook the scene the Milky Way was clearer than I’ve ever seen it, making us feel small but at the same time connected to all this.  It would be a good thing if everyone could experience that, maybe it would give us a sense of our place in the universe.

The next day began to intrude on our thoughts after a while.  I had a ton of stuff to do, and Maria had to be at work at 8am, so we began our roll down the hill, and I remarked that the only thing to complete our experience would be the rising moon…….when we turned a corner, and………… there it was, bright as a billion, billion rubies, rising over the mountains and through the trees.  The first place we could stop was at the same place we’d stopped before, and within that few minutes the shades had changed from ruby to diamond, as she took her place in the night sky.  Before us, the clouds now partly receded, lay the lights of the village of Vilaflor (the highest in Spain, remember) and further lights we knew were coastal towns and villages, and the lights from those and others hidden under the clouds lit the scene from below, giving it a surreal glow.  More curses about the tripod  …….. I will never, ever be without one again, OK!

We thought we were done.  We thought Nature couldn’t possibly have more in store for us after all this, but after all the majesty of the going down of the sun,  the vastness of space, and the grandeur of the landscape around us, she had one, final message.  As we followed the country road home, as happens on country roads, a rabbit suddenly froze in our headlights, and we slowly stopped.  She hopped out of our path fairly quickly, only to reveal a tiny baby which had been hiding behind her. As he hopped off into the forest it was just a reminder that despite the mind-blowing scenes we’d seen these small and more common moments have their beauty too.

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