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

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Playa Santa Catalina: My New Office

I’ve been almost reluctant to write about La Gomera. My idea of slow travel is to gather information and get under the skin of a place, and even after 3 months here I wonder if I have done that.

In a sense I have, because I’ve been living a fairly ordinary life, working, strolling, shopping, getting to know folk, making bars my “locals”. In another sense, that works against me. Isn’t it just fitting into a predictable, day-to-day pattern, and isn’t that what I am anxious to avoid? I haven’t been doing nearly the amount of research I should have done, or at least that’s how I feel. Can sufficient research ever be done? Even after over 20 years in Tenerife I was still learning, and there is a ton of stuff I don’t know about my hometown back in England.

Of course this is how it should be. We should never stop learning. However, a cautionary word; master storyteller, Stephen King, remarks via one of his characters, that:

“ Al had taken away the scholar’s greatest weakness: calling hesitation research.”

Playa Santa Catalina from La Punta Mirador

When I arrived here in mid October it was to an idyllic scene, and I, floating on the euphoria of wonderful times in France, and London, and Ireland, embraced it, and continued to float.

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After the Storm

IMG_20130305_070535Yesterday I left the house three times. Once I wore a waterproof  jacket, and the other times just heavy sweatshirts. Guess on which occasion it did not rain! C’est la vie!

So this morning I poked my head out of the window to sniff the air before I stepped out. The streets looked damp, but not wet, but there was still that smell of rain in the air (that exists, although perhaps if you live somewhere like England it’s possible to be so accustomed to it that you no longer notice), so I donned waterproof and beenie and we trotted forth.

An incandescent blue was beginning  at the end of my street as we turned left for Playa Cabezo, and in the couple of mintes it took to reach the Paseo Maritimo the clouds on the horizon had a distinct yellow edge, a happy sign that the storm was passed. We stolled slowly past the junipers which obscure the beach, Trixy doing that which a dog’s gotta do, and when we could see the horizon again it had adopted a much rosier hue. It was shaping up to be a glorious sunrise, and so we stood and watched, as the remnants of the dark storm clouds succombed to the sun’s greeting.


DSC_0027There is a point at sunrise where the colors fade, between the peak of their intensity (above) and the actual appearance of the sun, which is a whole other vista, and so at that point we turned for home, because there were chores to do, before my first class at 10.

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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.




Blue Skies & Sculpture in El Médano

This sculpture stands at the end of the beach road, where El Médano becomes a bit wilder, where you can, actually see where the name médano comes from – it means sand dune.

Simply because a photo of this sculpture was the last picture in my last post I thought I’d show you a completely different view of it. It is said to represent the seven islands united, whilst on the wall behind you can see the seven pieces separately, as individual entities too.  Why do I say “it is said to….”? Because despite asking the local authority I couldn’t get confirmation of what I believed to be true. Though there are several interesting works of art on El Médano’s streets, they go their artists go unsung, which I think is a great shame.


“I’ve Looked at Clouds from Both Sides Now…………”

Life is a constant learning curve, no doubt about it. If you allow it to be of course.

Last Friday I was in the Teide National Park (and World Heritage Site), proudly showing visiting friends what is probably the most dramatic scenery of my island home. The sun shone, the sky was bluer than blue, and we strolled around comfortably without jackets or sweaters. Though I heard later that the coastal weather had been a bit less sunny, we had driven through the mists, which writhed through the forests as we drove up from La Laguna, and emerged into crystal clear air and warmth. Looking down, over those clouds, is akin to the view you get from an airplane, acres of cottonwool and an endless, azure horizon. But, up here, the difference is that from all that fluffy white, tree-lined mountain flanks, strangulated rock formations and volcanoes rise.

Yesterday was a day of quite different hue, however. Fellow blogger RunawayBrit has been wintering in Tenerife, and we’d spoken a couple of weeks ago about making a photo trip one day. So inspired by the rainbow colors of my daytrip, I asked her if she wanted to do a similar one yesterday, but with the focus on taking photos and seeing parts of the island which she had not yet visited. Remarkable, ain’t it, how, on an island which boasts around 350 days of sunshine per year, and which is currently suffering drought conditions, I could pick a rainy, cloudy day for a photo excursion…but pick it I did.

It’s odd, but, living here for so long, I sometimes feel responsible if some aspect of the island or island life doesn’t live up to the picture I, or others, have painted, and so I found myself apologizing for the gloom which was obscuring views I knew to be quite amazing on a clear day, as we left the coast behind and meandered up the backbone of the island. Even so, there were photo ops. The clouds are never still, they shift constantly, crossing paths, hiding mountains only to reveal their grandeur for seconds before drawing a veil across the scene again,  and we stopped a lot, sometimes waiting patiently for the wind to speed the cloud cover on its way.

Friday, by the way, is always a good day for a trip to the National Park. It remains the busiest arrival/departure day,  so there are less visitors everywhere. A few coaches passed as we hovered around waiting for scenes to unfurl, and it was hard not to smile, noting how glum the faces peering from the steamed up windows were. I’m a big “lemonade” ** fan personally, and yesterday was just proof of the saying. Looking back at my pictures this morning, I can see elements and colors that the brightness had hidden the previous week.

It was my decision to make our way back via the Orotava Valley, thinking to hanger left to Garachico and over the hills to Santiago del Teide by way of return. I should have known better. Although we’d seen some drizzle and lots of cloud, the weather hadn’t seemed too threatening, but we weren’t too far down the mountainside when those clouds truly closed around us, visibility was severely reduced, and we joined a line of traffic inching its way coastwards behind one of those tour buses. We stopped off for warming soups, local cheese and papas arrugadas, but when we emerged the rain was almost as full on,  and had found its way into the car even, forming a puddle on the passenger side floor, so when we eventually found ourselves near the autopista the wiser decision was to go for Plan B and wend our way southwards, leaving the lush but damp north, and trusting that the south would live up to its dry reputation. With frightening predictability, within a kilometer of Santa Cruz, the rain began to ease, the visibility increased and by the time we joined the southern autopista, although the clouds  looked grim, the way ahead was dry.

And so it was that we detoured to Candelaria, the island’s spiritual home. I have stacks of photos of this town. It’s center, around the basilica, which is home to the statue of Tenerife’s patron, the Virgin of Candelaria, is small but photogenic. The main square is bordered on one side by the church, and on another by some impressive statues of the Guanche Menceys, who were the rulers of Tenerife’s nine kingdoms before the Conquest. They line the promenade, guarding the black sands of the beach.

I’ve never been especially happy with any of the photographs I’ve taken of these statues, even when not surrounded by other happy snappers, the sun always seemed to be in the wrong place to get the shot I wanted. Yesterday, however, with those moody storm clouds overhead I really liked the way they came out.

This morning, at least here on the south east coast, the sun is bright, the sky blue and the clouds white and fluffy. At dawn, however,  those somber and heavy clouds still dominated the horizon when I walked along the seashore, lending drama to the sunrise.

So – I can say that I am thankful for clouds; for the variety and drama, color and interest they bring to familiar scenes, and, in the words of the song, I think I can say:

“I’ve looked at clouds from both sides now,

From up and down, and still, somehow,

It’s clouds illusions I recall.

I really don’t know clouds at all.”

And so, here’s to the next time there are clouds on my normally blue horizon :=)

** Just in case there is anyone who has never heard the saying: If life hands you lemons, make lemonade!



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.


In Which I Become Captivated by the Mountains at Dusk

I don’t know how obvious it was, a few posts back, that I was totally thrilled by the visit Maria and I made to the mountains to check out the sunset the other week.  It was, without the slightest doubt, the most stunning and breathtaking sunset I’ve ever seen, and we knew, as we set out to repeat the experience last night that it was unlikely to be exactly as awesome, if only because we might have that “seen it all before” feeling.

We spent part of the afternoon studying and talking about night photography so I guess you could say we were quite psyched up as we set off around 8pm again, taking the same route as the last time.  As we approached the first vantage point we’d used last time we could see that a sunset was brewing that would have taken away our breath had we not seen the one two weeks ago.  The horizon was a shifting haze of pastels, pinks and lavendars.  We’ve had calima for a few days, and it was obvious that it would affect the scene.  We carried on to the spot we’d found the last time, and found ourselves, just as before witnessing a change from pastels to jewel brights, but weighed down by what we assume was the cap of dust hovering over the island, the “polvo en suspensión” carried by the winds from Africa.  It made the sunset a different experience from last time. The scene was like the one you have from an airplane window, the colors leaking around the horizon instead of painting the sky. It changed the light and the colors, and whilst the photos are less spectacular too, it was a really interesting experience and a learning curve.  I realize that I need to understand more about climate and weather, and I also realized for certain that I need to really learn this art.  Honestly, I’ve seen photography up to now as a way to illustrate the things I see and experience, to share them and explain them, and if I got a few good ones I was most happy.  Words will always be my first love, but I am feeling the pull of photography absolutely now.  I am hungry to learn!

I’m more than aware that a lot of these fall into the “could have done better if she knew what she was doing” category, but it’s the beginning, and it still gives you of what my other love, Tenerife, is like.

And this time I remembered my tripod – but, guess what it was broken!!!!  I can’t tell you how fed up I was!  I did, however, have my remote, so by putting the camera on top of the car again, using my binolculars to angle it and using the remote I got a couple of worthwhile shots…..more learning!