Islandmomma

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


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On Being a Marathon Mom: A Flying Visit to El Hierro

Really, don’t get excited, when I say “marathon mom,” that’s as in “soccer mom,” not as in a mom who runs marathons (at least not yet but more of that another time!). I’ve shivered on the streets of London, and got soaked in Snowdonia watching Guy run marathons. I’ve also fried watching both my sons run the Half Marathon in Santa Cruz de Tenerife and Austin take part in triathlons here in¬†Tenerife. Of course the soaking, and the chilling, and the frying mean nothing, because watching my sons achieve is the very best thing in my life ūüôā

Thus, rising at 6am, being on the road by 6.30 and eating a peanut butter wrap on a misty hillside for breakfast is all a part of the scene. But hang on, this adventure begins before that…….

It’s a while since I was on one of these inter island ferries, eight months to be precise. A year ago, as I crisscrossed the archipelago, ¬†rumbling into the black hole¬†of one of these boats was as normal as taking a train is for many folk.¬†Since last July I’ve been kind of grounded. It’s good to be on the move again.

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Playing Hooky to Celebrate the Sunshine!

This isn‚Äôt the piece I intended to post today. You could say this is spontaneous. Spontaneous is what I did today. Spontaneous is probably the biggest difference between a blog and, say, a magazine article, at least if one‚Äôs own blog. Sponteous probably describes my current lifestyle….at least it should do.

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I should be better-organized, but a glimpse of sunshine and I felt like a kid on vacation! After sitting at my dining table, which doubles as my desk, for two hours, watching the day brighten outside my window, I couldn’t take it any longer. Afterall, hadn’t I spent hours when I was tied to boring jobs wishing I could be outdoors and longing for the freedom to improvise my life?

So I bundled Trixy into the van and set off, with no plan whatsoever. My direction was dictated only by the need to put gas in the car. Rain is forecast for tomorrow. I needed to seize this glorious day.

The sun doesn’t warm the valley until late these winter mornings. It highlights the hillsides, teases through the gaps between the mountains, but doesn’t rise high enough to reach all the nooks until mid-morning. As we left the gas station it seemed that the last chill was evaporating, and the day began to glow.

This post is simply the story of me playing hooky. There is no deep meaning to it. It’s a photo essay of a crystal clear, blue/green day.

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Mountain Glory

Three months ago it seemed as if the whole island was in motion, heading up into the hills for a glimpse of snow, which was falling heavier and later than usual.  This week it seemed that everyone was talking about the profusion of wildflowers, the colors, the extraordinary numbers this year.  Pictures, like the one below, which I snapped close to the cemetery in Vilaflor on Thursday,  dominate the newspapers, and are on t.v. daily.  The rich colors of Tajinastes and California poppies contrast magnificently with the endless blue of the sky.

Tajinaste grow nowhere else on earth except in the Canary Islands, and some types are native only to specific islands. ¬†They appear on so many postcards, videos and snapshots you probably remember seeing them before. ¬†They’re symbolic of the islands. ¬†I know you don’t want to know all the latin names and explanations, because you would be reading a wildflower blog if you did, and you can look them up elsewhere if you want! ¬†Sufficient to say that when they burst into bloom at this time of year it’s a noteworthy day on the calendar. We enjoy them for a month or more, before the summer heat forces plant life on the peaks to wither or hide. ¬† People will be rushing up there this weekend to see them in the same way they rushed up to see the snow 3 months back.

Maria, Cristina and I, aiming to avoid those weekend crowds headed up into the hills late Thursday afternoon, as soon as Maria had finished work. ¬†Top down on Cristina’s baby we breezed the curves enjoying the flow of warm air and the freedom……..one of the things I miss about living on an island is the potential for road trips!

Note the magnificent white broom on the hillside just where we pulled over.

We hadn’t been driving for very long when we began to notice the colors on the hillsides we were cruising, it really was as if life was bursting out from every turn. ¬†Tajinaste don’t grown below about 2,000 meters, so we were on the look out for our first one, and there was cheering as we spotted ¬†it, although it was a smallish one in the garden of a hamlet we were passing. Still, before too long we were seeing more, and then clumps of them, and then a the stunning group we spotted by the cemetery, pictured above, and below.

We skirted Vilaflor and glided through the Corona Forestal as we climbed continuously, and leaving the forest behind we rounded a bend to see the islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma shimmering on the horizon. In certain conditions the other islands take on a sort of fantasy pose, seeming to hover over the ocean, with their mountain peaks emerging from cloud. It’s one of the most beautiful sights I know. Sadly my lens wasn’t up to capturing what my eye saw, but this is the best I could do. You can clearly see La Gomera, and El Hierro is the smudge of blue on the horizon to the left. ¬†The lens wasn’t wide enough to include La Palma too.

It was whilst we were stopped to snap the islands that we realized how busy the road had become, particularly with wagons and heavy goods traffic. ¬†We’d come across very little traffic until then, travelling late afternoon it was all going in the opposite direction.Then ¬†we realized were coming from the set of the “Clash of the Titans” sequel, which is being filmed in the National Park¬†as well as other points on the island. Have to say, even from what I’d read and heard about film making the sheer volume of this traffic amazed me!

For us it was onward and upwards however. ¬†A few more twists and turns and we were in Valle de Ucanca, which is where I’d taken the great shots in the snow February and March. ¬†No snow this day, though. ¬†The sun was strong and just high enough in the sky to give us plenty of light, but still lend shadow. ¬†The snows had long seeped into the rock to the underground caverns where it is stored, and in their place were splashes of vivid color –¬†¬†white ¬†and¬†bright yellow ¬†broom, ¬†cheerful margaritas and still some lingering wild lavender, but most stunning, the tajinaste, great clumps of them, ¬†tumbling down the mountainsides, like the pointy red hats of dozens of garden gnomes.

They can grow up to 3 meters tall, and are heaven on earth for bees. ¬†I’ve never seen one which wasn’t emitting a buzz as the bees collected their pollen.

The broom had been perfuming the air since we’d stopped to photography the islands, and around the caldera the scent was heavy in the late afternoon warmth. ¬†I don’t remember fragrance hanging in the air, just like that, since being in Provence, in the heart of perfume country.

After scrambling around and taking snaps for a while we stopped at a mirador, or viewing point with the caldera spread before us, and El Teide rising in all his glory from its midst.  I imagine he looks down and is pretty pleased by what he sees at the moment.  We made time to pause and picnic for a short while, before heading back down.

The obligatory tourist shot – Cristina and Maria with the volcanic landscape in the background!

¬†We took the route I’d taken back in March, when that white wall of mist had seemed to follow us down the snowy road, but this time the malpais (badlands) were in their accustomed ¬†stark and impressive state, the odd tree bravely hanging on to life here and there, and La Gomera and La Palma visible again over the tops of the forests before we descended through them.

It was interesting, after last week’s hike, to note the difference in the flora on this which was, more or less, the west side of the island, and the east where I was last Saturday. ¬†Even in such a small space, life, as I always keep harping on about, is so very varied. ¬†I’m hoping to get back up there before the flowers fade, but the chances are that the next time I make it summer will have seared the already austere landscape, and I’ll have to wait for next year to see this amazing scene again. ¬†That’s why everyone will be scuttling up there this weekend – everyone except me that is.


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Yesterday’s Sunset

There are days which are just a mess of rage and frustration and fear.  Such a day was mine yesterday (more about that another time), but then, again, there are times when it was all worthwhile because fate brought you, however briefly, to just the right place at the right time, as you can see.  This was the sun setting on a hopeless kind of day, and somehow making it all right.

Dusk falls over Los Cristianos.  Taken from outside El Mojon Health Center

I love that reflection of clouds on the ocean.

The sun begins to emerge from the first layer of clouds, before slipping behind the lower layer.

As the sun returns, briefly, the grass at my feet is caught in its final glow.

The island of La Gomera shimmers on the horizon.

And if you look closely, you can see that the setting sun brings the island of El Hierro into focus too.