Well, we’ve had a fantastic month on Tenerife and, although we have had many things to do on the boat, we have been able to explore a large part of the island as well.
We were surprised the first week by familiar voices shouting “Ahoy, El Lobo” and when we investigated it was Neville and Joyce from back in Sunderland who were staying with Joyce’s sister down in Los Cristianos. It was really great to see them, even though we were both up to the eyes in paint and varnish. We arranged to get together later in the month when Sheila and Jim arrived.
We hadn’t been in the marina very long when we were joined again by Narwhal, Miti and also Karma, our Irish friends who we last saw in Madeira. Narwhal and Miti had hired cars for a week and they were kind enough to take us out with them for a couple of days in between all our work.
We visited yet another Botanic Garden, this one in Puerto de la Cruz on the western coast, in which we spotted the largest lizard we have yet seen on our travels. It must have been nearly a foot long. There is an absolutely gigantic Banyan tree in the gardens, which were laid out in 1788. They were founded to acclimatise plants being discovered in the tropics and the New World before transferring them onward to Europe. There are over 120 species of indigenous and imported flora in quite a small area and are well worth visiting.
We went on from there to the 16th century town of La Orotava, one of the oldest on the island. The old quarter is striking, with many balconied houses, both grand and humble. The church of Nuestra Señora de la Concepcíón is especially beautiful, with twin bell towers and it’s own balcony on the main facade.
We found a restaurant there which was also a beautiful listed building and we had refreshments on their balcony overlooking the Orotava valley and their own gardens. We thought it a little too ‘posh’ for a load of boat gypsies but were pleasantly surprised when we got the bill. There were ten drinks altogether, including one large beer, two red wines, various coffees, soft drinks and milk for Siri. Mike offered to pay as we were guests in the car and was pleasantly surprised to find the bill only came to €17, less than €2 a person! We didn’t get the name of the restaurant, unfortunately, but if you ever go to La Orotava, you can’t miss it on the walking route around the historic district. It is just along the lane from the left of the church on the right hand side as you climb the hill towards the distinctive Casa de los Balcones.
Stop Press: The restaurant is called Casa de Ponte-Fonte and you can take a virtual tour of the courtyard, here.
The whole of the Orotava valley is very verdant with many bananas and vines being grown in the rich volcanic soil. The valley was formed when a large volcano slipped away into the sea millions of years ago. It is a lovely sight, with green fields and red-roofed white houses in the vast valley, overlooked by laurel and then pine forests, then majestic Mount Teide above everything. When it was first seen by the German naturalist and explorer Baron Humboldt in 1799, he described it as ‘the most beautiful valley in the world’. (The Humboldt Current off the west coast of South America was named after him).
We were treated to a wonderful parade of South American dancers and musicians one Sunday in Santa Cruz. They were appearing at the local theatre but we were able to see them for free as they performed in the street!
The next day we made an early start and together with Narwhal and Miti, another French family and our new English friend Vicky from Soteria, set off on the hour and a half journey up into Los Cañadas massif to climb the mighty Teide.
Anyone can take the cable car from the Montaña Blanca base to the top station, just 300 metres from the summit, and there are walks all around and back down to the road almost 1,000 metres below, but to protect the crater, only 200 visitors daily are allowed to climb to the very top. You have to obtain a permit (free) from the National Park Headquarters in Santa Cruz, showing passports at the start of the climb, and you are only allocated a 2 hour slot before you have to descend. The climb only took us 35 minutes or so but everyone found it hard going as we struggled to get our breath in the rarefied air. Now we know a little of how Mount Everest climbers must feel! Even little Siri insisted on walking herself for much of the climb. We’ve never known a 2 year old do so much! The views from the peak at 3,718 metres were superb as you can imagine, although we only saw the top of Gran Canaria peeping above the clouds, not any of the other islands you are reputed to be able to see on a really clear day.
We have made friends with another couple from England, or should we say the Socialist Republic of South Yorkshire! Chris is an ex district councillor from Sheffield and we have enjoyed a few ‘frank exchanges’ of political views. You only have to have Graham from Northern Ireland joining in and, as the saying goes, the ‘craic’ has been great! Chris’s wife, Barbara, hails from Middlesborough so we all have a lot in common, all from the north of Britain. Chris used to have a sailing school and they are now living on their boat Dream or Two. They were intending to cross the Atlantic this year but have now decided to go back to Europe in the spring and to maybe cross over at the end of next year. Both Karma and Dream or Two have crossed the Atlantic before so we are learning as much as we can from them.
At last the great day arrived and we hired a car for the week and picked Sheila and Jim up from the airport. It was wonderful to be together again, and we talked non stop the first night. Sheila had booked the Paradise Park hotel in Los Cristianos and we were pleasantly surprised with it. The facilities were first class and the food was excellent. We would say almost the best hotel food we have tasted. The choice was enormous and all freshly cooked.
Pat couldn’t wait to have a bath when we got there! It is funny because back at home, she hardly ever used the bath and preferred the shower but living on the boat now for a year and a half, the thought of a long soak was delicious!
We spent the next few days relaxing and showing them some of the island and had to take them aboard El Lobo of course. We met up with Neville and Joyce again and were introduced to Mary who lives here for three months every year. All in all, we enjoyed being tourists for a short time, but we were pleased to get back to Santa Cruz again and live in a real town. It was sad to see the family go home, but the internet and modern communications are great and we speak almost daily.
Having the car was a bonus too, and we booked it through AutoReisen. You have to book it on the internet and then go to one of the two airports on Tenerife to pick the car up. We could have rented one from nearby in town but that worked out at 28€ a day while the AutoReisen equivalent was only 111€ for the week - only 16€ a day! We would recommend them to anyone coming to the Canaries. They also have an office at Lanzarote airport but we didn’t know about them back then.
We have just been pottering about on the boat since Sheila and Jim left, but we did do a pleasant short forest walk with Graham and Joanie from Karma. We also went with Chris and Barbara to visit the Pyramids at Güímar and the town of Candelaria, both on the east coast below Santa Cruz. It makes life much easier when you have a car!
We visited the Military Museum in Santa Cruz which features an in depth look at the battle in 1797 when the Spanish defenders repulsed the English navy under the command of Nelson.
So that’s what’s happened this month.
We will be here for a few more days. The weather has not been too good latterly. It has been RAINING! We have had the remains of the big storm which went through Gibraltar last week but nowhere near as bad.
We will be going to the last three islands in the group. La Palma, La Gomera and Hierro. We have almost decided to go from there straight to the Cape Verde Islands. We would still like to have visited Senegal and the Gambia, but three factors have made us unsure whether to go or not.
1: Malaria. We have tablets and the rainy season should be over by then, but we are both susceptible to being bitten by mosquitos, (how come other people NEVER get bitten by anything?)
2: There is a lot of poverty there and apparently you are pestered a lot by beggars (worse than Morocco we think).
3. The sail back up to Cape Verde is against the wind and swell.
We will decide nearer the time. Pat was wondering if we could sail by ferry or fly to Dakar from the Cape Verdes. We shall see.
See you next month, hopefully.
We may have left Europe by then so Internet access may become a problem. If we are late in posting from now on don’t panic! We will be in touch at some stage.
Bye for now.
Photos below as usual.