Downhill Is Uplifting On The Camino Real

Had I sleep walked in the night to set the scene in Santiago del Teide? I don´t think so, but the Tenerife town was pretty near perfect as I hopped off the 460 Titsa bus from Costa Adeje bus station. The church clock chimed 11 am, and whispy clouds edged across the tops of the pine forest as the sun burst through for a very acceptable 17 degrees.

A coffee and cake in Bar Soto set me up nicely for a stroll down the main street, flower crosses survived from the recent Day of the Cross, even Meatloaf vowing to do Anything For Love from a nearby bar seemed to fit in with the romantic setting. The unpretentious opening to the Camino Real walk drew me in, this old trading route had seen my plodding feet before. Each 6.7 km walk down to Puerto de Santiago had been different due to season, time, and weather, and this one followed that pattern. The first part of the stroll was just a few feet away from the main road but felt like another timeless kingdom, serenely quiet with tunnel vision to the high mountain my bus had skirted around and down. Faint bird song, gently swaying grasses, and beaming flowers competed for my attention.

The trickle of water in rubber clad pipes led me gently down to the first crossroads where two elderly locals sat chewing the fat at the base of a sign post pointing up to Roque Blanco. I gave the hour long detour a miss this time and followed the steep descent down to the old water pumping station. Tamaimo lay ahead in the distance, the sound of mobile PA announcements for the Adeje rally that would pass through later drifted across on the breeze. I passed a party of around 20 French walkers as they were taking a short breather, normally it´s not a busy route but maybe it had picked up a few that had found out in Santiago del Teide that their Masca barranco destination was temporarily closed.

The art of stone wall building dominated the route and guided me onwards and down through the dry river bed near the Tamiamo exit. I have never seen anything more than a few mini gulleys of water through this stretch, just as well, it needed some nimble footing to follow the marked signs through the rough stone floor. A few stray cats seemed quite at home leaping from rock to rock but their claws looked none too friendly. Further down the coast loomed into distant view, stretching through Playa del a Arena and on to Alcala. The steep sided valley showed openings for old cave dwellings, and on the other side the barranco funnelled water doen to sets of ever larger reservoirs that fed farms. Four ostrich’s wandered aimlessly in one yard far below, I bet the cats keep well away from them.

The final leg involved a slight descent to a commercial banana plantation, as the route skirted around the edge of netting covered groves before emerging just above Puerto de Santiago, around three hours after my start. The afternoon heat was stronger nearer the coast but the thought of a cold Dorada encouraged me to push on down past the Mirador over looking Los Gigantes.

 

 

Learn To Love Mount Teide

Like the first cuckoo of spring, the UK tabloids have rehashed their annual story about a mega eruption threatening Tenerife, and throwing the people into a state of panic. Sadly their scientific knowledge is so poor, they probably think that Mount Teide and the eruptions is a 60’s soul band. Having lived here for 17 years, I have witnessed these scare mongering tales before, 2009 was a particularly fertile year for rumours as it was 100 years since the last eruption just above Chinyero. The current reality is we are not even on the lowest stage of alert, the flurry of small seismic tremors in the underwater trench between Tenerife and Gran Canaria is nothing new.

The volcanic nature of Tenerife make it a fascinating place to explore, there are plenty of ways to enjoy learning about what makes the island tick. I recently made a return visit to the Santiago del Teide visitors centre at the lower end of the road into the town, to see their free exhibition about that famous last eruption and the range of volcanic outlets around the island. There was six months of growing rumbling before the vent in the side of Mount Teide erupted for ten days. It was of course a stressful time, especially with so many farming communities in the area, but no one was killed or even badly injured. Once the eruption stopped, enterprising locals even started running kart trips up to see the affected area. The flow of lava was heading for the village of Chinyero, the locals preyed and wheeled out the statue of the virgen to the edge of the church plaza, the lava halted just short. This perceived miracle is now celebrated every year. The visitors centre is open 9 am to 2 pm on week days.

The lava fields are easily accessed these days, I have enjoyed several walks across them, a choice of routes are shown on boards in the Santiago del Teide church plaza. My favourite is the almost circular route to Arguayo, this passes the cross and shrine at Chinyero and takes a marked path through the moon like lava flow. In early spring it becomes the almond blossom walk as the trees are laden down with fantastic pink and white cascades of blossom. Mount Teide is also very clear from this walk, an absolute beauty when winter rains give it a dazzling white gown of snow. The Santiago del Teide visitors centre has a separate section showing walking routes, and the tourist at the edge of the church plaza will also give you advice and maps.

The Tenerife government backed Volcano Teide programme offers various guided excursions with a volcanic flavour, from sunset and stars,to observatory visits, and walking routes in Teide National Park. These will give you a great insight into the volcanic history of Tenerife. If you want to really delve into how a volcano works, the Cueva del Viento just above Icod de Los Vinos, is an amazing place to visit. You can go down into a small section of underground lava tubes formed 27,000 years ago. In total, three layers of tubes cover 2.7 kms, the longest stretch in Europe. The tour is guided, complete with safety helmets fitted with lights, and before you set out, the visitors centre will explain about different types of volcanos around the world.

Tremors in and around the Canary Islands are a daily happening, mainly on the lowest end of the scale, and far from being a big secret, you can access technical information on past tremors and the most recent ones. A team of volcanic experts are based at ITER, the renewable energy centre on the coast of Granadilla, down by the wind turbimes. Sensors implanted in and around Mount Teide ensure it is fully monitored at all times, There is also an authority called Involcan, that monitors safety issues and updates evacuation plans in case of any happenings. All this expertise is reassuring and better still, previous seismic activity over thousands of years has created some incredible sights to visit. Teide is the peak of the interest but you will see smaller volcanic peaks every day as you tour around Tenerife. Enjoy.

 

All Whimper And No Wham

Long suffering fans are all too familiar with sudden nose dives in form from CD Tenerife but a 0-0 home draw with relegation haunted Almeria really put the boot in. At least it wasn´t a fourth straight defeat, and the defence stopped leaking goals but it was a depressing, soul less performance that smacked of end of term come early.

Another poor quality ref didn´t help the cause but Tenerife showed little hunger for a win, and had Dani Hernandez to thank for a superb double save in the final minute to save a point. Casadesus headed over from a Luis Perez cross after 10 minutes but it was all down hill from there on. The side pretty much picks itself these days due to the long term injury problems, the forward line was paper thin, midfield was quiet and lacking in ideas, the only attacking flair came from adventurous runs from full backs Luis Perez and fit again Camille. Suso had a couple of early spurts that lacked sharp finishes and Alberto looked strangely tame in the tackle. Almeria goalie Rene had an easy afternoon, his defence exposed him with a poor clearance late in the first half and Carlos Ruiz crashed the ball into his net only to receive a borderline offside call. Luis Milla had a shot deflected wide, and there was a hopeful penalty claim for a sliding defensive tackle on Camille where the ball hit the tacklers hand. These were just brief islands in a sea of boredom, it surely had to get better – didn´t it?

Almeria desperately needed something from the game to stay just above the trap door, and they had a go at the start of the second half. Marreh had a slow shot covered by Dani and Fidel smashed his attempt high over the bar. Malbasic swapped with Alberto to try to stir Tenerife, he tried to squeeze in a shot along the ground but wasn´t quick enough. The big striker did better with his build up for another shot but was fouled by Trujillo, a much stronger case for a penalty but not enough to budge the ref.

The arrival of Paco Montañes for Alex Mula hardly caused any ripples, he went through the motions, well he wasn´t the only one. Big bruising forward Nano was Almeria´s best hope, he tested Dani a couple more times but the home keeper was on his best form. Juan Carlos got a run out for Suso with just over ten minutes left, he managed a weak shot before blending in with his team mates. Bryan Acosta had already picked up one booking when he made took the feet of Pozo and upgraded to a sending off. The 11,378 crowd were praying for the final whistle to end their suffering as Nano burst through and shot at Dani from close range. The keeper got a touch to it on one side of him and twisted back to stop the rebound on the other side.

Tenerife are now 11th and 7 points from the promotion play off spots with four games to go, but hope has run screaming up the street and there´s a slight edge of desparation creeping in as the season grinds to a halt. On Saturday it´s away to Reus Deportivo at 7.30pm, with Acosta suspended.

This is my weekly report on CD Tenerife from Canarian Weekly, you can see my full sport round up weekly in the newspaper.

Good Times In The Badlands Of Arona

Boats bobbed up and down in the Marina del Sur and some mean dark clouds lurked on the horizon, but they were up in the mountains so I had chosen the coastal walk to Malpais de Rasca to nudge me back onto the walking trails of Tenerife. With another Oxfonian, Karen, for company we set out from Las Galletas through the cactus clumps, thorny bushes, and sandy path heading past El Fraile.

There’s was quite a community of alternative dwellers in tents and rough shacks along the first stage of the path, the little coves offer a feast of the seas bounty, and the rising rocks offer shelter from the wind that was blowing in from the sea. Fallen stack formations crumbled at the coves edges, and tangles of wild bushes made us careful of our footing. Natural rock pools lined the waters edge, fish often get trapped in them, years ago people sprinkled the sour poison of tabaiba armaga plants to induce a drunk like state in the fish so they were easy to catch. The jumbled collections of undergrowth gave way to flatter, open space with well tended paths as we approached the palm tree lined tarmac road that separated the sprawling banana plantations from the sheer drops to bigger rock pools in the shadow of large outcrops of splintered and cracked rocks. After about 90 minutes we were at the entrance to the Malpais (badlands) leading up to the tall candy striped modern lighthouse and the small, squat original.

There´s definately something reassuring and stately about these sea guardians, maybe that’s why they attract enthusiasts known as farologists. The smaller building was built in 1898 and included live in accomodation, that was replaced in 1978 by the taller, automatic model that doesn’t need staff, well apart from the odd polish and repaint. They look good together and the narrow walkway and wall overlooking the sea gives great view up and down the coast. We moved down to the slipway beyond to start the walk along the old trade route with its small stone shelters used to shelter goats in days gone by.


The clouds were dispersing at this point but the waves were mighty and rolling as we made steady progress towards Palm Mar, which wasn’t even an architects dream until 1962. Quite a few keen walkers passed us coming the other way and at times other paths meandered inland, it would be easy to get lost, keeping in spitting distance of the shore was a good idea. The big lighthouse is easily visible from Los Cristianos and the reverse is true the opposite way. The fish farm cages were visible a little way out to sea and familar landmarks of Los Cristianos and Las Americas also stood out. Arriving on the edge of Palm Mar, the old stone was a reassuring sight.


Taking a well deserved drinks break at the new luxurious Bahia Beach bar gave us panaramic views of Playa Arenita, the rough beach which has always resisted cosmetic atempts to make it a bathers delight. Montaña Guaza stood proud and we could see the outline of the path up and over to Los Cristianos. Originally there were plans to develop a small jetty in Palm Mar for a shuttle boat to the busy resorts but it has never arrived. A few local fishermen were perched on precarious rocks, the old ways still hold sway in this tucked away cove. For us there was another smaller trek up through the main road out of Palm Mar to the main road and a Titsa bus back to Los Cristianos. Our leisurely stroll had taken around three hours in total and was very enjoyable.

Park Life And Port Life In Tenerife

Coos, croaks, and quacks, no not a strange firm of solicitors, just the sweet sounds of nature that welcomed me into the parks of La Laguna. It was a pleasant 21 degrees as I stepped off the tram after a 40 minute glide from Santa Cruz, Hesperides Cafe got its usual vist for my coffee and chocolate herradura, then I headed through Plaza del Cristo and onto the Parque La Constitution.

The ducks looked very subdued in their purpose built pond and duck house but managed a lazy few quacks for me. I could understand there laziness, the small park was beautiful and restful. Venturing back a few yards I entered the much bigger Parque La Vega and it was quietly bursting with sweet blooms, bird song, and the gentle croaks of frogs in the slow moving, meandering green stream. Both parks have a small cafe building, neither has been open since 2016 as the council can’t find any serious bidders to run them. What a shame, La Vega in particular, just begged for visitors to take a break with a cold drink and a cake. La Vega had informative boards showing the different type of wrinkly old croakers that lurked by the waters edge, and a bird guide showed the main feathered visitors.

The historic pedestrianised streets of La Laguna were much busier with tourists but still kept an attractive serenity. The trip back down to Santa Cruz reminded me of what a smooth and practical addition the tram had become in it’s first 10 years of operation. Getting off at Plaza Weyler it was just a short stroll to Parque Garcia Sanabria, another favourite of mine. The constant screech of green parakeets reminded me of their details on the board back in La Vega. Sadly Santa Cruz considers these foreign intruders (Kramer Cotorras) a menace as they destroy trees and shrubs, and wants some of the 300 in the capital humanely captured and returned to    There are many in the south as well, this pic was taken in Playa de Las Americas.

I had some time to kill before visiting the Vikings exhibition so adjourned to the port to see what the tide had brought in. No training ships this time but plenty of working ships and a very flash Cafe del Moar cruiser from Barcelona boat club. Even the functional ships like the   have a certain charm to them. The multi million euro business of refurbishing oil rigs ensures a few not so glamourous additions to the Santa Cruz skyline but the complete facelift to the port and Plaza de España has made the Tenerife capital a bright, modern city.

 

Vikings, Warriors Of The North, Giants Of The Seas

Iron swords so heavy you needed two hands to wield them, boats so sleek and long they looked like serpents with sails billowing in the wind. Come on, who doesn’t like the Vikings, even before Hollywood brought Thor to the big screen, they had to be one of the most appealing conquerers from history.

Arriving at the Caja Canarias banks HQ in Plaza del Patriotismo, Santa Cruz, I was just in time for the 5.30 pm start to the Friday evening opening in the Fundacion’s cultural hall, and joined a dozen other people in a guided tour. The large ground level entrance was dominated by a model of a Viking long boat, I was soon to learn how the narrow war ships varied from the more sturdy trading vessels they used. All the exhibits were backed by video screens and static displays in Spanish and English, although the compulsory tour guide gave this journey just in Spanish.

It seems the Vikings were about much more than just pillaging and plundering, their artistic designs and crafts as well as their religious and social structures unfolded as we progressed upstairs into a winding gallery. Of course the chain mail, hefty swords and axes evoked memories of the warrior tradition, but a copy of the decorated Jelling Stone paid homage to the meanest of them all King Harald Bluetooth who united Denmark and Norway, and made the new nation christian.

The exhibition has come to Santa Cruz from Denmark’s national museum and includes original artefacts, and well crafted replicas, but the fearsome Viking reputation is genuine. The host building had been converted from its normal open, two floor, stroll around design to a tighter cavern like look, complete with boat design layouts marked on the blue carpet to show the tight confines of the war ships. The subdued lighting added to the atmospheric feel and it was a good insight into a race that has not always been best served by legend status.

On the down side, I thought the tour was a little rushed, another tour party was snapping at our heels, especially on the upper level where we were the circular route funelled us back down to the exit. Prices are not advertised on the posters or in many listings, but the basic cost with the compulsory guide is five euros, with no reduction for residents. It is free though for those under 26 or over 65, it was good to see decent numbers on both opening tours on this Friday evening. The exhibition is on to 11th August 2018, Monday to Friday 10 am to 1.30 pm and 5.30 pm to 8 pm, plus Saturdays from 10 am to 1.30 pm, closed Sundays.

 

 

Fortunate Isle by Ronald Mackay

Wrestling an octopus, dynamiting bedrock, and grading and packing acres of bananas ready for market. Sounds like back breaking, hard work, but to 18 year old Ronald Mackay it was all part of his introduction, integration, and education to the rare and beautiful culture of Buenavista del Norte in the north west corner of Tenerife.

Fortunate Isle is a name that is often used to describe the climate, setting, and rural contentment of Tenerife but to Ronald it came to represent the open hearts, practical minds, and communal spirit of his unexpected hosts for a life changing year. It wasn’t a planned stop off, originally the Canary Islands were to be a stepping stone to South America for an adventurous young man from Dundee. A series of random circumstances landed Ronald in the heart of a family eeking out a living via a small farm cum guest house.

On the face of it, that might sound like a dour, uninspiring basis for A Memoir Of Tenerife, but Ronald Mackay manages to convey his awe, admiration, and comfort as he is accepted into the community. With settled digs, tasty and creative meals from the bounty of the island, and a welcoming niche in the banana growing industry that fuelled Tenerife’s economy in those early 60’s days, Ronald had a sturdy base that allowed his enquiring mind and feet to wander and explore. The mountains of Teno offered plenty of adventures, and he also gained a healthy respect for the wild seas that buffeted the craggy coast.

The book is a journey of discovery and a coming of age, lessons learnt from first hand experience, and described in detail from a sharp eye and an open mind. Learning Spanish along the way, Ronald slowly opened the door further day by day on his new world. The affection for his new life shines through in the books pages as his horizons expand to the peak of Mount Teide. Uplifting, informative, and infectious, Fortunate Isle proves the old adage that travel does broaden the mind. You can get a paperback or electronic copy via Amazon, at bookshops, or contact the author at https://www.facebook.com/ronald.mackay.395

 

Young Pup Alex Shows His Pedigree

When Alex Mula asked his girlfriend to postpone their wedding for the slim hope of a promotion play off extension to his CD Tenerife season, he was probably in the dog house for a few days. Two quality goals in a 3-1 home win over Real Oviedo backed his confidence and smoothed the romantic path.

The 21 year player, on loan from Malaga, would normally get star billing for his display but it was another pleasing team effort that made it three straight victories. The play offs are still a tall order but regardless of the destination, the journey is enchanting the fans, 14,600 people turned up for the Friday night game. Let´s not forget the little matter of more absentees through injury, including Juan Villar who was on a hot scoring streak. Bryan Acosta took on the main supply role for top scorer Longo, with Suso, Luis Milla, and Alberto giving steady support.

It was the Tenerife defence that shone in the early exchanges, Camille´s return to the left back slot added stability, and Luis Perez was outstanding at right back. Former Tenerife player Aaron tried to deceive Dani Hernandez with a low free kick to the near post but the keeper was all over it. Mossa had his eyes on the home goal, twice Perez robbed him of the ball with ease. Just 18 minutes into the game a long ball from Carlos Ruiz was chested under control by a leaping Longo who turned to dispatch the ball into the net in one flowing movement.

Acosta was making his prescence felt, a quick break was cut out by Herrero in the Oviedo goal. A high tempo and work rate has lifted Tenerife´s performances to a new level. Turning defence into attack is a feature of the rejuvinated team, Carlos Ruiz, an inspiration at 34 years old, outjumped Oviedo players and prompted several good forward raids. The second goal was another cracker, Longo got bundled off a high ball that dropped loose, Alex Mula pounced on it and had the vision and skill to launch a long range rocket past the goalie.

The second half opened with Oviedo trying to up their game, they managed to hit the post before Tenerife took charge again. Acosta should have got the third goal but took the ball wide and blasted it into the side netting. Longo and Acosta were building a nice understanding, the Italian won the ball off Verdes and set up Honduran Acosta who shot wide again. Acosta turned provider with a gentle pass for Alberto, he got his boot too far undr the ball and blasted it over the bar. Oviedo are trying to hold onto a play off place and caught Tenerife out with a Saul breakaway that finished with a glancing header by Forlin into the home goal.

Tenerife responded positively with more attacking play, Aitor Sanz, a sub for Suso, played a more adventurous role than usual, and with Alex turning on the speed on the left, the chances kept coming. After 72 minutes another Acosta break tore Oviedo open, a square ball to Alex took out the defence, and the youngster buried the ball in the net. There was a brief danger as Oviedo found a way through but a strong kick away from Dani cleared the threat. It was good to see Juan Carlos Real get a five minute run out as Alex departed to loud applause. The sub hasn´t had a look in for a few weeks but had a half chance blocked after good work from Longo.

The win didn´t bring a big jump up the table, still 12th, but Tenerife reduced the points gap on the top six to just four points. The only negatives from the win were bookings for Ruiz and Alberto that mean they are suspended for Sundays game at Numancia. Tenerife hopes of getting extra dates in the play offs are alive and kicking, as for Alex Mula, he has a new special date of 2nd July for his wedding.

This report was originally published in Canarian Weekly , you can read all my sports coverage in the free newspaper. I will try to add the reports to this blog from here on, they will be just over a week after the games, and a few days after the paper hits the streets. For more CDT info, check out www.armadasur.com

 

 

 

Carnaval Fun Glitters Like Pirate Treasure

Parrots, eye patches, and bottles of rum were all the rage as Arona Carnaval 2018 set sail under a pirate themed flag. There was even a bit of shiver me timbers at the opening Cabalgata parade from Veronicas in Playa de Las Americas, as a cold wind off the sea tested the resolve of the more scantily clad revellers. The big plus was there was plenty of warm encouragement from the thousands packing the route to drive them on.

The Carnaval Queen candidates were among the suited and booted contestants but in their promotional pirate costumes, their election outfits would have to wait until their big nights. Just my luck the eventual Queen was the only one missing, for me it was pleasing to see British candidate Jade Newman brimming with pride. As always it was a melting pot of emotion, colour, nerves, and showmanship as the groups fell into line and slowly headed onto Avenida Rafael Puig for the music and dance shuffle along to the edge of Los Cristianos. Culture, tradition, and fun are the driving forces of Carnaval but it’s good for commerce too, there wasn’t an empty bar stool or restaurant table along the route.

The temporary showground ( well car park) with a giant ornate stage, was the focal point for the week ahead and anyone living close got a free dance music blast each night into the wee small hours. The Queens were duly elected, Inma Afonso Darias was chosen as the main Carnaval Queen, with Leonor Jimeno Herrera taking the infants top prize. I popped down to the final Saturday Day Carnaval, always a wild gathering of the younger revellers from noon to whenever. The chart groups and DJs were way over my aged head but the rythmn is always infectious and the fancy dress costumes were ingenious and funny – even if some of them were a bit confusing.

Sunday was the big day that everyone goes to even if they aren´t tempted by the many other distractions of the week. The Coso parade is like end of term, the judging has been done, the main shows played out, and time to go really wild and let rip. Of course it always starts late and by then the parade route from the shadow of Guaza mountain up to the cultural centre, was packed several layers deep, with many camped out for hours at road side bars, forcing themselves to drink. Teams of families and friends had worked months to stich up their loved ones in stunning costumes bursting with colour, and the dance moves and marching steps had become second nature.

There´s always a few strained faces and even a few tears from the younger, tired paraders but it was a grand team effort with hugs and words of encouragement close to hand. Interaction is always popular, whether it be a pose with a holiday maker that will make their photo memories special, or a normally sensible and staid older watcher being temporarily pulled into the action – especially if it involved one of the more risque outfits! The clever idea was to have a prop or a baggy costume where a little encouraging dink could be concealed, The incessant beat of the drum groups was a constant backing track to the stream of happy faces, and balconies and roof tops were packed by those seeking a crows nest view. It took the best part of two hours to complete the route but aching feet still had energy for another late, late dancing in front of the main stage.

Do sardines blush? If they do, the giant one awaiting it´s funeral was in for a shocking night. The last act of Carnaval was the funeral of the sardine, or to be strictly accurate, its cremation. The sweet, angelic fish was sat outside the Los Cristianos cultural centre as a curious crowd was joined by a selection of motley mourners. Many of the widows were surprisingly hairy and muscle bound “women” but their taste in wild clothes and aroused friends betrayed them as chaps having a great old time.

Carnaval is all about lent and a mood of revolution by the ordinary people against the oppressive church that imposed the ban on meat on the poor while they and their rich friends lived high on the hog. Sardines were often the only morsels that the poor in coastal areas could catch to supplement their meager diet, so the fish became a two fingered salute to the church. Rebel or not, it still had to endure some rough handling on its way through town and down the port road to the old beach to be set on fire. It was packed down there as the poor victim burst into flames boosted by a barrage of fireworks that lit up the sky.

So apart from another even longer night of dancing and drinking, Carnaval bowed out in a blaze of activity. It will return next year but for now it is the end.

 

Dry Bones In Wet Santa Cruz

It wasn´t quite the walk in the hills I had planned but with storm warnings for Tenerife, I took the easier option of a day in the capital, Santa Cruz. I had a few things on my tick list but the vibrant city always adds a few unexpected pleasures to the mix. First call had to be the Auditorium, a new metal sculpture had taken up residence just below the wave of the roof and having seen previous works by Julio Nieto, I was keen to see this one. The Search features a human figure hanging onto a Compass Rose, the rain was holding off and the gentle breeze was allowing the artwork to flutter just enough to show off the full glory of the new addition.

Crossing back to the entrance lobby of the main bus station I found another distraction. The public bus company Titsa, is celebrating 40 years of linking the busiest and more remote areas of Tenerife. I´m a big fan of their green chariots, they get me everywhere I need to be and are very cheap. Green wasn´t always the dominant colour of the fleet, a sleek red and white bus harked back to the early days and contrasted with a new hybrid gas and electric runaround, green in every way.

My main call of the day was the Museum of Nature & Man (museo la naturaleza y el hombre) half way between the bus station and the bustling port. Museums these days are not the formal stuffy places remembered from school trips, it´s all about interactive video screens, plenty of seating areas, and information in a range of languages. The jewell in the N & M crown has always been the display of mummified remains of the original Guanche inhabitants of Tenerife. They were waiting for me on the third floor but I had been drawn by a temporary exhibition, Athanatos, on and below the ground floor. I paid the residents rate of 4 euros for Athanatos and the freedom of the rest of the museum, the exhibition alone is 2 euros or free after 4 pm on Fridays and Saturdays and runs to 3rd June.

A black pyramid in the centreof the ground floor plaza featured three gian screens exploring the nature of death and the attitude of different ages and cultures to this often taboo subject. It was just a gentle introduction to the eerie downstairs display area with rows of mummies and human remains from many eras and countries. The glass cases they occupied were glowing from white light tables, and the power leads plugged into the ceiling added to the feel of a mad scientists lair. I half expected a few of the guests to rise from their slabs and chase me back up the stairs. Suitably spooked, I worked my way back up to the main museum for a stroll around the three levels, there were a fair few people in, but considering the unattractive weather outside, it was less than I expected.

The ground floor dealt with the creation of the Canary Islands from its violent volcanic origins to the formation of land masses, mountains, and barrancos. Moving up, the natural sciences, that’s birds, bees, flowers, and trees, spilled forth through insect fossils, and on to models of sea creatures. School and college parties are the life blood of museums and I could see that study areas, activity packs, and more interactive screems would guarantee a visit became a pleasure and not a chore. The second floor was always my favourite, the wall of skulls told me I was on track and the amazingly well preserved Guanche mummies on their shelves were as fascinating as ever.

The mummies dated back to between 135 Bc and 1,420 BC, including a child found preserved in Adeje’s Barranco del Infierno. A couple of spare hands and feet added to the macabre but strangely alluring appeal of the old bones. The skin was so well preserved it semed almost like brittle papier mache. I was passing through on another whirlwind tour of Santa Cruz but have easily lingered all day in the museum, they have a cafe and restaurant, and wi fi served relaxation areas in the courtyards. The museum is open daily from 10am to 5 pm, they only close on the big christmas and new year days, and Carnaval Tuesday so go and have a browse. For me it was back out into the rain lashed streets of Santa Cruz. The weather doesn´t turn bad that often and it´s good to know that the capital has plenty of interesting places to visit, just up from the Museum of Nature & Man you will find TEA, an amazing modern art building and library, but more of that another time.