Archive for January, 2010
Watching my steps, all 11,300 of them

Maybe I read too much Famous Five when I was young, but I love a mystery, so when one of my fellow early morning swimmers told me of Saturday morning mystery walking trips from Los Cristianos, I was keen. Pushing storm warnings to the back of my mind, but packing a warm jumper, I was ready outside the Apolo centre at 10am and ready to roll. About 50 mature (is that diplomatic enough) walkers had gathered and the organisers Frank, revelaed that El Medano was our destination.

A few wrong turns later, our motorcade parked up in El Medano just round the point at Playa Cabezo. Looking back I could see Montaña Roja, a walk I did a few weeks ago, rising up into a grey sky, but it was warm and we set off with enthusiasm. I have never seen such a range of hiking sticks, metal ones, knobbly gnarled wood ones, collapsable ones, and some that looked like James Bonds latest weapons, I’m not keen myself, but I can see that people do find them very useful, so good luck to them.

Off we set at a leisurely pace, along the sea front, the waves were kicking up a bit and Playa Cabezo was almost deserted, noy even any of the usual kite surfers. The path veered off past the Arenas del Mar hotel and around the many new developments that have sprung up at that end of El Medano. As we neared Montaña Pelada the path steepened until we had to split into those who wanted to tackle the 228 feet climb head on, and those wanting to skirt around it. Being a reckless fool I took the direct approach, and found it surprisingly testing with smooth sandstone slabs alternating with loose rocks. As always the view from the top was worth it, the wind turbines of ITER marched down to the sea ahead of us to the east, and to the west the path led down through the national park to the sea of solar panels.

ITER (the institute of renewable energy) has been spreading out in recent years, the walk down to the edge of the protected park took us just past the other entrance point to take a snack stop on the perimeter wall by the latest ITER panels. As we waited, the party that went around the mountain joined us ready for the mush flatter walk back to the start point. In all it took us about two and a half hours, and was very enjoyable. On the final leg I discovered that one of the chaps walking was from my home city Oxford, so we took a detour dowm memory lane.

Don’t ever assume that it is just the younger generation that are plugged into technology, one of the ladies informed me that her IPod had recorded her as taking 11,300 steps, don’t ask me how, I’m Betamax Man. Apparently 1,320 steps are one km, making our journey 8.5 kms or around 5 miles. I am officially impressed by that information. I’m sure I will be dipping into these walks again.

Writers raise their glasses to Tenerife

Take one of the poshest hotels in Tenerife, add over 100 journalists, sprinkle liberally with flowing wine, stock up with top nosh, and throw in a few dancing girls wearing little more than a bit of cheese wire to cover their modesty. Sounds good, and it certainly was last night at the gala dinner for the British Guild of Travel Writers at Bahia del Duque.

I was so excited by my invite that I squeezed myself into a jacket and tie (my CD Tenerife shirt and garish shorts looked very forlorn draped over my sofa) I even had a wash – yep it was that serious. John Beckley from Sorted Sites gave me a lift in, I have never been inside Bahia del Duque before, and from the uniformed gateman onwards, it oozed opulence. We headed down to the beachside plaza where an advance guard selection from the 107 visiting journalists were waiting to give interviews. Getting there was a bit of a trek through huge lounges, up stairs and down lifts, greeted at every turn by very polite and bustling staff.

The plaza area had a large bar and terrace looking down onto the dining area where staff in Canaraian costume were being drilled in their duties for the night. The theme of the evening was Carnaval, the tables were brightly decorated with flowers and assorted masks and the forest of glasses hinted at the wine to come. A large stage promised plenty of music and a big screen flashed images of Tenerife to underline the purpose of this visit, selling the island to those who will then sell it to the public.

I mingled with a the guests, I like a quick mingle, and found out a bit about the trips they had already been on, Teide, Puerto de la Cruz, whale watching, Siam Park etc. It was clear they were impressed by the organisation of the 4 day visit, several were first time visitors and those returning seemed suitably impressed by the improvements. I was introduced to John Carter, a familiar face from the BBC Holiday programme and later Wish You Were Here, he still looks sprightly and says that Judith Chalmers is also going strong.

A quick announcement from the stage and we were led down to our tables, the waiting staff had full listings for the seating arrangements so I was able to find my way to my alloted spot, each table seated 10 guests. My bottom had barely touched the seat before the wine was being poured, mmmm yes please, and I got to know some of my fellow diners. There was Robert Savage covering the more adventurous type of holidays, for back packers and walkers, Alastair McKenzie, a freelancer well up on the electronic media, a regular podcaster and web editor for the Guild, and Tina Ediss, another freelancer who can count The Mirror among her outlets. We swapped stories as the singer belted out some Barry White classics on stage, and made sure we gave the wine a good tasting.

The food was excellent, I won’t make you hungry by listing it all, maybe I will just drop in the words beef medallions and rum savarin to tease you though. As the last drops of ice cream slipped into place, smoke filled the air and drummers took to the stage as laser lighting cut through the haze. Then the dancing girls appeared, very cheeky, they danced between the tables and led a few of the gentlemen by the hand up to the front to dance, none of the chaps put up much resistance. It was a nice informal end to a well staged evening, some hardy souls went on to Las Americas to strut their stuff, the bulk of the party were flying home today. Keep scanning the media over the next few months, hopefully Tenerife will be appearing quite often as the travel writers share their experiences and entice a few more visitors to our very special island.

CD Tenerife shackle Valencia for 0-0 draw

This was much better, a tighter defence, lots of width and creativity in attack, and a 90 minute performance. It could well have been a home win if it wasn’t for the inevitable poor finishing and some great saves from former Spurs keeper Cesar Sanchez. Captain Marc Bertran returned at right back last week but looked a little rusty, here he was at his inspiring best, Manolo Martinez had one of his best games dominating central defence, Luna had David Silva in his pocket most of the game, and Sicilia looked much more composed in the left back role.

It was a frantic start, a Juanlu free kick found Sicilia whose shot was well saved by Sanchez and Nino just failed to convert a rebound from a Kome effort. David Silva had a clear chance after 6 minutes, his shot nearly eluded Sergio in the Tenerife g0al, but he held it at the second attempt. Alfaro found himself through 2 defenders and bearing down on the visiting keeper, he was a bit hesitiant with his shot and Sanchez mopped it up with ease.

The initial pace slowed a little but Tenerife kept on probing forward looking for chances. Ricardo sat this one out on suspension, his replacement Roman again looked poor and failed to control the ball when it mattered. Tenerife were the better side but couldn’t make the advantage pay off. Valencia had a rare but strong chance after 34 minutes when Mata unleashed a rasping shot, but Sergio made a magnificent save to turn the ball away.

There was nearly a perfect start to the second half, Alfaro thought he had scored but a Valencia defender managed to scramble the ball off the goal line. Hernandez revived the visitors interests 10 minutes into play with a shot that shaved the crossbar but Tenerife were still looking good. Silva wasted a good chance, passing to David Villa who could only manage a tame shot that hardly troubled Sergio. Manolo was a towering prescence in the home defence and made a strong clearance from Silva when he went for goal but it was a brief respite for Valencia as Nino had another chance but couldn’t neat Sanchez.

Coach Oltra could see the game was up for grabs and brought on Ayoze for his 150th game in CDT colours, replacing Kome. Angel came on a few minutes later for Sicilia to boost the attacking options, and both sides had further chances to take the 3 points. Sergio reacted well under pressure to turn a goal chance into a corner, and Angel saw his late shot hit the post. The final whistle heralded a well deserved draw for Tenerife, hopefully a good boost for next Sundays must win home game versus Zaragoza.

A good day for the roses in La Caleta

Two things you should know about horses and donkeys, at one end they look cute, attentive, and loving, but at the other end – well, don’t even go there. So trying to make sure I was always at the smiling end of the cattle, I choose my steps wisely at the Fiesta San Sebastian in La Caleta.

San Sebastian is a patron saint of Adeje, the area where fishing village La Caleta can be found, San Antonio de Abad is the saint of the animal kingdom, and as his day was last Sunday, the two celebrations merged and the waste land near the church became a makeshift farmyard for the day. As a religious service was held in the church, thousands of people thronged outside and through the fair of food and drink stalls. It was a scorching day and large Canarian farming gentlemen slaked their thirst with cold beers as they awaited the procession of the animals to the beach.

You could hear the ooos and aaahs for miles as families gathered around the animal pens and admired, stroked, and patted horses, foals, donkeys, bullocks, goats, sheep and rams. Most of the animals were quite content in the shade, I tried feeding a noisy child to a large goat, but it refused the offer. Some budding  jockeys were riding the small horses up and down in front of proud parents, and their keepers lent on their wooden staffs swapping tales with their friends.

Just after noon the horses took up position in the road and began their short but packed journey to the beach. Some of the most up market hotels in Costa Adeje are in this area but even their clientel were scrambling up posts, balconies, and anywhere else they could secure a good view. Most of the horses trotted along the road but a few of the leading ones performed some balletic side stepping as they brushed past expensive cars. As they reached the beach a few fireworks were let off with loud bangs, this did little to disturb the horses, although anyone with a handy shovel could have ensured a good return on their garden for a few months to come.

As the procession fanned out onto the Playa de la Enramada, the horses were almost skipping through the sand as they headed for the shore. A little hesitant hoofing at the water soon convinced them that it was good to go in, many went in pretty deep as their riders were soaked up to the waist. The donkeys weren’t going to be left out, and they gleefully took to the water as the full banks of the Los Toscas mound peered down. It really was a perfect scene, a clear blue sky featued several hang gliders riding the thermal currents, and the eager crowd crunched over the pebbles to get a better view as the tide lapped at their feet.

Gradually the horses began to leave the water, and the statue of San Sebastian was carried shoulder high to the shore to be splashed with sea water and blessed. As the huge crowd slowly dispersed, there was no mistaking the awe and murmours of approval at another of the set piece events that Tenerife does so well. The celebrations for San Antonio de Abad will carry on all week and more animal dipping will take place up north at the weekend, find out more about the Saint and the ceremonies at

Missed chances put CD Tenerife in the dead zone

It would be cruel to blame anyone for letting a first minute lead slip to a 1-1 draw at Almeria but, Dani Kome, just how did you miss that second half sitter? To be fair, others were also guilty of similar crimes, Nino and Alfaro both looked woefully casual in front of goal.

It started so well, captain Marc Bertran (pic) was back in the line up, releasing his stand in Juanlu to a more attacking midfield role, and it paid off. Kome had his first minute shot parried by the Almeria keeper and Juanlu drove the rebound into the net. The restored midfielder could have added a second 10 minutes later, breaking before firing to the keepers left. Cisma was a big threat for the home team, but Sergio denied him with a strong low save. Alfaro was blocked by Chico and Nino forced him to give away a free kick, alas the resulting shot went wide. Ricardo showed good vision, sending in a long looping shot which the keeper held. Â

Into the second half, Almeria thought they had scored but it was ruled out for a foul on Sergio the CDT keeper. Nino set up Alfaro but he ran into the home defence, and then came Kome’s moment. Alfaro crossed the ball, Juanlu nodded it on across the goalmouth and it fell to Kome who shot over the bar. A few minutes later Almeria were level, Soriano put Goitom through and he walked through the centre of the Tenerife defence, Bertran really should have got a tackle in, and scored. Tenerife needed a helping hand, Almeria obliged, Piatti stupidly kicked the ball away after an offside call, and with a yellow earlier, he was sent off.

A big push was needed, Ayoze came on for Mikel but Tenerife were guilty of some sloppy passing and half hearted shooting. Nino had a great chance and hit it sky high, and spurned another chance in the final minute, again putting it over. This really should have been the elusive first away win, the 7 yellow cards Tenerife picked up in a game that was never dirty, could also come back to haunt them. Next week will be tough at home to Valencia, and the week after Zaragoza come visiting, one of only 2 sides below Tenerife – and that’s only the start of the second half of the season!

Sampling a taste of Tacoronte

Famous for wine, but rich in history and culture, Tacoronte is part way between Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz. I saw enough on a brief stop off a year ago to vow to return for a more in depth look. Yesterday a 40 minute 101 Titsa bus transported me from Santa Cruz to the heart of Tacoronte, to be greeted by low cloud and a cool slightly clinging feel to the air.

I love to see places where the local council show an obvious pride, Tacoronte definately ticks that box. The Information Centre offers plenty of helpful pointers and 2 walking routes, complete with good signposting and notes on the history of the main attractions. I decided to skirt the town centre, heading down to the Plaza del Cristo, where the old basalt church nestles next to the former Convent San Agustin. The white stone of the convent contrasts the darker bell tower topped church that dates back to 1662. The plaza was framed by autumnal looking golden brown leaves on the partly bare trees, all adding to the quiet and sedate mood.

The church was suitably ornate and grand inside, a young chap with his hoodie covering most of his head, walked in and took a pew near the front and sat there in quiet contemplation. I admired the stained glass windows and old wooden rafters before popping next door to see the convent. The balconies of the courtyard looked weather beaten but the gardens were well tended, I could easily imagine the nuns gliding around the corridors on their daily duties.

Heading on down the Carretera Tacoronte-Tejina, I found a small garden, the Plaza Oscar Dominguez, dedicated to the famous La Laguna born painter. A fine example of a knarled and twisted Drago tree was encased in a metal base, open at the back and with a large key peeling back some of the covering at the side. This looked familiar, and just above the main display I noticed the old sardine tin frame, complete with key, that used to frame the door of Oscars birth house in La Laguna. Quite unusual but very fitting for a surrealist painter.

There was a double delight further down the road, a modern water based artisitc homage to the wine growers of the area, and La Alhondiga, the 1685 corn exchange. The corn exchange used to be a focal point of the town, and even though it showed its age, it had a certain dignity about it. The wine sculpture was a nice contrast, bringing together ancient and modern, water trickled between the spokes and the tall barrel shaped pole was etched with scenes of wine presses and grape harvesting. Small lights were embedded in the concrete surround, it must look quite stunning when they pick  it out in the dark.

Crossing the road, the Parque Hamilton awaited, it looked quite small from the entrance but once inside, I blossomed into a green wonderland. Again the care and dedication of the council shone through, each flower, tree and bush was clearly identified, and new stone slabs marked out the pathways. The main park is another reference to the local wine heritage, different methods of growing vines are shown from trailing the plants over low trellaces to the low circular walls built around the plants to protect them from the winds. A detailed information wall showed the advantages of each method and which islands favoured them.

Following the main path up and through the woody copses and into a lane alongside the park, I emerged back at the Plaza del Cristo, rounding off a very enjoyable couple of hours. I still haven’t done Tacoronte justice, I feel another visit is needed, this time on a sunnier day so I can head down to the coast and explore the beaches. In the meantime it was easy to catch the half hourly bus back to Santa Cruz and the chance to see the sculptures of French master Rodin, famous for The Thinker and The Kiss. You can catch up with that visit at

Half pace Barcelona humble CD Tenerife

Like a sleek majestic Rolls Royce, compared to CD Tenerifes snow plough with no grit, Barcelona cruised to a 5-0 win in Santa Cruz. Early promise for Tenerife faded as their old finishing problems saw them squander 3 good chances, you just can’t do that against the best team in the world.

Even before the game, Barcelona were dictating events, our 2 coach loads of Armada Sur fans drove into Santa Cruz only to hit a road block as media and fans mobbed the city centre Atlantida Hotel, waiting to see the Barcelona players head to the ground by coach. We all piled off and made our way around the back streets to the ground, police were everywhere, there were more than we normally get for the Las Palmas derby.

The night before, 600 Barca fans converged on Tegueste, home to one of the 25 peñas (fan clubs) that the Catalan team has across the Canary Islands. Around the Heliodoro fans queued, a few wore Barcelona shirts and Tenerife scarves, how patronising is that? so kind of them to have us as their little second team. The pre match tifo (banners and tick a tape) was stunning, turning the whole ground into a cascade of blue and white.

For the first 30 minutes Tenerife took the game to their visitors, Alfaro had 2 clear chances but couldn’t beat keeper Valdes, and Nino saw his shot hit the bar. Bojan produced the only real chance for Barcelona after 9 minutes and for a while the illusion of parity continued. Barcelona stepped up the pace after 36 minutes, Bojan dashed down the left wing and crossed the ball for Messi, who finished with ease to take the lead. Thiery Henry could have quickly doubled the score, his shot trickled wide of the Tenerife goal with Sergio well beaten. Messi played his part in making it 2-0, his free kick finding Puyol just before half time, and Barcelona rammed home their advantage, Messi tapping in a third from a break by Iniesta, 3-0 game over just as the half time whistle blew.

The second half saw Tenerife chasing shadows, Dinei came on for Ayoze but couldn’t add a spark to the attack as Nino struggles alone again, Alfaro having another poor game. Messi completed his hat trick with a classy little chip into the top corner of the Tenerife net, and Pedro, their Abades born youngster that slipped through the Tenerife scouting system, took to the field.

Kome put a shot well over the visitors bar, a rare chance for Tenerife, before Pedro made it 5-0 with a hint of own goal from Luna, a former college friend of Messi back in Argentina. It was a sad sight to see many part time Tenerife fans streaming towards the exits long before the end, the referee showed a sense of compassion and called time spot on 90 minutes. In the end an easy win for Barcelona, good job their top scorer Ibrahimovic was suspended.

Thankfully the other results down the bottom of the table went Tenerife’s way, but next Sunday is a mammoth game at Almeria, but it is difficult to see where the goals will come from without some new blood before the transfer window closes.

Reyes arrives with camels, Kings and music

Always check your holiday insurance, does it cover you against a bombardment of boiled sweets? if not you could have been in trouble with the Reyes eve arrival of the 3 Kings. January 6 is Epiphany, the day the 3 kings or wise men arrived at the stable with gifts for Jesus, and in Spain it is the biggest celebration of the festive season.

Tenerife relishes any excuse for a party, and all over the island last night crowds gathered to welcome Gaspar, Melchor and Balthasar on their camels  to many towns and villages. In Adeje the kings arrived at the local football ground by helicopter, it takes quite a while to cram the camels in and put their seat belts on, while in Santa Cruz 20,000 people queued up last week for free tickets to CD Tenerife’s Heliodoro stadium for a spectacular show. Normally the capital kings use a helicopter but this year they arrived from the port in a big parade (cabalgata) which included some of the CDT players.

Down here in Los Cristianos the ferry port is always the starting point, then the procession works its way up through town to the cultural centre where a stage awaits the kings and a makeshift manger and stable adds to the festive feel. The parade was headed last night by dancers, a snow machine, acrobats and a whole series of costumed youngsters. There was much jostling for key viewing positions in the packed streets as the excitement built, as the camel mounted kings came into view there was some good natured scrummong as the wise men threw handfuls of sweets into the crowd. Parents seemed equally as excited as the kids, at one point I was pressed between a group of yummy mummys, how nice.

By the time the procession reached the stage, a massive crowd had built up and after some music and dancing, the kings took their thrones and children began to go up to collect their presents. The police seemed much more relaxed this year, people were allowed through most of the barriers, families were able to pose for photos in the stable area with the donkey, chickens and goats while Mary and Joseph waved from the manger. I saw one little rascal throwing small stones at the chickems to make them run around their pen, bless.

Reyes is a great tradition, enjoyed equally by locals and tourists, today is very much a family day as presents are unwrapped. Phew that’s all the festive stuff out of the way, just time to draw breath before Carnaval season begins.

Racing Santander leave CD Tenerife at the post

Before the game the groundsmen forked the UK style quagmire of a pitch, but after 90 minutes it was CD Tenerife who were well forked off, not offering enough in a 2-0 defeat. Racing were just below CDT with the leakiest home defence in La Liga, they were there for the taking, but Tenerife looked lightweight up front, Ayoze (below)Â being the pick of the bunch.

Tenerife relied on the offside trap and it saved them after 3 minutes when their defence opened up and Racing put the ball in the net, only to have it ruled out. Neither side shone in the first half, Alfaro has been the big let down of the season so far, and had another quiet game, Kome showed why Cameroon haven’t picked him for their African cup squad, and Nino was again crying out for some decent support.

Juanlu filled the right back slot again and was exposed a coupl of times, but there were chances for Tenerife. Ricardo went close after 30 minutes with a long range fierce free kick and Kome missed his chance after Nino unselfishly let the ball threw to him in front of goal. Sicilia had to come to Tenerifes rescue with a timely intervention in the box and Bellvis made a good late clearance, but at half time a 0-0 draw looked favourite.

Ayoze was bundled down in the penalty area just after the break, worth a half jearted shout, and kome couldn’t clean up after the home keeper failed to hold the ball. Tenerife played some of their best football at this stage but there was no end product. Angel replaced Kome, Mikel had a strong shot tipped over but Colsa found himself with no Tenerife defender near him, to make it 1-0 after 72 minutes. Three minutes later the frail Tenerife defence was caught on the break as Xisco marched through to seal the game at 2-0.

Dinei, on for Ayoze, just about squeezed the ball over the Racing goal line but was clearly offside, and Juanlu looked more at home when he went forward and set up Nino, who put his shot over. A flat start to 2010, January is a hard month with Barcelona and Valencia the next visitors to Santa Cruz, the lack of an away win is hanging heavy on Tenerife, a transfer window addition would be very welcome.

Following the red rock road

Where was I before I was rudely interrupted by christmas? oh yes, planning more trips and adventures. My over indulgences at christmas have shamed me into action and today I tackled another of my must do list, Montaña Roja, the red mountain in El Medano, that imposing rock at the end of the Tenerife South airport runway.

A 470 TITSA bus took me from Los Cristianos, past Los Abrigos where I jumped off at the camp site near the Playa de la Tejita beach. I had packed a snack but was pleased to find that the Cafeteria at the site had a nice cheap range of goodies, and the young lady serving would make any young man pitch his tent. The site has bungalows, or just small plots to  go native under canvas, and it’s a lovely area.

So off towards the mountain, with a slight detour to the beach just below the imposing rock face. Oh blimey, it’s a nudist beach in the far corner, weren’t those blokes ever told that it’s rude to point, wait till the sunburn kicks in tomorrow morning. I had hoped to catch some of the wildlife on this nature reserve and some of the 100 species of birds duly obliged by landing near enough for me to snap them.

The walk up to the 171 metre high peak was not too gruelling and once I found the main track it was easy to follow. It’s great to meet other people on these walks, there was a fair few about on the trail today. I heard some yodel type singing approaching me, very jolly, and saw a couple walking down, the lady providing the musical interlude. I stopped for a chat and found that they were from the extreme north of Norway, and the song is a traditional reindeer song called a joik,  from the Sami people. They said they had left behind temperatures of minus 20 and a metre of snow, I felt too ashaned to say that in the UK everything stops for a mere sprinkling.

Pushing on to the peak, I was rewarded with great views over El Medano and La Tejita beaches and way beyond into the mountains, sadly it was a bit cloudy higher up and Mount Teide was in hiding. Â Finding a suitable rocky seat, I devoured my cheesey nibbles and then had a little walk around the summit. There were some people perched on the edge of a sheer drop, I was much more reticent, staying well back from the edge when taking pics. One walker came up the path with a yellow towel over his head and the peak of a baseball cap peeking out, I thought it was a giant canary and was going to shout Pio Pio Maricon but he unveiled himself just in time. There was a white pole atop of a stone stack and I was dismayed to see that it was covered in graffiti, what sort of twat hikes up a small mountain just to scribble rude messages!

The planes were in and out of Reina Sofia airport, and were so low I felt I was shaking hands with the pilot (that’s not slang for a young mans leisure activity). Â Inspired by the view I set off down the path at a sprightly pace, hoping not to slip and make a show of myself, thankfully I was sure footed and quicker than on the way up. The whole return journey took just under 3 hours including rests, photos stops and detours. A good way to start the new year, now the trick is to make these walks a regular thing. For a fuller report and more photos go to