Archive for August, 2018
Greenpeace See Red Over Canarian Eco Sins

Battling for hearts and minds, the Greenpeace ship, Esperanza (Hope) welcomed a surge of curious visitors aboard on a three day stop over in Santa Cruz. But there was no sugar coating for their message of concern over the over active development and pollution of the Canary Islands in general, and Tenerife in particular.

The crusading organisation was founded in Vancouver in 1971 and has always taken direct action against what it sees as assaults on the environment. Before I could skip up the gang plank, spokes person Paloma Nuche flicked through a thick report book full of findings from surveys into the ongoing state of land and sea through Spain, and pointed out some key figures relating to Tenerife. “ In the last 30 years, the growth of urbanisation has been 130% compared to the Spanish average of 105%. Canarian government records show that of 394 waste output points around the islands, 277 are not legal. In Tenerife 113 of 172 are not legal. ”

That last point had been brought home in the preceding week when the west coast Playa Chica in Puerto Santiago was closed for bathing due to a large stain floating in the sea. Then there´s also the on going drawn out legal cases against years of unapproved quarrying in Guimar, and countless cases of legal fights to close illegal building developments. All fuel to the Greenpeace cause. But the visit of the Esperanza was not just to raise red flags, it was also a chance to recruit further members and donations, Greenpeace point out that they don´t accept donations from political or economic organisations.

The ship struck a defiant note with its dark green livery and rainbow logo but I was keen to join the tour to find out more about the vessel. The biggest of three owned by Greenpeace, Esperanza was built in Gdansk, Poland in 1984 and worked for the Russian army fire service as well as seeing action in the arctic due to its ice breaking capabilities. Greenpeace bought it in 2002 and gave it an eco makeover, removing toxic paint, and replacing the original engines with electric motors capable of producing a speed of 16 knots. The bridge looked impressive with its mix of manual and digital controls, and as publicising and exposing unethical practices is part of the aim of Greenpeace, the communications are top notch, even on the high seas Wi Fi is always available.

The full time 16 strong crew do long shifts of up to 24 hours at a time and rotate three months on board and three months off duty. The rest of the crew are volunteers, up to 35 at a time. As the ship can run into any situation, they have a heliport and sometimes hire a helicopter, monitoring illegal fishing was one use that called for the chopper. The Zodiac boats became famous in the early 1980’s when they tried to stop Spain from dropping nuclear waste barrels into the sea by diving the Zodiacs under them, photos of those encounters are displayed on the bridge. Esperanza also has four pneumatic boats, two of theirs saw action when confronting Repsol oil exploration ships off Gran Canaria in 2014.

The stop off in Tenerife posed some uncomfortable questions, whether the right answers can preserve the unique qualities of the Canary Islands in time is down to radical changes in long standing habits. Meanwhile Greenpeace are not about to sail quietly into calmer seas.

Santa Cruz Likes Water Off A Ducks Back

Don’t worry this isn’t going to be one of those awkward talks like the birds and the bees, it’s a much more relevant and inspiring tale of ducks, turtles, and a whole chorus of frogs. Santa Cruz is as bustling and busy as many other capital cities, so it’s nice to know there are some delightful, shaded corners where the pace of life slows to a drip.

Parque Garcia Sanabria is a particular favourite of mine, an oasis of greenery, fanning out from a central fountain. It was only a couple of years ago that I finally made the short stroll up the left hand street as you face the park entrance, to find the beautiful Plaza de Los Patos. It’s famed for it’s centre piece, a ceramic tiled pond, overlooked around its circular edge, by eight frogs,all spraying water towards a large duck doing likewise from the back of a turtle. It sounds like a strong cheese enduced hallucination but it’s a wonderful work of art.

This 1,330 square metre haven of peace was originally called the Plaza de 25 July, after the defeat of Nelson when he tried to invade Tenerife with the British Navy in 1797, one of the official surrender ceremonies was made in the plaza. The alternative name, plaza of the ducks, is a little misleading as only one duck stands guard, the fist time I glimpsed the area it was looking tired and run down, well it was built from 1913 to 1917. A recent makeover has restored the glory, not only to the pond, but also the 20 benches surrounding it.

The benches, also covered in ceramic tiles, depict popular advertising campaigns. I bet they could tell a tale or two about courting couples, and I;m sure they have calmed many a hassled shopper having a stressful day in the big city. The sun filters through the trees that surround the centre piece, so you get a choice of sun or shade. Five roads (or frog and toads) converge on the plaza, and the cute former English church of San Jorge (Saint George) is on hand for another taste of history. It was so good to see the plaza back to its best, another hidden gem that´s well worth seeking out.

Women Jumping For Joy Since 1893

From Northampton to Tenerife may seem a strange connection, but the Northampton in question is the one in Massachussets, USA, and the journey is the growth of womens basketball from its birth in 1893. Arriving in Tenerife, the 2018 Womens Basketball World Cup will showcase the strides the womens game has made, as well as bringing international media interest to Santa Cruz and La Laguna where the elite 16 countries will battle for the trophy between September 22nd and 30th.

To back up the tournament, a free exhibition, 1893 From Northampton To Tenerife, is taking place at the Casa de Capitanes in La Laguna. I popped in to stroll around the display cases of memorabilia from those early days of the sport. James Naismish had only invented the sport two years earlier in Springfield, Massachussets, using peach baskets and a very heavy looking ball, so the ladies were quick to recognise the attractions of the game. A Lithuanian immigrant, Senda Berenson adapted the basic rules, and the first womens game tipped off between two teams at Smith College in Northampton.

All this was news to me, and well presented in the roomy hall with plenty of exhibits supplied by the Spanish Basketball Federation. Spain has taken the sport to its hearts, the first womens international in 1963 setting the nation on its way to a bronze medal at the 2014 World Championships in Estambul, Turkey, and onto the gold medal at the 2017 European Championships in Prague. There was a nice selection of shirts, medals, programmes and other souvenirs in the exhibition.

La Laguna is a good setting for the display, basketball is big in the town, the mens team Iberostar Tenerife play at the Pabellon Santiago Martin, known locally as the hamburger, and compete in Spain´s top league. The CD Canarias club , founded in 1939, has youth teams at all ages, and of course womens teams, the Iberostar games attract near 4,000 crowds with families making up a big part of the attendance. The exhibition is part social history as well as a celebration of sport for all. It´s open daily until 5 pm, a short hop from the tram terminus and next to the Tourist Information office, entry is free and the information is in Spanish and English, it will run until the end of the World Cup.

 

 

Memories Pour Forth At Alcala Craft Beer Festival

Some lunch breaks back in the Oxford meant a cheeky beer, but when my Tenerife office base was Alcala while working for The Western Sun newspaper, lunch break meant a refreshing dip from the quay side and a few sarnies as I dried out in the sun. No wonder wild horses were not needed to get me back up the west coast for the Alcala Craft Beer Festival.

How different from my mid week swims was the scorching Saturday crowd of local families that filled nearly every speck of space on the quay and in the sparkling sea water. The festival stands were squeezed together by the harbour wall with a few marquees and a food truck when I arrived early afternoon. I started with a familiar brewery, Tacoa, I had visited their pub restaurant in El Sauzal years ago to write a review and was mightily impressed by the five hand pump ales on offer. Surf Beer at 4.5% seemed an appropriate first tipple. The festival beers were mainly in 33 cl bottles with a few on draught in half pint (caña) plastic glasses ranging from 2.50 to 4 euros. The Surf Beer rode my tonsils smoothly as I mentally booked a few later drinks from the Tacoa menu card that proudly proclaimed 0% Bullshit, 100% Craft Beer.

Next call was the Aguita Brewery from Santa Cruz for a 5.1% Dead Bully, American Pale Ale that went down nicely as their brewer explained that they brew 500 litres a week for 1,500 bottles, he also told me there are at least 20 micro breweries spread across the seven Canary Islands. The Jeito Brewery from Los Realejos grabbed my attention next, a 6% Oatmeal Stout became a firm friend as I took it walkies to enjoy some of the fine views of the bay.

At this early stage there was at least some joined up planning to my beer choice. La Armada Brewery from La Laguna ticked several boxes, Armada Sur being my CD Tenerife football family, and my choice of a 5% Nelson Sauvin golden ale seemed very appropriate just a few days after the 121st anniversary of Admiral Nelson´s failed attempt to take Santa Cruz and Tenerife. At this point I discovered one of the less well planned features of the festival, no toilets, there were some portaloos on the far side of the quay but picking my way through the dripping wet swimmers and sun bathers was already proving to be a challenge.

Back to the stalls and ready to refill my bladder, I picked on a 5.4% Irish Red from the Vagamundo Brewery in Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. Ignoring its unfortunate football origins, I was pleasantly surprised that the claims of aromas of malt, caramel, and light buttered toast were at least close to the mark, and it had no qualms about pleasing a CD Tenerife fans taste buds. A couple of my football friends, Gordon and Kirsty arrived and pushed the pace a little. A 5.9% Honey Palm Ale from La Palma was a smooth treat before I peaked with a Tacoa 6.2% Tajinaste Ale, technically the highest brewed in Spain as it contains floral honey from Mount Teide, at 3,718 metres, very nice indeed.

Things, and my notes, were getting a bit hazy by now. A 5.5 La Ginga from the Nomad Craft Brewery came and went rather quickly before I made a repeat visit to the Tacoa stand, firstly for the 6.5% Bock Beer, red for danger and for strength, and then another instalment of the Tajinaste Ale. That was basically my lot before wobbling back to the south. Thank you Alcala, and thanks for those micro brewery tour invites which are safely filed away and will be followed up.

 

Sunday Strolling From La Caleta To Los Cristianos

Even a day of rest is just calling out for a walk when the weather is as hot and nice as it is in Tenerife. So armed with a new Ten Mas bus ticket I headed off to La Caleta in Adeje. Half hour later the sea was glistening and families were spreading out on the cracked rock slabs that stretch into the sea like broken shortbread. The old fishing village has retained its charm despite the luxury hotels that are bearing down on it, there’s even a huge portrait homage to an old fisherman, on the side of an ancient dwelling.

Fish restaurants hug the side of the narrow walkway that winds around the corner to the long promenade. On many previous visits I had taken time out to watch body boarding from the point, out to the big waves that roll in. The tide was fairly low on this trip, revealing rock pools among the large expanse of interlocking, eroded rocks. The wind was light, confirmed by a local weather vane, giving just a hint of contrast to the scorching sun. The dark sand beach of La Enramada spread out up ahead, enticing swimmers into the cooling sea, as families enjoyed picnics among the shingle at the rear of the beach. Paragliders swirled overhead, their pilots precision at landing between groups of sun worshippers was something to admire.

Pushing on past the delicately stacked piles of pebbles, led to the narrower stretch of shingle backed beach in front of the four and five star hotels. The promenade is smooth and level there, no wonder so many families were wheeling cots and prams, best to start the next generation of tourists young, they will keep coming back with so many attractions on the horizon. Smaller, steep sided bays marked the transition to Playa Fañabe and Playa Torviscas with their tiered promenade packed with shops, bars, and restaurants. Torviscas was a good place for a swim, evening was creeping in but the water was a perfect temperature.

Passing through Puerto Colon and into Playa de Las Americas, sun bathers were swapping sea costumes and shades for light informal evening gear as they watched the sun taking a slow, downward arc, a perfect backdrop to their meals. By the time I approached Los Cristianos, the sunset was stunning, my legs were gently reminding me of the three hours of walking, and I had a thirst for a beer or two. Yep, there´s nothing better than a Sunday stroll – and a few Doradas topped the afternoon off nicely.