Curtain Up On Santa Ursula

Sometimes it´s the buildings, sometimes the beckoning side streets, and sometimes just an overall comfortable feeling. Santa Ursula imressed me on a couple of recent days out. Walking the 2 kms from the Humboldt Mirador, and just 6 kms from Puerto de la Cruz, I was taken by the range and choice of multi national restaurants (Thai and Indian – yummy) nestling alongside the traditionalCanarian tascas and coffee bars. The amount of people enjoying mid morning pavement snacks and drinks would have made many of the southern tourist stops feel a little envious.

The split point of the higher and lower roads in the centre of Santa Ursula was a natural focal point. Christmas lights wrapped themselves aroud the trunks of palm trees in the church garden as white cardboard silhouettes of women faced the purple flags across the road outside the Ayuntamiento building in support of the anti gender violence campaign. Maybe there should be a collective name for the admiration of council HQ enthusiasts, this one mixed stone and wooden balconies and gave off an old world reliabilty with a trace of modern flexibility.

Top of the bill for me was La Casona cultural space, boasting a wooden decked amphitheatre  lurking under shadey palms below street level, surrounded by a leafy sea. It looked inspiring and protective at the same time. Among the plants a silver frog leapt through the air like a lilly pad olympian. Titled “besame”(kiss me) the princely pond dweller was created by Julio Nieto whose bigger works had illuminated previous days out before. A tinkling piano rung out from a rehearsal room in the pink main building. Posters at the street level entrance gate advertised several live shows and requested volunteers for pre christmas Covid compliant shows.

The incline to my bus stop seemed less challenging after this cultural boost, and just a week later, Felix Alonso, a product of the Santa Ursula football club, made his senior squad debut on the bench for CD Tenerife. There is definately something good in the air of Santa Ursula. A few more pleasing buildings demanded a photo and I eas happy to oblige. Changing buses back in La Orotava, I bagged a church and the guanche Princesa Dacil. All in all, another satisfying day out in Tenerife.

 

Great Views But Limited Vision At Humboldt Mirador

Was that a hint of sadness in the eyes of legendary German naturalist, Alexander Von Humboldt? Sat astride the wall of the mirador that bears his name, the beauty of the La Orotava valley spread out behind him. Sadly the recently reopened north Tenerife viewing point looked rather sparse. From December 2010 to 2014 visitors enjoyed the cafe bar, and restaurant while learning nore about the man who invented geo botany and shared his fascination of Tenerife´s plant and animal life with the world.

A large artistic lizard sprawled across the top of the boarded up cafe and toilets. A second tier of the stark concrete outpost was also sealed off. The late november weather was glorious as the La Orotava valley below raced down to meet the atlantic ocean, and Puerto de la Cruz was ringed with breaking surf in the distance.  Around 10 people popped in for a quick photo during my short stay. It´s a cifficult place to find parking although my 101 Titsa bus from La Orotava station dropped me outside in a small layby. It´s a busy road with a tight, narrow bend, a small strip close to the front of the mirador could accomodate a coach drop off but it would need strict supervision.

 

Another basic viewing point a few strides down the road only offered a shaded picnic table but almost identical sight lines. The Humboldy has scope to offer more but will need to generate income if it is to avoid another closure. Humboldt is an important figure in Tenerife history, the flora and fauna he so loved is picked out in the iron work of the railings and gates, a good starting point to engage hungry minds. Mount teide loomed up above on the horizon, and what better place to observe the volcanic peak when the winter weather adds a white cloak of snow.

The mirador is free to enter and worth a visit, even in its current bare bones form. The sculpture of the great man with his stone journals at his side, is a wonderful work by Lilia Martin. Evolution was the key to Humboldts teachings, lets hope that the Mirador can learn that lesson.

 

 

La Laguna And Santa Cruz Take Steps To Stem Covid Tide

Illegal bottle parties, and unlawful gatherings of more than six people, mainly young, have thrust Tenerife and specifically La Laguna and Santa Cruz, into the Covid spotlight. As I write, Tenerife has 80 per cent of yesterdays new infections across the seven Canary Islands, that´s 108 out of 139 new cases yesterday. Overall the Canary Island figures are some of the best in Spain but the pressure is on to squeeze a little tighter in the hot spots.

 

Christmas build up and Black Friday splurging into a week long event don´t help. I made a Saturday afternoon visit to the university town, and the capital city to see for myself. La Laguna´s main shopping area is centred on two main strets, Calle Herredores, and Calle Obispo Rey Redondo, a few policia local officers walked through the pedestrianised area, and a patrol car drove slowly through the link roads. This grid layout was marked to direct walkers in set directions to avoid close contact. It semed to work well without impeding the outdoor cafe table trade where masks, hand gel, and the six person group limit were the order of the day.

I made a call at the Museum of History and Anthropology and followed a small tour at a distance, There was plenty of space to avoid each other and browse, the staff even let me into a sealed storage area to see two ancient carriages, one with a London pedigree. I will return for a longer browse and do a post for here. It´s important that in these stressed times, that business´s and attractions continue to give good service – and they excelled.

After dark has been the main problem with Covid security but the current 11pm closing time for bars has helped as has the lock down of parks and plazas. Taking the tram down to Santa cruz, I turned my attention to Parque Garcia Sanabria, a delightful and popular park in the centre of the busy city. Large multi pathed and with many entrance points, I could see that barriers were already on standby for the 7pm sealing. Not robust enough to make entry impossible, but they represent another warning and probably and increase on the standard 100 euro fines. Video camaras near the flower clock would also play a part. Only time will tell if this measure will just move the problem or snuff it out,

My return trip to Los Cristianos was covered on my residents monthly payment card, cash seems unlikely to make a return to the bus drivers lives. Titsa have increased their payment options with tourist payment cards for a day or a week, and have increased the outlets where they can be bought, ncluding the airports and major bus stations. The whole rigmarol of Covid protection and measures is a monumental pain – but I´d rather stay alive!

Fonsalia And Alcala With A Pinch Of Salt

As the island of La Palma shimmered in the distance, it was all systems go for a coastal walk from Playa San Juan to Alcala in Tenerife´s west coast municipality of Guia De Isora. There were plenty of hints at choices to come from a small excercise park, to the anglers and rock pool explorers getting up close to nature. The well defined entry to the short walk had added a few new tweaks since I had last plodded forth.

A petanca court, and even a pet park offered distractions but the sea had an over whelming armoury  of counter claims. Rock cathedrals and foamy breakers with their soundtrack roar from the drag of pebbles had the most refrshing options. The stately march of palm trees lay ahead until a three option decision came just before the modern desalination plant. A new smooth elevated path, some old steps down and a scramble at the seas edge, or an inland detour through Fonsalia. The detour is worth taking, the small hamlet has just one main street but it has a strong sense of style, from the chair outside La Barrera bar-restaurant to the decorative house front diagonally opposite, and the small but sturdy Ermita Santa Lucia.

Threading back between the banana plantations to the coast, I had a pleasant encounter with a fallen pardela chick. A member of the SEO Sealife charity was overlooking the completion of its journey from mountain top egg to its natural Atlantic home. The helper said around 1,200 of the duck like birds had fallen on Tenerife this hatching season, confused by artificial lights and neon signs. Perched on a ledge, overlooking the sea, its instincts kicked in and a waddle and shakey take off soon turned into a controlled glide onto the waves. It would be unlikely to touch land again for at leadt four years. It was an inspiring sight and made my day.

As coves unfolded ahead of me, I could see the distant cliffs of Los Gigantes as Alcala loomed near. The long stone stairways down to the collection of shingle beaches where rocks reached out into the sea were a favourite sight from my days based in Alcala when working for The Western Sun newspaper. The compact Plaza del Llano was sedate and welcoming, and the bars cheap and cheery.  It´s not all mellow and traditional in Alcala these days, The new 1.9 million euro church was nearing completion, and its peaks peaked up above the edges of the plaza. Prince Charles may have been moved to call it a “concrete carbunkle” hopefully once open it will find some character to fit in with the old west coast ways.

Missed Chances Keep CD Marino Winless

Shooting practice will be on the menu for CD Marino after sharing a 0-0 draw with visitors Tamaraceite in Tenerife. Resolute defending and a packed midfield limited chances but the home side should have capitalized on their superior first half showing, especially Borja Llarena who had two golden chances.

 

 

Boosted by a bumper 700 plus crowd, the blues set off at a good pace with Nami flashing a shot wide of the Gran Canaria teams post. Aythami could only reply with a wild, deep, hopefull ball trying to find Quintero, their main striker. Pablo Santana prompted from the home midfield, setting Borja onto his through ball, but his shot found an alert defender. A delicate touch  from Nami  set up another go for Borja but he rushed the shot and missed the target. It took 30 minutes for the reds to threaten as Quintero put a header over the bar. A free kick just before half time was easily blocked by the Marino wall.

Maybe the reds sensed they had weathered the storm. Just after the restart Baez shot wide when Angel Galvan missed a high ball. The keeper was back on top form to snuff out afurther attack as Quintero thundered in. A rush from deep in the visitors half fizzled out as both teams struggled to grab hold of the game.Cristo came on for Pablo to pep up the Marino attacking options. It was still important to ensure that Tamaraceite didn´t break free, and there was danger as Padron beat Pedro Aleman before firing straight at Galvan.

Fede pushing up down the right offered some encouragement to his Marino team mates. A double change with 15 minutes left brought Moussa and Samuel onto the pitch. Moussa and Fede both had late  half chances but it was a frustrating finish for the single point.

 

Give A Lift To The Plunging Pardela Chicks In Tenerife

Yellow beaks and webbed feet should alert you to any of the thousands of Pardela sea birds falling to earth in the Canary Islands from mid october to mid november. Otherwise known as Cory´s Sheerwater, they are aiming for a life floating on the Atlantic tides, but increased street and advertising lighting disrupt their natural radar. An annula lure to lay eggs on high rocky ground makes the Canary Islands a popular call.

Thankfully a well established safety net led by SEO Birdlife (thanks for their excellent photos)  swings into action each year. just call the emergency services free number, 112, and mention pardelas and their location, that will bring a rescue person. In the meantime, don´t feed or water the bird as that may confuse their awakening natural hunting instinct for fish and other small sea creatures, and a thirt for sea water that they can clense via a special gland in their body. As you wait, if it´s possible, you can gently wrap a small towel or cover around the bird to keep it from hurting itself by flapping. If you have a box just bigger than the bird, pierce some breathing holes and that is a good temporary holding point.

In Tenerife, the main coastal falling zone is from El Medano, up and around the west coast to Los Gigantes via Los Cristianos and Playa de Las Americas. The councils covering those areas are well versed in the proceddures to help these creatures. Road lights and advertising neon are dimmed within safe levels and the emergency services are used to dealing with rescue calls. This year the Pardelas have even got a lift on the Titsa buses with the poster above drawing attention to their plight. Once the fallen birds have been assessed and treated, they are released from high coastal points to enjoy roaming the Atlantic. Just a few minutes thought and you can take pride in helping to be the wind beneath the wings of the Pardela.

 

Fans In, Points Out, As CD Marino Ride a Higher Tide

Do pass go, do collect 500 fans. That was the set up for CD Marino on their return to Segunda B football. Despite giving a good account of themselves at the higher level, a sucker punch last minute goal from visitors RB Linense was enough to separate the two teams. Less than 24 hours after Marino got the go ahead to allow a limited capacity crowd, all places were taken with social distancing observed on the Playa de Las America terraces as well as for the pre match team photos.

A harder, more intense tempo greeted the blues step up. Danese blocked an early shot from new home striker Manu Dimas. Anaba, another new addition, posted his central defensive qualities with a strong clearing header. Pablo Santana matched him with some neat tidying up and a safe tap back to goalie David Kikvidze as Marino settled to their task. Dimas was probing for an attacking opening and Nadjib cut in from the right with a mazey run and a shot that veered wide. Alejandro looked lively up front for the Andalucia team but his finishing was wasteful. The best home effort of the first half came from a Dimas free kick that keeper Miras smothered. Anaba was rock solid in the heart of the blues defence, Linense had to rely on scraps, Antonio was cursing himself after he put a rare headed chance over the home goal.

The lateness of their confirmed promotion and squad strengthening left Marino playing catch up but they came out after the break with a renewed determination and a growing awareness of each others play. Captain Saavedra was in a unfamiar left back role but Niki was adding his usual attacking bursts down the right slot. Alejandro was still the danger man to watch from Linense, a quick turn to create space should have been finished with something better than his drag wide. Dimas had a similar miss at the other end as Marino stepped up the pressure. Saavedra found Cristo Diaz with a good through ball, although he forced a corner, Linense held firm.

Ahmed was having a quiet game by his own standards and wasn´t helped by the ref ignoring a foul on him when he was free in the box. New blood was needed, strikers Borja llarena and last seasons top scorer, Nami came on to push for the winner. Cristo Diaz came close with a powerful strike that deflected of a defender as time slipped away. In the final minute, a free kick just outside  the home box had the nerves jangling. Alejandro shaped up to take the kick but  Camacho took the job and lifted his shot over the defensive wall and into the back of the net. Marino tried to level in injury time but a bullet header from Pablo Santana was cleared off the goal line by the head of Sergio Rodriguez. The loss was a bitter pill but the sight of 500 fans in the stadium was a shot in the arm for Marino and football in Tenerife.

 

Beacons Of Hope In Abades And Arico

A sinister figure lurked in the doorway of the former leper colony site in Abades on the east coast of Tenerife. Phew, it was just a cheeky minion.

Space age wind turbines added their contradictions to the landscape, and a stark prefab church pitched in its own contribution to the myths and enchantment that surround a series of enticing beaches. The sprawling colony of nearly 30 part built structures was begun in 1943 on the orders of General Franco, he took his first steps to national power from a posting as military governer of the Canary Islands. The grand scheme was never completed as leprosy was wiped out before the work could be completed.

The first time I visited, I was a little in awe of the concrete graveyard, but this time I had a feeling of hope. Leprosy had been a world scourge since biblical times, if it could be tamed then surely Covid could also be banished to the history books. The graffiti daubed on the buildings seemed to mock the demise of leprosy. In 2002 Italian investors were said to have bought the entire site, security patrol notices, and well tyre tracked paths explained why the only recent invaders had been phantom painters but no goose bump seekers, film crews, or  campers.

The people of Abades clearly enjoy their dark sand bays down below. There´s a thriving diving scene and some nice bars and eateries in the sea facing plaza. A new commercial age is about to dawn. The Navaria Beach apartment and villa development was nearing completion near the shoreline. With white, two story buildings, it blended in nicely with the colour scheme of the well established houses without spoiling the skyline.

Heading back down to the coastal path, I was soon down and up the other side of a small craggy bay and got a glimpse of the Punta de Abona lighthouse. A classic Tenerife combination of tall candy striped 1978 original with a squat sidekick for remote operating. There are seven “faros” around the coast of the biggest Canary Island, “bagging” is the term used by enthusiasts who get up close with a new recruit to the farologists haul.

 

The municipality of Villa de Arico is one of the smallest in Tenerife but ambitious plans could soon propel them into the big league of tourism. In January 2020 a big new resort scheme was unveiled, including a new sandy beach, four hotels,3,000 beds, and 1,550 jobs. The intervention of Covid may well selay or even scupper the project completely.

As a fine drizzle swept in off the sea, I enjoyed the uninterrupted coastal walk views round to Arico Nuevo, and the steep climb to the Titsa bus stop at Poris. The fishing boat looking down on the TF! motorway seemed to underline the constant dilema of commercial progress versus unspoilt nature.

 

Barking Up All the Right Trees At Tenerife Palmetum

From the seed of an idea to fully bloomed botanical gardens, it took 20 years to transform a landfill mountain into an oasis of colour, featuring 2,000 species of plants at the southern entrance to Santa Cruz.

Splashes of colour from lake based blooms, cascades of frothy pom poms from palm trees, bulging bundles of berries and figs, and even a mangrove swamp. All this was harvested together from as far as the Caribbean, Americas north, south, and central, Asia, and Australia.

Five years on from the 2015 opening, I returned to find everything in the 12 hectares garden was lovelier than ever. The well planned layout guided me gently through the different zones. A river meandered through, linking two lakes complete with waterfalls. The water theme reached its crescendo at the partly covered central Octogona lagoon.

It´s difficult to imagine all the accumulated rubbish beneth your feet. The seven mirador viewing points reminded me of the park´s setting, and benches under leafy shade allowed me to gaze over Tenerife´s capital or out to sea. Although the dedicated team of gardeners keep a low profile, the wildlife caught my eyes and ears from time to time. Birds and ducks are drawn to the gardens, those in the middle of migration are joined by rarer species and natives.

The detail, devotion, and ecological value of the Palmetum are outshined by the sheer visual joy on offer. Few would Adam and Eve such a project could take place near a busy port, and refinery, but this garden of eden is a blooming wonder. The Palmetum opens every day and has disabled access and toilet facilities located on the site. Adult entry was six euros (half for residents) on my visit. You can check out the full updated offers at the multi language website.

 

Burning the Lava Trail From Icod To Garachico

Standing at the top of a near 400 year old twin lava flow and looking down at a sinking skull. My toes were tingling as I left the church at San Juan del Reparo and followed the sign to shadow the path that wiped out most of Garachico in the 1706 eruption.

What a beautiful crime scene, contrasting destruction and rebirth at every step. Perspective changes views, the offshore volcanic spitbristled with bird life but from my lofty perch, its empty eye socket fixed a mocking stare at the source of its dark origin. Pine trees now sprout healthily out of the hill side and the descent is a smooth 90 minute zig zag towards the Garachico church plaza.

My curiosity did lead me astray before spotting the real route beyond a modern estate. Taking a rough but clearly used trail, I found an old sealed water gallery. The hills in and around Icod are peppered with them, many unmapped and forgotten. In 2007 heavy rain caused the water table to rise and gasses were forced into tunnels being explored by visitors near Los Silos. Six people died and a big clampdown was made on the old galleries.

Back on the main trek, there were warnings of possible rock slides but heat was my only irritant, a good supply of cold water was my solution. As the path lowered, the horizon broadened, Los Silos lighthouse was visible to the west and the San Marcos coast stretched out in the opposite direction. The natural rock pools of El Caleton looked welcoming below but restrictions on times and numbers make it an elusive treat during these Covid days.

Old above ground water pipes and pumping stations were testaments to peoples ingenuity and determination to tame their charred landscape. Not many other people passed me on the walk, the heat of the day had chased most sensible folk to seek shade and cold drinks. Apart from the odd bird cry and church bell, a calm mood hung in the air. Garachico was a fine reward for my wander, there is plenty to enjoy at the top end of the trail as well, the settlements on the way into Icod are worth exploring. The descent itself was like peeling back the years and gave me a whole new appreciation of this part of the Tenerife coast.