Archive for April, 2008
Blow me – it’s a Calima

Phew, it’s going to be a hot weekend, a Calima has blown in and cranked up the temperatures. For the unfamiliar, a Calima is when the dust and sand from the African deserts blows across giving a greenhouse effect, it gets hot humid and sticky for a few days and the visibility is reduced.

CalimaThis photo was taken of a previous Calima, the Canary Islands are to the bottom of the white swirl and just above on it’s own is Madeira, I think, but don’t bet your house on my poor geography. A few years ago we had an added bonus with a Calima, a swarm of locusts came across on the sand, they were fine, I reckon the bible gave them some bad press, most of them just sat around on balconies, well locusts need a holiday too.

I went to the beach this afternoon for my swim and the air temperature on the digital readouts was 36 centigrade. Going down to the sea felt like being sand papered, what do you mean how do I know what that feels like, Heather Mills told me. Walking back up the hill it was like standing in front of Sir Alex Ferguson as he has one of his half time rants. Even now at 7pm in the evening, if I walk out onto my balcony, it’s like walking into a wall of heat. And you think we have it easy out here!

You can whistle for it!

Laying on the shingle beach at Las Galletas the other day when I heard a familiar sound that reminded me of something I wanted to mention on here. Have you ever heard a distinctive high pitched whistle here in Tenerife? It’s a long shrill sound that tapers off with a flourish and repeats several times, usually in the morning.

It’s not some rare breed of metal bird, just the sound of an old tradition that lives on. It’s a knife sharpening service sold by old men who travel round, usually on a pushbike but some now use a motorcycle,  sounding their whistle to attract custom. When they park up they either use the motor or the pedals to power a grinding machine fixed to the back of the bike.

Knife sharpener

They are often heard but seldom seen, I spotted this chap in the photo, in Puerto de la Cruz, there is also one operating near me in Los Cristianos. When I worked out of The Tenerife Sun office in Alcala, there was a sharpener there, how quaint I thought, this man of simple means, keping this old tradition alive in a cynical commercial world. Thinking it would make a nice little story, I asked him if I could take a photo for the paper and ask him a few questions, he said yes but it would cost 30 euros, obviously not quite as innocent in the ways of the world as I thought. I declined his offer and passed his number on to Hello magazine, they like to pay for exclusives.

Still, it is good to see these old crafts surviving, I should imagine a lot of small restaurants and bars find the service very useful, and a lot easier than a trip to the nearest ferreteria.

Once, twice, three times an athlete in Costa Adeje

Sat at a beach bar with a cold drink, that’s the way to spend a hot Tenerife day, but for those seeking to push themselves to the limit, the triathlon was invented. Yesterday saw the first Costa Adeje triathlon and although the sun was red hot, the sea was very lively.

Facing the waves

As the swimmers gathered on Chiringuito beach in La Caleta, the beach bar and sun loungers were full and to the east, kite surfers were colourful proof of the strong swirling wind. Small boats, jet skis and canoes took their positions out at sea just inside the inflatable marker bouys, as the triathletes filed through the shower arch and picked their way down the steep large stoned bank to the shore. Setting off in groups of around 50 at a time, the men, women and children, tried to time their entry into the sea between large rolling waves.

The race is on

This 750 metre swim was just the start, and after clambering back out, the 200 competitors had to run up off the beach to the compound where the bikes were racked up. Peeling off the rubber wet suits, to reveal shorts and vests underneath, they had to negotiate their way into their trainers and scoot the bikes to the line before jumping on and peddling off for a 20 km ride.

By now the field was stretching out a little, sweeping up a hairpin hill turn, some were relaxed and smiling at the gathered crowds, some cut inside their rivals and some just focused straight ahead. A few laps later, they swept back into the compound, dismounted and started the last phase, the 5 km run. As they left the compound, children offered up cups of cold water, some gulped them down but many just tipped them over their sun drenched heads.


I was in the fortunate position to be able to admire the wonderful setting of La Caleta and the polished organisation of the race. Technology does help, with electronic tags on their ankles being read as they passed the start finish point. But all the technology in the world can’t compete with the sheer drive and determination these athletes have to show to keep themselves going. Back markers could be heard groaning, shouting and screaming out loud, mentally whipping themselves to find new reserves of energy.

Patricia & MustaphaA lack of pre event advertising , kept the watching crowds down to like minded enthusiasts, friends, family and local holiday makers. This is set to become an annual event so hopefully in future years the crowds will grow, these incredible athletes deserve to be appreciated, cajolled and cheered all the way to the finish line. As far as I am concerned all the entrants were winners but Mustapha Akoudad was first to finish after 1 hour 11 minutes and 35 seconds, with Patricia Diaz, twice Spañish under 23 triathlon champion, a close second on 1.22.23.

As the early finishers grabbed much needed cold drinks, handshakes and hugs, they spared time to encourage the other competitors who were simply trying to finish and beat their own demanding standards. Trophies weighed down the presentation table as glass awards were given in several categories. Many of the competitors will move on to more triathlons during the summer, and all of them will be nursing aching muscles today. Big respect to every last one of them, what a great addition to Tenerife’s summer sporting calender.Â

AeroBus 488 – the ghost bus


Heading for the Costa Adeje triathlon at La Caleta, I thought I would try out the new 488 Titsa bus route between Reina Sofia south airport and La Caleta. For those who have not heard the sorry saga that unfolded since it’s launch last Saturday, I will get you seething with indignation as I recap on the scandalous events.

The Titsa bus company is owned and run by the Tenerife Cabildo (government) and as part of their attempt to show, our dwindling tourists, how user friendly the island is, they came up with this cracking idea of a new bus route with buses every hour or better and 48 stops between the airport and La Caleta, The route was to serve the main tourist hotels of Los Cristianos, Playa de las Americas, Fañabe, Torviscas, Costa Adeje and La Caleta all for a flat rate of 5 euros.

The scene was set with new stops, glossy colour leaflets and even staff to point visitors in the right direction at the airport. Take a bow Tenerife Cabildo, a wonderful and helpful idea, but here come the bad guys, the Tenerife taxi drivers. Seeing their income under attack, they were up in arms and threatened to strike, of course they weren’t gonna be happy, but that’s business, they could always lower their rather high prices. The taxi drivers seem to be able to apply incredible political pressure, and the Cabildo caved in like an England batting line up and agreed to reduce the 48 stops to just 7.

Anyway I tried the bus today, getting on in Los Cristianos, thinking that less stops would make it an express service and cheaper -WRONG. The 5 euro flat fare applies no matter where you get on or off and although I paid with a Bono ticket, there was no saving on the price, as there is on all other buses and even the Santa Cruz tram. There were only 2 of us passengers on the bus, me and an empty packet of crisps, and I suspect it didn’t pay. We still went all round the hotels, but didn’t stop, and the trip took over half an hour, so you can make that an hour from the airport.

The AeroBus is different from the other Titsa buses, it has less seats, 34, I had plenty of time to count, instead it has loads of open baggage space inside and also seems to have very little suspension, in fact it reminded me of those shuttle buses that run from the airport terminal to the plane.

I have seen the AeroBus go through Los Cristianos in the week and it never has more than 2 passengers on it, maybe they are lost souls, doomed to travel forever on this ghost bus. Since the bus was hamstringed in mid week, all the leaflets have been withdrawn and the new stops changed, so passengers have no idea of the timetable anyway, and the displayed destination, La Caleta is not an overly familiar name to anyone coming through at the airport. The leaflet also showed changes to other routes including airport stops for the night service of the 111 Santa Cruz to Las Americas bus and several airport night stops on the AeroBus timetable, I assume these have now been scrapped.

So as the AeroBus drives off into the sunset, empty and unloved, we raise our glasses to those wonderfully caring taxi drivers and ask them, just when did we elect them to run the Tenerife  government.

Glorious Guimar and those pyramids

I had several options for this weeks trip out but decided that the Pyramids of Guimar was well overdue for a visit so got the 111 Santa Cruz bus up to the stop just past the tunnel on the motorway. The walk down and under the road was a bit hairy with no path to speak of but after checking with a local as to how far the pyramids were, I waited for a 120 bus to Guimar town, and was glad I did, it would have been a long uphill walk.


I was surprised to find how big Guimar is, it has it’s own very smart bus station with a cafe/bar complete with it’s own little terrace. The town itself is wonderful, bright, clean and very obviously cared for, the main plaza spreads out around a fountain and park rather than a church, and the whole place has been given modern touches, without ruining the character. The contrast between old and new struck me on the bus. An old wizzened Canarian lady sat opposite wrapped in layers of traditional clothes, looking like she had stepped out from a history book. There was a sudden loud burst of “Hips Dont Lie” by Shakira, and she pulled out a state of the art mobile and flipped it into action – next revelation – did the Guanches have Blackberries?

Ra 2After a good prowl round I headed up to the Pyramids and paid my residents rate of 7.15 euros to get in, full price is 10 euros. The park was set up by Thor Heyerdahl, the Norweigain explorer and scientist, who made epic sailing voyages on the balsa raft Kon Tiki and later on reed boats like Ra, all to prove that ancient civilisations were able to travel between continents, a possible explanation for the similarity of pyamids in South America, Africa and here in Tenerife. Ra 2, is the only full size boat on display, the others are in a Oslo museum.


The pyramids here are much smaller and have a large plaza between them, and are certainly interesting, there’s a museum and an auditorium where a short film in a choice of languages fills in the history. But I was not that impressed, it all seems too commercial with large concrete walkways, and three large white plastic tents where models of Thor’s boats are displayed, are very intrusive on the skyline. There is a childrens playground just near the foot of one pyramid, and a souvenir shop and cafe. What really bugged me was the speakers around the main walks, that churn out gentle music mixed with bird song and trickling water. It’s like a heavy handed nudge to remind you that you are in the middle of nature, and with the backdrop of the Guimar valley, a Canarian garden full of colourful plants and flowers and birds soaring overhead, visitors will have worked that one out for themselves. There are some smaller pyramids unmolested in a field on the track between Playa San Marcos and Icod de Los Vinos, and the relative silence of nature adds to their eerie mystery.


Back down into town after 2 hours in the park, and thats about as long as you need, I had a nice fish meal at La Piramides bar to the right of the bus station. There was an interesting notice pinned behind the bar, someone was selling 2 caves on the coast at Punta Prieta, complete with legal papers for just 3,000 euros, I was tempted. Guimar looks a great place to live, just 20 minutes from Santa Cruz, 40 minutes from the southern resorts and plenty of shops, bars and restaurants.

Guimar spreads right down to the coast, so I got a bus down to El Puertito de Guimar. On the 10 minute trip I noticed a rural hotel just outside town, Hotel Salamanca, and a walk called Camino de Los Llanos, both worth looking at if you are into exploring. El Puertito is El Puertitotypical of many of the newer developments up that eastern coast, with lots of 4 or 5 storey blocks and all leading down to a central plaza at the seafront. El Puertitio has a nice mix of small rough sand and shingle coves and a longer break water, all popular points to swim off. It does get a bit windy on this coast and the waves can get a bit lively but the views of the Guimar valley from the seafront cafe/bars are always a joy. There is a third side to Guimar, the large industrial easte just along from El Puertito, this is where the big printers produces many of the newspapers for sale in Tenerife from Marca to The Mirror. I finished with a quick bus trip into Santa Cruz and a progress check on the Plaza de Espa̱a, the government are still upbeat about an April 30 opening, but there is a lot still to do. Guimar town was one of the nicer surprises of the day and definately one to return to Рif only to buy those caves.

Police bust doughnut ring !

What a story I couldn’t stop chuckling when I read this in todays Canarian papers, although their headline was a but more mundane.

Basically, when you are sunbathing on the beach, blokes come round with big trays of “fresh” doughnuts trying to flog them. All beach sales are illegal and the Arona Policia Local are cracking down on scams at the moment. Yesterday they raided the doughnut factory, a small premises in Veronicas, Las Americas, thought to have Finnish owners. One Moroccan worker was arrested amid hygiene conditions described as deplorable. The article failed to tell us what the gentleman was using to make the holes in the doughnuts, so I will leave that to your imagination. Maybe people will think twice now about buying these tasty beach offerings.

Santa Cruz – a bulls eye view

The last bullfight took place in Santa Cruz on December 18th 1983, but since then the only raging going on has been in the ongoing row between developers of the site and those who want to preserve the historic building.


Plaza de Torros is just to the east of the La Paz tram stop, and where two other famous warriers lock horns, though only in terms of street names. The main road is Rambla del General Franco, and Calle Horacio Nelson joins it from around the back of the bullring where the Disco Triboo is still open for business. That’s also the status for the El Buradero bar/restaurant at the front, there was a flurry of press activity recently suggesting that the business’s had been given a mid March deadline to get out, for demolition work to finally begin. Kike, husband of the El Buradero owner, laughed when I reminded him of this, his wife Teresa had only bought the place last May and it is flourishing.


Alicur property company owns 80 % of the bullring and it was claimed they had plans to replace it with four new blocks, one commercial and the others housing, but the latest suggestion is that they are looking for ideas from a panel of experts in commerce and development.

Outside, the small leafy terrace of El Burladero, hardly prepares you for the cosy and intimate restaurant inside that wraps around the inner curve of the building, and is adorned with posters from old fights that took place just a few yards away.

My interest must have impressed Kike (or he thought I looked like a losing matador, Entrancegored, chewed and spat out) he got the keys and took me through to the bullring itself. I was expecting a cascade of cockroaches to fall through the door and to have to wade knee deep in rubbish, but it was in surprisingly good nick, even the chandeliers were hanging in the entrance way, and the tunnels where the bulls charged out were clear.

It must have been an imposing sight full up but bullfights stopped in 1983 when they were banned in all the Canary Islands, and since then the auditorium has staged many events like Canarian wrestling, boxing and Carnaval pageants, even soul legend James Brown got down there, feeling good, well he knew that he would, but it has been allowed to fall into disrepair as the arguments roll on.

Kike remembers the heady Saturday nights of regular bullfights with 8,000 packed crowds and sighed as he surveyed the forlorn scene now. The stage is still visible and the raised central pavilion stands proud, although you wouldn’t want to climb it. Whatever you think of bullfighting, it was a big part of Santa Cruz culture and it would be nice to see this iconic building restored and put to good use.

Bullring inside

There are just memories left behind, no ghosts, but when you slice into one of El Buraderos juicy steaks, you could be forgiven for hearing the stamping of hoofs and the snort of fiery nostrils.

Highs and lows of Los Realejos

Waking up with itchy feet, I knew it was either time for my annual bath or time to go wandering again, and with my rubber duck nowhere to be found, I hit the road up to the north and Los Realejos Alto (high) and Bajo (low).

Los Realejos Alto

Catching the early bus to Puerto de la Cruz gave me the chance to see how long it would take to cross from Guimar, on the east coast to La Orotava, just outside Puerto. The reason being the announcement of plans to build a tunnel between the two at a cost of 346 million euro to slash the 16.5 km journey to 5 mins, bringing north and south closer together. The bus took 40 mins out of the total 1 hour 20 mins to Puerto, can’t help wondering if they really need to bore through the mountain just to save that small difference. Still it’s only at the discussion stage and would take around 9 years to build, so don’t hold your breath.

Back in the real world, a quick connecting bus and I got off in Los Realejos Alto, up in the clouds and with the bus struggling to squeeze up the narrow streets. Museum and Culture centreWalking up the main street, the Museum and Cultural Centre impressed with it’s classic Canarian hanging balconies, made from tia, the wood at the centre of the pine tree. At the top, the church of Santiago del Apostle greeted me, set in it’s shady plaza as the sun emerged.

A little further up, the Ayuntamiento building looks side out to the Barranco San Agustin, a deep ravine with it’s own iconic Drago tree perched on the lip. All seemed still and quiet on this weekday morning, as I sipped my coffee and studied my map for the march down into Los Realejos Bajo.

Los Realejos

Heading down the steep hill, the traffic became busier and it was clear that this part of town was much more modern, it looked like it had been compressed down into a dip and the buildings were pressed a little too close together. Drago treeThe Sanctuary of the Virgin del Carmen was a good stop off point, a bigger church rebuilt in 1952 after a fire. I wasn’t as impressed by Bajo which seemed to lack character, a nice sunken leafy garden plaza looked overgrown and neglected as the traffic brushed by, I think I prefer to have my head in the clouds.

A quick change via Puerto de la Cruz, and I was off to Santa Cruz to visit some familiar places and to explore a bit more. Los Realejos is a bit of a sprawl and maybe you need to be fascinated by churches to really appreciate it, but it was another destination I was pleased to have added to my list.

Pio’s snatch late draw


Well it was nearly a perfect day, CD Tenerife took a late lead at Las Palmas only to see the Pio’s grab an equaliser seven minutes into injury time, when only 5 minutes had been signalled. So a 1-1 draw but to hear the Pio fans sounding off, you would have thought they had won the World cup. After our goal from Sicilia we were pelted with bottles, stones etc but most of it didn’t reach us. The near 2,000 Tenerife fans were of course well behaved – well sort of.

The day started with an early getaway from The Royal Oak, just a mini bus for the Armada Sur, but a few bottles later, we caught up with the main group at Santa Cruz ferry port. On a typically hot sunny day, we all partied and consumed lots of Dorada as our angelic voices rang out across the capital. There were the usual kick abouts with yellow Pio birds as the riot police looked on in menacing poses. The ferry was packed and bouncing once we got drinking and singing, and the hour crossing flew by. The coach convoy to the ground was relatively safe, just gestures from the locals as we passed-no bricks this year.Pio down

Herded into the ground, the huge banners were unfurled and free blue and white tshirts were dished out to make up the club flag, hope it worked on the television coverage. the game was the usual derby, drifting towards a goal less draw till Sicilia put us ahead, but we knew it was just too good to be true and had to settle for the draw.

The police held us back for about an hour as the stadium was cleared, some Pio fans tried to get at us but settled for good old fashioned verbal abuse. it was a slow convoy back to the ferry port with locals along the roadside waving us off, although some were only using 1 or 2 fingers. Cant believe so many have nothing better to do on a Saturday night than wait for the away coaches to pass by so they can shout at us.

MeThe ferry trip was very liquid and fun,not too many big waves, but we realised that 2 of the Armada Sur had missed the boat and were on the next ferry so we were forced to have a beer in a very seedy Santa Cruz bar while we waited for them to dock. It was a long but very enjoyable day, maybe next year we will finally nail the pio’s.