Archive for December, 2011
Pine Fresh Vilaflor And The Fast Track Down To Granadilla

Santa gets around a bit but even he had a smug happy look at the restaurant window on a crisp, sunny Vilaflor morning. Neal and Karen, the Bournemouth Section of the Armada Sur had joined me for a jolly jaunt into the hills and after a 40 minute Titsa bus trip to Vilaflor we grabbed a coffee outside a local hostelry half way up the main road from our crossroads drop off.

The combination of the warm sun and slight chill in the air fitted nicely with the peace and quiet, even on this main road up to Mount Teide traffic was sparse-mainly lycra clad cyclists testing their muscles. Just across from the bar is a mirador where we took in the fantastic view down into the heart of this sedate town that’s largely untouched by time. Turning down into the road through the jumble of houses we were soon in the plaza where the two churches sit side by side.

Hermano Pedro the local born goatherd was the first Tenerife religious leader to be made a saint and his image is everywhere. The Iglesia de San Pedro Apostle was eerily cold but full of beauty, I ventured up onto the creaking balcony which houses 21 cabinets showing the life history of the great man. Back out in the sun, walkers milled around and picked up guide leaflets for their long treks. Heading further down into town orange trees groaned under the weight of fruit and pots of poinsettias made the main street look even more wonderous.

A detour took us to another micro church where a local was swinging a chicken as he got out of his truck, one swift smack and this rooster had crowed his last. Back at the crossroads near the statue of Hermano Pedro we found a sun soaked patio bar and snacked as we awaited one of the very sporadic buses. The mini Titsa turned up and we veered onto the TF 21 for a twisting, turning one handed rally drive down the corkscrew road. It was a bit hairy but the driver was very relaxed as he chatted to another passenger, we noticed a pink cuddly toy tucked in his storage locker – maybe that was to console white knuckle passengers.

Granadilla arrived with more level roads and after a short wait we caught the 484 bus to Las Galletas for a near hour journey through San Miguel, Aldea Blanco, and Las Chafiras. The sun was sinking low as we strolled around the coast, the tide was about as low as I’ve seen it there, and we were a little low after checking the late newspaper to find we weren’t rich thanks to the El Gordo Christmas lottery. On the big plus side the marina looked lovely in the dying embers of the day and it has been a good tour. Now what’s this Christmas thing everyone is talking about – should I be making some sort of preparations?

Win A Week Living The High Life At Hotel Las Aguilas, Puerto De La Cruz

Life is often as flat as a pancake after all the madness of Christmas and NewYear but you can pump it up with a weeks half board holiday for two at the four star Hotel Las Aguilas thanks to Tenerife Magazine.

Perched on a hill overlooking Puerto de la Cruz the views of Mount Teide and the surrounding valleys are amazing. Last time I popped in there was even snow on Teide’s peak, quite a contrast to the sun terrace by one of the outside bars or the energetic aerobics going on in one of the swimming pools.

Of course being a nosey git I had a good dig around and was impressed, a good choice of restaurants, tennis courts, and even a giant chess set so I could pretend to be intellectual. My friends had been staying there for a week and enjoyed the nightly music and entertainment but being fellow explorers they had taken advantage of the shuttle bus down to Puerto de la Cruz to check out the shops and tour the plazas and historic battlements.

The north of Tenerife has a whole different flavour so Hotel Las Aguilas is the perfect base for walking and sampling nearby towns and villages, even the capital Santa Cruz is just a short jaunt away.

Anyway if you want to win a weeks half board holiday for two, just click on the Tenerife Magazine home page and answer an easy question. The prize will be drawn on Tuesday 31st January and can be taken, subject to availability, within the next year. The prize is not transferable and must be claimed within 2 weeks of the draw or it will be re-drawn. Good luck.


Going With The Flow In El Desierto And Los Blanquitos

Droughts what are they? This little volcanic rock called Tenerife may get scorched by the sun all year but there’s always plenty of water, the fountain at Los Cristianos roundabout is a strong reminder of that. It may have been the meeting point for another Saturday morning walk but a quick car convoy and we were up above San Isidro for a coffee before heading up into El Desierto and Los Blanquitos.

Water was to be a recurring theme but before then there were other delights to encounter. With another hot, clear day down at the coast we had opted for higher ground to get some welcome air and it was a strong cool breeze that greeted us as we set off up hill. Behind and below us Montaña Roja and El Medano were spread out but in our sights we had a long clear road and unspoilt views to San Miguel and beyond to snow free Mount Teide.

Entering El Desierto we stopped at a home made belen (nativity) at the side of the road, this was a real labour of love and was more like a mini village with plenty of nice touches like washing hanging outside a house and geese gathered around a pond. Not many people would get to see this remote work of art but the creator popped over from his house and his pride at our enjoyment was clear. Lingering there it was lovely to see a scaled down version of the small traditional dwellings that peppered the hillside ahead of us.

Pushing on we dropped down into a dip and then up through the rougher terrain, old stone water channels are common up in the hills but many have been replaced by underground pipes. It was good to come across a large gushing water channel pouring downhill with a fair turn of speed, the stone stile over the crossing point was negotiated with a bit of team work. I was going to show off and jump across but knew I would make a prat of myself and took the easy option.

The rough pathway curled round in a semi circle with San Miguel sitting proud some way in the distance and soon we were coming into Los Blanquitos and the Tramo del Camino with its helpful information post pointing out the different types of basalt and over rock used to build walls and houses. Sticking to the narrow path alongside the TF 28 brought us to the church and a sarnie break. The views over the valley were a nice reward and the blue sky was untroubled except for the clear half moon. There was a full moon down below as a farmer used a wall as a lean to toilet – well it is Christmas so a real life Caganer isn’t too out of place.

Making the steady descent through the lower part of Los Blanquitos and El Desierto the pull on my leg muscles convinced me that this was a good advance penance ahead of over indulging over the festive season. The road eventually joined the point where we split off earlier to climb upwards and the pathway took on a familiar look. The breeze was still lively but the Euroguarapo bar was soon reached with the earlier coffee being swapped for something cooler. A good three and a half hour walk, already looking forward to the next challenge.

Ho Ho No, CD Tenerife Go From Messiahs To Turkeys

There’s something about Christmas that brings out the worst in CD Tenerife, we have had some stinkers in the past just before the break but this 2-2 draw with Marino de Luanco was one of the worst.

With current form described as wobbly at best, a strong performance was needed against opponents from a small village with just 5,000 inhabitants. The defensive mentality of coach Calderon has alienated many fans and even allowing for other festive distractions the Heliodoro looked well down on numbers, a mere 6,441 was the official figure.

The first half hour of play was awful, neither side troubled the goalkeepers and play was scrappy and lacking any direction. Tenerife finally managed a shot after 27 minutes from Kiko (top pic) but this and a Chechu effort soon after were easily dealt with by former CDT stopper Ponzo. Woken from their slumber, Tenerife started to show some good football and were rewarded after 33 minutes, a Bravo cross was met perfectly with a glancing header by Kiko and it was 1-0. The visiting keeper had looked confident but lost the ball after Zazo shot following another Bravo cross, Perona (above) was on hand to score his 7th of the season for a 2-0 lead at the break.

That should have been the springboard to a demolition of Luanco but the old problems came back for the second half. Tenerife looked happy to sit back on the lead and sure enough six minutes into play Titi put the ball past a hesitant Sergio to reduce the arrears. The confidence drained away and coach Calderon brought on Ferran and Marcos but they couldn’t make any impact and Meji on for Sergio Rodriguez a few minutes later was also a fruitless move.

The inevitable happened after 71 minutes, a break on the left ended with Arias scoring to level the game. Calderon was squirming on the bench as abuse started to fly his way from the frustrated crowd. Tenerife managed a late fight back, Bravo had his legs taken out from under him in the box but the ref didn’t give the obvious penalty. Bravo had a clear chance when Ponzo fumbled the ball but his reactions weren’t fast enough to reach the ball. Into injury time and Kiko could have got a penalty after being mugged in mid air by Ponzo and a defender but again the ref wasn’t interested. The final whistle brought a chorus of calls for Calderon to be sacked. Amazingly rival teams dropped points and Tenerife moved up to third spot but the problems remain and all eyes will be on our three wise men – Concepcion, Cordero and Calderon for some encouragement before Segunda B resumes in January with two away games.

Life’s A Big Adventure In Santa Cruz

Everybody has a story to tell and I love to hear them. Social media can ping news around the world in seconds but there’s still no substitute for talking to people and finding out how rich and interesting their lives are. Tenerife is an amazing place for paths to cross and Santa Cruz always rewards me with some surprise finds on my frequent visits up to the capital.

Take last Saturday, my intention was a pre christmas tour of decorations and nativity scenes but I found loads more. The docks are always a rich source and even a scan of the daily papers for ships passing through merely scratches the surface. Cruise ships have been coming in mob handed lately but it was two wooden masts that excited me, peeping over the fencing put up to hide the road widening of Via Litoral. Heading across the quay side I stopped to inspect two cordoned off old fishing boats rescued from the ravages of the sea. Ripped open, splintered, and covered in old sea life, they wouldn’t see another voyage but they had clearly had some fine adventures. Up ahead I found the Stavros S Niarchos (above) proudly flying the flag for the Tall Ships Adventures.

Hailing a couple of crew members they broke off from their spit and polishing to tell me a little about the ship and dug out a publicity brochure to fill in some of the gaps. Basically it’s a training ship for team building and confidence for those wanting a holiday that tests them against the elements. Based in Santa Cruz from November to April they take on paying crew for each 7 to 18 night voyage, the Captain’s Christmas Special was due to depart the next day, hence the frantic polishing, skirting around the islands for a week. Crews have to pitch in and learn to steer, set rigging 100 feet up, and stand watch as well as cleaning the ship during “happy hour” well it is scrubbing to music. As I walked away I could hear the reassuring creak of the bough and the strain of the mooring rope.

At a little jutting extremity of the quay I noticed a dark brooding iron vessel low in the water so edged a little nearer, the military style uniforms advised caution so I snapped from a discreet distance and angle. Just as well, turns out the Alcaravan is a Spanish customs ship. no lingering here I thought and anyway a jaunty modern three master with a Swedish flag was beckoning me onthe other side of the port. Passing the main gates on the way around I noticed several scribbled notes pinned on seeking passage to Africa and South America. They all offered to work their way with skills such as cooking and cleaning but one proclaimed themselves as an entertainer and clown. In my mind I could see how that skill might not be quite what was called for when the ship was being tossed around in a raging storm.

Swerving round to the other side of the docks I found the Alva a 1939 built cargo ship from Stockholm conveted to a school ship, lessons at sea seem quite popular. This one when fully rigged has 600 square metres of sail. Inside the 44 metre long ship there are 15 cabins with all mod cons. I grabbed a quick word with the captain and it seems that they too are based in Santa Cruz for a few months to take out 30 upper school students at a time on regular learning trips complete with teachers to ensure they continue their normal lessons. The Tall Ship Adventures were quite expensive, upward of 400 pounds excluding flights to Tenerife, but Swedish law means the students can only be charged for meals, the rest comes out of normal teaching budgets. With my curiosity satisfied and some more leaflets to read I waved goodbye with the pungent smell of the newly applied deck varnish stinging my nose.

Oh well that was probably enough for one day but back in the centre of Calle Castillo I saw a motorbike draped with world maps and flags stood near a local cafe and moved in to read some of the press cuttings stuck to the bike. The roaring steed was clearly on a epic round the world journey, up stepped the owner a Russian adventurer Yarets Vladimir Aleckseevich. Pointing to a sign he explained that he was trying to become the first deaf mute to motorbike around the world. The following “conversation” was a delicate mix of sign language, pointing, and flicking through his extensive catalogues of photos and postcards. Blimey this old Russian had certainly got around a bit, not an easy task with his limitations. What an amazing chap, you can see more about his journey at his website. I got the distinct impression that this was an open ended journey that would carry on until Yarets reached the end of his own personal road, good luck to you sir.

Finally with the nativity’s visited, the timbers shivered, and the miles clocked it was time for my own more modest journey, back down south to Los Cristianos.



Call It Nativity Or Belen It’s Still Christmas Magic


Some christmas traditions are still special even if your not a young boy anymore but as I am still in short trousers I can be excused for making a pilgrimage to Santa Cruz to see the nativity scenes or belens as they are called here in Tenerife. First stop was Caja Canarias HQ in Plaza del Patriotismo, in the hallway outside there were large displays from a childrens christmas card contest and proud parents were taking photos of their offsprings work.

They basically use the same models and scenery for this display but change the layout each year, this time it was one long display of rolling hills and little farming hamlets. Several of the fiqures move, chopping wood or lifting hay and even the little ponds have live fish in them. The room lighting dims and rises again constantly to give night scenes when fires and lights shine through from inside the houses. Two staff members were on hand to make sure that no eager hands made a grab like a scene from Land Of The Giants, fancy being a bouncer on a nativity show.

The whole of the capital city is in christmas mode, the ice rink is back but moved from Plaza de España to Plaza Europa much to the annoyance of some shop keepers. It’s real ice, not this plastic stuff, and proved very popular last year. I wandered by during the afternoon break and could just manage a peak through the window, despite being a long term hockey fan I’m as graceful on the ice as an elephant on marbles so they wont have missed me out there. It’s here until 8 January and opens from 10.30 to 2 pm, and 4.30 to 11 pm, just 5 euros an hour (4 euros for 12’s and under) including skate hire.

Back to the nativity hunt, this time at the Cabildo building, their theme this year was cave dwelling and the models were suitably impressive. The stable scene is the final one in a fairly compact show, if you look up the stairs you can also catch a glimpse of the impressive stained glass in the Tenerife governments home. All these belens are free to see, the Cabildo always have a voluntary donation box for a local charity, this year it’s Caritas who do fine work helping the homeless and needy.Out at Plaza Candelaria the nativity stable looked wonderful with Joseph, Mary, and the animals, sadly no baby Jesus in the crib as he got stolen last year.

The shopping streets had to be explored as well, all the traders are trying to boost trade at a difficult time so the least I could do was to see what they were up to. Calle Teobaldo Power were going for a green christmas with a tree decorating day and a green carpet, all part of a Binter Airlines sponsorship. My favourite though was Calle Jesus Nazareno, my eye was caught by their candy striped extensions to the bollards, I even caught the Candyman himself painting his way up the street. What a simple but effective idea, the traders from the surrounding cafes and beauty parlour all came out to appreciate his magnificent handiwork.

I knew there was another belen I should have found, it was the Canarian Parliament building in Calle del Castillo, the main shopping street. The outside may now look like a modern tea room but scan upward and the faded lime green roof is a dead giveaway. This was another long parade of festive inspired village scenes but looking just behind them I could see Canarian landmarks like the basalt cliffs of Vallehermoso in La Gomera. Inspired by the Catalan tradition of El Caganer, the poohing peasant, there was a figure caught in the crevice of a rock with his trousers down answering the call of nature, good job it wasn’t aromavision.

It has to be said it was fairly quiet in Santa Cruz, what with the lack of money and the regular promotions to prise wallets open again, but at least I went home with a warm glow in my heart. Christmas eh – don’t you just love it.


A Nibble But No Bite For CD Tenerife

Sports Director Pedro Cordero this week compared CD Tenerife to a salmon swimming against the current but this game was about two lost points, the ones that got away. A O-OÂ home draw against a free scoring Atletico Madrid B team isn’t bad but with leaders Castilla three goals down at half time Tenerife should have taken the bait and made up valuable ground.

Coach Calderon is too negative, he kept Kitoko in the centre of defence alongside Ayoze (pic) and brought back Medina after his one game suspension but played him in midfield with Marcos, leaving no place for the eager to attack Zazo. Tenerife were the better team in the first half but there were plenty of warning signs about their visitors strengths. Madrid are a big side and Pedro Martin up front caused plenty of problems, his chipped shot after 8 minutes just cleared the home bar. Bravo had a good early chance heading over after good work by Chechu on the right. Perona and Bravo both had further near misses but Madrid twice saw shots saved by the woodwork.

Medina and Marcos weren’t sparking many raids from CDT, it was mainly down to breaks down the flanks to cause a threat and Perona and Ferran couldn’t convert what came their way. Just before the break Martin had the home goal in his sights again but Sergio got a finger tip to the ball to turn it over but the generous referee gave a goal kick. At half time the buzz among the 8,920 crowd was about Castilla’s downfall but it didn’t act as a further spur to the players. Tenerife just don’t have the killer instinct and Madrid always knew they were in with a shout. Just after an Atletico chance went looping over the Tenerife bar, Calderon made a double change bringing in Kiko and Nico for Marcos and Chechu.

Kiko was a little rusty but added more threat up front and Nico’s speed was a useful addition.Sergio had more to do in this half and was as always superb, particularly after a Kitoko slip let Madrid through. Tenerife showed some late urgency, Kiko barely troubled the keeper with his weak shot and Perona got into a good position but was bundled wide by a visiting defender. Tarantino came on too late to make much difference, replacing Medina, and injury time was nail biting as first Kiko’s final touch let him down in front of goal and then play switched to the other end where Sergio again showed his class with a crucial save.

Fussy Footballers And Meeting Fred, The Girls, And Barry

If I was paid a large sum of money I would wear pink flippers and a silly hat but it seems that footballers are harder to please. It was a nice surprise to get an invite to go and see Everton train at Tenerife Top Training in La Caleta and even the request to avoid close ups of their feet didn’t phase me, it seems they didn’t all have the boots they are paid to wear. Assistant coach Steve Round was good enough to give me a quick interview after training, a good mornings work I thought.

The clubs communication manager phoned me to find out more about where the article was going, apparently the winter break was supposed to be “under the radar” . Strange that within a few hours of ariving on Sunday night at their west coast hotel the players were out and about in Playa de Las Americas chilling and having fun. It was a bit of a surprise to get an email from T3 a few days later demanding I pull the photos from my Tenerife Magazine article, not because of dodgy boots but their bright yellow training bibs with a sports company’s name across the front, it appears it was another non sponsor.

Thankfully there were smoother waters the next day for my trip to La Gomera and bright and early I was on the Fred Olsen Express with a looped tape of Barry White playing over the tannoy. Pushing through the water with the Love Walrus crooning away the sun was hot and the sea calm and in 40 minutes I was off the ship in San Sebastian and into the marina next door to meet the crew of Row For Freedom, one of 17 teams in the Talisker Whiskey Atlantic Challenge. Only four of the six female crew were there to greet me (the others arrived later) but they were even more lovely than in the publicity shots, I managed a quick interview before touring the marina to hear some of the amazing tales of determination and courage from the other rowers.

It’s a good four years since I set foot on La Gomera but it all came back to me quickly and I was able to scamper up to the mirador off the main plaza to get some panoramic views for photos and a short video of the trip. Back in the plaza I enjoyed a snack and a drink as I basked in the sunshine. Huge German cruise liner Mein Scheiff was in port and its passengers swarmed around the town, they even had cycle hire on board so a squad of about 30 bikers on identical bikes with matching helmets were sweeping around the square.

Going back past the repairs and stocking up at the marina and through the tunnel I emerged on Playa de la Cueva and looked out across the sea to a crystal clear Tenerife, a truly inspiring sight. A tall rock stack with steps hewn into the rock made a great vantage point to enjoy even better views, maybe Christopher Columbus had stood on the top prior to sailing for America. Back in the marina I met the other two equally lovely ladies from Row For Freedom as they all posed in new t-shirts. The rowers were a joy to talk to, so unassuming and all with great tales to tell, their enthusiasm at being cramped into small rowing boats for around two months on the way to Barbados was as bright as the baking sunshine.

Having crammed my notebook and camera it was time to get the 5.30pm last ferry back to Tenerife, it pulled out of port as a pair of rowers trained out at sea and the sunset that followed was just another reward in a day of highlights. Good luck to all the rowers for the off on Sunday 4 December, in the words of my on board friend Barry White “Your my First, My Last, My Everything”.