Archive for December, 2020
Loving The Rise And Fall Of The Vilaflor Trail

Small village, short ride from the bottom crossroads to the steep path for the circular walk down. You might imagine a gentle stroll in a steady downward direction. Vilaflor soon dishes out a few lessons about rash judgements on an undulating three hour of contrasts.

The 10.30 am Titsa bus from Los Cristianos took barely an hour to Spain´s highest village. A few weeks before I had indulged in the historic heart of the village but this time it was all about some good old foot slogging. Low cloud with bright patches made for a chilly December morning but good preparation allowed us to layer up and climb high above the village with a brief nosey inside the Hotel Spa  Villalba. the ladies were tempted by the pampering but we marched on and took the left turn up through farming terraces brimming with tomatoes and potatoes.

The next choice took us on a rising path with an industrial unit away to the right. That building and a notice denying access to those on wheels or hooves confirmed our true progress. The thought of being caught up in an animal traffic jam in these blissful conditions caused me some amusement. Despite dark clouds hovering, and a couple of recent Tenerife storms, the landscape was bone dry and several pine tree trunks showed signs of being licked by flames in the hot summer. Rock erosion in the strong winds than can whip across the valley, also plays a part in sculpting out a pathway that can never be taken for granted.

Nature had plenty more in store for our senses, a crumbling rocky ledge above a plunging pine valley highlighted our small role in this vast portrait of wear and weather. Tight paths wound down and around the lip of the valley and onto shallow tracks of dust and fine stone, just as the sun peeked through. The variety of surfaces is one of the qualities that make this a testing trek, but the views are always a fair reward.

A half empty reservoir was a good point for a snack and water breather before the final upsurge through tangled roots and dry stream beds. Ahead of us, the views opened up to shallow terraces were the art of stone wall building was on display. Plucky little pine sapling stucked in tight against the sturdy walls for its protective embrace. The faint sound of traffic encouraged us to pump those leg muscles for another sapping climb as the road to the south began to appear on the distant horizon. Coming out just before the Vilaflor entrace, we felt a sense of satisfaction as we headed for a local watering hole. A few metres away a statue of local born Hermano Pedro, Tenerife´s only saint, looked out from his static perch.

Salute The Captain´s House And The Creative Gems Of San Miguel

Attracted by the present but drawn to the past, San Miguel served up a feast of culture, with the Casa del Capitan as the centre piece. Gripping the steep incline just below the Tenerife towns main street, the Captain´s House struck an impressive figure supported by the pottery hoisting statue that dominates the central courtyard.


Christmas was fast approaching, so my first task was to descend into the former wine cellar to see the nativity figures from South American countries. Peru, Argentina, Mexico, and Colombia all vied for attention but I had already been distracted by an ancient spooled film projector just under the stone steps, and a hall of reddy brown pottery plates and bowls. They were enough to feed a small army.

Through the window I could see the terraced soil that had given nutrition to grape and grain. Those two natural products are a vital part of the ancestry of San Miguel de Abona, a long wedge of a municipality that reaches down from the hills to the modern retail face of Las Chafiras, Golf del Sur, and the busy San Miguel marina.The large patio of Casa del Capitan is now a great stage for visiting groups to learn about the working heritage of town and municipality.

Remains of the old granary and mill showed how grain was converted into gofio and flour. A rusty steam powered engine bore a British patent number. The wooden wine press may have been eclipsed by modern inventions but the end product still carries the taste of the local soil. The nativity scene was just passing through but there´s free entry to Casa del Capitan each Monday to Friday from 8am to 1.30pm, and Tuesday to Friday from 4pm to 8 pm, with 10am to 1pm each Saturday.


San Miguel presents its claims way before you reach the historic house. The vaulting figure of a shepherd looks out from a mirador viewing point. Salto del Pastor was a quick and effective method to cross ravines and bypass rocky ridges. An impressive mural on corrugated fencing gives an idea of the joy and celebration of the annual romeria. Look up and the white tower of San Miguel Arcangel church beckons. Their christmas nativitywas flowing around the grounds and reaching up the tower. Work on improving the plaza was in progress and a 6km walk down to Aldea Blanca was making my feet itch. From the bus back to Los Cristianos, the trek from La Centinela to San Miguel looked well used and recently tidied up. The captain would have been proud of his kingdom.

All Dressed Up For A Dickens Of A Christmas Tale In Tenerife

Santas little helpers are furloughed and Papa Noel has put the elves on ERTE. As 2020 sneaks out the back door, it´s giving us all more indigestion than the turkey, but young eyes are sparkling with hope, and the halls are being decked with bells and holly. The streets of Tenerife had been defiantly decked out too.


My latest wanderings were back in the north of Tenerife starting at El Tanque and their tree trunk reindeer outside the town hall. On a chilly day with drizzle in the air, it coaxed a smile out of passers by. Icod chipped in with a shadow nativity in the church plaza, bold but brooding, the mood was lightened by outbreaks of poinsetia all over town. I was used to seeing the red and even yellow versions but was pleasantly surprised by the pink blooms.If your looking for positive signs, the Mariposario(butterfly house) below the plaza,is open again after years of planning arguments. Long may their wings flap.

Dropping down to Garachico, the nativity in the Plaza de La Libertad was very traditional and bursting with cuteness. Was that a yard of ale contest I could see over by the Castillo San Miguel? No, just wishful thinking on my pary morphing the musical herald. A cage like red heart nearby was hardly needed but added a bit more variety to the scene. Across the cove, another more basic nativity was a magic link to the wild sea and spray.

Back down in Los Cristianos, tradition had another stronghold. The scaled down statue of the Virgen del Carmen is lovingly tended daily with flowers but at this time of year that is augmented by a few christmas toys and baubles. It´s an appropriate nod to the Virgen´s role as protector and guide to the local fishing families.  A short hop away, the church plaza benches were getting the benefit of a painting makeover from the team that did such an uplifting job on the beach promenade seats. Hope and renewal will be on many wish lists as this year fades away -we will take any encouragement we can find.





Dutch Duo Inspired To Row4Cancer In Atlantic Challenge

No land in sight, meagre food and water rations, and towering waves crashing around them. These are the prospects for the 21 crews in the 2020 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge rowing race. Mark Slats, along with Kai Weidmer are the Dutch crew of Row4Cancer. Mark, a carpenter from Scheveningen near Amsterdam, looked relaxed as he escorted their trailer loaded boat through Los Cristianos port in Tenerife for the short ferry crossing to neighbouring Canary Island La Gomera. Ahead of them was a 22nd December departure for a 3,000 nautical mile slog to the Caribbean island of Antigua.

Mark, a carpenter, is an accomplished adventurer, having set a solo record of just under 31 days for the crossing in 2017, That was inspired by his mothers fight against cancer, and also propelled him to compete in the 30,000 mile Golden Globe yacht race a year later. An Atlantic rowing competition was stablished in 1997 from Tenerife to Barbados based on the experience of Chay Blyth and  John Ridgway who pioneered ocen rowing in 1966. Talisker took over in 2011 and made it into an annual event, this is the eighth under their leadership.

Mark´s mother lost her fight against cancer in March 2020, he had already applied nearly a yesr before for the 2020 race and her loss made his resolve stronger. Covid intervened to disrupt the 2020 race planning. “After the Golden Globe race I was looking for another test. “Rowers have to raise 100,000 euros just to enter the Talisker Atlantic Challenge, to cover running costs, support services, equipment, and food before even starting on sponsorship for your chosen charity. Some companies backed off after Covid, especially those related to travel and hotels. We were lucky as we found many through building companies. There was another surprising help for us as less traffic on the roads reduced travel to our training sessions by about two hours each time. We had been putting in 25 hours a week on the water.”

The 21 crews for the 2020 race all use the same size boats, either new or second hand but the crews are always varied. For 2020 they are split into eight singles, two pairs, a female trio, and 10 fours, they come from several countries, 15 from the UK, with South Africa, Holland, and Spain also represented. Many crews are a mix of male and female, the one thing they all share is a burning ambition to finish the race and help their charities. Sleeping and shelter are catered for at each end of the boat, planning on and off splits for through the night watches is just another skill they have to master.

A logistics company shiops most of the boats to La Gomera, for instance the UK based craft are taken to the south of England, ferried over to France, down through Europe to Cadiz port at the tip of Spain, ferry to Santa Cruz in Tenerife, south to another ferry and out to La Gomera. Row4Cancer had an easier route. “We saved about 5,000 euros on shipping, I brought it through on the trailer to Cadiz and onward. There are always doubts as we approach the race but we look forward and keep focused on what we need to do. ”

There´s still time to sponsor Row4Cancer at their website and follow them at their website. To keep an eye on the race there´s the official Talisker Whisky website. Just think of them all ploughing through the ocean, experiencing christmas and new year in near isolation, and keeping bodies and minds ticking over. Fair winds to them all.



Camels Kings And Tenerife Things Take Root In La Orotava

Like walking through pages from a bible, my senses wallowed in the biggest nativity layout in Tenerife.Some 300 animals, people, stalls, and scenery filled the Plaza del Ayuntamiento, famed as the June epicentre of the Corpus Christi sand and flower carpets.

The Ruta de Belenes is no one day wonder, nearly five weeks and carefully managed access will allow a steady and safe flow of awe struck visitors for the free spectacle. The Bazar La Sidrona is the setting for layout but there are lots of references to Canarian culture among the busy artesans. Basket weavers, wine making, and chestnut roasting are all part of the local calendar in the fertile valley of La Orotava.

The 19th century town hall building is a perfect canvas for the historic epic, and as it was built on the site of a former convent, it has a suitable religious heritage. The steps up to the grand entrance are the focal point for the manger, and no film director could ever wish for a better location. Families were enjoying the big production on several lavels, even the cloudy conditions couldn´t diminish the visul impact.

The Ruta de Belenes is open from 1st December to  5th January, excluding 25 December and 1st January. Hours are 9.30 am to 1pm and 4pm to 8pm. It´s just over an hours drive up from the south coast of Tenerife, or nearly double that if you take a Titsa bus from Los Cristianos, with a change at the Puerto de la Cruz bus station for the final 20 minutes into the natural wonders of La Orotava. Check times before travelling .

Dropping In For An Adeje Christmas Countdown

There was no need to fire the canon outside Casa Fuerte to signal the early December awakening of festive anticipation, A deluge of rain from tropical storm clemente, the previous day, had given way to bursts of colour all through Adeje town. A hang glider cut through the blue sky and swirled low over the crumbling walls of the fortress that once protected the town just above the south Tenerife coast.

Sleighs found parking spaces on apartment balconies as Roque del Condes table top looked down on shadow toned fields in the rocks above Barranco del Infierno and Calle Grande where people enjoyed restful breaks in cafes and bars. It was good to see the cultural centre open after limited Covid access, info on upcoming events covered the walls and the nearby Plaza de España geared up to host music and dance nights in december.

Two large tiered car parks have opened up the town centre and rather than treat them as modern intruders, they have become miradors with plants and flora encouraging people to enjoy the panoramic views. A nod of mutual appreciation from the modern Los Olivos church showed how to blend tradition and style. I felt my feet being lured towards the roundabout where some festive visitors were settling in, A plump snowmanmay have eaten all the mince pies, I couldn´t see any crumbs on his rather smart red scarf.

Fountains danced in the background and reindeer had just been settled into grazing positions. A spray of colour was added by  the Adeje School Of Music as Beethoven peeked through the foliage. It´s going to be a tough festive season for many people this year, so lets not be shy of enjoying the simple pleasures that make us smile.

Vilaflor Is A Village To Look Up To

Vilaflor could make the shortest ever edition of Through The Keyh9le. The highest village in Spain doesn´t hide its pride in its favourite son, Hermano Pedro. From street names, statues, ceramic tiles, and even a modern infants school, there´s no forgetting that the Canary Islands only saint was born here. That would be enough to make Vilaflor well worth the one hour bus ride up from Los Cristianos, but I knew there were many more reasons to treat myself to a ride up through the vineyards to taste the history.


It was still reassuring to be greeted by the statue of Pedro at the entrance to Vilaflor. The air was crisp and fresh as small busy clouds formed an ever changing jigsaw against the radiant blue sky.I took the lower right hand road and was soon gazing up at the corona forest pines and the outskirts of Mount Teide National Park. Many houses displayed their allegiance to the famous former goat herder, on the tiles that told of his devotion to the needy. Sculpted hearts outside the small library drew my attention to adverts for talks about old rural skills and the desire to nurture the cultural past.

My upward stroll brought me to the vast main plaza with its water flows dropping down the green bloomed terraces. Pride of place at the top went to the church of Pedro Apostel, shining like a stunning white beacon. Inside the contrast was of dark tones and a vaulted, carved wood ceiling, and a lavish altar caught in the sunlight streaming through a high window. For a relatively small village, the church echoed with stature and nobility from the gallery of religious statues to the small touches like the dove of peace above the pulpit. Next door, a newer dark stone church occupied the site of Hermano Pedros´s former home.

Religion has always sustained the locals but water has been the life blood of day to day living. Los Lavadores  at the top of the village marks the point where springs converged at a fountain. Not only did it serve as a gathering point to sustain livestock, but also the rocks were perfect places to wash and dry clothes in the sun. In recent times the site has been lovingly restored, although the water now passes further down to the modern Fuentealta bottling plant.

Veering down into the village, water also served another purpose, powering two mills where gofio, a staple part of the island diet,  was ground into grain. The white arches guided the water to the mill stones and are still standing proudly. A peak into the mill house is like a peak into the past. More up to date pursuits bring visitors through the village these days. The steep TF51 road that leads up to Teide is a popular climb for cyclists, and walkers endulge in the near four hour circular walk that sweeps around the village and down to the entrance crossroads. The modern concrete mirador and cross look out over the south of Tenerife as far as El medano on the coast close to Hermano Pedros cave and shrine.

Several bodegas offer wine for tasting and sale, there are also a few hostels and the more luxurious Hotel Villalba high above the village. The touch of tourism has been light, leaving the charm and character of Vilaflor as clear as the air and the spring water.