Tag Archives: Canary Islands


It’s a ferry which feels like a cruise ship. A DJ plays loud Latino music; a troupe of dancers twirl, swirl and wave at passengers from their stage, a swimming pool barely bigger than the average bath tub. People stock up on plastic cups of amber lager. Beyond the stern, Tenerife’s hooded Auditorium recedes into the distance under typically blue skies.



It feels surreal. The party atmosphere makes it feel like a celebration of our time, more than a decade, on the island.

The cabin we’ve booked for the next 36 hours is cosy enough, the sea is calm and the sunset spectacular. All feels good with the world. Tomorrow a new and exciting day dawns.


Dinner on the Naviera Armas ferry pops the party balloon. The buffet meal is cheap and the selection is… is what exactly? Not depressing at best. But it’s not even lukewarm. It’s cold.

Tellingly there is a microwave in the dining room. It’s a classy ship where you have to heat up your own food. A rough looking extended Spanish family are wise to the ferry’s culinary flaws, they’ve brought their own food stash and hog the microwave. We muscle our way in and one of them, illustrating how we shouldn’t make judgements based on appearances, helpfully shows us how to use it (we’re microwave virgins). It makes the food edible… just.


Overnight we sail into rough seas and it sounds as though Poseidon himself is tearing at the hull with a can opener. The metal screams in pain. It’s unnerving. Our cabin is near the prow, right at the highest point of the arc where the ship pauses briefly after rising into the air before crashing back into the sea.

It’s not the best night’s sleep I’ve ever enjoyed.

The stormy weather doesn’t let up the next day. Getting from our cabin to the less violent rear of the ship involves a bruise-inducing journey of silly walks.


There are far fewer voyagers in the lounge than the previous day. Many passengers are ill and stay in their cabins. Maybe many passengers are ill because they stay in their cabins.

It’s a long day. Only the ever-enthusiastic entertainment team provide relief from the irritated sea and limited selection of mediocre food. Still we will be on terra firma later, with food in proper restaurants to fuel deflated spirits.

However, an hour from docking and there’s no land at all in sight. There have been no announcements about any delays, but something clearly isn’t right. We should be halfway along an estuary by my reckoning.

I stagger to the information desk.

“Rough weather has delayed us four hours,” I’m told when I ask why there’s no dry land outside the portholes.

I’m not sure when they planned on sharing this quite important piece of information.


I’m gutted. The sea has calmed but the delay means instead of dining in a restaurant in Huelva we have another meal on board to not look forward to.

We agree the food was so poor we can’t go through another dinner. Instead, I head outside to the the pool bar, the domain of serious drinkers and heavy smokers, to check what snacks they might have.

They have more than snacks, they have burgers and pizza. They have food which looks far, far, far more appetising than the tired offerings in the main dining room. The person in front of me is served with a generous sized, good looking beefy burger. If only I’d ventured outside before we may have ate if not like kings at least not like paupers. I order two burgers and try to avoid drooling.

“Sorry, that was the last one,” the barman informs me.

My misery is complete.

Where is the South of Tenerife?

Where exactly is the south of Tenerife? Seriously, where is it? Because I don’t know. I thought I knew. The Spanish papers think it’s in the same place as I do. But there are quite a few non-Canarios on the island who seem to have drawn up completely different boundaries.

The location of the north of Tenerife is easy to define. It’s anywhere there’s cloud and rain… even if that happens to be geographically in the south. Honestly, there was a situation a year back when heavy rain devastated a beach in the south west of the island, yet if you read facebook you’d have been told the town was in the north.

A few weeks ago A was on a trip with a posse of British travel writers when the coach left warm sunshine to enter cool, damp cloud. Comments were made about how there was a noticeable difference when you left the south for the north.
Only thing was, this was still in the south. But it was in the hills and, as I’ve discovered over the years, nowhere in the south is above coastal level, certainly not anywhere where cloud is common and it’s significantly cooler i.e. the hills.

Last week we stood at the coast under a thick blanket of cloud watching holidaymakers in denial cloudbathe… with towels wrapped around them to keep them warm. It was in the heart of what I’d always believed was the main southern resort on Tenerife. That’s where it is on the map anyway. But then I read about how sunny the south was at that time so I was clearly mistaken.

This week on Tenerife all the seasons have descended at once – wind, sun, monsoon rain, wild seas, snow. There’s no doubt northern parts are experiencing the most extreme of the weather but I’ve seen photos of snow on the southern slopes and in hill towns above the south west coast, in some places as low as I’ve seen snow before.

Yet I also read about how the south was warm whilst the north was cold. It’s common for people to talk of the north when referring to anywhere from coastal level to the highest point in Spain at the peak of Mount Teide and compare it to the temperature on the coast at a specific point on the southern coast (i.e. the warmest bit). This can change on a daily basis – one of the reasons it’s difficult to pin down exactly where the south of Tenerife is.

But think I might have finally tracked it down. The south of Tenerife is actually on a balcony overlooking the coast on a promontory in Playa de las Americas.

At least that’s where it is this week, if cloud dares to fall across the balcony the south will up sticks and move somewhere else; somewhere there’s a sunny spot.

The Rim of a Volcano

The thing about walking along the rim of an ancient volcanic crater rising over 2400m above sea level is that at some point you have to descend.

After an exhilarating and challenging 17km trek, our moment to descend arrived at what looked like a rock bob-sleigh run that cut straight through the ridge and sort of disappeared.

Mount Teide, Teide National Park, TenerifeThe path looked as though it just fell away. I stood looking at the rock exit, almost unable to compute that if I wanted to continue I was going to have to show some faith and step through the gap into who knows what.

With sweaty palms and reluctant legs, I entered the rock channel, stepped through the opening and…

And… well I’m here to tell the tale so I clearly survived. But I won’t say any more in case you ever happen to find yourself on that same ridge looking down the same furrow in the rock. Nobody likes spoilers.

Sunrise on the Volcano

Sunrise on the volcano, Mount Teide, Tenerife

It’s freezing. The sun is slowly clearing the crater wall, turning the volcano an intense deep orange. The slopes look like they’re on fire, which they once were… a long time ago. This intensity won’t last long, but the volcano won’t lose it’s power to impress. In a short time the sun will fill the crater with warmth, even though the air temperature will only be around 2C. Less than forty kilometres away it will be 20C.

Such an incredible place.

The Girls who Walk and Talk

Roque del Conde, Adeje, Arona, TenerifeIn three kilometres they haven’t paused to catch breath.  Words gush out, creating sentences that never, ever end.

I should be writing things like ‘tranquil terraces’ ‘silent apart from the kestrel’s shriek’ etc. etc. etc.

The truth is there is no silence. There would be if the girls weren’t sharing the same path. But they are and so is their incessant chatter.

We started the route at the same time and our paths have criss-crossed a few times. They’re much younger and faster. But every time they get to the point where the loud chatter becomes almost a whisper, they stop. Hair is put back in place, something is applied to the face, a bra strap is adjusted.

They stop. I catch up and pass them… and the whole circle begins again and I mutter under my breath about the fact they won’t shut up and let me enjoy the peace of the countryside.

I descend to the floor of a narrow ravine as they begin the climb out the other side. Sound is amplified. The cling-clang from the bells around the necks of a handful of goats pulling at wild herbs take on the intensity of the pealing inside a church tower.

The girls are louder.

The echoing canyon prompts them to make howling noises. Nature winces. Even the goats pause their feeding to glare at these noisy creatures with no respect for tranquillity.

I pass them again and start a climb that is taxing enough to bring the sweat sprinting down my face. After a couple of hundred metres I stop to rest on a rock. The girls catch up.

“Un poquito descanso,” I say as they skip past.

One pulls her tee shirt away from her body and gasps. “Si, hace mucho calor.”

The have open, friendly faces with eyes as big as their smiles.

I reach the summit, a wide plateau with views across an arid land pockmarked by volcanic cones.

The girls disappear into the shade of a rare tree, still talking.

I sit on a flat rock nearby. Their chatter no longer annoys. In a way it has become a comforting drone. Part of the scene.

After thirty minutes the girls emerge. They’re no longer talking. Now they’re singing… and dancing. They sing jauntily as they pass. I laugh. So do they, without missing a beat.

The sun is engulfed by a bruised, heavy cloud. Rain is coming. Time to leave.

The girls are a few yards ahead on the path. They’ve returned to talking in paragraph-less sentences.

They’re enjoying themselves. They’re enjoying the land in their own way. It shows in their smiling faces and the musical tone of their voices.

The scenery is stunning with or without a soundtrack and the girls’ happiness is infectious.

I’m pleased I’m sharing the path with them.

Second Gear City

The car in front of me is crawling along at a snail’s pace; a particularly slow snail.

The driver is an elderly man wearing glasses who is more interested in what is happening out of the side windows of his car than what’s happening in front. Lots of cars here have small dents. It doesn’t take a genius to see why.
Concentration is not a strong point. I carried out a small experiment once, working out that it took, on average, five seconds before there was any movement when traffic lights changed from red to green.

They don’t do things quickly.

In this town it is difficult to get out of second gear.

That’s not because of traffic congestion or anything. The road in front of the car in front can be empty and the snail’s pace stays the same. These old guys are just not in a hurry to get anywhere.

You especially know you’re not going anywhere quickly when the car in front of you is an old Merc or a Berlingo. The drivers of these are the slowest of the slow. If they’ve got a chunky cigar clamped between their teeth then even second gear seems a speedy fantasy.

It drives me crazy when I need to be somewhere fast. But in truth it’s quite endearing; I’d rather live in a place where people drive too slow than too fast.

That won’t stop me shouting ‘why don’t you stick to riding a donkey’ next time I’m behind a tootling cigar chomper in a Merc though.

Bad Start on the Orange Island

I’m fuming. Maybe it’s appropriate that there’s steam coming out of my ears as we’re on a volcanic island, but it’s a bad, bad start.

Apart from not being at the airport to meet us on arrival, the car hire firm has played a ‘read the small print’ card to extract an extra €120 over and above what we’ve already paid… because we don’t use a credit card. The word ‘ladrones’ is bandied about.

Plus the clouds are thick and pressing on our heads, it’s cold and we’ve been up since 4.30am.

The situation deteriorates.

I’m greeted at our rural hotel in the hills by three hounds on trampolines who seem to be competing against each other for the pleasure of eating my right hand as I try to unlock the gate to see if there are any human inhabitants about.

An elderly man appears. He knows nothing about a reservation. My mood darkens.

His wife appears on the roof terrace, fixing flags to a balustrade.

“The tall Englishman who was here a last month made the reservations,” I shout to her.

A light flickers in her eyes and then she joins the hounds in attacking me.

“He was Scottish, there’s a difference you know,” she lectures me. “Just like we are not Spanish, we are Canarios.”

It’s an ironic lecture that only serves to wind me up even more as I’m the Scottish one. I really don’t need to be told that there’s a difference between being English and Scottish.

This island will need to do a lot to charm me now.

But at least she remembers the reservation.

We’re allowed in, the dogs immediately turning gooey and friendly – anything for a pat on the head.

Our room is rustic with a four poster bed. I thaw.

But we have work to do. We change and head immediately onto the trail. Being outside helps with the thaw and the clouds inside my head dissipate almost as quickly as the ones in the sky.

Before long we’ve passed a sail-less windmill and are ascending into hills the colour of a Seville orange contrasting against an intense blue sky, a photoshopped sky. Shy spring flowers barely raise their heads from the low ground, sheltering from a wind that rarely leaves them alone.

The landscape unravels below us, hills rolling like soft waves to the far horizon; a glorious amber sea.

It is beautiful.

All is forgiven.

Above Antigua, Fuerteventura