“I thought that was here”

We woke up late, around 10:30.  It was a long trip from Madeira to the Canaries, so today was scheduled to be just a half day (and likely why we left Madeira at 5pm when all of the other shore excursions lasted until 6pm or later).  When we got up we were still moving, but we could see land.  We weren’t going very fast, and as we approached the harbor we got passed by a ferry full of cars and passengers.  We got got cleaned up first, then ate lunch at The Promenade right at noon.  It was fine, but nothing to write home about.  Then again, it was at least more choices than at The Restaurant.

We were a titch late getting off the boat.  Whilst we were waiting, we checked email, and Crystal had an email stating that our cable car trip on Mt Teide had been cancelled, then a later one stating it had not.  Our guide, Alicia, had instructed us right after we booked our tour that we should get tickets for the funicular on Mt Teide that would take us up to near the top of the volcano.  She also told us what time to book it for, and we’d done that – we were glad we’d be able to actually use our tickets.

When we eventually got off the ship we were met by Alicia and Miguel (whose taxi we were in).  On the way out of the marina area, we went past a tiny version of the Sydney Opera House.  We had docked in Santa Cruz de Tenerife, one of the largest cities in all of the Canary Islands.  Santa Cruz has over 200,000 inhabitants, and the island as a whole has around 900,000 people.  The city looked pretty nice, with only a couple prominently tall high-rises and mostly smaller buildings and houses.  Around town we noted lots of laurel figs, jacarandas, poincianas, African tulip trees, grevilleas, dragon trees, royal palms, canary island date palms – sort of a mix of Hawaii and San Diego.  We passed by a statue of Jose de Anchieta, who Alicia told us was the person who founded Sao Paulo in Brazil many centuries ago.

As we left town we got on a major highway, like any you’d see in the US, and went past a big university, a giant hospital, and some other “big city” stuff.  Our initial take was that Tenerife seemed like the size and diversity of Big Island, but with creature comforts of Oahu.  We drove past the Tenerife North (TFN) Airport, site of the deadliest air crash ever.  The collision was caused by a confluence of unfortunate events: 1) a bunch of planes had been diverted from Gran Canaria that day, making the airport packed; 2) it was foggy and difficult to see; 3) the plane that was taking off (whilst another was still on the runway, going to the taxiway) thought it had been given clearance, but because of language barriers, it had not.  Since then, all communications between planes and air traffic control are required to be in English, no matter where in the world the flights are.

After getting out of civilization we started going uphill into the forest.  First there was a lot of eucalyptus, but eventually it was all native pine trees.  Alicia told us that the Pinus canariensis pine trees are recognized by having groupings of three needles, which is specific to that species.  In the forest there was lots of fog and it was pretty chilly.  At around 1500 meters elevation we emerged from the fog.  We’d been driving for an hour or so, and we stopped at a lookout for fresh air (in case anyone was starting to feel ill, which we thankfully were not).  Above the clouds, to the west we had great views of Mt Teide and some observatories. 

It was striking how much it resembled the Big Island.  Alicia told us that Mt Teide is third largest volcano in world, behind Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.  We showed her a picture we took from Mauna Loa (looking back towards Mauna Kea - photo is immediately above for comparison) and she looked a bit confused at first, then said “I thought that was here.”  She was miffed at how we had a picture of Mt Teide when we hadn’t visited it yet.  [As an aside, the word “Tenerife” comes from the natives of La Palma, who named it teni (“mountain”) and ife (“white”).  The “r” came from the Spanish.  Mauna Kea means “white mountain” as well.]  When we drove past the observatories we told her about the ongoing saga with the Thirty Meter Telescope on Mauna Kea, and how if there were any further delays the new telescope would be built here instead.  [Actually, it wouldn’t be on Tenerife, it’d be on La Palma, a different Canary Island.] 

As we got close to Mt Teide we stopped again, this time for a local coffee drink with espresso, condensed milk, alcohol, cinnamon, and local honey.  It was pretty good, although not as good as the local drink we’d had in Madeira yesterday.  We could tell this was one of those places where all sorts of tourists stopped coming and going from Mt Teide, and there were lots of bathrooms and a big gift shop.  We looked around the gift shop and there were lots of plates and mugs and other items with images of turtles and images of lizards that resembled geckos.  Outside there were seating areas shaded by palapas.  We wondered for half a second if we were actually in Hawaii, and Crystal went back inside to look for tikis, 20% expecting to see them – she did not.

Across the street there was a building for sale, and we discussed opening a Mexican restaurant there, or perhaps a Mexican-Hawaiian fusion place.  As we were getting ready to leave, a bus came up, and it was full of people from our ship – we wondered if they’d be going up the funicular as well.  To get to the funicular station was only another 15 minutes or so.  At the base of the cable car, we saw a bunch of silversword looking plants getting ready to bloom, but not blooming yet.

The funicular was a short, but very vertical, ride up to the top; it reminded us of the funicular at Palm Springs/Idyllwild.  It was a bit hard to breathe up at the top at 3500 meters.  Up top there were a couple marked pathways, a fair number of tourists, but no evidence of people from the boat.  We had a good vantage point for the old caldera, seeing the outline of what had blown itself to bits.  There were lots of interesting rock formations, and the lava was much older than in Hawaii, so it had oxidized and was brownish for the most part.  There was actually some snow here and there.  Crystal walked back a bit before Justin, hanging out by the funicular station and out of the wind.  Justin took some more photos, and actually came upon a couple getting engaged and taking photos to commemorate it.  There were lots of tired kids on the path, not really aware of what altitude means or why they were so out of breath.

After we went back down, we checked out the gift shop, and there were more turtles and geckos.  We asked Alicia about the geckos, and they’re actually long lizards that are blue, but we obviously hadn’t seen any yet.  From the bottom of the funicular we drove into the caldera and looked at some interesting formations left over from a giant landslide millenia ago (check out the size of the people for perspective).  Alicia pointed out some of the old lava dikes.  Around the area were plants with tiny purple flowers that looked pretty nice.  There was also this round Stonehenge type thing (called a tagoror) that was used by the native Canarians (called Guanches) many centuries ago where the leaders debated important community issues.

When we started heading back towards the ship it was more of the same, but we saw some paragliders, which we hadn’t seen on the way up.  We also saw La Palma in the distance, which we hadn’t seen earlier.  We stopped for a bit by the observatories, and gave her a bit of background about the TMT protests in Hawaii.  The forest was foggy again, and the forest started literally right where the fog did – it must be very consistent, and may also have a feedback loop (i.e., evaporation from the leaves adds to the fog, and the fog allows for enough moisture for the trees to survive).  We stopped near the bottom of fog at a lookout, and could see La Laguna/Santa Cruz and El Carreton/El Socorro (which had a big cinder cone right there).  Alicia mentioned that Tenerife has 314 cinder cones, give or take.  Along the side of the road we could see some succulents (like an Adenium, Echeveria or Sedeveria) growing out of the side of the cliffs, almost completely horizontal.

On the last part of the drive we started peppering her with questions regarding things we’d care about if/when we move here, which probably threw her for a loop.  She told us the hospital is good for everything, people don’t need to go to mainland for more serious items – check.  She also told us that they have their own rum, but also Venezuelan rum.  Justin asked about the Venezuelan rum, and whether it was available, but the exact question was lost in translation and Alicia didn’t catch the gist of it.  Miguel, our driver, knew exactly what was being asked: “No, he’s asking about the good rum.”  Check.  Alicia also told us it is only a 2-2.5 hour flight to Madrid/Barcelona, less than 100 Euros to fly to London, and all flights have discounts for Canary Islands residents.  Check.  We asked about the health of the palm trees, and she told us that the Canary Island Date Palms had not impacted by the palm weevil that was causing problems on mainland Europe.  Check.  The price of a flat near the ocean is about 150-200k Euros for 1000 square feet.  Check.  Finally, we asked about mosquitoes, and she said that there are hardly any on Tenerife, or anywhere on the Canary Islands for that matter.  Sold.

As we drove through downtown Alicia shows us that there is actually mass transit from La Laguna to Santa Cruz, which was surprising given the relatively small population.  We got back on the boat a little after 7, so it was already dinner time.  We changed and went straight to dinner.  Jose had convinced the bartender in The Grill to make Pisco Sours for us, which either he or Matias would grab.  To make things more efficient, we thought it best to just order them 2 at a time.  Crystal got Yellowtail sashimi and Justin got the pasta, and we both got Peking duck for our main.  People kept asking about Justin’s pisco sours, and next thing we knew other tables were ordering them as well. 

So we hatched a plan to convince the dining manager to just let Mattias have his own pisco.  It was also sensible in the sense that it seems weird that they don’t have the Peruvian bartender have the national spirit of Peru.  Also, it’s not as if there was no pisco at all, so why limit to just one bar?  After dinner we went up to see Helder at the Observation Bar.  We got some drinks and caught up on the trip log.  Whilst sitting there we saw another ferry come in, and it did a 180 on the spot, like a zero radius riding lawnmower – really impressive.  After a couple drinks we headed down to sleep, ready for another day in our soon-to-be new home.

Previous Day
Next Day