“How do you deal with racist white people?”

After waking up we got a donut, coffee, and soda on 7.  Compared to yesterday, today we had some company.  There were a couple big ships in port, including AIDA, which does Canary cruises all the time and seems to be one of the discount providers.  We were off the ship just before 9, and met Carmelo (our new driver for day) and Alicia.  There were a lot of people around us, coming off one of the other cruise ships, so it’s good we already knew what Alicia looked like and vice versa.

We took off the same direction (southwest) at first, but instead of heading up Mt Teide today, we went around it.  As we were heading out of town we passed by an Easter Sunday market.  Alicia told us there was a local farmer’s market every Sunday.  Our drive took us past La Laguna and then along the northern coast.  The very north(east) is Anaga, a giant protected area, and we could see that off to the right of the vehicle.  One we rounded the corner and were heading southwest along the north coast we could see Mt Teide clearly in the distance, as there were no clouds yet to block it.

We got off the highway around Puerto de la Cruz and La Orotava.  Our first stop was at the La Orotava Acclimatization Garden, the oldest botanic garden in the Canary Islands.  It was created in 1788, with the thought being that this would be the first stop for all of the plants from around the world collected by the Spanish explorers, and – once acclimatized – the plants would be moved to Madrid.  Plants don’t work like that, however, so nothing ever got moved to Madrid, and plants from around the world have been growing in this small town on Tenerife for over 200 years. 

This place had everything.  [Cue Stefon voice.]  There were succulents next to heliconias next to palm trees next to Brachychitons (flowering trees from Australia).  There were banyan trees from Lord Howe Island, which we’d been lucky enough to see on Lord Howe Island and even luckier to have at our former residence in Vista.  There was a sausage tree with a couple hanging sausages on it.  There was a giant Bunya Bunya tree, and thankfully no falling seeds.  There was a giant Castanospermum australe that was blooming, not quite as big as the one as the one at the McBryde Garden on Kauai, but close.  There was a row of different species of Royal Palms.  There was a Ficus sycomorus, with a lot of figs coming straight off the trunk and branches.  A Schotia brachypetala (large shrub/small tree from South Africa) was in bloom.  There were some absolutely massive trees such as Ceibas, Enterolobiums, Agathis, and more.  Crystal spotted a multi-trunked Howea belmoreana, which is exceedingly rare, since almost no palms ever “branch” – when they do, it’s usually because of some deformity or unusual event.

We probably had over 50% of the plants between our former garden in Vista and our current garden in Pahoa, but this climate was halfway in between and could grow seemingly everything.  Plus, this place had stuff hundreds of years old, and far older and bigger than anything we had in the ground.  When we got there Alicia was telling us some of the names, but within about 2 minutes she was listening to the names from Justin and getting some additional information from him.  We (or at least Justin) could have spent hours and hours here, but we had a lot else to see today.  On the way out, Justin asked Alicia if they needed any caretakers, because he’d be willing to move here and probably knew more of the plants than most folks.

From the garden we went around the main drag in Puerto de la Cruz, which had sort of a Santa Barbara/Santa Monica vibe to it.  Alicia told us that the main promenade continues for 7-8 kilometers, and she walks it all the time, almost every day.  There were lots of people out, and also a fair amount of pet dogs.  We had no idea whether there were more or less people than normal, on account of it being Easter Sunday.  We saw some stores with German names, and Alicia told us that there was a German tourist area, with people speaking only German.  She also mentioned there is a British area as well, but in the south part of the island.  We walked around for a bit near the water, and saw some pools along the shoreline that were designed by Cesar Manrique (famous Canarian artist) – they looked quite nice, blending in well with the natural lava rock.  We also stepped in for a minute to a small church that Alicia mentioned had the ceiling made from Canary Pines.  Alicia asked if we wanted to grab lunch, but we said we’d pass, since the ship had all the food we could eat, and we’d rather see as much of the island as possible.

Once we got even a block or two off of the main drag, things really quieted down.  There were a fair number of restaurants around, and the prices didn’t seem very high for the proximity to the water.  If we had a full day here it would have been nice to have a leisurely brunch near the water.  The neighborhood had some huge graffiti-like art on several of the buildings, and it was really well done.  We passed a realty place with fliers showing stuff for sale, and took a quick look at that – these weren’t too pricey either.  Alicia was surprised to see us looking at this, and we told her that’s why we’d been asking all of the pointed questions the evening before.  There was a square that Alicia brought us to that had a fountain in the middle of it, with a plant in the middle of the fountain – it was taro.

Our next stop was Cueva del Viento, a long lava tube near the town of Icod, not far from Puerto de la Cruz.  This was one of the other places that Alicia had specifically instructed us to purchase tickets for well in advance, and we’d gotten the 12:30 tickets like she requested we do.  We got there pretty much right at 12:30, and there was already a group of people in there waiting for the 12:30 tour to start.  We showed them our tickets and got checked in.  We were hopeful that Alicia could come with us (she’d actually never been herself), but the tour was maxed out and they didn’t have any extra slots.

The people working there all seemed to be German (or at least somewhere German-speaking), which was a bit surprising.  They started showing us some videos of different lava phenomena as background for the tour, and asked if anyone in the group knew anything about volcanology.  Justin raised his hand and indicated we had become at least amateur volcanologists based on what had transpired at our home in Leilani Estates last year.  The guide mentioned something about the lava river going across a street in Hawaii, and Justin replied that was just a few blocks from our home.  So the guide made Justin the assistant for the tour, asking him to help out with some explanations about pahoehoe and a’a.  We have to say, the background information and explanation was very thorough and accurate – very German.

After the background information we hopped into two vans and took a short drive to a spot close to the lava tube entry.  The drive seemed quite fast for the narrowness of the streets, but then we realized they do this drive multiple times a day, every day.  From where we parked we took a short hike uphill, one that was a little slippery.  Some of the guests weren’t having an easy time of it.  We passed by one covered area that went down into the tube, but wasn’t safe, but our guide told us to commit the location to memory, as we’d see it again in a bit from underneath.  We eventually got to an entrance.  Down in the tube, the tube was about 3 meters (10 feet) high from floor to ceiling. 

Even though the tubes are filled with pahoehoe for 99% of their duration, at the very end the lava slows down (and thus cools down), so the bottom surface was uneven A’a.  Looking around, our guide showed us things such as splashes on the side, intrusions from other parallel tubes, and more.  We saw roots from the plants above ground (about 2 meters, or 6 feet) that were at the top of the lava tube.  We saw portions of the roof that had collapsed (long ago) in giant chunks of rock.  At the very end we saw one location where a lava tube collapsed on top of another that was vertically below – this is the only known place in the world where this is evident.  With the discovery and exploration of the lower tube, there’s now over 17 kilometers of lava tubes mapped here.  It was a long tour, but it was very enjoyable.  When we got back to the office, they gave us a short talk about the various insects that survive in the lava tube, and their interesting adaptations because of the lack of light and any real food sources.

When we got back in the car with Alicia and Carmelo it was a bit after 3.  They asked us what time the ship was leaving, and were relieved to hear that we weren’t scheduled to leave the port until 23:00.  From the Cueva del Viento office we went into downtown Icod.  After telling Alicia in the morning that the multi-trunked Howea belmoreana was 1 in a million, we saw another, even more branched, palm tree, some sort of fan palm (perhaps a Livistona).  Alicia took us into a native plant garden that she used to work in.  There was an Arbutus that looked quite a bit like the strawberry tree that is somewhat common in California.  There was also some interesting lavender, and – not surprisingly – a ton of Canary Island Date Palms.

But we hadn’t come to Icod to see this native plant garden, we’d come to see the 600+ year old Dragon Tree, Drago Milenario.  It is over 20 meters high (almost 70 feet), and has a circumference about that same size.  Alicia informed us that the age of Dragon Trees is estimated based on the number of branches, since they branch about every 15 years.  We questioned this, since some branch very young, and others grow straight as an arrow for well more than 15 years before ever branching, but for an estimate we suppose this isn’t a bad guess.  Alicia mentioned she’s actually been inside the tree before, when she was touring with a person who was blind.  Apparently there is a small entry, and on the inside you can touch the interior.  We merely walked around the tree for a bit, then went into the gift shop, where we hoped to find something to keep as a memento from Tenerife, but nothing jumped out at us.

On the drive back towards Santa Cruz there was a bit more traffic, but nothing too bad.  We asked some more questions relative to our interest in Tenerife.  The most dangerous animal on the island are bees, which aren’t dangerous at all.  Proteas do grow there – they are mostly farmed for cut flowers.  The first negative thing we heard is that traffic is normally pretty bad, and that what we’d seen was minimal because it was Easter weekend.  As we got back into town Alicia spontaneously mentioned that we were very easy to work with.  We weren’t sure what to make of this, but it made us wonder what her usual clientele was like.  Just before getting to the ship Alicia showed us how the old dump had gotten turned into one of the largest palm tree nurseries in the world – we’ll have to check that out when we return.  We got back to the ship just before 6 and said our goodbyes, then went back on board.

We changed, then went up to visit with Matias at the Patio bar.  For the first time in a while it was sunny and warm on the deck.  We chatted for a long while with Bernard and Rita from Perth.  The conversation was going great until they mentioned that they were Tottenham supporters.  [Justin supports Tottenham's rivals, Arsenal].  As soon as the football talk started, Rita and Crystal started talking separately.  Rita talked mostly about her family.  Justin and Bernard discussed football and Australian rules football.  Whilst we were chatting, Earth & Ocean filled completely up, and we ended up having to wait for a table.  The 4 of us ate together.  It was a very nice dinner, but perhaps 1-2 drinks too many for the two of us. Crystal got burrata, Justin got rigatoni, and we both got bone-in short ribs.

Undeterred, we went up to the Observation Bar for one more.  There was a group of loud Americans that were probably 1-2 drinks too many as well, and they were talking about a number of things that they should not have been, really sort of shocking.  We straight out asked Helder “How do you deal with racist white people?”  He said his usual practice was to just smile and be polite, but get some subtle digs in here or there to let the people know – but not in a confrontational way – that he didn’t agree with what they were saying.  That’s probably the best way to handle it, and why he’s so good at his job.  They left shortly after we got there, so that was welcome.  Replacing them was a Ukranian dancer, one of the dancers for the shows put on by the cruise.  She actually does ballet on the cruise ship.  It must be extremely difficult to dance on a moving ship with a floor that is moving out from under your feet.  She mentioned that she has softer shoes for that, but that she’s still on her toes, however, and it isn’t easy.  We stayed for last call (around midnight), then went back to our room to crash.

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