12:50UTC 23/08/07 28'02.0N 016'48.2W
We're just leaving it.
Tenerife, at least the South and East coasts that we have seen, has clearly been a near desert of scrub and brutal volcanic landscapes for thousands of years. Now, however, much has changed, and it is a near desert of apartment blocks, strip malls and brutal resort landscapes.
I am aware that, perhaps, some of those reading may have a property in Tenerife. If so, I am sure that it is a lovely place in a quaint and unspoilt part of the island and not at all like I am about to describe. Here, in Tenerifes 'Golf del Sur' (Southern Gulf, but probably Golf) the coastline is wall to wall multistorey apartment blocks, apparently owned and occupied by wall to wall brits frequenting the local Irish Bar (all the Sky Sports and Magners cider your euros can buy) shopping at El Supermarket (run by expat brits and charging 4 euros for a box of Weetabix) and eating at the 'Queen Mary 2' and 'Mexicana Cantina' whilst being entertained (a generous term) by the local crooner who last night was murdering some Credence Clearwater Revival and Elton John tunes. Around the resort are four or five golf courses, where, for 75 euros, you can play 18 holes of golf on the only grass on this end of the island. Lord knows what your wife and kids are meant to do but if you spend every weekend in England leaving them at home whilst you play golf, this gives you the chance to do that every day of the week!
It is hard to describe the way this bit of the coast feels and behaves, except that it is perhaps like a perpetual Saturday night out in any provincial British town, but with more sunshine and bikinis instead of halter tops. Equally flattering.
In the best tradition of Spanish resorts, the marina is still being built, apparently by one man with a digger and dump truck, who spends one day jack hammering away at the underwater rocks, and another scooping them up and depositing them elsewhere. Max thinks this action is great, but for the rest of us, 9am-6pm construction work was a little wearing. Actually, the marina staff were great, it's very sheltered and the facilities aren't bad, but it's far from the best place we've seen.
The black volcanic sand beach wasn't bad, though the breakers were rolling in so the kids didn't go swimming but did jump up and down in the waves with much screaming of delight. Thankfully, 5 year olds rejoice in just being on a beach, not caring much about the surroundings, so we built a black sandcastle and played happily for an afternoon.
Yesterday we walked up to a bus stop and rode into Santa Cruz, the island capital. It's a 30 mile journey almost the full length of the island along 'TF-1', the main motorway, and almost the entire route is apartment blocks on the seaward side and scrub farmland to landward. Clearly, this area has been heavily farmed for hundreds of years, with stone terracing and sheltering walls everywhere, but in the last 40 years tourism has taken over, and the landscape is a sad indictment of the damage that can be done by men with bulldozers and no planning restrictions. The nature of the land is such that it does not recover and bears the scars until the next flash flood carves great valleys in the soft rock and mudstone, between the old basalt lava flows.
Santa Cruz is the urban version of the rest of the island, although it clearly has some old buildings from early Spanish colonial times and occasionally you turn into a little side street and are caught by lovely old facades with balconies and painted stucco walls. Sadly few and far between, and I think we saw more such beauty in little Santa Cruz de La Palma than in all of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. However, if Gucci, Dolce and Gabbana and Tag Heuer are names that set you salivating, this city is probably for you.
We did have a lovely time in the Botanical Gardens, really just a nice big park on the edge of the old town.
It has beautiful landscaped sections with sculpture, fountains, playgrounds and a very cool feel sheltered by all the trees. The kids loved the playground and we met a charming elderly Tenerifan gentleman who just wanted to sit next to us, chat and improve his english. He'd lived in London for 15 months when younger and enjoyed chatting to us. Another lesson for me here, not to be too cynical - when he first asked if he could sit next to us, despite 10 empty benches around, I whispered to Gesa "wonder what he's trying to sell?", and maybe that's understandable as at lunch we had three or four visits from the beggars trying to palm off dreadful little toys for a euro. But not in this case and once again, a reminder to me that, whilst still keeping one hand on our wallet and camera, we should also open up to people and enjoy the chance to meet and chat for no purpose other than to pass the time and expand our horizons.
Asking around the marina, and talking to the local sea school, it's clear that the coast of Tenerife is much more interested in those that want to sit on its beaches and play on its golf courses than the less euro laden types who want to use its harbours and anchor in its bays. Few of the other marinas would be welcoming and none of the bays are recommended for anything more than a lunch stop at anchor, as the holding and shelter are not reliable.
So we've decided to leave Tenerife and head for La Gomera, which has a much better reputation among the local sailors and hopefully find for the family some of the wonderful feel and experience that we had in La Palma. There are also supposed to be a couple of little quiet bays where we can lie to anchor for a few nights, which will be a nice change (and cheaper too!) Right now we have almost no wind in the lee of Tenerife but are just a couple of hours away from San Sebastian.
Tenerife just didn't float our boat - probably just as we expected - so we look forward to a change of island.
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Labels: Cruising Canaries