The tandem gets pride of place this week. It is resting in an enclosed courtyard after a hard day's work.
Canary Island Hopping
December 6th to 12th 2006 Santa Cruz de Tenerife to San Sebastian de La Gomera
Tandem by Air
Bike and Gear
Navigation and the GPS
We were both feeling a bit sluggish after last night's splendid meal. But we couldn't miss the opportunity provided by the hotel's excellent buffet breakfast. Leaving took a while, we have been having problems using one of our credit cards and spent a while with hotel reception trying to sort it out.
Banks on the whole are a useless inefficient bunch who overcharge those who can't afford it for money lending. The only way we can be sure of having enough day to day cash to do these long trips is to have five different cards. Then at least with any luck and a following wind one will work.
On this occasion we failed but it is fiesta today here and again on the 8th so getting anything done is tricky. Apparently all the accountants, lawyers, bankers and the like skive off until next Monday, just as we would in the UK given the same opportunity. Here they are called 'bridging' days.
It was nice to be on the road again. The stoker says that the management has been unbearable cooped up in a big city. He says it was mainly because he could not see properly until he got his new glasses. Whatever, we are on the road again and there is probably some truth on both sides.
The upside of the fiesta is that traffic was much lighter than on a working day. Getting out of town is always difficult and on this occasion even harder than usual. The route involved a steep climb for almost two hours. Santa Cruz, to its credit, is installing a magnificent new tram system running at least 6km inland. At the moment the road works are causing traffic chaos. To their credit the motorists were very patient when we had to block the narrow roads going little more than walking pace.
It seems odd that we in Weymouth are not even planning to use our own railway line to the seafront nor improve the rail service from Dorchester. The great and very old fashioned burghers of the towns would rather spend £80m on a useless damaging road.
Having crossed the spine of Tenerife we descended into Bajamar in the early afternoon. We booked into a nice little hotel taking a room with a balcony and magnificent sea view. The Atlantic breakers were crashing in over the public marine swimming pools in front of the hotel. Some brave souls were still swimming as the foam spread across the pools.
After lunching on the balcony the plan was to have a short siesta. We are going native. And then to go for a ride around the headland. The first part of the plan worked but when we were ready to go it had started to rain. It was the first rain needing waterproofs we have seen in over four weeks. Those in a December UK should not feel sorry for us. It was rather like soft Irish rain, thin but effective at wetting us. But unlike any rain we have seen in Ireland it was still 25 degrees C.
So as the sky blackened and the mountain tops disappeared into the mist we put the tandem in the garage and returned to the comfort of the hotel. We were sorry not to explore this resort which looks very nice, but not too sorry.
Day 30 7th December Bajamar to La Orotava, Tenerife
The stoker's tea was delivered at 8am. It is possible to do this even outside the UK if you have a trangia and a balcony. In fact the UK's biggest and perhaps only contribution to hotel operation is the electric kettle in the rooms. And you have to ask yourself whether paying twice the continental price makes it worthwhile.
It was beyond the stoker's comprehension that people were already swimming in the marine pools below our balcony at this time of day. The management, who is a natural lark, was tempted to join them but the stoker's tea came first.
It is a great advantage at breakfast time if your hotel is aimed at Germans. They will have nothing to do with that continental rubbish and would tell you where to put a greasy UK fry up. So we benefited from a good start to the day.
We retraced up the hill to get round a barranco. These are dried up water courses which cut deep valleys down to the coast. Unless someone from the EC has funded a bridge most can only be crossed high up after a serious climb. The management at first had ideas of going into them to cut lots off the distance. He realised the error of his ways when navigating down a dead end road he came to a low wall and a vertical drop of about 10 metres. This was into a barranco. Even had he somehow managed to get the tandem down this there was an even bigger vertical rise on the other side. Very reluctantly he had to retrace and go up and around the top which is what the stoker said in the first place.
This part of Tenerife is a fairly heavily populated banana growing area. Bananas are grown on an industrial scale, some outside but most in huge tents. Scrumping did not seem possible which is a shame because the small canaries banana is delicious. Surprisingly we don't think it is available in the UK.
A carefully chosen rural route was nice in the morning sunshine. We also had good views of the coast. As usual though we had lots of climbing to do and these small roads were much steeper than we like. It is hard work steering the tandem in bottom gear so we try to use it only for short very steep bits. On these climbs we needed it for long stretches.
This was not helped by the stoker having a bad day. Every now and again this is bound to happen to one or other or both of us. Her back ached and she felt she had little strength in her legs. The management did the best he could to help but she persevered as usual.
La Orotava is said to be the most Spanish looking town in the island. It certainly has very traditional looking buildings in the old part of town. Houses have high wooden balconies and shady internal courtyards. We have seen many places like this in mainland Spain but nothing like it here.
There are some nice things about being a blow in for the night. You can choose to stay in that hotel which really takes your fancy. On a day trip up from the coast you have little alternative but to look enviously and go back to the concrete edifice. The other good thing as far as the management is concerned is that the tourist circuit has to be fitted into the very short time available.
The Hotel Rural is a complete contrast to anywhere else we have stayed on this tour. It is built of wood and stone around an open Spanish courtyard. The floors are made of what we think are planks of polished oak about 25cm wide. Our room has a very high wood panelled ceiling and the door is over three metres high. It has been well modernised to have all the facilities one expects. It has the feel of the inn near the start of Lord of the Rings where the Hobbits were indiscreet.
The management has reconciled himself to the fact that using the trangia here is out of the question. The stoker will however be very unhappy without her tea.
A happy stoker in a banana plantation. Much of this week we cycled through them.
Day 31 8th December La Orotava to Garachico, Tenerife
The breakfast room off the second level veranda set us up nicely for the day. The management pushed the tandem up the cobbled street in the sunshine while the stoker took pictures of the balcony.
The Orotava valley is high above Puerto de la Cruz and affords views over the town and sea. The blue sea contrasted with the green of the banana plantations and the white breakers visible almost 5km away. The visibility is superb here and it is deceptive when estimating distance.
Following the contours to the west we eventually came to decision time. At Los Realejos we could either take to the hills on winding mountain roads or go on the busier road along the coast. The choice was made doubly difficult because the road towards the coast was very steep downwards for as far as we could see. And there was no sign to confirm the management's view that it was the right way. He had of course in the comfort of home planned, with the aid of Google Earth, the mountain way and had this downloaded to the GPS.
Swayed by the stoker's view at the route conference we took to the seaside. She argued that it did not break the first rule of cycling. That rule is 'when lost never go down hill'. Her reasoning was that we were not lost. On this occasion she was right because down we went, brakes at their limit.
We joined the coast road. It is wide, fast and with a good hard shoulder. Fortunately we still had several kms of down and by the time we started climbing again the other traffic had reduced.
It was a nice ride with the sea on the right and high cliffs on the left. There were many short tunnels. We left our rear LED on permanently but we only count a tunnel as a tunnel when our automatic headlight turns itself on.
For most tunnels there was no alternative route. Then we came across one where there was that silly no cycling sign which looks as if you can. The management ignored it. At that moment we were overtaken by the local police car. As the officer of the law got out we thought we were in for it. We turned the bike around and he went on his way. We guess booking two foreign cyclists just before siesta is just too much trouble. Also the alternative route was not much trouble to us, being through the village the tunnel had bypassed. It had the look of a place that not only the road but the world had bypassed.
In contrast going into Garachico we had no choice but to go through a narrow tunnel 1km long. The large seaside village was busy with local holiday makers. It is a fiesta today for conception day. Which ever way you look at it theologians either don't understand the facts of life or can't count up to nine. We guess both but at least they could change it to get the date right.
The stoker went off looking for digs. The management whiled away the afternoon watching the world go by. It was strange here, there are some natural bathing pools in the rock but they had been closed. The access steps and rails had been removed which would have made them dangerous to use.
The stoker returned claiming that the only hotel with a room cost several times what we usually pay. It is policy to take what we can get be it a bed in a dorm or something like this. We wheeled the bike into the traditional but restored enclosed courtyard. The wealthy guests were enjoying their afternoon drinks around tables, some shady and some in the sun.
This part of Tenerife and this hotel are a million miles away from the holiday land this island is famous for. It is also a million miles away from the Canary people. The only Spanish we heard was the staff.
Suffice to say that everything we could need or want was here. The room was complete with Jacuzzi bath and two basins. The stoker was delighted at being able to blame the management for making a mess without risk of contradiction. We had British newspapers, the only concession to downmarket was to provide the Torygraph as well as the inevitable Times. But the ultimate luxury was the internet. Reception gave us a wireless laptop which could be used anywhere, that is beside the pool, in bed or wherever. It surprises us that more hotels don't do free internet access. It costs them little or nothing and is great goodwill.
We chose to take a candlelit dinner by the pool. We could have had it anywhere we liked in the hotel. The stoker had actually gone swimming in the pool but the management was just into being lazy.
Day 32 9th December Garachico to Los Gigantes, Tenerife
Breakfast was of course great and check out painless using the one credit card which has not yet let us down. Room numbers are not required. Staff are expected to know who you are. We suppose it has to be said that this hotel was not quite our cup of tea. We really like a bit of ethnic and this could have been in London or Paris. As travellers we find it best to treat everyone as we find them. But you can't help wondering how the charming South African couple, fellow guests in their 70's who saw us off, made their money and got it out.
Meanwhile back in the real world we were on the hill and it is a big one. Via innumerable zigzags we finally made it to a village. We were perched in an eagles nest high above Garachico. Just down there but well over an hour away and lots of sweat and toil we could see our hotel and every street laid out like Google Earth.
We were relieved to be away from the steep sea cliff but the rate of climb hardly eased. We caught a glimpse of Mount Teidi surrounded by cloud but we were soon to receive a lesson in practical meteorology. This section of Tenerife is green with vegetation and lovely to look at. Rain clouds drive in from the North East on the trade winds and when they hit the mountain shed their rain.
Having not had enough rain to put waterproofs on since we had been here we have been lulled into a false sense of security. By now we were about 800 metres up and the rain and mist swept in. From sunny Canaries we were transformed to Lake District mountain top in about five minutes. OK it was not really very cold but we have become acclimatised to working in 25 degrees.
We took refuge first under some pine trees and then in a solid brick bus shelter. Reluctantly, waterproofs on, we continued with the climb. The rain and mist came and went but like true British cyclists we hardly noticed. Fortunately the strong wind was on our backs at least most of the time.
As we reached the summit of our climb at about 1200 metres we were into the lee of the mountain. The sky cleared as we began our descent to the coast. Teide stood above framed by a rainbow and the road snaked away below us through still verdant green mountainside.
The descent was a great relief. We had climbed all day without a single section of downhill. It was however hard work. The strong wind that had helped us up now tried to blow us off the road as our speed increased. The sharp zig zags down required heavy and accurate braking and steering.
We had soon booked into an apartment near the port at Los Gigantes. Lots of rest was in order after four hard days on the road.
Days 33 and 34 10th and 11th December Los Gigantes, Tenerife
It is a strange place this. Coming from the mountainous centre of the island the carbuncle is almost invisible. The green of the mountains and the switchback road only give in to urbanisation at the last minute. The town is hidden below the 600 metre cliffs, allegedly only the second highest in the known universe.
The apartment block is pretty basic and rather tired but suits us fine. It is mainly occupied by Brits, the more discriminating nations taking the better and more expensive accommodation.
Before we could get on with being lazy chores needed doing. The tandem was carefully inspected and we planned the several crossings to various islands in the next five weeks. The stoker needed to be ready to pin down the boat operators and buy tickets in the right order. The two main shipping companies here are a bit like British Rail. They would operate fine if there were no passengers who only cause problems. Ideally we would like to know when a service will run and how long it will take to arrive. The web sites are worse than useless and published timetables contradictory. The stoker will only be convinced when she has paid for tickets in her hand.
The management's concerns are more mundane. Planning routes, fixing things and getting food are his jobs. Good supplies are hard to find in places like this. It is just too easy to rip off the package holiday makers with half rotten over priced rubbish.
We lost an adapter for one of our chargers. Why isn't a single charger made that would do all our electronics? The management liberated and recycled a plug from a dumped washing machine. Here, as in most of Europe, groups of houses share a stinking bin, into or near which they put anything they like. Scant regard is paid here to recycling and even less to not creating the rubbish in the first place. The management was therefore doing them a favour as well as us. Despite the moaners in the UK we would much rather have the Weymouth rubbish system and anyway all our craters are full.
Once jobs were done and we had fully explored the area around the port we set off on foot to undertake further exploration. The area between the cliffs and sea are pretty much fully urbanised. Most of it is lowish rise but there are several hotels that could benefit from the late great Fred Dibner. Crane city exists of course - it comes with the territory. They are chipping away at the cliffs to put in those apartments which go into the cliffs at about 30 degrees from the vertical. We had a wonderful view of Mount Teidi completely framed by cranes.
The funny thing is that there is not much left to come here for. The resort has two or three small beaches. It once had a few nice rock pools to swim in. That's it for the huge number of beds they have. We came to the conclusion that it resembled nothing so much as a beached cruise liner. Everything is in the hotels and the only reason to leave is to go on an expensive Saga type coach tour.
The management has been making plans to avoid Los Cristianos tomorrow. The stoker has made it clear to him that this is impossible. She has convinced him that by acclimatising him gradually by coming here first he may survive it with only minor damage to his already dubious sanity.
We are in the enclosed courtyard of this very nice and expensive hotel. The tandem is resting on a piece of modern art.
Day 35 12th December Los Gigantes, Tenerife to San Sebastian, La Gomera
It is nearly always good to be back on the road but after three days with the living dead it was great. To leave town and see the last of the idlers wandering aimlessly around with turned down mouths put a real spring in our legs.
Unfortunately the route is on quite a busy main road though for this neck of the woods quite flat. Drivers were generally very considerate even when we had no choice but to get in their way.
We approached the outskirts of the vast urbanisation that precedes the blot on the landscape which is Las Americas. As was to be expected building was going on apace. The military map, which is correct, could not keep up with the new road systems. The management, despite comments from the stoker, took to an unmade cami. This took us to the edge of golf world, vast tracks of land designed to spoil a good walk. Or to be more accurate spoil a good ride in an electric golf buggy.
Fortunately the golfers did not expect visitors at their back gate. We rode through the course on the excellent tracks laid down for the buggies. We took the workers' shouts to be of encouragement and exited past the club house through the front gate.
We were now into solid urbanisation. It was difficult to predict whether we would find the port at Los Cristianos before we lost the will to live. People have gnawed their limbs off with less provocation. Inane comments from the morbidly obese and those showing young muscle wasted legs in shorts did not help. The level of mediocrity here is appalling. At least in places like Benidorm it is so gauche that it is interesting. It would even be difficult to knock it down.
The stoker now achieved a miracle. Following careful planning she managed to book all bar one of our ferry trips. True to form Fred 'Manuel' Olsen only published their Christmas and New Year timetable a couple of days ago. Fortunately for our future accommodation bookings only minor changes were needed. We also managed to book a hotel for the next time we return to this cesspit. Apparently it is so popular with the confused foreigners that booking is essential.
The unbelievable thing was that we managed to achieve all this during the siesta and caught the 5.30pm boat to La Gomera. We found a nice place to stay in San Sebastian and now have a day in hand.
Tandem by Air
Bike and Gear
Navigation and the GPS
This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.
This site is created and maintained by Anne Neale and Ken Reed.