Birthdays and First Meetings!

June 1 was a very special day at the Wotherspoon household. Mum (Nina) turned 85 years young. Little did she know that her birthday was not to be merely a dinner prepared by Joanne, but a visit from almost the whole clan!

Joanne and Mark came over to Mum’s for her birthday in the early afternoon. First Audrey and Michael arrived, which was a surprise to Mum. John, Robin, J and Alistair quickly followed. Very quickly, the house was full again. And the biggest surprise of all, Patrick, Andrea and baby Jade arrived. It was a lengthy journey in traffic especially due to a misguided google configuration faux pas. But they finally showed up for the surprise at about 7pm. They had traveled from Ottawa to our place on the previous evening and we managed to sneak in some foot print painting. Saturday morning they visited briefly with Kyle before he headed to work – unfortunately he was unable to make the trip to Hamilton that day. The normally 3 1/2 hour journey to Hamilton took them 6+ hours – a rough ride with a newborn!

But it was well worth the journey. Mum was thrilled to finally meet Jade Stella and to get to hold her. We all had a wonderful time and Jade made the rounds. Her first time meeting the Wotherspoon clan – with lots of passing the baby. J and Alistair even bravely took turns holding her. Alistair’s first time ever so close to a newborn.

A great time was had by all and hopefully we left Mum with some great memories!

Canary Islands – Day 20 – Tenerife South

Thursday Feb 28 – and we are on our way out. Our flight home leaves at 6 am on Mar 1 – so for our last night we are staying at a hotel right near the southern airport where we have prearranged to drop the car off and fly from.

We left Las Aguas in good time after a thorough pack readying for the trip home. The highway from north to south was in good condition, and much less serpentine than the back roads – but as we went south the traffic got denser and denser. By the time we were close, we pulled out of ‘traffic jam central’ to finally try out the local McDonald’s.

Suz likes to sample the McD to see the variations in different places – and the menu here didn’t disappoint! I had a Goat Cheese Burger, Mike had a smoked BBQ with bacon and we also had wedges with mojo and garlic sauce, and beer. We all enjoyed our meals – but not cheap at 23 Euro for Mike & I ($36 Cdn).

Then to SuperDino to pick up our duty free where we got a 1 Litre Dambuie for 23 Euro ($36). We never did manage to find the Aloe Vera intense sports gel nor the flavoured salts which we had passed over in Fuertaventura. And I’ve had no luck finding anything ‘Canary Island special’ for the baby – not to worry, I’m certain she’ll be spoiled enough!

Our final night was at an older resort. It was a very functional space and had all you needed in a tiny kitchen. No surprise the wifi was pretty sketchy. It was too cold to enjoy the pool, but we chillaxed on our balcony and found a cheap ‘Tapas ‘n Chill’ for an early dinner during happy hour. The four of us shared 6 tapas for 23 Euro and a last pitcher of sangria for 13 Euro – so cheaper than our McD’s splurge!

Then back for one last game of Wizard and an early bed for a 3 am rise. Our flight took off as scheduled with no delays this time. We tipped our hands to Gary/Cynthia/Adrian & Janet as we flew past Morocco. Then back to Madrid and off to Toronto all on schedule.

And so it ends – another great adventure with Dan & Suz is in the books (or on the blog).

For your final viewing pleasure, here is a chance to see behind the camera – what you don’t get to see in Michael’s photos – pictures of Michael! The lesser skill of this photographer is hopefully made up for by the unique content!

Canary Islands – Day 19 Part 2 – Tenerife

After reconnecting with Dan & Suz, we were off to Los Gigantos which required yet another hairy drive down to the town. This was a very steep town – but a ritzier tourist area. The view of Los Gigantos dropping straight into the ocean was very impressive – they are up to 800 metres of sheer cliff.

As it was getting later, we skipped Masca and headed for the 1000 year old Drago tree. It was tricky to get there and wow – the entire village of Icod de Los Vinos has been built around this tourist attraction! This was the first opportunistic place we have been – we were rather aggressively urged to try out wine tastings and restaurants as well as probed to enter the chintzy tourist shops. And it was the first time we were to pay to see a tourist attraction! To enter the area where the tree is costs 5 Euro each. But we found that the view from the church square was the real photo op and skipped the entry fee!

The church was beautiful and unique – but with NO photos allowed. Inside were great grey arches with another carved wood ceiling. The ornate hanging back balcony was crafted of stone. Again the statues were life-size and dressed in costume – one at least had real human hair. The front altar was extravagantly designed in gold with a central panel in silver. And again as is common in Canary Island churches, there were pews down the central aisle facing into the aisle.

One more stop for the day to make – for Michael to capture the golden hour with a shot of Las Aguas from the nearby cliffs. This time we managed to find a small dirt road that ran alongside banana fields and at the end was a good viewing area if you made a small rock scramble…. so long as you aren’t nervous of heights ;-)!

Then back for our last dinner in Las Aguas – to the Las Aguas Restaurant this time. This one specialized in seafood – so we shared a 3 person paella (seafood and chorizo), more grilled octopus, salad, and croquettes along with white wine all around. As we still had food at home to finish off, back to our place for dessert and cards. We managed to finish off the almond cake, baklava, ice cream bars and cookies! Diet time is just around the corner now….

Canary Islands – Day 19 Part 1 – Tenerife

With time winding down, we tried to get in one last great hike, as well as several sites around the north end of the island. Off to the Canaria Pine Forest first!

Alas, it seems a popular spot! The section of the road which holds the hike we wanted to do was being used for filming. They shut the road, then between shoots opened it to allow traffic to flow through – but with no stopping permitted. As the filming was to continue for another hour or so, we were forced to find an alternate hike that crossed the highway with available parking. We ended up taking trail route 9 to route 38 to Cueves Negra. Another happy happenchance – a wonderful diversion again! We hiked right over the lava flow of Mt. Vico and one of the side vents we had seen from Los Roques de Garcia.

Dan spied the caves while checking out different photo angles – they are not well marked nor easily visible. Again, many incredible rock formations with pumous, lava ‘dust’, hollow tubes, and columns – looking like they were formed yesterday. Rather than loop back to the car, Mike & I continued on the trail which hooked up with route 13 – our original target. Dan & Suz kindly returned to get the car and meet us at the original starting parking lot. They ended up finding even more interesting caves given the different perspective.

Canary Islands – Day 18 – Tenerife

February 26 was a quieter day with a slower start. Before the rest of us got going, Michael took his standard early walk into the local neighbourhood on his photo quest. We headed to check out Puerto de la Cruz, which was surprisingly touristy. But it was good to see the more commonly experienced Tenerife vibe. Many more kitschy souvenir options – I even bought a couple.

Here we finally acquired our first paella at a lovely outdoor gardens hidden behind a nondescript wall. We also had starters of the now addicted to grilled octopus (amazing again!) and shrimp with garlic. We had yet another sangria – again with their local variations. This bartender used citrus and banana as the fruits and several liqueurs giving yet another unique and lovely twist.

On the way back we stopped by the village next door to our BnB to check out the photo ops looking back into our little village of Las Aguas with it’s amazing bay full of giant waves. But not much luck on finding a vantage point. We did however find a peaceful little cemetery with well kept grounds. So a coffee later we headed home where we had some very successful “Dangria”, did some photo editing and enjoyed some euchre.

Tomorrow will see us off on our last hike here – so need to get a good sleep!

Canary Islands – Day 17 Part 2 – Tenerife

And we weren’t done yet! We thought we were just going to head home, but we were wrong. For the route home we decided to take the other direction, the west route, and we were lucky that we did!

This route took us past Los Roques de Garcia. Not sure how we missed these in our research! These giant rocks are the remains after erosion showing the core lava chambers. From here you also get a panorama of Mt. Pico with clear views of its side vents and lava flows. You also find the dry ‘lake bottom’ where all the eroded sediment has accumulated – yet another unexpected find in this environment.

As we continued the drive back home, we entered another unique environment. Pine trees growing right out of lava rocks with no other vegetation – so weird to see giant pine trees amongst desolate sterile black rock. We decided we need to return here for another hike!

Then back home for our market dinner. Sliced tomato salad (our efforts to speed ripen the avocados failed) with shredded cheese; pan fried (no bbq here unfortunately) chorizo and white pork sausages; pork tenderloin; and our first, and successful, attempt at papas arrugadas. Topped off with an assortment of desserts from 2 amazing bakers. And of course, wine all around. Even cooking at home means gaining weight!!!

Canary Islands – Day 17 Part 1 – Tenerife

It’s now Feb 25 and our first ‘pre-committed’ day. Dan booked us for a guided trek to the peak of Teide – the third largest volcano on the planet. Teide is only 8% above ground – 92% is below sea level – although it’s peak is only 3,700 m (12,200 ft), it is taller than Mt. Everest when measured from the base. It was an amazing day! In the end, we had over prepared for the cold. It was sunny and even at full altitude we barely needed our hat and could have avoided gloves totally. It was perhaps 10C with full sun and no wind – so actually quite pleasant.

Our guide Jonathan was a glacial geomorphologist and very passionate and knowledgeable about Teide. In addition to all the info shared on the tour, afterwards Suz the geologist, me the wanna be geographer, and Jonathan, had a long geeky chat. He would love to visit Mt. St. Helen’s s it is a ‘living’ small scale Teide in it’s behaviour. When MSH erupted in 1980 it provided great insight into the formation of Teide. The current physical characteristics of Teide are almost identical to those of post eruption MSH – although Teide is 10 times the size! They learned that the eruption starts with a massive collapse of the cone (slide to one side), then the release of magma in a huge explosion, followed by the flow and fallout. All of this happens in a couple of minutes. Teide would have put up an ash cloud covering the entire planet and changing the climate for years.

I had no previous knowledge of the uniqueness of these volcanic island formations. The deep oceanic trench is just one part of their source. The collision of the European and African plates is another piece – but there is even more going on than those two factors can explain. It is much more complex than the Hawaiian islands or New Zealand, or Icelandic volcanoes. They still have much to learn.

The different colours of rocks and lava flows were a surprise to me. Apparently the longer the gasses sit in the magma, the more variety of rocks are created beyond basalt. You get the yellow rocks from sulphur, orange from iron, and much more – check out the photos.

As for the actual trek…. We started by taking the cable car most of the way up – to hike the whole thing requires overnight, and sorry but we are not up to carrying our gear to do that! You arrive about 200 vertical meters shy of the peak. I could feel the sudden change in altitude immediately – I’m clearly not as fit as in my Kilimanjaro days! Walking flat was fine, but every steep slope found my heart pounding and eventually my head. But I survived quite well in the end. And I still can’t get over the cyclists around here who climb the endless hills and freewheel down- even on the route up to Teide at altitude!

Climate change is having an impact here too it seems. We were lucky to see the Teide violet in bloom on the mountain (no photo sorry to say) – which used to bloom in June, but now in February!

And this was just the Teide trek part of the day… no more to be said – just check out the photos!

Canary Islands – Day 16 – Tenerife

Finally a beach day! But we started with a visit to the weekend market at Mercado Agricultora de las Guardas. The best market by far, so special thanks to Jorge for the recommendation!

We picked up pork & sausages, cheeses, produce and desserts for the makings of a wonderful dinner. Also several souvenirs including soaps. Suzanne was very tempted by the hand made ukuleles. Given the cost, they required a true commitment to learning, and in the end she held back. But not before we were provided with a beautiful serenade by the craftsman.

And then to the sand! We headed to Playa de Las Teresitas which is north east of Santa Cruz de Tenerife. This was the first ‘tourist enabled’ beach we have planted ourselves on. For 10 Euro each we have a chair & umbrella and beach service with a 10 Euro credit for food/drink. So a couple of caipirinhas, agua con gas and burgers later we had more than exhausted the credit! Alas, camera free, so no photos.

In the end, we decided to keep the market goods for dinner tomorrow and settled for salad and some other leftovers at home. So some cards and to bed – an early start tomorrow for our big adventure up Tiede – and we are all keen, but just don’t know what to wear…. -2C???!!!