Another Adventure Abroad (part 3) – Andrea’s explorations

At the end of part 2 of my adventure recollection in my previous post I was saying goodbye to my walking group, because they were heading straight back to a miserably wet home while I was lucky enough to be staying on for another two and a half days in the blissful sun of Tenerife… and seeing a wealth of magnificent and varied scenery that my group had only touched on. I also planned to suss out some good walking routes should my group wish to come to Tenerife again. I anticipate that this post will contain quite a few pictures and perhaps not so many words – I can’t imagine immense detail about my convoluted but carefully-planned route around the island is of huge interest and, anyway, the landscape in the pictures speaks for itself.

Once I picked up my hire car, a nippy  Seat Ibiza, I headed quickly awP1070227ay from the arid southern coast
and large touristy coastal towns in search of more scenic vistas inland, and it was not long before I found some as I got to Arona; this picture is of Roque Imoque nearby. From there I took the road up towards Mt Teide, the volcanic peak dominating the island, stopping many times to take photos, explore side roads, and enjoy the views as my route climbed higher and higher; at one parking spot there was a fairly elderly guy wearing a huge sombrero standing there merrily strumming away on a guitar. Eventually I reached Teide National Park, marvelling at the bleak but dramatic landscape – lava flows blanketing the barren lands, bizarre rock formations, and jagged peaks, as well as the conical volcano itself; it soon turned out that there were many marked paths in and around the park, and it was a shame my group had not been on any of them. I was also astonished by the odours too, there was the scent of pine from the trees growing amongst the lavP1070258a, but also the burnt smell of the blackened land itself. I did not stay at the park for too long, because I intended to visit the next day, and I also hoped to get down to Los Gigantos to see its cliffs before the sun had set. As I headed down the west side of Teide I could see the island of La Gomera beyond the top of the Gigantos cliffs (see below), though by the time I got down to a viewpoint for the cliffs the sun had descended to the clouds above La Gomera and so I was alas just a bit too late.

I returned up the hill to my B&B in Tamaimo and checked in with the lady co-owner who did not speak much English. Later her husband advised me on local places to eat but, once changed into a smart dress, a quick drive along the main street highlighted that his recommendations for a lady to eat were fairly tatty-looking bars, and so I drove down to Los Gigantos. I ate in a lovely little place called The Fisherman’s Inn, on the terrace overlooking a small harbour – yes, I ate outside… in November!! The food was good, although the menu was a bit too geared away from local dishes towards standard European/British dishes – I chose as local as possible, having prawns in a garlic sauce and local fish with Canaries potatoes and salad; I enjoyed my meal… and I think I enjoyed being repeatedly addressed by the owner as “my dear”… though he did seem a bit of a gigolo.

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The next morning I once again awoke to beautiful sunshine and, after an average breakfast, left for a day of exploring. I started by touring an excellent loop covering the north west corner of the island along the TF-82 and TF-436 roads, which are hardly as hairy as some Tripadvisor comments make out (just anointed with numerous hairpins), descending first to the quaint old village of Masca, with outstanding cliff and mountain views along the way; I was able to see where a famous walk starts, noting it for my group. I then headed onwards, with amazing vistas P1070293of ravines and steep hills around every bend in the road, eventually ending up passing immense cliffs several hundred metres high to reach a lighthouse at the northwest tip of the island… which I didn’t stay at for long as it was thronged with visitors. I returned to Tamaimo via a different route, with some lovely coastal views, and then headed up to explore Teide National Park in depth. Mt Teide is the highest mountain in Spain, at over 12000 feet high (3700m for European readers), and is still an active volcano; it last erupted over a hundred years ago in 1909, but its devastating power is much in evidence in the surrounding landscape, with immense lava flows, layers of ash and cinders underfoot, and a generally barren landscape. As one explores the park, it becomes clear that the volcano at some point in the past was much taller and wider, as a long line of ridges and massifs extends north-south to the east of the peak which is a former crater-line. There are numerous pull-off points and car parks to explore the park, and many footpaths too. There is much to see, much more than a portion of one day can afford, with changing lighting throughout the day highlighting different areas of the park at its best for me like me who enjoys taking photos with care, but this was my first time to Tenerife and I wanted to see as much as possible until I am able to return. I did a couple of little P1070318walks, one around the Roques de Garcia (rock formations jutting out of the ground at the base of the volcano), and then drove on, eventually descending on the scenic TF-24 road, with splendid views down to the coast, at times on both sides of the island. As per the previous evening, I had an agenda to meet before the sun went down, which was to catch the cliffs of the Punta De Hidalgo on the northern coast, which this time I got to just in time (see below). I drove a short way back to my hotel at La Laguna, the second city of Tenerife – the city was beautiful, as an evening stroll after dinner proved, with many pedestrianised and cobbled roads lined with old buildings of much character, as well as a good assortment of stores. My hotel was mixed, however – the room was lovely and spacious, but the food in the evening was bland with a menu unrepresentative of the island.

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Sunday was my final day on the island and, again, I was lucky to have lovely, sunny weather. After a quick stroll around the city centre, buying an item of clothing for moi and a Christmas present for a friend, I headed quickly on to explore the north-east corner of the island, dominated by the Anaga massif and forest. Once again I witnessed stunning vistas of the coastline, ravines, and peaks as I drove mile after mile… but alas I did not have time to explore every part of the island that I would have liked. After a drive east along the southern coast as far as the road would go, I headed towards the airport, stopping along the way for a stop at a coastal village for a quick, windy walk at a beach and then a change of clothes from summery attire into jeans and top for travelling. I got to the airport at around 5.15 and, after a friendly chat to the guy at the hire-car desk, checked my bag in and then wandered around duty-free, reminded that as seems to increasingly be the case these days, the offerings in duty free are not the bargain that they used to be.

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At 11.30pm I was home, in a very chilly and rather wet Northern Ireland, having had a wonderful holiday in an island full of surprises. I think I will be returning to Tenerife, and other Canary islands, quite soon…

x

Another Adventure Abroad (part 2) – strap marks

At the end of part 1 of my adventure recollection I was just recovering from a problematic bottom in the middle of the night… which I suppose is not a good way to start a blog post! Luckily my medication acted swiftly and by the next morning, Wednesday, I was fine.

Wednesday was a free day with no group activity scheduled. Some people decided to laze by the hotel pool all day, some decided to swim in the sea pools, and some did a bit of shopping… but I was doing my practically shopping in the evenings when it was too dark to do anything else, I don’t swim, and I get bored lazing for more than about half an hour… but above all I am Andrea The Explorer and so I headed off out for a day by myself, catching a bus to journey an hour west to a lovely small town called P1070152Garachicho. This town was formally the principal port on Tenerife, but it was obliterated by a volcanic eruption in 1706 – I had read in a guide book that some remains do exist of buildings sticking out of the old lava flows, but they were obviously well hidden and not at all signposted. However, there were still plenty of lovely things to see – impressive coastal vistas beyond the lava rocks that the waves crashed over, a pleasant traditional old town centre with cobbled streets and lovely churches, and the old town gate. I spent much time on the coastal rocks patiently taking photos of the dramatic waves from various angles, pleased not to have people that I was holding up with my photographic hobby. After a walk in the town I headed west, along the main road for a while and later along quieter coast roads, past a natural sea arch, a sleepy sea side town, banana plantations, ending up at

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Having a whale of a time!

a whale skeleton! All the time the weather was splendid, it was November and yet the sun was bright and hot; I was glad to have applied my factor 50 and taken my sun hat. I walked up the town I had reached towards the bus stop but alas saw it already at a stop to the right of me about to set off, and so I hurtled along the road in the direction it was going and managed to reach the stop as it filled up with a party of hikers… but alas all that exertion has left me in a bit of a state with hair all over the place and I think I was read by a curious late-teenage girl sitting opposite me who stared at me several times; oh well, if that is what it was, I won’t see her ever again.

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Back in Puerto De La Cruz I had much time to spare and so I walked some of the back streets, finding some interesting buildings… as well as a menu with a rather unusual sounding dish on it, which I decided to give a miss. I went in many other shops, clothes, perfume, souvenir, and jewellery… though eventually only ended up buying some perfume, which I haggled for playing one shop off against another; I was happy to be addressed as Senora in many. Returning to the hotel in the dark I met several of my walking group who were surprised that I was only just returning from my day out; they waited for me to hurriedly change and then we headed off in smaller groups to a restaurant overlooking the sea. I was on a table of six with five other women and we had a fun time, with lots of enjoyable conversation, as well as quite a bit of joking around with our amusing waiter… who called me ‘honey’ and told the others to shut up when I was ordering my meal! I asked him about a cocktail, and when he joked in response he playfully patted my arm. We left about 10.00 and went to bed.

Thursday was the final full day of the group’s holiday, and the walking activity ended on a high with a splendid trek of about six miles along the coast. The first thing of note was as I was applying my makeup after my shower… because I noticed that the sun had caught my skin a little and, for the first time in my life, I had strap marks!!! Yes, I had been wearing a dress with thin straps and took my cardigan off during the afternoon in the increasing heat… and despite the sun cream it was not enough to avoid a little bit of sunburn… though a sunburn I will remember for some time! We caught a local bus west for about half an hour and walked back to our hotel with our guide who told us some interesting facts about some historic houses, ruins below the cliffs, as well as the plant life. I spent P1070185much of the walk with Barry again, as he patiently waited for me photo-taking and sharing tales and tips for assorted holiday destinations. Back at the city we had a late lunch at a restaurant famous for serving a good paella, and it was indeed pretty good, with a wide variety of seafood and rice of a lovely creamy consistency, washed down with a nice cool beer. I departed before some of the others but with another woman and, after chatting with her walking back to the hotel, I went for a peaceful walk to the beach as the sun went down behind me and then started to pack my bags. For our group’s final evening out we went to a good tapas restaurant a short walk away; a lady I chatted to quite a bit said “you’re like me, you like to put on a nice dress and feel feminine”; yep… though for much of my life I never thought I would be able to, how thing’s change.

Friday morning we said goodbyes to the holiday organiser, and I also said goodbye to Barry who gave me a hug. On the journey back to the airport I chatted for a while to our group leader, and we all had a few tales of our adventures – we arrived at about midday in Departures… and at that point I said farewell to my group because my adventures were most certainly not at an end, for there was much of the island still to be discovered… and so much that I feel the group missed, as I will recount in my next post.

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Another Adventure Abroad… but a first too (part 1)

Since my marriage ended I have indulged in quite an amount of travel, for it is one of my primary interests, along with photography which to an extent goes hand in hand with the travelling… so now that I am living full-time as my true female self that has to continue… and for those few people who haven’t yet accepted me I can only point to this attitude and say that just because I look different, and am living in a different gender, many of my big interests remain.

Up until the end of October I have only ever spent a maximum of about 10 hours on one of my walking group Meetup events; this was a day to the Giant’s Causeway, which I wrote about some months ago in my blog… and so to embark on a five-night walking holiday abroad with 18 other members of my group was a first for me, spending nights away and evenings out with them as well as several full-day walks; before I left home I did wonder a bit whether my voice would hold out, or whether I would fit in with them… though of course, as usual, my worries were unfounded.

Two nights before I left for this holiday I had a bit of a worry in that, at 3.30 in the morning, my car alarm went off… for no apparent reason. Hoping that it was a one-off I went to bed the following night only to be woken up once again in the middle of the night, and so once I arrived at Dublin airport on Sunday November 1st I reluctantly locked the car with the alarm switched off; on the journey I did have not one but two little moths fly out of my air conditioning, which I swatted, hoping that they were the cause of the alarm issue.

I killed two hours at the airport battling through security, buying food and trying perfumes, then walked to the gate… where I bumped into a number of my happy group, 18 girls and one somewhat ageing guy! Three hours later we landed in Tenerife!!! It was lovely and warm as we stepped off the plane compared to a chilly start at home… but it soon became clear that the holiday was not organised that well, as the guy who was supposed to be looking after us was flying in from Gatwick after a rugby-jolly (rather than already being on the island to greet us) and was delayed by fog, and we ended up standing around for about an hour until he turned up. On our journey to the northern, more lush, side of the island it started to shower with rain and I wondered whether the weather was going to be good.

Checking into the hotel at Puerto De La Cruz revealed the second organisational issue… there was no room reserved for me! This appeared to be because I had booked my own flights (for reasons that will become clear in another post), and so even though I had paid for the hotel stay a room was not assigned to me; however, as the hotel was not full I did thankfully get a room… though characteristically I soon found it not to be to my satisfaction and so changed it for another, quieter one. Dumping bags in the room I changed out of walking boots (which I had travelled in as they were my heaviest footwear) into black summer pumps and rushed down to an agreeable enough buffet dinner, with some nice chat and a glass of wine while we were briefed about the forthcoming days on Tenerife.

I had a pretty good night of sleep and woke on the Monday… to grey skies!!! Aggghhhh!! What happened to the renowned Canaries weather??? I showered, put my make-up on, and peering out the window as I dressed revealed a lovely blue sky and a sunny morning; that’s better! Breakfast was a huge spread of pretty much everything one might think of, a good set-up for the day, and after popping back up to the room to finish packing bag, I walked to the bus for our first organised walk, a well known local walk in the Anaga forest towards the coast with a local guide called Xavier, a rather nice, gentle-natured young man. The bus journey took about an hour, after a while passing impressive coastal views, for a short while on either side of the bus as we travelled along a ridge. At a stopping point we hurriedly exited the bus, adjusted walking poles, I donned my sunhat, and off we went, ascending several hundred metres with excellent views… although our progress was hampered by a lady who alas did not feel well, and after a while we rested for some time until she felt better. Then our long descent began… alas through much forest with no views at all for at least two hours; I soon ended up getting on well with the rear-guard of the group, a guy called Barry who travelled much in his early retirement, partly because I stopped for the occasional photo but also because I had a couple of loo-stops crouching in secluded parts of the path when he walked slowly on waiting for me to catch up. Eventually we all emerged from the forest… and soon were delicately walking down the path towards the coast which had been overcome by a stream of rain water from previous days water-logging the way forward. Eventually we reached a pretty old village called Taganana  where we had a rather later afternoon snack at a local restaurant… with rather basic toilet facilities where, for some reason, the inner door to the ladies toilet had a hole like a cat-flap! We returned to our hotel with a couple of hours available for getting ready… and shopping! It soon turned out that our city was full of cheap perfume and electrical shops… as well as numerous tacky souvenir shops (to be expected) and clothes shops selling attire exclusively suitable for one’s mother! Our enjoyable evening out was to a local restaurant where I had a very tasty fish dish, seated at a table with five other women.

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The next day was our second walk… which was a total waste of time, it was a circular forest trek above the city with NO views of any scenery at all!!! It could have been anywhere! Even worse, although the coast was lovely and warm, and sun could be seen in the distant heights of the islands volcanic peak Mt Teide, in the middle a layer of cloud had settled and it was pretty bloomin’ cold as we walked… though I was determined not to don my raincoat!!! We ended up at a forest café where I indulged in a piece of scrumptious apple tart for a ridiculously low price along with tea to warm up. The afternoon saw a moderately interesting visit to a local winery of some considerable size – I say “moderately” because, firstly, it was rather an automated and mechanised place, secondly at the end the wine on offer for tasting was pretty ropey (although we had a nice relaxing sit out on their terrace with views of Mt Teide in one direction and the coast in another), and thirdly, and worst, was towards the end of the tour it descended to the basement where a rather nauseating selling theme became evident… “wine and sex”, which I am not going to elaborate on, I just don’t want to remember it in any detail.

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In the evening, after going another shopping jaunt during which I bought my first perfume while away, we went to a restaurant near the hotel where I had a reasonable fish dish, a tasty-enough dessert served very cheaply in a plastic cup, and my first ever mohito at the end! Alas during the night I suffered a severe diarrhoea attack at around 4.00am (which I was able to resolve with medication), though it turned out that I was not the only casualty and in fact one lady was bed-bound with vomiting for three days!!!

After that rather disastrous day, the holiday righted itself again… as I will detail in another couple of posts.

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