Heading South – First stop – St. Lucia

After floating around Martinique for over two months we finally hoisted the sails for new shores and headed south to St. Lucia, just a short hop away. St. Lucia is a lush, mountainous island and best of all, English speaking, yeah!!!! It was such a relief to be able to speak to the locals after months of pointing, gesturing and mangling foreign languages.

We dropped anchor in Rodney Bay; an expansive bay on the western side of St. Lucia’s northern tip.

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Rodney Bay seen from Fort Rodney

I can see why this bay and the associated marina has become the final destination for the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers (ARC); it is huge, there is more than enough room for the 200 plus yachts that participate in the rally each year. The Rodney Bay Marina is set in a sheltered lagoon and has a vibrant atmosphere with its variety of shops, restaurants and cafes.

We chose to anchor close to Pigeon Island; a small island on the northern side of the bay, which is linked to the mainland by an artificial causeway. Pigeon Island was once the stronghold of the British navy in the area and its rich history has made it one of St. Lucia’s most significant cultural landmarks. It is now managed as a park by the St. Lucia National Trust and is well worth the visit at 6US$ a person. It is an easy climb to both of the peaks and the views are spectacular.

The snorkeling around Pigeon Island was not the greatest, but it did provide a sheltered spot to get into the water and cool off without the risk of being run over by a jet ski.

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Pigeon Island dinghy dock

One of the drawbacks of being anchored close to Pigeon Island means you are also close to Sandals, a luxury hotel, which regurgitate a steady flow of jet ski’s into the bay during the day. At night their party music reverberate across the bay, competing with the party music coming from Gros Islet, the small fishing village north of the marina. This reaches a peak on Friday nights with the popular jump-up parties where the streets are closed and people party till the early hours of the morning, partaking in a plethora of local cuisine and off course, homemade spiced rum.

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We were greeted with this beautiful sunrise on the morning we left Rodney Bay.

 

From Rodney Bay we moved south to Soufrière Bay and the towering twin Pitons, Gros and Petit Piton.

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These spectacular volcanic cones have become iconic features of the St. Lucia landscape. The coastal area around the Pitons is a marine park and no anchoring is allowed, so we had to take a mooring ball at 20US$ a night. This limited our options, as we found the nicer spots to be occupied already and many of the mooring balls did not have pick up lines. We were also met, as warned, by over eager vendors who want to help us attach to the mooring ball, whether you want to or not, for a price off course.

DSCN1119 Their ultimate goal is for you to go with them on a tour of the immediate area, the guy that “helped” us stated he would take us on a three hour tour for 250EC$. When we declined he got a bit upset and said he always gets something. So he was not happy leaving only with the 10EC$ we gave him for grabbing the pick up line. We don’t like this type of pushiness but understand that they have limited options for making a living and depend heavily on the trade they get from the passing yachts. At the moment our budget does not allow for a 100US$ tour especially with someone who did not inspire us with confidence in his tour guiding capabilities. We also had a steady stream of kids coming past the boat asking if we had something to share with them; I actually thought that was a nice way of begging. They all shared the same kayak, each getting a turn to make the rounds. They were a bit annoying but all were polite, did not board the boat and moved on when told that we had nothing to share. They especially wanted coke and cookies, two things we never have on the boat, it was clear that they did not believe us, so I assume that they are quite successful in acquiring coke and cookies on a regular basis from the passing yachts. The problem is that there are so many of them, if you give something to one, you have to give to the others, its not like they don’t talk to each other, they all share the same kayak after all. The town of Soufrière is a bit rundown and not very inviting, but the bay with its beautiful surroundings and excellent snorkeling made for a great stay.

After two fun days of snorkeling we left Soufrière for Vieux Fort at the foot of the island to clear out. Vieux Fort is a bit of a seedy town, definitely not a touristy place and seldom visited by yachts. On our first night there the wind was howling and it was really unpleasant, made even more unpleasant when a French yacht, the only other yacht in the anchorage, dragged into us during the night. We had to shout to wake them up, but they made quick work of  disentangling themselves from us. Afterwards they just pushed off into the night, heaven knows where they went at that time.

The only touristy thing we did in Vieux Fort was to walk up to Moule à Chique lighthouse on St Lucia’s most southerly point.

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The small lighthouse was apparently intended for Saint Lucia Cape in South Africa, but was brought to the Caribbean by mistake and ended up staying. Vieux Fort is not really the type of place to linger and we were soon off to Bequia.

 

 

 

 

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Cruising Martinique – Part 2

From Grande Anse d’Arlet we set our sails for Anse Mitan on the southern shores of Baie des Flamands directly across from Fort de France, Martinique’s capitol city. Here we anchored adjacent to the peninsula head, Pointe du Bout. Anse Mitan and the Pointe du Bout area, as well as its neighbor to the east, Trois Ilets are popular tourist areas and provide attractive anchorages. These areas are conveniently connected to Fort de France by ferry services that run daily.

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Anchorage at Anse Mitan

We spent a couple of days visiting the city, finding our way around using the local mini-bus taxis that leave from Pointe Simon close to the ferry dock. We found them affordable and reliable and the drivers were very helpful, making sure we got off at the right stops. Thank goodness for that,  as we have ample proof by now of our limited grasp of the French language. A miscommunication between Ferdie and a ferry attendant resulted in us finding ourselves on the wrong ferry back to Pointe du Bout one afternoon. Instead of heading for Pointe du Bout we ended up in Trois Ilets, resulting in a hot and bothered 5km walk back to the anchorage laden with heavy shopping bags. Fort de France is a lively modern city with much to offer, our visits however were more focused on getting much needed shopping done and less on sightseeing. At the anchorage itself we did some snorkeling around Pointe du Bout and strolled through all the touristy shops that litter the little peninsula. The novelty of this soon wore off and we moved on to St. Pierre, our final anchorage in our meanderings up the west coast of Martinique.

St. Pierre lies amongst lush surroundings in the shadow of the volcano Mt. Pelée.

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Approaching St. Pierre with Mount Pelée in the background.

It was once the commercial, social and cultural heart of Martinique with a thriving port from where rum, sugar, cocoa and spices were shipped to France. At the time its somewhat 30,000 residents led a life of privilege and wealth.

This however came to an abrupt end on the fateful morning of Ascension Day, 8 May 1902, when the side of the volcano facing St. Pierre split open, releasing a fireball of superheated gas that engulfed the city in minutes, incinerating its inhabitants and reducing the city to smoke and rubble. In the wake of this disaster two survivors lived to tell their tale, a cobbler and the famous Louis Auguste Cyparis. At the time Cyparis was in jail for murder and he would not have survived were it not for the thick walls of his stone cell. Disaster not only struck ashore but also offshore where more than a dozen ships anchored in the bay met a watery grave, these wrecks are now popular dive sites and buoys mark their position.

Today the newly rebuilt town gives little evidence of the disaster that struck it more than a century ago apart from a few remaining ruins.

A new town arose from the ashes of the old, but St. Pierre was never able to recapture its former glory. We enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of St. Pierre as we strolled along its narrow streets on our own walking tour, visiting amongst other the theater ruins, a symbol of its former grandeur and the stone cell in which Cyparis was held prisoner.

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Theater Ruins
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The stone jail cell of Cyparis,

As Martinique is rum country we also hiked to Distillerie Depaz with its lush grounds and impressive old plantation house. Deon enjoyed learning more about the rum making process, especially the fact that the machines were still run by a steam engine. We on the other hand enjoyed trying out all the different rum punches. Our trek back to boat saw us laden with a supply of our favourite rum punches.

We were at St. Pierre over Easter and on Good Friday morning we took a hike up to the statue of the Virgin Mary that stands guard over St. Pierre. It has the best view of St. Pierre and the winding road leading up to the statue has crosses placed every couple of meters along its verge. Good Friday morning saw many people making the trek with us to the holy statue. The walk to the statue clearly has great spiritual meaning for the inhabitants of St. Pierre.

The snorkeling in the bay were surprisingly interesting. The bottom consists of sea grass beds broken up by sandy patches and appeared a bit barren at first glance, except for numerous snake eels and sea urchins. Our first sighting of the snake eels were a bit disconcerting as we initially mistook them for actual sea snakes. Once you dive down you see that the grass is actually teeming with baby reef fish and other sea life. The snorkeling off the pier was also interesting and Deon spent hours fiddling around and under the pier.

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St. Pierre was definitely a highlight for us and our time there was made even more special being able to connect again with the good people s/v Planet Waves and s/v Maple. We still need to hike up Mount Pelée, so a return visit is definitely on the cards.

 

Cruising Martinique – Part 1

The first few weeks after our arrival in Martinique saw us in a post – Atlantic lull moving between St. Anne and its close neighbor, Le Marin doing boat projects, exploring and catching up on the dreaded school work. Of the two bays, St. Anne is definitely the nicer anchorage with its inviting clear waters and beautiful beaches. Le Marin lies at the bottom of a large bay delineated by numerous mangrove-fringed coves, aptly named Cul-de-Sac du Marin.

IMG_1147Bourg de Marin’s popularity with cruisers lies in the fact that most of the yacht services are concentrated here, making it the go to place for all your yachting needs. It is also home to some of the cheaper supermarkets like Carrefour and Leader Price and the dinghy dock at Leader Price is definitely a winner when it comes to provisioning. The supermarkets at St. Anne are small and ridiculously expensive and not unique to St. Anne as we since found out in our travels around the island. The most concerning part is that Martinique is supposedly the best and cheapest island to provision on, this does not bode well for our budget.

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Another neat aspect of the area is the Martinique Cruisers Net which covers the greater Le Marin/St. Anne area. It has created a feeling of community and forms a platform via which cruisers can make contact with each other, ask for assistance, get information and even flog stuff. It is hosted by the cruisers themselves and is on the air every Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 08:30 to 09:00 on VHF channel 08. It is via the cruisers net that we got to meet the great people of s/v Planet Waves. They lost a port light overboard and asked for assistance via the net. Ferdie and Deon volunteered to go dive it out and Deon came back very chuffed as he found it easily and made a few euros in the process.

The call of new anchorages soon beckoned us to pull up anchor and we headed for the west coast of the island. As one leaves the south coast you pass the impressive 175m high limestone monolith, Diamond Rock.

IMG_0894Its unique history has made it famous; during the Napoleonic wars of 1804 it was commissioned in the British Navy as a warship, the HMS Diamond Rock. In an audacious move under the noses of the French, the British landed about a 100 sailors on Diamond Rock and fortified it by hauling cannons and other necessities up the vertical flanks. From their unsinkable vantage point they effectively blocked the passage of French ships to Fort de France. Napoleon was enraged by such impudence and ordered Admiral Pierre de Villeneuve to set sail for Martinique and recapture Diamond Rock. The 17-month British reign of HMS Diamond Rock ended when a flotilla of French and Spanish naval ships besieged Diamond Rock. After several days of attack the British, already short on water and ammunition, negotiated surrender. For me the folktale of how the French recaptured the rock is way more interesting. According to folklore the French floated barrels of rum to the marooned enemy. After the British sailors had drunk themselves into a stupor, the French drove them from their stronghold and retook the rock. Diamond Rock is now a bird reserve and a popular scuba diving spot.

Rounding Pointe du Diamant one soon encounters the picturesque bays of Petite Anse d’Arlet and Grande Anse d’Arlet.

IMG_0953We dropped anchor off the small village of Grande Anse d’Arlet and it is here where we had our first anchoring wake-up call. We had some embarrassing docking moments in our early days, but we kind of aced the anchoring thing up until now. We never just drop anchor and push off to land, we always make sure we are secure by taking landmarks, diving on the anchor and staying on board for a couple of hours.  So great was our surprise three hours later eating lunch in the cockpit when we found ourselves drifting out to sea, quite a disconcerting feeling.

Luckily there were no boats anchored behind us, so we were at least spared the embarrassment of drifting into another yacht. This experience has made us a bit more paranoid about checking the anchor and making sure we are secure. A couple of days later this feeling IMG_0900was re-enforced when the same thing happened to another yacht, the owners however were not on board. The boat drifted into the yacht behind it, luckily there were people onboard and their quick actions saved the day. They were able to secure the drifting boat to their yacht with little to no damage it seemed. The owners only returned hours later, imagine their surprise.

Grande Anse d’Arlet is a popular anchorage, great for snorkeling and scuba diving, especially the southern shore.

The main attraction is the Hawksbill sea turtles, they are prolific in the bay, and they draw loads of day-trippers that come to swim with them. We had much fun swimming with these beautiful creatures every day. Another fun pastime was diving out pansy shells (already dead ones off course); we have quite the collection now.

From Grande Anse d’Arlet we also hiked across the headland to its photogenic neighbor, Petite Anse d’Arlet with its beautiful bay and white sandy beach.

After a relaxing week of swimming and snorkeling we bid Grande Anse d’Arlet farewell and headed for Anse Mitan and the islands capitol, Fort-de-France.

 

 

 

Land Ahoy! Martinique

Our first sighting of the distant lights of Martinique during the early hours of 21 February 2017 was most welcome after 23 days at sea. For the hardy sailors out there 23 days might seem like nothing but for me the isolation and monotony loses its novelty very soon. Our journey across the Atlantic was quite uneventful and we were lucky not to incur any breakages, some our friends were not so lucky in that regard.

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Leaving Las Palmas

The first few days out of Las Palmas went smoothly and we soon settled into a routine of doing nothing. This bubble soon burst with the wind and swell picking up and for the next two weeks we were hammered by 25 plus knot winds, rain squalls and a rolling cross swell. This created long sleepless nights listening to the boat creaking and shuddering its way across the Atlantic. The incessant rolling was the worst; it drives you nuts and turns even the smallest task into a challenge. Even Ferdie, who likes spending extended periods at sea got fed up, must be a first. Deon did not moan too much as all the schoolwork set aside for the crossing did not happen. Instead loads of movies were watched and books read in positions that limited sliding to the minimum. We soon realised our trip was not going to be one filled with pictures of frolicking dolphins, flying fish and great fishing

We did however have our magic moments that eased some of the discomfort; starry nights on the Atlantic leave you in awe and sipping your first cup of coffee, as dawn breaks after a long sleepless night, priceless.

The weather began to ease a few days out from Martinique and morale aboard was immediately boosted. Dolphins suddenly appeared riding our bow and we crossed paths with pilot whales and orcas. During this time Misty had her first encounter with flying fish and could not get enough. She ended up being one smelly kitty.

IMG_0319She is such an interactive kitty and relieved many a dull moment during the crossing. Deon also caught two Dorado, which tasted like heaven after all the pasta meals we had to endure. He was beginning to despair; before we left Las Palmas he had high hopes of all the fish he was going to catch on the passage.

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Our first introduction to Martinique has been the small village of Sainte Anne on the far southern coast. The village overlooks a beautiful bay popular with the cruising crowd. As one enters the town from the dinghy dock one is provided with a picturesque view of the Church of our Lady of Sainte-Anne.

IMG_1350The town itself has numerous touristy shops and restaurants and the local covered market sells spices, clothes, fresh produce and other trinkets. The two small supermarkets allows for basic provisioning. The Boulangerie on Plage du Bourg entices with its fresh baguettes, array of pastries and other delicacies.

Sainte Anne is renowned for its beautiful beaches and the coastal walk south to L’Etang des Salines and beyond takes you through mangroves and past picture perfect beaches fringed with turquoise waters. These more isolated beaches are popular with nudists and I thought Deon was going to die a thousand deaths seeing so many people ‘au natural’. His embarrassment knew no bounds; you would swear he was the naked one.

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It did not take us long to jump into the enticing turquoise waters of the Caribbean. The coral reefs off Les Boucaniers allows for fun snorkeling, not yet the caliber of reefs we are looking for, but well worth seeing, especially as it is so close to the anchorage or as the French say, mouillage.

We could not have asked for a better introduction to Martinique, allowing us to do our favourite things, diving and exploring on foot.

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Las Palmas

Since our last blog Christmas and New Year has come and gone and we are still in Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Again we have been staying longer in one spot than expected, which seems to be our trend these days. This vibrant city has become the end destination for our visit to the Canary Islands and we have spent many a happy hour exploring the city on foot.

Las Palmas is a bustling city of parks, plazas, street cafes, beaches and numerous museums. The city is divided into two distinct areas, the historic old town and the port area with Las Canteras beach. Plaza Santa Ana with the impressive cathedral Santa Ana is img_0093a good starting point for the exploration of the historic area of Vegueta and Deon for a change also enjoyed exploring the labyrinth of narrow, cobbled passages lined with beautiful old buildings that show case the typical Canary wooden balconies. He was however not impressed with me for making him climb all the steps to the top of the cathedral tower instead of using the lift.

His favourite was Casa de Colón, a museum dedicated to the memory of Christopher Columbus and possibly the most beautiful building in Las Palmas. The museum houses many models, charts and artefacts relating to the voyages of Columbus, Deon was fascinated and another history lesson was sorted.

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Columbus House
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Casa Colon entryway

Another hit with him was the Science and Technology Museum, a very interactive museum that can keep those interested busy for hours, as we found out. We also took Deon and his young American friend to the Museo Canario, an anthropological museum dedicated to the early inhabitants of the Canaries, the Guanches. We were a bit disappointed, but the displays were very well done and all aspects of their life were well represented and displayed. The attraction I suppose to the museum is the numerous skulls, skeletons and mummies on display of this ancient group of people. The skulls clearly display the trauma of the obliteration of these ancient peoples by the Spanish Conquistadors. This just shows that no one can really point a finger at one another, most countries have a history that they should be less proud off.

An area of Las Palmas we did not get to enjoy as much as we would have liked is Playa Las Canteras. This beautiful four-kilometre stretch of beach bounded by the La Barra Reef is a swimming, snorkeling and surfing hot spot popular with locals and tourists alike. Deon’s ear infections flared up again just as we arrived in Gran Canaria, so back to the doctor we went, the end result, more treatments and of course, no swimming and diving. A ban imposed till the end of January. So we have missed out on snorkeling the reef and surfing the waves. It did not feel fair to do it without him.

Las Canteras beach is fringed with a busy promenade well served with bars, cafes and restaurants. During the Christmas period the beach area also showcased some of the best sand sculptures we have ever seen, such amazing talent.

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Marina Las Palmas is a large and busy marina, with amazing boats coming and going on a daily basis. During our stay here we again had the privilege of meeting a variety of great people, the sailing community does not disappoint. Christmas was a potluck affair with Americans, Australians, Canadians and Germans. Deon was also as happy as a clam with his American friend and the two spent countless hours together. Christmas eve also brought some excitement with Misty falling into the water for the first time and getting stuck under the jetty. Luckily we were able to get her out without one of us having to go into the cold marina water. Poor thing was shaking from cold and shock and we had visions of another Clover, not a happy scenario.

New Years Eve was a quiet affair with our special Dutch friends from s/v Bolle until the fireworks started. We were surrounded by the most spectacular fireworks displays I have ever seen, the Spanish surely know how to enter the New Year with a bang. I just felt very sorry for the all the animals; they must have been petrified, it sounded like bombs going off. Poor Misty took shelter in our cabin; she was not a happy kitty.

As our time in the Canaries draws to an end it is difficult not to reflect on our time spent here. Our time here was not only marked by fun and adventure but also by heartache. I will always associate the Canaries with the loss of our special sailing kitty Clover. She was supposed to be with us for the long haul, I will never forget her. The Canaries has also been the place where I have experienced my worst homesickness, I miss my friends, family and my country everyday.

What I will miss from the Canaries is the uniqueness of each island, its friendly people, the great weather and the laid back atmosphere. The inhabitants of the Canary islands don’t seem to stress too much about anything, embracing siestas and quality of life. So adios Islas Canarias, new destinations await.

Tenerife – Parque Nacional del Teide

 

The highlight of our stay in Tenerife has been our visits to Parque Nacional del Teide. The impressive geological scenery and palette of colors amaze, no wonder the park attracts millions of tourist annually. The dramatic lunar landscape is the result of innumerable volcanic eruptions over hundreds of thousands of years. This geological treasure covers an area of 18,990 hectares and has attained international recognition as a World Heritage Site.

As one drives into the park from the south of the island along TF-21 the lava strewn plain of Las Cañadas Caldera unfolds in front of you and beyond it rises the focal point of the park, Mount Teide or El Pico del Teide as it is know in Spanish.

img_8515This cone-shaped icon of Tenerife is the highest mountain in Spain at 3,718m and is of great historical and spiritual value. For the ancient Canary inhabitants, the Guanches it was a place of worship. They believed that the king of evil, Guayota, lived inside Teide and considered it to be the gateway to hell.

The Las Cañadas caldera one of the greatest collapsed craters in the world and is best explored on foot. A network of well-marked trails transport you through a wilderness of scrubby vegetation, petrified lava flows and unique rock formations.

The trail that leads from Mirador Juan Évora takes you through a dense, black lava field that resulted from the eruption of Narices del Teide, in 1798, a vent on the flanks of Pico Viejo.

Pico Viejo lies in the shadow of Teide and its 3,135m peak makes it the second highest volcano in the Canary Islands.

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Narices del Teide on flank of Pico Viejo.

 

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Dried husk of the Teide bugloss

The diversity of flora in this harsh environment astounds and my favourite is the majestic Teide bugloss (Echium wildpretii) whose flowering time we unfortunately missed. The red flowers of this amazing plant form a pyramid of up to 3m in height and are one of the symbols of Tenerife, adorning many a postcard.

As one travels further, following the road as it bends towards the left mirroring the caldera escarpment an area of giant rocky outcrops dominate the landscape on the lefthand side of the road. These standing stones are known as Los Roques de Garcia and here Mirador La Catedral provides a spectacular expansive view of the caldera.

 

 

 

On the opposite side of the Los Roques parking area are the Cañadas del Teide Parador, a small hotel and restaurant. This is also where the highest Christian church in Spain is found; a small chapel dedicated to the Virgen de las Nieves.

The most popular way to ascend Teide is by cable car and we were lucky to ascend on a beautiful clear day without any wind with temperatures of 9°C at the upper cable car station. img_8375On our first visit to the park the cable car service was closed as the winds were howling at 70km/h and the temperature was 3°C. The upper cable car station lays at a chilly 3,555m with the summit of Teide a mere 163m away. A special free permit, allocated to different time slots, is needed to walk the last stretch, a measure to limit the number of people on the pathway. We tried to acquire permits two days before our visit but all the slots were already filled and at that stage the first available permits were for 25 November 2016. So anyone intending to climb to the summit will have to plan their visit a month or more in advance. Pathways that lead to two main viewpoints however provide ample walking and the pathways were surprisingly well laid out considering the rugged terrain. From the upper cable station itself the Las Cañadas Caldera and escarpment can be viewed in its entire magnificence.

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Las Canadas Caldera with Escarpment

The pathway leading west towards the Pico Viejo viewpoint provide amazing views of the caldera below and La Gomera and El Hierro in the distance.

The second pathway guides you in a northeast direction, through the black lavas of Teides last eruption from the summit some 1000 years ago.   The La Fortaleza vantage point provide spectacular views of the Mount Teide cone and most of the northern aspect of Tenerife.

 

Visiting this park has been a very memorable experience and I would love to return to explore more of its hidden treasures, and of course see the Teide bugloss in full bloom.

 

 

Tenerife – Life in Marina San Miguel

More than a month has already passed since our arrival at Marina San Miguel in the south of Tenerife. This is ironic, as we did not plan to stay long because the resorts, hotels and golf courses that surround the marina did not appeal to us.

In the end the area has served us well as we suddenly required the need for extended doctors visits, a base for the delivery of bankcards and we also had the faint hope of Ferdie finding a job while we are conveniently close to an airport, an event that would greatly boost our financial resources. Staying in a marina hammers the budget, so we try to offset our marina stays by anchoring in between. For the cruisers out there that might stumble upon our blog, the daily rate at Marina San Miguel for a boat our size (13m with beam of 4m) is about 20 euros. Then there are the usual benefits, access to water, electricity and showers. There is also a lavanderia at the marina, and it costs 5 one-euro coins for a wash and another 5 one-euro coins for using the drier. Wi-Fi is available at the Marina Bar or can be purchased online from Amarilla Golf and Marina.

It is a busy marina and there is a regular turn over of visiting yachts. One of the areas main tourist attractions, Submarine Safaris, is run from the marina so there is also a regular flow of tourists and tourist busses.img_0735 The area is especially popular with British tourists and many have taken up permanent residency in the south of Tenerife. The language barrier as a result has been less of a hassle as many of the people we have encountered in the shops and other businesses have been able to speak English. The submarine safari was actually good fun, even though the underwater world is not foreign to us. Deon especially had a great time and decided we should trade Dreamcatcher in for a submarine. The idea of submarines are very appealing to him at the moment as he is busy reading 20,00 Leagues Under the Sea.

In spite of our initial misgivings we have come to enjoy our stay here and it has been nice to go for daily walks again, there are numerous trails in the area that lead from one village to the next. It has also been a good base to explore the rest of the island from. Our first outing was a road trip around the island, or the worst road trip ever as Deon called it. Since he turned 13 he has become such a ray of sunshine. The truth is we tried to see too much in one day, and navigating the numerous roads and little villages with a map that attempts to depict way too much information for its scale was a recipe for disaster.

The silver lining of our day trip however were the spectacular Anaga Mountain area.

img_8099This ancient range of volcanic peaks with its lush vegetation, deep ravines and rugged coastline comprise most of the northeast part of Tenerife. Although accessible by car much of the area is still remote and wild, best explored on foot. No wonder some of the best hiking in Tenerife is found in the Anaga Mountains. Once you leave Santa Cruz, the capital of Tenerife, the beauty of the Anaga Mountains starts to unfold. On the dry, rugged eastern side of the range the coastal route takes you through the former fishing village of San Andrés, now a popular resort to the small village of Igueste de San Andrés where the road ends.

Along the route Mirador Los Órganos gives you a spectacular view of Playa de las Teresitas, one of Tenerife’s iconic and probably most photographed beaches. This palm tree lined artificial beach are made from the soft, golden sands of the Sahara.

From San Andrés as one moves west towards El Bailadero the road winds increasingly higher around hairpin bends, steep rock faces and dense forests.

img_8091Viewpoints provide spectacular views of the valleys below and the rugged coastline in the distance. We only glimpsed a fraction of the beauty the Anaga Mountains has to offer and I can just imagine the treasures one will uncover exploring the area on foot.

Day-Tripping La Gomera – Islas Canarias

La Gomera is the island of rocky outcrops, deep ravines, ancient mist covered forests and the El Silbo. El Silbo is the unique whistle language developed by the Guanches, the early inhabitants of the island, out of a need to communicate across the inhospitable terrain. El Silbo survived the test of time but is now only used to entertain tourists.

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Central to the beauty of La Gomera is Parque Nacional de Garajonay, a World Heritage Site. A status it acquired because of its unique ecology and endemic plant species. The name of the park was inspired by an age-old tale of forbidden love. In the face of their families’ disapproval of their love Princess Gara of La Gomera and Jonay of Tenerife decided to end their lives by impaling themselves with a wooden spear and jumping off the highest peak of the island. A Canaries version of doomed love, akin to Romeo and Juliet.

img_7929A visit to La Gomera is therefore not complete without hiking along one of the numerous pathways that traverse the park. The park is popular among hikers and its network of well marked trails caters to all levels of fitness. Along the pathways miradors (viewpoints) provide spectacular views of the surrounding valleysimg_7947

 

 

 

 

 

 

Walking along the leaf-littered pathways among the ferns and trees dripping with moss and lichen we could not help but be reminisce about home and our hikes in the Tsitsikamma forest.

The park provides protection to one of the rarest types of forests on earth, the Canarian laurisilva or laurel forest. Patches of ancient laurel forest are found all over the archipelago, but the largest intact area is found on La Gomera. The geography of the island and the constant flow of the Atlantic trade winds have created the ideal moisture conditions for these forests to flourish in an otherwise arid environment.

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Rocky outcrops is another striking feature of the La Gomera landscape and several miradors have been established to give visitors a view of these immense outcroppings that have collectively become known as Los Roques. These imposing rock outcroppings, like Roque de Agando are actually resilient magma plugs left behind by erosion to tower over the landscape.

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We only spend one day in the park and our hike has only given us a small taste of what the park has to offer, we will definitely return to explore more if given a chance.

 

Valle Gran Rey – La Gomera (La Go – me-RAH)

From La Restinga we moved on to Valle Gran Rey (pronounced Bye –eh Gran Rey). Here we were anchored in the most beautiful bay backed by high red cliffs at Puerto Vueltas (pronounced Puerto de las Bweltass). Puerto Vueltas is an old fishing harbor that can only accommodate a few yachts on the inner breakwater, most visiting yachts anchor in the bay to the southeast.

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Vueltas Harbour with yachts anchored in background

 

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Small craft moorings inside harbour area.

Valle Gran Rey, which is named after the impressive valley behind it, is actually the name given to a complex of seaside villages, which includes La Calera, La Playa, La Puntilla and Vueltas.

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View looking down on Valle Gran Rey

The villages are all in walking distance of each other and can rather be regarded as suburbs of a single town. Valle Gran Rey is considered the tourist hub of the island and caters to the tastes of European tourists, especially Germans. The area has quite a large German community and many of the shops in the villages are German owned. Although a tourist hub the area has retained its charm and appeal.

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One of the busy beaches at Valle Gran Rey.  

We were anchored in 8 -10 meters of water over a sandy bottom to the southeast of the harbor. We really loved the anchorage and spent many hours in the crystal clear waters to cool off. Conditions were quite calm and we were spared the very strong winds that drove us nuts in the harbor at La Restinga. We were laying across from Playa de Argaga; a pebble beach area popular with nudists and it was a source of entertainment for a short while.

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Playa Argaga with its meditation centre.

 

During our stay were joined by numerous yachts and were again lucky to meet up with nice people. This time we had the privilege to get to know Mark and Melinda, a fun couple from Holland sailing their yacht Bollé. We also shared our anchorage with this beauty, Salomon, a 47m super yacht.

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Yacht Salomon

La Gomera and the anchorage at Valle Gran Rey has been a highlight for us in our travels around the Canaries so far and we plan to return if time permits.

Canary Islands – La Restinga

Hard to believe more than a month has already passed since our arrival in the Canaries on the 9th of August 2016 at La Restinga on the Island of El Hierro. Even at the slow pace we are living now time seems to fly.

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La Restinga is a very small fishing harbor and yacht basin at the southern end of El Hierro, the smallest island of the archipelago. The village is surrounded by a dry, rugged landscape of volcanic peaks and lava flows.

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img_7825La Restinga is a popular holiday destination and was a hive of activity during our time there. The area is also very popular with the scuba diving crowd and the town has numerous diving operators that takes a steady stream of scuba divers out daily to the local marine reserve. 

The little harbor lies adjacent to the tourist cafes, bars and swimming areas so you are in the hub of all the noise and activity. The holiday atmosphere was contagious and it was so hot anyway that we did nothing but swim, dive and explore the surrounding landscape. Swimming and diving is allowed within the harbor and the marine reserve starts just outside the harbor opening which made for great snorkeling and diving.

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The harbor itself can only accommodate a few yachts and water and electricity is available on finger pontoons. During our stay a few other yachts came in, mostly of French origin, the language barrier unfortunately limited our interaction with them. We did meet a great couple from Norway who is bravely cruising on their yacht Serafin with their adorable baby daughter Inga.

After lazing around for just over a week we were ready to move on to the next island and left La Restinga for La Gomera.

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Sunrise as we left La Restinga