The Canaries vol3- Gran Canaria and Lanzarote

Last 2 paradise islands- free food and incredible nature.

Last but not least Gran Canaria and Lanzarote. As we had just 2 days in Lanzarote, I am not going to make a separate post about that. I hope I can just squeeze these 2 together into one (hopefully not a very long one).

As it is already a month and more since I came back, I must admit I am starting to loose the details and the tan. I remember arriving to Gran Canaria and realising that it might be even hotter and drier than the 2 islands before. We arrived early in the morning so we planned a 5h hike to start with. Before hitting the road we sat down in a restaurant near the track and made sure we have enough of energy for that. As it turned out the owner of the place was Czech so we were really treated like at home.

After eating too much again we started walking. Again I felt the need for a drink after every sip I took.  The whole way up to Pico de las Nieves (the highest peak on the island, 1949m) I was dreaming of a jar of fruity water with ice. The valley we walked through is called “Almond Valley” and you can guess why. ALMOND TREES EVERYWHERE. The Czech from the restaurant said they are going to collect the nuts in 2 weeks, but in some parts they should already be ready. Fresh almonds…. this is something. Otherwise the scenery looks very dry and deserty. Locals say the best time to visit the island is on rainy periods (from November) when the mountains are green and the rivers are full. I’m a bit disappointed we didn’t see it but I guess that gives a reason to go back.

_DSC1085.JPG

Like you can imagine after all those hours I was so tired, but Tom had planned us to hit Roque Nublo on that day. That meant another 2-3h after hitting the highest peak. Fortunately the sun was going down and I convinced Tom to postpone it for the next day. It was one of the most amazing sunsets I have ever seen. The amount of people driving up there for it will confirm it. If you are romantic, then this is something to experience with your partner. Perfect place for a proposal… just saying.

_DSC1120.JPG

After a night in the forest and another few hours of hike we reached Roque Nublo. Again such a touristic place. Good thing is that as you need to climb up there all lazy people will give up and not go. Yet hundreds of people make it. In my opinion Roque Nublo is slightly overrated, but it might be just because it was not the green season. I get then it would look amazing.

_DSC1124.JPG

The next 2 days we were simply driving around the island trying to see as much as possible. I felt a relief as all the hikes were done and now it was just the time for enjoying the sun and the ocean. The next stop was Maspalomas and the Sandy Dunes. The famous place with nudist beach, gay nudist beach and all different nudist beaches. You can see that you are close when naked people start passing your way. Well…. that’s also an experience. Otherwise the sandy dunes are very similar to the ones in Lithuania just little bigger. I really wanted to get some great pictures there, but I guess for very clean and untouched desert look I have to go to Africa. Too many people in Gran Canaria to do that.

_DSC1155.JPG

The third day we got lucky as one Romanian couple was going exactly where we wanted to and therefore drove us around the whole day. Very fun and generous couple. In the capital Las Palmas we decided to make a short break and get something to eat. As backpackers I wanted to get some local fast food. Just to try. As always when in need you cannot find anything. The Romanian couple sat down in a decent restaurant. After a 15min run we went back to the couple hungry as wolves. They had just finished and left at least half the plates full. As I mentioned before they were very generous so they offered us to finish the plates. I felt SO cheap, but as soon as I tasted the fish I forgot. It was sooooo good. I think the best seafood meals I have ever tried. And not just that I got full but great food did not get wasted. Before getting back to the car they insisted (well the female side did) of eating some frozen yogurt first. So now I had to finish that as well. Damn that was a good day.

_DSC1166.JPG

We spent the night in Teror and planned to continue the way towards the airport the next day. We wanted to take the small roads in valleys instead of the highway. Just to see more of the island. As the day before we ended up with the same driver for almost half of the day. He was a cheese seller that was delivering the products while also looking for new clients So on the way to the airport we had few small stops in villages. In one village we made a short lunch. We felt so bad for bothering him for so long that we bought him some beer. A small one as he was driving. He took out the whole round of cheese and that was our lunch. Fresh local cheese with cold local beer. Can this trip get any better?! As a gift (like he said) he gave us all the leftover. That means around 2kg of cheese and that is hell of a lot of cheese.

_DSC1200.JPG

We made it to the airport by the evening and as the flight went early in the morning we decided to sleep on the beach nearby. Unfortunately when reaching the beach it turned out to be the most polluted beach I have ever seen. For sure not sleeping on that. Instead we walked towards the airport and put the tent up between the palm trees there.

AND THE LAST ISLAND

In Lanzarote we had just 2 days. During those 2 days we visited just 2 cities- Playa Blanca and the capital Arrecife. I kinda liked Playa Balnca, but it is way too touristic to be on top of my list. I had the famous barraquito. In Gran Canaria they served me a coffee with tons of liqoir as canarian coffee so I was a little scared. Barraquito is a milk coffee with condensed milk. So heavy so good, so not vegan.

_DSC1201.JPG

Lanzarote is the most different of them all. It looks like it’s abandoned as there are no trees, just lava fields. On our way to the volcanos we stopped on a beach near salty lake. The waves were the highest I have ever seen. And that means so high that you cannot go in the water, it will just push you right back on the beach and pour the sand in your pants while doing that. Yet I enjoyed that small black sanded beach a lot. Now when sitting in Manchester I really miss being on the beach :/. That is my happy place for sure.

_DSC1268.JPG

The next day we decided to walk to the biggest crater there is. We managed to leave our bags in one of the driver’s car so walking went a lot faster. On the top of crater it is a nice view but so windy that my fear of heights kicked in right away. Therefore I was the first one to be back. The couple who was driving us there said they are crazy about volcanos and basically travel only to places to see volcanos. The woman gave a handful of “crystals” she found on the way. I guess she knows where to find them because I saw nothing like that on my way.

_DSC1261.JPG

On our way the airport we had few more stops with amazing views. One of them to a very small island near Lanzarote. A-MAZING. I really fish we had some more time for laying on the beach there. Before getting on the plane we had a little detour in the capital Arracife. And to be honest nothing special. Town like any other town. So I am not going to even waste the space here on that. The extensions of the town are, on the other hand, spectacular. Look a little too touristic and fancy, but so nice and clean. What’s not to like in clean.

_DSC1302.JPG

I guess if I had to choose, I would recommend visiting Tenerife and Lanzarote. In that way you can see all the different landscapes the islands are offering. For just a beach holiday you can visit any of them. If you are not a fan of hot weather, don’t go before October. Local food is amazing so whenever you go, make sure you try it!

So that was all about my hot summer vacation in paradise.  Whenever I am on the beach and looking the sunset I want to drink wine, dance and celebrate life. I don’t know any better romantic song than this so LENTO it is. I swear if I close my eyes I can hear the waves and smell the ocean!

Canary Islands part II

Some more hiking, food and fails. This time in La Palma.

It is time for 2nd island- LA PALMA!

On Tenerife we had whole 5 days to see the island. On La Palma, on the other hand, just 3.5. You wouldn’t imagine how much can happen in such a short time.

We arrived in the afternoon, so for the first day we planned just a little walk in the woods and finding a place to put the tent. As climbing El Teide wasn’t enough Tom planned another 2-day hike on La Palma. Our very first driver was a German guy (like most of them) who took us half way to the first destination.  Unfortunately it turned out that the road was closed and we have to go around. It is not super easy to get lifts anyway and for some reason we got stuck again while trying to hitchhike back from the dead end. We decided to hike up to the second road going that direction instead of waiting for the lifts. On our way walking up we found some amazing grapes. I have to mention here that I do not support any kind of stealing- taking a pencil without asking, a fruit from someones garden, or robbing a bank. We found a grape field where they had already picked all the grapes, leaving behind just few of them. So, we decided that there is no harm in taking those. With eating the leftovers you are actually saving it and not letting it go wasted. And they were AMAZING. On that day we put the tent up in the forest and opened our first jar of mojo. Now…. this bad boy just turned into my favourite food! It is a red pepper sauce with garlic and it is GREAT! I am already on a hunt for a recipe to try a homemade one, because those local potatoes with the mojo … OH MY! You need to visit Canaries already just for food. If you are not into spicy food then look for mojo SUAVE. I have tried it here in England twice. And not to brag or anything, but the second one was exactly how I like it- garlicky and vinegary.

The second day we were supposed to do the “big hike”. The plan was to start from Fuencaliente and hike all over the mountains to Roque de los Muchachos. Unlike on Tenerife, La Palma does not have just 1 big mountain, but it is rather like a crater. I must say I had already a bad feeling about it as Teide was still in my muscles. We covered ourselves with SPF 50+ and packed the bags. We didn’t have too much water with, so I felt a little anxious already because of that. After an hour of walking I remembered why I didn’t want to go on top of Teide. It was even drier and hotter than on Tenerife. When walking, you could feel your throat drying as it was painful to swallow or breathe. When drinking water you never feel “done”. It was even so bad that we both decided to quit. Instead we hitchhiked around it and started the hike from a little… okay a lot closer.

_DSC0969.JPG

On our way to Roque de los Muchachos we had a short stop in the capital. I wanted to take a shower and go swimming. While getting ready for the swim a guy came over and asked where are we from. I wouldn’t have been suspicious, but he was carrying a dead animal on his shoulder. Yea, it was just a  skin but it was creepy as… Wanted us to lend him a phone…. sure. After explaining him that our phones are empty he ran towards 2 girls, while undressing himself. He dropped his animal skin few meters from the girls and ran into the water… naked. Okay. He seemed like having fun in there. Then he came out, put clothes back on and went to the girls. Said something and ran away again with his dead animal on shoulder. This kind of people….

After having shower in the capital we decided to walk out of the city and put the tent up on the way. Now, what we didn’t realise is that the most difficult place to put a tent up is a small village. Why? Well first of all, everyone has a dog. Those small dogs you know, that you have to carry around and dress up. So not really dogs, but something like that. Whenever you pass a house they started making this annoying barking-like sound that makes all the owners come out to check what’s up. And it seemed the villages are glued together as one just didn’t end. It was already late, dark and I didn’t even care about the views, but just to find a place, that is on no one’s land and without barking right next to you. On our way one car stopped and asked if we needed help. We tried our best to explain that we are looking for a place for a tent…. in Spanish. Yeah, they didn’t help us much. We just sticked with the plan and put the tent up near the village’s central square. In the dark it seemed quite nice but in the morning …  It was the most dirty place we have ever slept.  The view was nice, though.

SO, instead of 2 days we did a 5h hike which for me was still too much. I really enjoyed the first 4 hours. It was mostly on a ridge and with amazing views the whole time. For some reason the last hour just did not want to finish. It seemed like the top is getting further with every step. But I made it! We made it! And fortunately got a lift right from the top down so did not have to wear those boots any more. I am not sure weather just walking too much makes me hate them or they are a bit too big. When walking on even surfaces it is fine and comfortable, but as soon as I have to go downhill my feet just start sliding towards the top of the boots and squeeze my toes. It is so painful and I have no idea how to fix it. I have tried different socks, insoles, nothing helps.

_DSC0995.JPG

 

For the night we got to an amazing small town called Tazacorte. So many people had recommended it and we decided to spend the night there. A small town right on the beach between banana fields. BTW, the biggest banana fields I have seen. WOW. We slept on the beach right under the stars. Saw an incredible sunset again and enjoyed a nice sweet cocktail at the bar. Again- exactly like I imagined the island to be. And very Spanish, I must say.

_DSC1013.JPG

_DSC1021.JPG

The last day was for seeing the rest of it and getting back towards the airport. Before even flying to there Tom was suggested to try a restaurant by the airport that has the most amazing fish. We thought it would be nice to leave it for the last day. We had a swim/bath in the ocean, enjoyed some views, I took tons of pictures from crabs and the sea. I must say, those little things have either very good eyesight or they have some human-sensors. Whenever I tried to go a little closer for a better picture, they just escaped. I decided to put on a dress as I had carried one around the whole time without wearing. Yeah I know, it is stupid. I probably had another 3-4 things that I carried without wearing, but I just need to have a backup. I make this mistake every trip that I carry too much stuff that I don’t really need. Now, when I had my dress on and ready for a romantic dinner, it came out that the damn place was closed for the whole Monday. What?! No fish? Great! SO, instead we had a bottle of wine that we bought before and red mojo. Not too bad but for sure nothing to dress up for. We had still nice and cozy night, full of laughter. We always do. We decided to use the situation and sleep on the tables of the restaurant outside. I’m glad we did because it was raining the whole night. And not just showering but really raining.

_DSC1043.JPG

_DSC1071

I woke in the morning with a car engine noise and lights blinding me. Someone stopped the car at the restaurant and came out. I sat up, not knowing what to do. I just sat there in the dark, Tom laying next to me, not knowing either. The guy came out, walked towards us, sat right next us and lighted a cigarette. I was so scared he’s gonna pull a gun out or something for sleeping on his property. We said “hola” and that’s it. Just sat there for another 5-10min not knowing what to do. The guy just kept smoking and spitting. In about 15 min another car pulled over and I just got so scared I stood up and started packing the bags. We took our 5 things and went already to the airport (which btw was closed as it was 6am). The restaurant was supposed to be opened at 13pm, why the hell were they there at 6am??? Anyway nothing really happened as we just ran away. Fortunately found a door opened at the airport as well.

So that was La Palma. All in all, a little different and a little smaller than Tenerife. A very nice place, but I am not sure if you would miss anything if you would go to just Tenerife. Maybe the local mojo. This is a class on it’s own. For sure. And for the song I just chose something I heard several times from the radio in the cars… And I guess with Shakira you cannot go wrong. Not that we had anything to do with puro chantaje, though.

 

Canary Islands part I

Island nr 1- Tenerife.
A heatstroke, panic attack and incredible views.

Again way too much time has passed since my last post but you know, life takes over.

So I just got back from my summer vacation on Canaries and started my MSc in Manchester. I am not going to stop on the school and the new life in here as there is not much to say yet but I am going to write about the vacation. I think it is going to be way too long for one post so I decided to divide it.

Where do I start? Oh, yeah, first stop TENERIFE.

As always Tom did all the planning part and chose (based on recommendations) 4 islands to visit- Tenerife, La Palma, Gran Canaria, and Lanzarote. Before taking off from Birmingham’s airport I thought Tenerife is going to be the least interesting of them all. Why? I have no idea. Now that I am back, I must admit Tenerife was one of my favourites.

We landed in the evening so the first day we had to just find a place to put up the tent. In the first car we got to talking with the locals and it came out that hitchhiking nd tenting is going to be a huge problem here. Locals don’t tend to give lifts and the landscape might be too rocky and touristic for camping. So the first night we spent in our sleeping bags without a tent. Location was perfect- warm night on the beach without any city lights.

_DSC0725.JPG

The next day we were supposed to go to hike a little and then hitchhike further. I was so excited as it was soooooo warm and I missed sun so much. We managed to leave our bags to a small bar and as we planned to hike just for an h or 2 didn’t take anything with, just my camera. Even the water not. We regretted that after half an h of hiking. It was so hot and the air was so dry that it was difficult to breath and swallow. No one had mentioned it and we did not expect anything like that. After an h or 1.5 I started feeling dizzy. Every time I took few steps uphill I felt I’m going to faint. And that was supposed to be an easy one. I gave up and started crawling back down towards the bar, water. I had my head covered, sunscreen on. I thought I was ready, but clearly I wasn’t.

21951753_10203592168240745_1492393682_o.jpg

Tom came back from the top and admitted it was a little difficult even for him. We took a beer from the bar and it has never tested better. After sharing one beer, we both felt a little drunk. Yes, you read it right. We shared 1 beer and we got both drunk. That’s how bad it was. Getting a little more sober, we hit the road again to hitchhike further. First time in my life I felt that the shadow is my friend. By the end of that day I had a heatstroke. I felt sick, I had a headache and I didn’t want to see anything related to sunlight. Somehow (looking shit) I got us a ride in the mountains and we decided to put up a tent in the most amazing place so far. You could see the highest mountain, sun falling asleep behind the clouds. The most incredible sunset I have ever seen!

_DSC0766.JPG

The second full day I decided to wear a damn hat the whole day. Tom had one with and I looked stupid with it but I didn’t care. As long as I don’t get any strokes. All the rides we got were by tourists who wanted to stop on every viewpoint. Convenient to me as I wanted to take pictures from all angles. On one of the stops it was so windy that when I lifted my hand off from the hat to take something, the hat flew away. And not just on the ground but over the damn cliff. Yes, I lost the only hat we had. Fortunately it wasn’t as bad as the day before, so no strokes whatsoever. We visited few little villages and Tenerife just managed to make a little nest in my heart and stay there. I was a little naive to think that the vacation is going to last that way.

The one big hike Tom had planned was climbing El Teide. And not just that, but from the sea level. That is more than 20km, 3718m elevation. We started with a nice cloudy weather. Seemed like it is not going to be too bad. On our way people started throwing us thumbs and waving. One got even a little concerned and told me to go pasito. By the way, I learned so much Spanish on that trip. It seems like a nice easy language to learn, so I’m planning to get more into it in England as well. Back to El Teide. After walking 4-5h, as always, I felt I’m braking. “I don’t want to do this”, “Why are you making me do this”, “How much longer” “I am giving up”, all those usual sentences were on repeat in my head. After hiking higher of the clouds, the sun came out again. And this time hotter and drier than ever. First time in my life I experienced a panic attack. With the 10kg bag under a hot sun, after 5h hike I felt I cannot breath. Didn’t matter how much i tried, I felt I am not getting enough of air. My hero saved me again. Tom took my bag and without an extra weight I managed to go at least that far that we got into a shadow. On around 1600m of elevation we met the forest guards. As it is so dry, the danger of fire is very very high. Every single person mentioned us not to do any fire there. We were not planning to because we already knew that, but they still felt it to be needed to say. The guys gave us water, fruits, chocolate. What else could I ask for. We told them it is very difficult for us as we are not used to that dry air. They said on top of Teide the humidity % is around 5-10. What????? I knew, I am not going there. On that day I managed to push myself few more hours, but I was sure I am not going to hike it to the top.

_DSC0877.JPG

2150 was the elevation from sea level that we hiked that day. We had a rough day with amazing views behind us. We spent the night under the starts and had the most amazing dinner (chickpeas and salad). Tom woke up at 2am to catch the sunrise on top of Teide and I started walking towards the road first thing in the morning. This night I slept so bad. Not just because it got suddenly freezing and Tom was snoring, but as soon as he left me 2am, every little noise made me nervous. The only animals there are lizards, and still I felt like someone is walking towards me. I fell asleep at 4am, woke up at 7 and did my little solo hike. After 2h I was on the road. I had 2 options- to walk 7km on a very narrow curvy road or to hitchhike them. I had enough of hiking and I didn’t want to take a single step on  that road. I decided to hitchhike alone, first time ever. I do not recommend it, but as it was very touristic part, I felt it was okay. 3. car I hitchhiked stopped. It was a couple that was driving to the exact same place. Lucky? Maybe. If You are ever planning to visit Tenerife, then Teide is a must! Especially if you are from anywhere but a warm country. The dessert-like surroundings and mountains are nothing like you have seen in Europe. If you are not a hiker, then road goes up to 2200 and on not windy days you can take a cabin lift from there until almost to the top.

_DSC0909.JPG

I met Tom 2-3h after and he was exhausted. I had been napping on a bench while he was climbing up to the top and back. We decided to hitchhike somewhere to get a bite and take a rest. When I am abroad I want to taste authentic local food, so I ordered a Canarian salad. I got a plate full of fruit, veges and fish. Everything was good, but did not match at all. Who would eat banana and orange with tuna? After many Germans we arrived to a small town and spent the night on the beach. Is it allowed? No. But if you go in the dark, make no trouble, no noise, leave no litter behind, no one really cares. The best meal that day was local watermelon. SO GOOD! I must say all the local fruits are tastier than you are used to. We ate hundreds of mangos and watermelons on that trip.

Next day with the heat we hitchhiked to the capital. Seemed like a nice place, but nothing special, really. If you are into partying then probably this would be the place (or south of the island, where all the tourists with this habit are). From Santa Cruz we got a lift by 3 students who where driving to the beach. The local one of them said the best beach to be Las Teresitas, so that’s where we went. Finally I saw the part of the island that I was imagining it to be like. Palms, sand, waves. That is my happy place.

_DSC0957.JPG

After an h we were back on the road again. Tom wanted to reach a small village before going to the airport, but for some reason up on the mountains no one took us. We managed to see a little bit of the famous laurel forest but that was it. In there you simply forget where you are as it looks nothing like rest of the island. We spent the whole evening hitchhiking and did not get a lift. In the morning we decided to skip it as we did not simply have any time left. We had to get back in order not to miss the flight to La Palma.

_DSC0963.JPG

In conclusion, Tenerife is amazing! You wouldn’t believe how different one small island can be in it’s different parts. I think everyone would find something to do there. Weather you are into hiking, partying, nature generally, people, beaches. It is all in that one island. When it comes to hitchhiking, it is not so bad as they say. Most of the cars that give lifts are of course tourists’, but locals do take hitchhikers as well. When it comes to camping, then you have to be a bit more flexible than usually. You may have to sleep on rocks or without the tent, but the views will make it all worth it.

As the first post came so long I might need to have a separate post for each island. Will see. I hope everyone of you will have the chance to experience this kind of place, a palmtree’s island!