Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Logbook: Canary Islands

Canaryislands1Arriving in Las Palmas, Canary Islands early Saturday morning had the feeling of arriving in a proper port, with all manner and size of ships at anchor and a pretty densely packed city of office buildings, hotels and the like. Polar Star took its place at the dock and I had the morning to leisurely eat breakfast, do my final packing and make one more round of farewells to my friends among the crew. At about noon we disembarked and I grabbed the photo inset above which shows -- ironically to me -- our trusty little ice breaker in the company of a palm tree. Maybe you had to be there. From the dock, a bus took us across the north end of Gran Canaria to the ferry boat dock to catch our ride to Tenerife -- one of the mid-sized Canary Islands. The inter-island ferries are not to be believed. They are large and very, very fast at speeds of about 75 kph (45 mph). They are also comfortable, clean and run on time. If you visit the Canary Islands, the ferries are your best friend for inter-island transport. After a transit of only about 40 minutes, we reached Tenerife then transferred to a bus which took us to the south end of the island and dropped us off as our hotel.

The second you arrive in the resort area, you are almost overwhelmed by the density of hotels and condos which dominate the area. Interspersed throughout are an endless number of restaurants, shops, hair salons, tattoo parlors, etc. Think of Daytona Beach on steroids and you have some idea of Tenerife. After checking in and dumping my bag in my room, I went in search of internet and found a pretty good connection -- in what I have become familiar with as a pretty typical joint -- which I used for a considerable amount of time to check email, post a massive website update and download some podcasts, then had a late dinner in the “no additional charge” hotel buffet and called it a night. On Sunday, the group went on a bus tour of Tenerife which I skipped. After my last experience in Cape Verde, I just didn’t trust that it was going to be any good. Besides, I had a ton of stuff to do on the web and needed all the time I could get to catch up after six weeks of practically no online time. Thus, I spent the entire day back at the internet joint. I think the attendant was surprised at the length of time I was there because he kept giving me pained expressions and saying “mucho trabaho!” Its interesting to have people feel sorry for you when you are actually having fun. After a productive day, I treated myself to dinner at one of the many street side restaurants which I chose, I must admit, because of the fairly attractive young woman who was singing -- on key! -- some songs I could recognize. The food turned out to be pretty mediocre, but it was nice to have some live entertainment for a change.

Canaryislands2On Monday I walked around until I found a fairly large, reputable looking travel agency and enlisted the help of Vini -- a nice young woman of Indian ancestry -- to make arrangements for my transit to and across Spain. From there it was back to the internet joint for a few more hours of online time, then back to the hotel for the night. Although Tenerife is a beach resort, I never actually went to the beach! For me, it was just a another crazy place with internet. Yesterday, because I had gotten pretty well caught up on Voyage stuff, I decided to re-join the group for a day trip to the small island of La Gomera. A bus ride to the port and a short ferry ride later, we boarded another bus for our day tour which, of course, consisted mostly of driving up into the hills, stopping for viewpoints and a brief visit inside the national park. The island is actually quite pretty and I can imagine spending some time there to walk some of the many trails inside the park. On the other hand, it looks like the trails all go through the same kind of terrain so it could get pretty boring. In other words, if you ever decide to visit the Canary Islands you would probably do well to spend a day or two on Gomera as a chance to stretch your legs while getting away from the resort milieu... But that’s about it. We had lunch at a tourist restaurant which featured a pretty bland meal that was made somewhat more satisfactory by the side show of “Gomera Whistling” -- of which I got some decent video that I will edit into a Report soon. From there, it took a few more roadside viewpoint stops to make our way back to the port for the ferry ride back to Tenerife. All in all, the bus tour was about as usual, but I enjoyed it more than I would have spending another day in Tenerife.

This morning I went back to see Vini to pick up a train ticket we had ordered, only to find that it had not been delivered from the office that handles train tickets. She said she was very sorry and would go get it, promising to be back in a few minutes. I asked if I could go with her and, after a moment of obvious surprise that I would want to spend my time running an errand, we got her car and went to the other office. There was some confusion about my ticket, but in due course it was sorted out and I ended up with all the proper documentation for my upcoming sprint to Barcelona. Thanks, Vini for all your help! After that, I stopped at the internet joint for a few minutes then made my way back to the hotel where I recycled a couple of books at the “guest bookshelf.” I traded in two pretty good novels for two pretty bad ones -- it’s amazing the crap people read on vacation -- but I at least have new stuff to read at no additional cost! At noon I gathered up my stuff and checked out then met the rest of the group for the bus/ferry/bus ride here to Las Palmas on Gran Canaria.

After checking in to the Hotel Parque, I met up with Betty -- who skipped the Tenerife tour in favor of staying on board Polar Star -- to retrieve my duffel bag which she was kind enough to bring over from the ship. I went for a brief walk around town then me Betty, Ross and Regula -- two other “good people” from the crossing cruise -- for dinner. In a moment I will go downstairs and try out the hotel’s internet to post this Logbook entry. I have tomorrow on my own here in Las Palmas, then Friday I take a day/night/day ferry to Cadiz, Spain where I will stay for two nights before catching an overnight train to Barcelona. Obviously, I have opted to blow right through Spain in favor of getting to the South of France as soon as possible. This is because, frankly, I have previously spent plenty of time in Spain and don’t particularly care for it. Besides, I have now been in Hispanic countries for about six months and, well, I’m ready for a change. Looking back at how I have spent the past five days in the Canary Islands I could say I haven’t really given them a fair shake. Then again, I could say I’ve given them what they deserve. I’m going with Option B on The Voyage of Macgellan!

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