The Whistler and the Dwarf
We arrive the following morning at La Palma, an island of largely unspoilt natural beauty and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. Our guide was a walking encyclopaedia of geological information and explained how eruption, lava flows, collapses and erosion have combined to form this unique landscape. We see the effect first hand at the beautiful Parque National de la Caldera Taburienye where pine trees and other plants combine with an 8km rock wall encompassed depression to offer impressive views. Although our walk in the park (Parque) was only about an hour, this place was a hikers paradise, offering a variety of walks from ones like ours to strenuous all day hikes. Strangest encounter here was the man tree (see picture) its arms and legs like structure gave you the impression it would spring up at any moment, straight onto the set of Lord of the Rings.
The Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows is set in a centuries old church. The church is a beautiful example of craftsmanship with the local pine, decorating the inside and out. It’s also the focal point for the main festival of La Palma, which takes place every 5 years, the descending of our lady of the snows.
A sumptuous lunch at a local restaurant, a visit to a square designed by Cesar Manrique (more about him later) and a ceramics workshop and museum gave us further insights to the culture and architecture of this region. The pottery figure in the picture is from the dancing of the dwarves, a part of the 5 yearly festival.
Walking the rim of Volcano San Antonio gave us a close up encounter with the origins of this island. There’s something mystical and awe inspiring about gazing down from the rim of a volcano. On one side is a sea of volcanic pebbles that look like you could ski down into its gloomy depths. On the other side, a white cloud drifts over the mountain and a small village pouring ethereal mists over the landscape.
Captain Vasilis Panagiotou was a charming host throughout the cruise and happy to accommodate anyone who wished to visit the bridge. Pulling away from the dock is so smooth, you need to see it to be sure you’re moving, although you need to be a little nocturnal for some of the departures or arrivals. So as we pull into La Gomera I’m there again to see his skilful manoeuvring of the ship and to make sure I get my Silver Travel bag back.
La Gomera is the second smallest of the Canary Islands and has less reliance on tourism in its economy. Local farmers have built an amazing series of steps down the sides of the mountains to support a prospering agricultural base. We saw a replica of Santa Maria and heard tales of Christopher Columbus lingering at La Gomera for final provisions before heading off in 1492. On that trip he discovered many parts of the Caribbean and the subsequent trade routes to the new world brought significant trade and prosperity to the island at that time. It’s the whistling language, however, that is perhaps the Island’s strangest claim to fame and still taught in the schools today to preserve this unique aspect of their culture. Invented by the Guanches (the original inhabitants of the island) it allows users to be heard a claimed 2 miles away. After a skilful demonstration it’s my turn to have a go and I can’t get the hang of a technique with fingers and tongue. Fellow passengers were in grave danger of being splattered with spittle as I struggled to master the art. No such troubles on Harmony V where they have the spit and polish down to a fine art. We returned to find that our room and the rest of the ship has been expertly manicured by Stavros’ (House Manager) outstanding team, who have an friendly and excellent service ethic.
Our return to Tenerife brings us to the busy port of Santa Cruz, the capital city of the island. Walking along the dockside we can see the preparations for the 3 week carnival which is arguably second only to Rio as an amazing spectacle. Perhaps the most spectacular sight around, particularly with the old basalt fort close by, is the unusual Auditorio de Tenerife. This white mosaic architectural wonder looks a little bit eagle’s beak and a smattering of Sydney Opera House and no doubt has critics and fans in equal measure. Tours are only available by prior appointment. Our excursion takes us to La Laguna, a UNESCO world heritage site, which has a delightful historic town centre. Its pedestrianised streets are a feast of brightly coloured, pine balconied old buildings and merchant houses. Our experience was enhanced by a guide descending from many generations of locals, with plenty of stories to tell. It’s said that the layout of historic La Laguna became the model for many colonising the “new world” of America.
Next stop Lanzarote.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Variety Cruises