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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Canary Islands After the Storm

El Dedo de Dios in Gran Canaria after the storm broke off it's top portion

Tropical storm, winter storm, hurricane ... the distinctions do not seem all that important when what one sees looks like a hurricane whipped through. Mudslides, missing roofs and trees, often hundreds of years old, have been uprooted all over the islands.

Among many others, eight of the large trees on Santa Cruz', Avenida de Anaga, alongside the the capital's port have been uprooted and in the Plaza Weyler, the gardens have been totally destroyed. A sculpture by famous artist, the late Cesar Manrique, has been reduced to scrap metal in Lanzarote. Meanwhile, in Gran Canaria, God has lost his finger.

"The famous Dedo de Dios (God's Finger), at Puerto de Las Nieves on Gran Canaria has collapsed due to strong winds." The famous landmark stood for millions of years and had been the symbol of the area.

Whilst it is sad that such things have been destroyed in one frenzied night and day, TV reports show carnage, but victims mostly dismissive of their material damages and grateful they had no lost lives to lament. Indeed, only one man died, on the Canary Islands themselves, as a direct result of the storm. The 63 year old was blown off his ladder while attempting to repair his roof in Fuerteventura.

Over 200,000 people in Santa Cruz and La Laguna in Tenerife spent a second night last night without power after pylons alongside Tenerife's main north-south highway were blown down. Local authorities are having equipment flown in from the mainland and expect to reconnect 40% of those without power today, 90% by tomorrow, Thursday and to have 100% power restored by Friday.

Over forty percent of the mobile telephone network was affected, as well as thousands of fixed phone lines cut off. We were without internet connection for a while and one of our TV stations was missing, probably due to a downed antenna. Hardly life-threatening.

The most lasting damage from the storm will be to the agricultural sector, which has suffered wholesale destruction of many crops throughout the archipelago.

Here in the north west of Tenerife, locally, at least, we were protected from the winds - which reached 200 kmh (124 mph) at Izaña, close to Mount Teide - by the Los Gigantes cliffs. Local damage is minor and restricted to small items that have been displaced. However, the roof of a new industrial building near the town of Buenavista del Norte was ripped off and in neighbouring Los Silos, the wall of a banana plantation fell on a vehicle belonging to the Local Police.

In Icod de los Viños a row of houses had their roofs blown off, but the storm merely dampened and did not wash out the day's traditional festivities for San Andres.

Experts are unable to offer conclusive proof, but locals are convinced that global warming is responsible for the abnormal weather phenomenon. Those I have spoken to hope, but do not believe, that it will be an isolated incident.

The islands have now been taken off alert and schools and work are back to normal today in almost all but the most affected areas of Santa Cruz and La Laguna.

BBC | Tropical storm batters Canaries

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Storm Delta nears Canary Islands

Latest satellite weather image, courtesy
Canarian Astrophisics Institute (IAC)
The regional government declared a state of alert in the Canary Islands as Tropical Storm Delta (the 25th of the season) headed towards the archipelago.

The fishing fleet was ordered to remain on dry land and citizens were advised to avoid travelling, especially on roads close to the coasts and, to take extra precaution on mountain and narrow roads where there is a heightened risk of falling trees or rocks.

Schools were closed Monday throughout the Canary Islands and several inter-island flights were cancelled, with others suffering delays as the first winds of Atlantic tropical storm Delta hit the archipelago.

Keen to allay fears among the population who might be concerned about the risk of damage on a par with that caused by Wilma or Katrina, simply because this is a named storm, local TV presenters interviewed meteorologists on air via telephone link.

Presenter: "What is the difference between this and previous storms we've seen in the archipelago?"

Meteorologist: "The Hurricane Center in Miami gave it a name."

OK, just so we know!

Meteorologists predicted wind speeds of between 75 and 100 kmh in the uplands of Tenerife and La Palma, possibly reaching 150 kmh or more on the summit of Mount Teide. Winds have continued to buffet Secret Tenerife's "headquarters" throughout Monday, but, so far, with less force than we have seen on previous occasions.

Electricity supplies have been interrupted more than once, but we have decided to follow official advice to the letter, "avoid unnecessary trips". Lock up, wrap up and sit it out, is usually the best way to deal with these short lived weather fronts.

Situación de alerta ante los fuertes vientos y lluvias, preludio de la tormenta 'Delta'

Friday, November 11, 2005

The superiority of chocolate

Chocolate con churros

There is, I think, no question that chocolate is superior and Thomas Jefferson seems to have understood something of the exalted position that chocolate holds in Spanish culture. Plenty of other cultures certainly love chocolate too now, but I don't think any other appreciates it with quite the same sense of exoticism and sensuality.

The superiority of chocolate

And, I had to laugh at my online horoscope this morning, which said:

"Treat yourself well today. Try to up your chocolate intake -- and sneak in a nap."

Whoever writes these things, obviously, does NOT live in Spain. This would not be considered as special treatment; this is a way of life and it certainly has it's benefits.

Aztec mythology (it was the Aztecs who began the cultivation of cocoa), even links the product to God, who, they believed, sent the seeds to earth to "sweeten" man's existence. The first consignment of chocolate arrived in Spain in 1527 and, from there, soon spread (chocolate spread - pun intended) throughout the whole of Europe.

Flicking channels recently, I caught the end of an item on tvCanaria - in their daily magazine program, Canarias Directo, which is available, not just locally but on the International and Digital channels too - about a restaurant somewhere here on the islands serving chocolate and nothing but chocolate in masses of different ways.

I wish I'd caught the beginning of it to tell you where it is, because, whilst most chocolate bars leave me unexcited these days (simply because there are so many better ways to get one's *fix*), this report and all the samples they showed made me positively drool. And, yes, they were promoting chocolate's healthy qualities!

Chocolate contains antioxidants and you wouldn't want to go rusty, would you? :)

This is, after all, a country where you can (I'm not saying you should) buy sliced bread with chocolate chips in, breakfast rolls and pastries with gooey chocolate in the middle, as well as chocolates and bars in all the more familiar forms, plus the traditional semi-liquid Chocolate a la Taza for the afternoon ritual - and into which to dip your churros.

If you visit Spain or the Canary Islands, you will find most of these things in the supermarket and I urge you to try the unfamiliar ones, even if it is just once.

The funny thing is, despite the national love of chocolate and sweet things (take condensed milk, for instance), Spanish chocolate, cakes & deserts are never nauseatingly over-sweet or sickly that you do generally find, at least in the UK.

History of chocolate in Spain

Photo: Toni Kaarttinen from Espoo, Finland [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Buenavista del Norte Tuning Car Meeting

First Buenavista del Norte Tuning Car Meeting

Well, this was something very different in our little rural backwater; Buenavista's first "Concentration" of Tuning Cars, which was held on Saturday in the main street and the square - usually the scenes of more pedestrian pursuits, such as traditional fiestas and romerias, horses or herds of goats at the annual fiesta of San Antonio each January.

Even rural backwaters have to move with the times, I guess and a goodly number of curious spectators had turned out by early afternoon to contemplate the couple of dozen vehicles on display, listen to engines being revved or buy tickets for the raffle.

So, here, in a Secret Tenerife "exclusive" are photos from yesterday's gathering.

Tuning, was defined by La Frikipedia (now defunct) not very kindly, but probably quite accurately, as the "Contemporary art consisting in acquiring any type of motor vehicle and converting it into a species of totally afuncional and ridiculous intergalactic spaceship."

And, no, I don't know why they couldn't find a Spanish word to describe it. (Although, a growing trend, the use of "ingañol" is not as common here as it is in North America.) Perhaps it's more cool for participants to use a foreign word and, less embarrassing for everyone else to "blame" it on the British or Americans with an English one!

La Frikipedia also listed some of the "artistic practices" that a tuning car is submitted to, amongst them, namely:

  • Painting the vehicle in florescent colours that the human eye is not prepared for.

Hummm ... I think the sober green and blue number (pictured above) is pretty close to qualifying for that prize.

As well as making the doors open up instead of swinging the normal way, this vehicle rose up off the road surface - not a bad idea here, since there is not one single flat one on the entire island - and dropped back down again when it parked. Both novelties being the reason why it drew quite a crowd of easily delighted onlookers.

  • Include a sound system superior to the value of a similar car in the showroom.

Exibit B

This yellow, white and blue example, despite the Chinese/Japanese calligraphy and other assorted emblems and animals, is in the colors of the Canarian flag.

And, it was for sale.

Actually, it's a shame (or a good job, according to your taste) that I cannot include sound with this report, because a 4x4 parked nearby, indeed the road surface and most of the buildings in the street, were pulsating with the sounds of reggaeton.

Coincidentally, I ran across the following quote, "At the forefront of the reggaeton movement is Tego Calderon, who was at a loss to describe why the mix of salsa and hip-hop, Afro-Caribbean rhythms and reggae is so popular." He may have been at a loss, however, tuning and reggaeton seem to be made for each other. Both equal in terms of subtlety and the latter is ideal for showing off the full capabilities of those expensive sound systems. (If the bodywork can take it.)

What else do we need for an authentic tuning car?

  • Change the tyres for enormous rubber rollers.
  • To include all type of ailerons and fins, each one with its corresponding illumination.
  • Change the exhaust for a fatter one, preferably from a tractor.

(Ah, now we see why this has caught on here in the countryside.)

And, naturally, one has to drill holes in the exhaust manifold.

  • To fill any free space with stickers (we KNOW these make any vehicle go faster).

Surprised cat sticker on a car bonnet

If you can't quite run to the whole customization job at the moment, you can always begin with something like this rather surprised looking cat on the bonnet of an otherwise normal(ish) saloon car.

We probably should mention that La Frikipedia (also not very kindly, but in reasonable truth) pointed out that the "art" of tuning is generally performed by a specific group of young persons known as canis. You'll most likely not require a translation to recognize this species as being a close relation to that champion of good taste, his British cousin, the chav.

It's simply all part of the current youth culture - and each successive generation of youth has one - which allows them to express their individuality with rigorous conformity. :)

Extracting our tongue from our cheek finally, the positive aspect to this is that there is enough yoof in the local area to support such an event. For many years, up until the last couple, they had mostly been leaving the area - which was becoming rather top-heavy in old age pensioners - to seek work in other parts of the island.