Archive for the ‘Trees’ Category

But you’ll have to take my word for it because for the life of me, I can’t take a decent picture of Puerto de la Cruz’ buzzing heart.

It’s lush, surrounded and shaded by palm trees and beautiful emerald Indian laurels. There’s a wonderful fountain in the centre where water trickles from oversized yams. It’s bordered by pavement cafes and restaurants and every night it’s filled with Canarian families and visitors to the town. It’s a place which is full of life and smiling people.

This just doesnt capture it at all!!!

This just doesn't capture it at all!!!

Photographing it should be easy, but so far this simple task seems to have eluded me.

When we were camping in the forest above Vilaflor last weekend, there was almost a complete absence of birds. I’ve noticed this in the past when walking in the forest around La Caldera; there’s much less bird activity than I’d find in one morning in my garden. So it was a pleasant surprise on the Sunday morning to wake up and find the pine trees around us absolutely teeming with great spotted woodpeckers. There must have been twenty of them. I’ve heard woodpeckers in the past, but until now, I’d never actually seen one in the wild. These ones were behaving exactly like you’d imagine woodpeckers would behave; perched on the sides of trees, tap, tap, tapping away at the trunk, their skull caps shining scarlet in the morning sun.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker

It was simply another wonderful moment in a weekend that had already been jam packed with memorable moments.

Q: What’s the difference between walking in the Anaga Mountains and going fifteen rounds with Rocky Balboa?

A: There isn’t one!

The lush Anaga Mountains

My favourite place for walking on Tenerife is in the Anaga Mountains. The Anagas occupy a large chunk of the north east of Tenerife and are characterised by ancient ravines, forests and tiny villages perched in places that no sane person would consider suitable for setting up home. This is a landscape which kicks ass and it’s absolutely beautiful.
La Gomera is known for its great walking, but for me the Anagas can match anything that Tenerife’s neighbour has to offer and raise it some. The fact that they are about as far away from Tenerife’s southern tourist resorts as you can get means that they’re not as popular with visitors as they deserve to be, but it does mean that when you explore them, you feel like you are witnessing a way of life on Tenerife which hasn’t changed for centuries.
This week Andy and I were exploring an old merchant’s trail for a series about walking on the island which we’re doing for Living Tenerife magazine. It wasn’t a long walk; only about 3.5 kilometres each way, but as the route twisted and turned from the Anaga’s spine down to a village, Taganana, near the coast and back again, it did involve a steep descent and a lung testing ascent. There is no such thing as easy walking in the Anagas; their very design makes you work your proverbial socks off to enjoy their treasures. On the way down we passed a German couple who were on the way back up. They weren’t that far from the village and from their dress they obviously weren’t strangers to serious walking, but both had flushed faces and were panting quite heavily.
After a lunch break in Taganana, a picturesque village which is a non-touristy version of Masca, we made our return along Calle Portugal and discovered why the Germans were already ‘done in’ before they’d even started. Calle Portugal is a joke of a street. It isn’t a street; it’s a vertical cliff which just happens to have houses on it. I’m sure the locals need ropes and crampons to get in their front doors. There was one car parked on the cobbles; boulders had been piled against its back wheel to stop it toppling over – no joke. By the time we reached the end of the street, passing a group of Sherpas setting up base camp on the way, we were fully paid up members of the ‘beetroot face’ club and some centenarian thief had nicked my left knee and replaced it with his aged, worn out one. And that, my friends, was 0.1 kilometres completed.

I love walking in the Anagas; it’s always an experience which stays with me for days afterwards…every time I walk down steps, stand up, bend down, move…

Be Ruthless

Posted: April 24, 2008 in Plants, Spain, Tenerife, Trees, Uncategorized
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Orchid treesIt’s taken a long time for me to realise that on Tenerife, the northern parts anyway, the most effective way of having a beautifully lush garden here is to cut trees and shrubs right back to the bone every so often. The two orchid trees in this picture looked exactly the same three or four months ago, then I pruned the one on the left until there wasn’t a branch left on it, only five bare trunks; a skeleton of a tree. Now look at it, incredible. The speed at which plants grow is frightening. It’s no wonder that Tenerife was a botanists dream.

I hadn’t been looking forward to it, but with the first rains due any day now, the time for procrastination was long over. The orchid tree had become an unruly mess and was sprawling over the herb patch menacingly like a schoolyard bully. It’s not the sawing and chopping that puts me off, in fact I love the whole ‘Tool Time Tim’ element.  It’s the getting rid of the disaster area debris afterwards that adds a real comatose inducing aspect to it.

Every branch has to be cut into manageable pieces with a pair of secateurs and put into garden refuse bags; a painfully long process which leaves me with blisters and aching hands. On the brighter side, it does give a much needed boost to the woodpile. Even here at a 100 metres or so altitude, there’s a noticeable difference in temperature from the coast and during December to March, evenings can be on the cool side; a good excuse to fire up the wood burning stove.

I’d been going at it for a couple of hours, the pile of branches stubbornly refusing to diminish. My motivation, like the strength in my hands, was on the point of taking a vacation when a loud squawking in the distance told me that a flock of parrots were heading my way. I never tire of seeing parrots, so it was the perfect excuse to down tools for a few seconds to watch their multicoloured fly-past. This time there were six of them; large lime green ones heading for the hills, no doubt escapees from Loro Parque (a zoo on the other side of Puerto de la Cruz).

Robin keeping me company Brief interlude over, I picked up the secateurs and with a deep sigh turned to face the chest high pile of branches again to find that I had another avian visitor, a more unexpected one. Sitting on the branches, just a few inches away was a robin with the most vivid red breast. An incongruous vision in the warm sunshine on an island near the coast of Africa. But then, the festive season is just around the corner. Already Christmas lights are starting to spring up around the town. There’s chestnuts roasting on open braziers beside the harbour for the fiesta of San Andrés, so why not a robin in our garden. All that we need now is for it to snow on the volcano (usually happens toward the end of November) to complete the picture. And if I ever finish getting rid of those damn orchid branches that’ll be the Yule time log on the Christmas cake. Chestnuts, robins, snow on Mount Teide and a roaring fire – and it’s warm during the day. You just couldn’t have a more perfect combination.

A Darwin moment

Posted: October 11, 2007 in Life, Spain, Tenerife, Travel, Trees
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This week it was our fourth anniversary of moving to Tenerife. In some ways the time has flown by, in others it seems like much longer. We celebrated by sitting on the terrace, cracking open a bottle of cava and mulling over the events of the last four years, deciding that the only predictable element of living here was that each day was going to be unpredictable. 
That day had been no different. The water pressure was weary (usually happens by the end of a long dry summer), the electricity had decided that it was obviously entitled to frequent rest breaks and the ADSL router had adopted a mañana culture attitude since its installation in July. Its abhorrence of working mornings had resulted in two visits from telefonica engineers; the first it had behaved perfectly, but the second, our anniversary, was a Monday and it obviously had post weekend blues. It didn’t take the engineer long to diagnose the problem.
“The electricity current is too low,” he announced. “It should be 220 and it’s 215.”
“Why?” I asked, but I already knew what he was going to say.
He shrugged his shoulders, smiled and gave an answer that we’d heard many times over the past four years.
“Because this is Tenerife.”

Andy and I sipped our Cava and talked about the joys and frustrations that came with living here. It was a beautiful still night and the sky was velvet blue and filled with stars. The silence was broken by the eerie cry of a heron, unseen in the darkness, followed a few minutes later by an owl flying over our heads and into the overgrown avocado tree that looms over the terrace; it was a blissful moment. It didn’t last. A few seconds later there was a crashing noise, followed by a loud thump. We looked at each other, puzzled, a millisecond before an oversized avocado rolled of the roof, whizzed past my head (an inch to the right and I would have been a serious nomination for the Darwin awards) and landed neatly in my hand.
 We both stared at the smooth green shape in the palm of my hand for a moment and then burst into laughter. Like I said, the only thing that’s predictable here is that it’s unpredictable.

Okay, that might be a bit sensationalist, but it did feel a bit like that’s what happened. Anyone else who lives in a subtropical climate and has an orchid tree with psychotic tendencies might know what I’m talking about.
When summer heats up, the tree’s long, bean-like seed pods turn brown and then explode like a firework, firing their button sized seeds in all directions like a madman with a machine gun. If you happen to be in the wrong place, at the wrong time, one could easily have your eye out.

On hot sultry days at the moment it’s positively dangerous to step outside the front door without body armour. It’s not even safe inside as the tree manages to spray its ammunition through the open front door. I’ve even been hit on the head whilst sitting minding my own business on the sofa.

This assault doesn’t let up at night either. Pods explode like champagne corks sending a rat-tat-tat-tat against the bedroom window. It really freaks you out the first time it happens (what do I mean first time? – it freaks me out every time).

It seems an incredibly effective way of the tree to spread its seeds, if completely nerve wracking for anyone in the immediate vicinity.
You might think I’m exaggerating about the ferocity and velocity of this phenomenon; however, don’t be too surprised if, at some point in the future, you happening to be perusing the Darwin awards and read about a tragic tale of a man gunned down by his orchid tree.