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Tenerife in May by Mike Lodge 

     Tenerife in May, is an island covered in flowers, with temperatures in the mid to high twenties celcius, it is quite warm.  If however like me, you are susceptible to sunburn, you must use a high factor sun block because the UV index can be very high and will burn you badly in a very short time.  My feet, in sandals, without socks, are testament to this and actually became quite sore, peeling in large patches, just three days later. 

     It is not just the small plants that burst into bloom at this time of year.  The trees, including the Fire Tree, so named because of its upright and vivid red flowers, the creeping Bougainvillea, (nick-named the paper flower) and the Prickly Pear cactus, also with red flowers.  There is a myriad of colour variety, shapes and sizes and it all adds up to a dazzling display of colour. 

     At the same time, all the plants are having a growth spurt in the spring sunshine and by 9am, the temperature has risen significantly from the overnight chilly temperatures that are still warm compared to the UK at this time of year.  There are a large variety of cacti, from ones on a single stalk that branch out at the top into an umbrella shape, through the very tall and giant, multi stemmed varieties to the well known, fruiting Prickly Pear and the spiny football shaped ones. 

     There is one other that you cannot escape from and that is the broad leaved with a sharp thorn on the end, Aloe Vera plant.  This one and its products are everywhere on Tenerife and it seems as though the only people who do not sell one of the product derivatives are the Looky-Looky men that haunt the promenades, but who leave you alone if you say no thank you.  I have seen creams for the relief of aches and pains, moisturiser creams, shampoos, refreshing shower gels, and assorted skin creams to name a few of the product claims that I have seen.  You even see dedicated to Aloe Vera sales products people in the foyer of some of the bigger hotels and Aloe Vera products in all the supermarkets, both larger and smaller and also all the tourist shops. 

     Whilst we were there, there was an encampment at one of the smaller seaside villages called Abades, (pronounced Abardeez), on the south- eastern side of the island, north of Reina- Sophia airport.  This was all the film crew etc for the making of Clash of the Titans 2, and we saw them filming up the side of mount Teide, (Tidy) and it was in the crater of this volcano where Planet of the Apes was filmed.  The landscape up there above the tree line is truly wild and rugged but easily accessible by car, and there are walking trails up there as well.  From the highest car park, there is a cable car to a much higher point up the mountain, but access to the actual summit is now limited to pre-arranged pass holders only.  Up there the air is thin and those unfortunate people with respiratory problems would be advised to proceed with caution and climb slowly with frequent stops to regain their breath.  I’m a reasonably fit sixty year old, with no respiratory problems, but I can feel the breathing becoming difficult at these sort of altitudes. 

     The trip down from the summit by car was via a couple of the smaller villages, and there were some very steep gradients, narrow roads and amazing twists and turns to negotiate, and when we were between the villages the true driving fun kicked in.              

     Hairpin bends, one in three gradients and fantastic views, most of which are over descending terrain and the coastline of the island and the Atlantic Ocean.  No sign of the next piece of land, I think that may be Ascension Island in The Southern Atlantic on the way to The Falkland Islands, many thousands of miles away.  Tenerife is approximatley, one hundred and fifty miles of the east coast of Africa, and often gets dust storms from there.  They are called Kalima’s and I’ve heard it said that you can almost smell the camels.  The Canary Islands are not very far from the equator and are warm all year round and even in winter which is the same time as ours, because the islands are still in the northern hemisphere, the temperature seldom drops below about 18 degrees celcius, but it has been known to rain very heavily. 

               The whole island is simply one volcano that last erupted in 1909 from the El Chinyero vent. The 1706 eruption from the Montañas Negras vent on the Santiago rift destroyed the town and principal port of Garachico, plus several smaller villages.  The whole landscape on the sides of the volcano, and particularly down towards the coast is a series of rugged and sometimes quite deep valleys known in Spanish as Barrancas.  These are often the conduits by which the rainfall descends to the sea and when you go down into them then you lose the wind and gain quite a rise in temperature, but the volcanic rocks are rough and you need stout footwear to scramble over the rocks.  The rabbits that live here must have very hard feet!   

     When you pick up a piece of the rock, you would probably be surprised how little it weighs in your hand, and if you put certain types in water, they may even float because of all the air pockets in them.  Pumice stone is just one example of volcanic rock and is in fact rock that has been molten inside the volcano and spewed out as lava which has cooled and hardened as it has run down the outside of the volcano.

The crater of the volcano Mount Teide, which formed the island of Tenerife.  This is where they filmed Planet of the Apes.  To give an idea of scale, the smaller of the two large rocks on the left is about 250 feet high and the crater is about 1 1/2 miles across to the hills in the distance. 

The fire tree with its bright red flowers. 

The working harbour at Playa de San Juan 

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