Saturday, February 29, 2020

La Palma

We arrived to La Palma on Saturday a week ago. Here are some photos from the trip. This is Gomera's lighthouse coloured orange by rising sun.
This is the town Agulo, just two days before we were looking at it from the glass lookout above on the cliffs, where the ground is orange.
After we got to the North of the Gomera waves became more ordered and we got some wind and the sailing was quite nice. We were still almost beating (orca), which is not the most comfortable direction to sail, but it was much better than we expected. We didn't sail to La Palma in rhumb line (direct line), we tried to gain some height and went a bit more North, which was perfect, since the wind turned near La Palma and we needed to turn more to the West. And so we also kept a bit away from ferry route, which made sailing a lot easier. You can see another sailboat, that was in the ferries path, squeezed in between ferries on the right lower edge of screen. One ferry was doing 35 and the other 24 knots.
Although it wasn't late when we got to the marina, we decided to stay on the boat and go to bed early. But we didn't know that there's loud music in restaurant in the marina till 2 in the morning, so it kept us awake for a while.

And in the middle of the nigh "la calima" came. La calima is strong wind from Africa, that carries a lot of Sahara sand with it, but also warm air and big waves. The marina in La Palma is unfortunately built in a wrong place and swell manages to get in even when the waves are not very big. They even built an anti-swell door (kind of lock over the entrance) to diminish the swell and really makes situation better, but not good. At almost no time the boats are very still in marina, there's always some movement. When we arrived on Saturday evening the situation was not too bad. We still used plenty of lines to all directions to secure the boat, luckily we had the entire double berth with a finger to each side all to ourself. But waves got much bigger in the night, from some 1,5 m to 2 m when we arrived, to 5m towards the morning. It was horrible, sleeping was almost impossible, because the boat was moving and  jumping and jerking on lines violently. We weren't at all worried by 35 knots of wind, it was the movement that was our most concern. Captain almost didn't get any sleep, he was checking on lines and worrying that any of them might snap. In the morning he was in really bad mood, so much so that he wanted us to leave the marina immediately, even when out at sea it was still mayhem - big waves, strong wind and almost no visibility. Luckily our neighbours convinced him that it will get better soon, already the next night. I somehow managed to sleep a bit better and was not really willing to get out of the marina, that seemed less terrible than the sea out there.

After couple of cups of coffee and a breakfast we went into town of Santa Cruz. First we checked the state of the sea on the beach. It was already a little bit better than in the night.
The carnival was already happening, on Sunday it was for the kids and so in the middle of the day. On carnival people of La Palma dress in white - men in old fashioned white or whitish suits and ladies in white dresses, often with lace. It should represent the returning immigrants that were coming back from Cuba and Panama with lots of money. For some reason people also throw baby powder at each other, nobody is sure why that is. While we stayed away from the street where the baby powder throwing was the wildest, we got a bit of it as well. The statues of the musicians were also not spared, just like plants, houses, ATMs.
The part of the town that we were able to walk through was very nice...
...with beautiful balconies from colonial era...
...and replica of one of the Columbus ships.
The best part was that on our way back we found a live Cuban music and lots of people dancing. It was such a lovely atmosphere. All of the tables in front of the nearby restaurant were taken, so we sat on the low wall of the adjacent park. And waiters served us as well, usually they would just come by every half an hour with couple of beers and they never needed to return them to the bar. We had several ourselves and even Captains mood improved quite a bit.
And another "powdered" statue. And this was only the beginning.
Later we returned to the boat, we wanted to get some sleep. The visibility was terrible, and the pontoons were still moving and jumping from the swell. Well, a little bit of my instability I could probably attribute to beer as well.
This is the famous anti-swell door, I can't imagine how the previous night and the following days would have been without it. I don't think it would have been safe to stay, probably most of the vessels would need to sail out to sea.
With the movement of the boat and the pontoons one has to choose the right moment to climb aboard.
And this is what la calima brought us - lots of orange Sahara sand. So instead of taking a nap we washed the boat.
The sand was everywhere.
Later we read that it was even worse on other islands, flights were canceled due to strong wind and low visibility and people were stranded in airports. They said it was the worst la calima in 40 years.
We slept a bit better next night, although there were many boats still coming to the marina to be there for the carnival's main event on Monday. For each boat coming in the marinero had to open the anti-swell door (they lowered it), and more swell came in again and woke us up. Oh well...

On Monday, after big breakfast and again quite some coffee, we strolled into town. The party was already in full swing. The streets were full of white-clad people and clouds of baby powder. We saw this stall selling mojitos and what was interesting, they were making it with fresh pressed sugar cane juice.
While Captain was taking photos, I was standing in line to get two mojitos...

...and managed to get two hats and some baby powder with the mojitos. Mojito luckily had the lid on top and a straw, otherwise much of baby powder would land in it.
The carnival drew in hordes of people, I think I read somewhere that the town has some 14.000 residents, and 85.000 tourists come to the carnival. True, there were masses of people everywhere and big clouds of baby powder as well, so that is was hard to move and breathe.

Baby powder is often thrown in the air so it mostly lands on peoples heads.
But after another mojito - who cares... But sunglasses are essential, and hat helps as well.
While drinks are not expensive, most locals bring their own stuff - from ice to beer to cocktail mixes and even the food, like these girls.
You can only have so much mojitos and baby powder, even with Cuban music, so late in the afternoon we returned to the boat. And after the dinner finally had a bit more quiet night, although the party in town still went on.

On Wednesday we were resting, and so did the rest of the town. Masses of tourists were leaving on ferries, some sailboats left as well. Restaurants and bars were closed for cleaning and streets were hosed down by water, in attempt to flush away both baby powder and Sahara sand. We took a stroll through almost empty streets to stretch our legs. In the evening we rented a car for next three days. Our island explorations by car will get their own post. Or two. Or maybe three?

Tomorrow we are leaving La Palma, we will try to get to Lanzarote. We studied the weather hard and it looks like it would be the best weather for sailing ENE for quite some time (well, we can't wish for trade winds to turn to SW, even if that would be convenient). I just wish the passage would be se smooth and uncomplicated as sailing here from Gomera. If all goes well, we'll reach Lanzarote on late Monday evening.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Gomera day trip

On Thursday we rented a car (I made mistake in previous post, the bus trip was on Wednesday). We again got a nice car, bigger and better than what we asked for, but for the price of the smallest one. Great service by Cicar as always. We drove through the hills... one of the iconic rocks there, called Roque de Agando. We were lucky it was not in clouds, previous day as we drove by on bus it was not even visible. Noticed the nice flowers in foreground?
There were some more around the parking lot.
At the base of the rock there were some pine trees and a lovely green valley.
We drove to the next valley and then towards South.
While island is very green, its volcanic origin is still evident on many places.
At the end of the valley on the coast there is Playa Santiago, with small sleepy town with it's own spectacular rock.
I wouldn't mind having something like this in my backyard. Unless it was crumbly and one would need to wear a helmet while sitting in the garden.
We walked through the town, and had some arepas and coffee and fresh orange juice in one of the restaurants. Arepas are Venezuelan fried cakes made with corn flour, and then cut up and filled with different fillings - we had one with tuna and another with braised beef. It was very good and not fatty at all. Of course we also found some pretty flowers in the town.
And this is how Playa Santiago looks from above, there is also small harbour on the West side of the bay, where the ferry docks. Bay looked quite calm, it could be suitable for anchoring in settled weather.
Next we drove further West to the village of Alajero through another valley. The shape of Gomera is like one big hill with several valleys leading down from the middle of the island to the coast with ridges between them. Only on few places coast is flat and you can drive from one valley to the next along it, mostly it is necessary to drive up to almost middle of the island and then down into next valley. We stopped at several places and I always found some flowers with bees. We also saw some bee hives on the slopes, and of course decided to get some Gomera honey.
At one of the lookouts (miradors) we saw lots of nice things. I was seeing these plants also on other islands, also growing on the rocks, but only here they were also blooming.
There were several almond trees in bloom as well, and they also already carried fruit.
Above the mirador there was a small church with nice picnic place.
I liked these yellow flowers, and only later on my computer discovered a small yellow spider in the blossom.
The Thistle (osat) was the bee's favourite. There were plenty of usual bees...
...and also this pretty one, with thick antennae, white specks on the legs and white stripes on her hind part.
We drove back to the middle of the island and discovered some more plants we haven't seen before.
Then we stopped at Mirador de Igualero. There is a small church there and a monument to "Whistlers". People of Gomera were using a whistling language a lot to communicate from one ridge to another, as the terrain was so rugged. Whistling language is not only the part of Unesco cultural heritage now, but is also taught in schools on Gomera.
There were also some pretty views from the mirador. Towards the West there was an old volcanic mountain and some lovely pine forests...
...that survived the great fire in 2012. It you look close you can see how black the trunks still are and that the green branches are growing directly from them, as previous branches obviously burned away.
Next we drove towards Valle Gran Rey, and first stopped at Mirador de el Palmarejo, which was designed by Cesar Manrique, the artist that made such a difference in architecture on Lanzarote.
This is Valle Gran Rey, with winding road and terraces where they used to grow bananas...
...and the coast and touristy village at the end of the valley.
We didn't drive there, we didn't feel like we need to see another beach and there was so much more to see on that day.
We drove almost to the middle of the island again and then to the North side, towards town of Agulo. We came to the cloud forrest, where the damage of the big fire was still visible. Although there's a lot of new growth already there, some result of forestation.
We stopped at the Mirador de Abrante. There is a restaurant there that has a part made of glass and is hanging above the cliffs...
...over the town of Agulo. It was already late in the afternoon, and the light was fading, but the ground was really that red.
We had a nice Gofio mousse and Polverito de Uruguay (both desserts) in the restaurant and then also explored the plants around it a bit. I've again found a pretty bee, the same kind as I've seen during the day, on the plant that we've seen at Roque de Agando. Bee was in such a hurry to work through as many blooms as possible that I couldn't make a better photo of it.
Then we drove down through the hills to town of Agulo. While it's nice, it is not so very pretty. But we got a jar of Gomera honey in local shop.
In town I found a giant Poinsettia (božična zvezda), that was actually a tree. I know it as a pot plant that is bought mostly at Christmas.
Then we drove back to the marina, day was almost over and we were tired. On Friday we made a bit of shopping and prepared the boat for a long sailing on next day. In the evening we had a big BBQ and went to bed early, we wanted to sail off at 7.30 at the latest on next morning.

On Saturday morning everything went as planned, after the breakfast we got out of the port right behind Fred Olsen ferry at 7.30. While it was a long sail, the weather was perfect, just like forecast, and sailing nice and fast. Even the waves were not too big and annoying, once we were out of the channel between La Gomera and Tenerife. Captain was happy that none of the sailboats, that were sailing behind us, could overtake us. Just before reaching La Palma big flock of Atlantic dolphins came to play around our boat. We reached Santa Cruz marina before 5 in the afternoon and then the new adventure begun. But boy, we were so not ready for anything that awaited us.