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October 23rd 2010
Published: January 29th 2011
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Southern Tenerife couldn’t be more different from the natural and architectural splendours of La Palma and La Gomera islands. The coast is dominated by the large tourist development of Playa de las Americas where the first language is English, and the staple food fish and chips! Perhaps this wasn’t going to be a particularly cultural part of the trip. We decided we’d need to do something different or go insane.

We signed up for a two week language course in La Laguna to the north of the island, starting on Monday. La Laguna is the home of the Canary Islands first university so it seemed fitting that we go there for our return to schooling. To get up the coast for the first time in a while we have to sail upwind to get to Santa Cruz – for 40 miles! The entrance to the harbour is guarded by the magnificent city auditorium, a white tiled building in the shape of a wave reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. The city itself is reassuringly Spanish with grand architecture and a vibrant atmosphere. A statue at the entrance to the port records Nelson’s words of thanks to the inhabitants for their kindness after he had failed to capture the town, losing an arm in the process! Classes were in the afternoons for week one, and the mornings for week two. It proved to be a really refreshing break from passage making while still leaving us time to relax, explore, and do the inevitable boat jobs.

Our next crew arrived on the Saturday 16th October for a week’s sailing: Peter Deeley, Wendy, Fran Duinker and Dave Shepherd arrived by bus from Tenerife south airport bearing post, tea bags and ginger biscuits! After a steady sail back to Las Galletas, then on to La Gomera accompanied briefly by a pod of pilot whales. From San Sebastian we caught a bus across the island to Vallee Gran Rey. The trip took us over the dome shaped centre of the island through laurel forests, then down the sweeping Gran Rey valley to the coast. The town itself was very sleepy belying it’s violent past. On the sea front there is a proud statue of the Guanche (indigenous pre-Colombian peoples) chief who presumably gives the place his name. The island was subdued by the Spanish in around 1450. However when the Spanish administrator took a fancy to the chief’s daughter, the chief retaliated by killing him. As a result all male Guanche over a certain age were killed, the women were enslaved, and the children sold into slavery. Even members of the same tribe on other islands were searched out to meet the same fate! The rest of the tour took us to La Palma, then back to Las Galletas via La Gomera. By now my brother Charles had arrived in Tenerife with wife Alison and daughter Elena. We all met up for a meal in Playa de las Americas before seeing the team off back to England.

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