We had enjoyed our day on Gran Canaria and we were looking forward to our second Canary Island, Tenerife. The cruise ship docked in Santa Cruz. We had chosen to take a tour to Teide National Park and take the cable car to the top of Mount Teide. The cruise ship had a poster up, “advertising” this tour so we were pretty excited.
We had been told that the tour route was being altered as Mount Teide had received snow and some of the roads were closed. Since snow is a rare event, the government was transporting residents by bus to the National Park to see the snow. We were not really prepared for snow, so we would make due….that is what adventure is all about, enjoying the unexpected.
We left just as the sun was rising and met our guide Victor. We headed to the south part of the island for the alternate route.
Along the way we learned…Tourist season for cruise ships is October – April. The island of Tenerife has 400 ships with 50,000 passengers. port each season. Tourist mainly fly to the island,with millions coming mostly from Germany and Britain. The cruise port is in Santa Cruz which has about 220,000 residents but the island has 900,000. The Canary Islands were named by Roman explorers, who discovered the island and saw very large dogs. So they called the islands Cannais Islands or Dog Islands. We thought they were called Canary Islands for the bird. Due to the islands proximity to N. Africa the weather is very similar. Tenerife is a micro-climate island, due to it’s mountains. It is very dry in the south and very wet and green in the north. The island has inhabited by Berbers called Guanches from N. Africa around 500 BC. During the Spanish conquest, Tenerife was the last island to be conquered, falling in 1496. 14 and 15th century maps list the island as Isla del Inferno or Island of Hell, due to it’s volcanic activity. The island became an important trading and shipping center as well as an area for pirates.
Sugar cane was originally cultivated here and on the surrounding islands in the 16th century for rum production. There eventually was too much competition from South America and the Caribbean, so the fields were switched to grapes for the production of white wine. Cactus were imported from Mexico for the insects that live on them. These insects are crushed to produce a red dye.
All goods are imported except bananas, tomatoes, almonds, and grapes. The imported goods are less expensive than on mainland Spain, as the Canary Islands have lower taxes. Today, bananas are the main agricultural commodity. The outer skin is covered in black dots and they are only consumed on the island…350,000 tons annually!!! They are grown under large tents.
80% of the island’s water comes from 600 km of water tunnels drilled in the mountains that tap the water table. This makes farming possible on the mountain slopes. 20% of the water comes from desalination. 90% of the island’s energy comes from imported oil. They used to refine the oil products, but the facility is now used for storage.
The other 10% comes from wind farms.
We took a few pictures on our drive, and soon realized that Cindy shouldn’t have worn an orange shirt as it reflected in the bus windows…we did get a glimpse of the back side of the national park with it’s snow covered peak.
As we drove higher into the mountains at 800 meters/2600 feet in elevation, the terrain changed to Canarian Pine. They grow in the crevices of the rocks. As the tree matures is produces a sap that resists insects and rot. Balconies are made of the wood due to these properties. The trees resist fire due to air pockets in the bark layers. The outer layer is blackened but the inner layer is protected.
Mount Teide is Spain’s highest mountain at 12, 200 feet. It is the world’s 3rd tallest volcano, from the sea floor to summit is measures 24,600 feet.
It is still considered an active volcano but only with gas emissions with temperatures around 180 degrees F.
The darker sections are where the last major eruption with lava flowed in 1909. There was an underwater eruption in 2012, which scientist believe will be a new island someday.
The ancient volcanic activity originally created 3 islands. They eventually merged in one large island, with peaks believed to be tens of thousands of feet high. The mountainous island collapsed in a landslide, creating the island of today.The caldera is 60 km across and contains 3 types of rocks: obsidian, balsamic, and olive vein. The soil is yellow due to the pumice.
Our tour included the cable car trip of 1200 meters/3900 feet to the observation area near the top.
Once we obtained the tickets from Victor we waited in the que and boarded the car. There are only 2 cars, so the wait can be long, fortunately we were early in the day and the wait was only about 30 minutes. On the ride to the top, as the car goes over the towers it rocks forward, there were some passengers who didn’t like that. We thought it was a pretty cool feeling…
We had about 20 minutes at the observation station. Many people ride the cable car up and then hike back down, but all the trails were closed due to snow.
We enjoyed the wonderful views…
On the other side of the caldera is the world’s largest solar and optical telescopes.
We bought the souvenoir picture at the bottom which was quite the bargain at 5 euros. They would only take euros so we were the money exchangers on the bus for those that didn’t have euros. Cindy also stood in the ticket line and obtained the mountain stamp.
As we left Teide, we passed the Roques de Garcia rock formation. This is a popular spot as it was on Spanish money before the Euro.
The clouds had moved in for the drive back down the mountain, it made for an interesting landscape.
On the way back to Santa Cruz, Victor told us that the unemployment rate in 2008 was at 36% but due to tourism it is now at 24%. If you are over 55 and unemployed you receive 450 Euros per month, 30-55 years of age receive no unemployment benefits. He is actually a mechanical engineer but makes more money as a tour guide. All residents get free healthcare.
We also learned that the deadliest airplane crash in aviation history happened on Tenerife in 1977, when two 747 airliners collided on a runway. On the cruise ship we had met a man who was a retired pilot who mentioned this as well.
We drove back on the highway that Fast and Furious 6 was filmed on, before it opened to the public. You can see all the blue bridges in the movie scenes.
The island has no oil exploration, but their harbor is a storage facility for off-shore drilling rigs.
In Santa Cruz, we made a quick stop at the Opera Center. It looks like the Sydney Opera House. It was designed by the same architect, Santiago Calatrava, who designed the Oculus in NYC at One World Plaza. You could see the design similarities.
Next to the Opera center is the Castillo Negro also known as the Black Castle. It is dedicated to John the Baptist. It played an important role in defeating the British naval captain Horatio Nelson in 1797, when he attempted to take over the island from Spain.
We had a great time seeing the sights and learning about Tenerife. We enjoyed watching the ship leave port.
We ended the day eating a wonderful meal in the dining room. Tomorrow we would be in Funchal, Portugal.