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Monday, 19 June 2017

San Andres and Marine Walk to Charco Azul and Puerto Espíndola - Part II

On our way now from the beautiful little village of San Andres to the Puerto de Espíndola, this the second part of our blog post - you can see the first part here:
Although the walk is very easy and quite short, there are many things to see along the way and of course even a bit to learn. For example, you'll be able to read from one of the information boards about how the settlement of San Andres was the most important trading centre in the north-east of La Palma, especially in the 16th and 17th century. It's hard to imagine what it was like that far back!
But the tiny port of 'La Cuevita' that is passed along way was doubtless key and you can still see the winch that was used in more recent times to get boats in and out of the water. Before the advent of the fantastic roads we have now, it was quicker to make the journey to Santa Cruz by sea than by road, as you can well imagine. But it's good to see that people are still using it as a place from where to fish. Oh, and sunbathe and swim :)
Along the marine walk, it's also interesting to see the few houses that there are. I'm sure each one has an interesting history. A few hang at the edge of the cliff practically dipping their toes in the sea. Whilst another is distinctly wacky!
Not quite as wacky as the odd collection of boards and bridges which look like something out of Popeye's village. Definitely not approved by the Health and Safety Executive, so please don't test it out.
From San Andres it is only a walk of about 15 minutes before arriving at Charco Azul which is a well known place on La Palma owing to its sea pool of azure blue, hence the name. The pool is very well fed from the sea and people love to line up against the sea wall and have the mighty Atlantic throw itself in. But it's calm as often as not, so those that like a bit of 'water action' can take advantage of the pump-operated waterfall which intermittently spouts out water in one corner of the pool.
There is also a pool for small children and great changing rooms, reminiscent of beach huts from yesteryear. And totally free of charge.
Another great attraction is the Restaurant Charco Azul which directly overlooks the pools. And just around the corner on street level is the Restaurant Rompecabos which has a slightly calmer atmosphere.
Not to be missed is the small museum of the Aldea rum distillery where you can have a guided tour or even just purchase one of the many types of rum made there. At one time there were around 30 rum distilleries on La Palma and it was a significant industry. However, now there is just the Aldea distillery. Tours are Monday to Saturday, 10.00 and 12.00hrs. But the shop (which is fascinating in itself) is open 09.00 to 14.00hrs and 15.00 to 17.00hrs Monday to Friday and Saturday mornings.
Aldea Rum Distillery and small museum
And finally, yes finally after all that excitement and interest ... is the glorious sandy beach of Puerto Espíndola. This is a place which has certainly seen some changes over the past ten years. From what was a small harbour, this has now been usurped by a far larger harbour on the other side of the bay.
The wide swath of sandy beach was created a few years ago and this has got to be the largest beach in the whole of the north. Access to the beach itself is very easy and so is entry and exit into the water. There is even another little cove next to it which we highly recommend for snorkelers and confident swimmers too.
If not a swim, the restaurant Mesón del Mar which is housed in a wonderful old building and overlooks the bay is the perfect place to end this little journey.
Restaurant Meson del Mar

Friday, 19 May 2017

Dolphin Spotting from Tazacorte

Our latest adventure was the very much awaited for boat trip from the Puerto de Tazacorte.
This was the big one on my List of Things to do on La Palma and I can't tell you how long I've waited for this! Well, if pressed, probably 15 years but with a whole lot of other things clamouring for attention, it's only in the last few years that it is has doggedly moved up to pole position. But still held held back by the self-closing doors of time and opportunity.
Until as luck would have it (and with David's family over on holiday) we found ourselves staying at one of the self-catering apartments at Tazacorte and right by the marina for a whole week. This was my big chance!!
As many of you will know there are several boats that run trips to see the dolphins and whales from Tazacorte Marina. A sighting is not guaranteed of course but a visit to the Cueva Bonita and the chance to swim or snorkel and/or go on the banana boat is also a possibility. A view of the coast from seaward is also a very exciting prospect!
The number of boats offering dolphin and whale spotting trips has increased over the years and I can tell you, the decision is very, very difficult. In the end we chose the Fancy II because it has underwater viewing and maybe also because it's been around the longest!

However, the Flipper Whale Watching boat has underwater cameras with the viewing sent directly to screens so everybody can get a view of what's going on below. And the Fantasy has the most amazing inverted glass dome so that everybody can see what's going on underwater all the time. But all the boats have their own special features so it's entirely up to you to choose the boat that offers what is important to you! Have fun deciding on that! 🤔🤔
Flipper Whale and Dolphin watching
So that's it, we were onboard and off and I'll let the photos with captions do the talking.

Leaving Tazacorte behind, Pico Bejanado in the distance
Skipper is on the look out for dolphins and whales

Here they are - he's found them for us!

Atlantic Spotted dolphins seem even more beautiful from below deck
From the twin hulls of the catamaran, there's plenty of other fish to be seen
So I can highly recommend this trip! The crew were absolutely brilliant, bringing free cake and sandwiches, (beer and coffee is available for sale) chatting with us and making sure everyone was OK and enjoying it. 

If we hadn't seen any dolphins, it would have been a shame of course but even so, we would have really enjoyed it. After the dolphins we headed back towards Tazacorte Port closer to the cliffs so we could see the shanty villages.

And then took a detour right inside the Cueva Bonita with its azure water.  

Would we do it again? You betcha! Naturally on a different boat and if we're not careful, I can see that we'll be making up for lost time!
More about the boats: 
The Inia RIB (rigid hull inflatable boat) - if you want to have some fun with a bit of close to the water speed - go for it!

The Bussard  built in 1970's was originally a shrimp boat. With a maximum of 12 passengers, it's a more sedate experience on the Atlantic Ocean around Tazacorte.
 The Bussard
The Fantasy - a combination of speed and viewing of marine life
Or sports fishing with Atlantic Experience

Ocean Explorer operate the Flipper, Inia RIB and the Bussard -

Fancy II and the Fantasy -

Atlantic Experience for sports fishing from Tazacorte -

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Fuencaliente Salt Pans, La Palma,

The Teneguia Salinas Marinas, Salt Pans, of Fuencaliente are well worth a visit if you are in the south of La Palma. Located beyond the small town of Los Canarios, the sight of the salt pans is certainly impressive. It's a place where the white salt is ordered by black lava in a layout almost akin to a chess board. But here, it's the sun and warm wind that do all the moving to turn sea water from the Atlantic Ocean into sought-after salt.
It was in 1967 that the idea was born to create the salt pans, following the concept of salt pans in Lanzarote. Maybe there would be a market for the salt, maybe not. However, only 4 years later in 1971, it seemed that the Teneguia volcano would wipe out the fledgling business. But in the end, the salt pans were spared although with a coating of volcanic ash and closure for a year.
From then onward, the production of salt has literally solidified into a successful business. Many say that the old ways are best and in this case it seems to be so with all the work done by hand and using traditional tools.
Salt farming at Fuencaliente Salt Pans
Harvesting from the Atlantic Ocean
 There's an additional bonus to the sea pools with the flora and fauna that it brings and in 1994 the Canarian Government declared the Fuencaliente Salt Pans an Area of Scientific Interest. The basins with their salt concentration higher than the sea support special vegetable and animal species that thrive on a saline environment and migratory birds use the area as a vital stopover and feeding point. You might spot plovers, dunlins, sandpipers, turnover and even some rare species to La Palma such as flamencos or shell ducks. For bird-watching on La Palma, this is doubtless the place for sightings. 
For all of this and more, you can follow a marked trail around the various stages of salt pans along with information boards. The self-guided tour takes around 30 minutes - at first, I thought we would probably only take about 20 minutes but no, there is quite a lot to take in!
And you even get to walk on a little road of salt - salted roads are not something we associated with the Canary Islands :)
Apart from the salt pans, there are also the two lighthouses at the start in the car park area and plenty of information boards plus great views!
There is an excellent thematic restaurant, Restaurante Jardin de la Sal, where you can either enjoy a meal of even just coffee and cake. Plus a little shop where you can purchase salt products and interesting gifts and keepsakes to remind you of your holiday on La Palma.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

San Andres and marine walk to Charco Azul and Puerto Espindola Part I

For those on holiday staying at the more southerly resorts on La Palma, I can imagine that it might be difficult to tear oneself away to explore the more northerly points of the island. However, for a place that has Canarian charisma oozing out of every cobbled stone and cute cottage, the little village of San Andres in the north east of La Palma is a must.
When we were looking for a place to live on La Palma, we stumbled across San Andres and immediately thought, 'Ah, this is it!' Everything one imagines a Spanish village to be, from the beautiful plaza with church (La Iglesia de San Andrés Apóstol), three cafe/restaurants dotted around the plaza and an abundance of cobbled streets. All in the most beautiful setting overlooking the Atlantic Ocean.
Actually, the church alone is very interesting as this was the site of one of the first churches to be built on the island by the Spanish Conquistadors in 1515. The present church was built in the 17th century. Unlike most churches the entrance is not at the nave end but it has two main doors at the side. Since our first visit there, we haven't been able to go inside the church as it's been locked up, but one of the most surprising things is the selection of doll parts adorning some of the walls. Apparently, this is to pray for people who are ill with the relevant part left in the church.
For walkers, the GR130 Camino Real walking route runs right through San Andres, so that's a bit of a treat in store, an oasis at the end of banana plantations. However, if not passing right through, you'll probably want to walk around the three main streets just so you don't miss anything, including a second little church. One thing you might miss though is the view from the upstairs at Bar Miami in the main street. That's my handy tip for the day :)
Moving right along, follow the GR130 signs towards Los Sauces and this will get you on the marine walk. It's a very enjoyable - and flat - walk which links San Andres to Charco Azul and Puerto Espindola.
Along the way, there is an absolutely lovely wooden bridge, quite new, but of a great design.

Also the old lime kiln which was very important from the days when lime paint was used to coat houses and protect from damp.  You can look right inside the kiln which is fascinating with its curved, brick interior.

Continuing along the marine walk, there's plenty to see, the sea for a start! But also various subtropical plants and a few very interesting houses. I'll let you be the judge on that!

Charco Azul here we come ... to be continued :)