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Sharon Cain
Time for Life Correspondent
7:25 AM 26th February 2022
lifestyle

What New Highs Will You Aspire To?

Beautiful and foreboding: Mount Teide. Images by Steve Hare.
Beautiful and foreboding: Mount Teide. Images by Steve Hare.
Encouraging our readers to follow their dreams make every moment count is the inspiration behind the ‘Time for Life’ column from our author, Sharon Cain, and photographer, Steve Hare.

With Europe and further afield opening to travellers following the myriad of challenges posed by Covid, there are some great breaks to be bagged – whether it be scaling the highest heights, diving with sharks - or sailing into the sunset in warmer climes.

In our latest article, Sharon transports us on their recent Canaries cruise adventure where they savoured Vitamin Sea and had more of an explosive time than anticipated!


Winter Wellbeing Boost

All aboard: Canaries Cruising in temperate climes.
All aboard: Canaries Cruising in temperate climes.
Having been caught up in the Spanish Covid lockdown for part of the past two winters, the bitter cold and greyness of January in England has been a shock to our systems.

With howling winds and storms threatening to blow us into the North Sea in Northumberland, we braved it out until all of January 31 before grabbing a late Canaries cruise which packed in four of the volcanic islands across seven days and a stopover in Madeira.

Located close to Western Sahara and Morocco, the islands comprise Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria, Tenerife, La Gomera, La Palma and El Hierro.
Although cloudy and chilly at night early in the year, they enjoy a Mediterranean, sub-tropical climate with mild temperatures between 18-24 °Celsius all year round.

Part of Spain since the 1400’s, they are also responsible for 13 volcanic eruptions since the 16th century. The most recent was just last year in La Palma which lasted 85 days from September 19 to 13 December – the longest known eruption on the island.

The devastation included the destruction of 1,000 buildings and the evacuation of 6,000 people. Harrowing scenes included swimming pools boiling as red-hot lava from the volcano streamed into gardens.

The Canary Islands Volcanology Institute reported that the eruption on the island of La Palma and its aftermath could last for up to 84 days. Dust was still in the sky during our trip – a stark reminder of nature’s power.

Dramatic - and Dangerous

Mighty Mountain

Our first port of call was Tenerife which is dominated by Mount Teide, the world’s third highest volcano after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea in Hawaii.

It last erupted without warning in 1909, two centuries after a previous eruption devasted lives and villages. As independent travellers we’re always reluctant to join group tours, but logistics and expensive taxi rates dictated we embark on the obligatory coach to get closer to the snow-covered volcano and its one-million-year-old peak.

As we wound our way around hairpin bends amid howling wind, it was apparent that the cable car ride to 12,000 feet, rewarding sightseers with knockout Atlantic views, was out of the question this day.

Although disappointing, we were still close enough to appreciate Teide’s potential destructive force, enormity, and context.

This included a quirky legend (doesn’t it always!) that the King of Evil who lived inside Teide captured the God of Light and Sun and took him into the bowels of the crater. Local people called on their supreme god to defeat the evil King and rescue the God of Light and Sun and plug up the crater. It is said that the whitish plug that their supreme god put in place is the last cone of the volcano which resembles a crown.

Lanzarote’s Lunar Landscape

Martian landscape as far as the eye can see
Martian landscape as far as the eye can see
The highlight of our trip was Lanzarote, a compelling island with over 300 volcanos.

Passing through endless miles of lava fields, craters, cones, and calderas - a large cauldron-like hollow that forms when a magna chamber empties after a volcanic eruption - our tour was fascinating and compelling.

At the Timanfaya National Park we witnessed the phenomenal Fire Mountains, a vast area affected by a prolonged series of eruptions in the 18th Century and classed as among the most important and spectacular in the earth’s history.

The surreal landscape - where Lava and magma have created rock and land formations tinged with red, yellow, and orange - was redolent of a sci fi movie.

Dynamite Experience
Explosive and mesmerising: watch this closely!


At the National Park, a wake-up call for tourists and cruise guests easing themselves gently into a Saturday morning came from local guides performing explosive volcanic show-stopping experiments such as turning brushwood into fire and cups of water into steaming geysers.

Although I knew the ‘big bang’ was imminent when water on bags planted in the subsoil was exposed to inordinately high temperatures, I still screamed with the mini fireworks show which delighted the crowds!

The Canary Islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.
The Canary Islands are surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean.
Our trip took us along the south coast with its stunning, panoramic views and we returned to the ship buzzing with the experience of what we had learnt and saw. We also agreed that Lanzarote did not deserve to be much maligned and nicknamed ‘Lanzagrotty’.





The Magic of Madeira

Fabulous Funchal: Views from the Cabo Giro Skywalk.
Fabulous Funchal: Views from the Cabo Giro Skywalk.
Sailing into Madeira, one of five archipelagos of volcanic origin in the North Atlantic, was a perfect opportunity to explore on our own and visit new sights.
We’d spent a rain-drenched New Year’s Eve in the colourful capital Funchal a few years ago. Thankfully the weather this time was infinitely better as we headed for the highest heights – the skywalk on the cliffs of Cabo Girão, a mere 580 meters above sea level.
Overhanging the side of some of the Europe’s highest cliffs, the glass walkway (don’t look down if you’re scared of heights!) rewarded us with amazing views of the Madeira coastline, Funchal, and the fishing village of Câmara de Lobos.

Scenic splash: the iconic Câmara de Lobos.
Scenic splash: the iconic Câmara de Lobos.
A visit to Câmara de Lobos, which inspired Winston Churchill to take up painting when on holiday in 1950, was not complete without sampling some local seafood.
We didn’t frequent the formal looking Reid’s Place Hotel where Winston Churchill was wined and dined during his stay, opting for a more rustic venue overlooking the

Rooms at Pestana Churchill Bay Hotel are inspired by Churchill’s paintings.
Rooms at Pestana Churchill Bay Hotel are inspired by Churchill’s paintings.
The food, including luscious giant prawns, were unforgettable and time stood still, as it had for Churchill, as we watched the local fishermen playing cards as the soporific sound of lapping water banished the harsh English winter into oblivion.

What a catch: succulent local seafood.
What a catch: succulent local seafood.
What a catch: succulent local seafood.
We’ve noticed during this trip - and on our motorhome travels in Portugal last summer - that the Portuguese have an affinity with the British, striking up a friendly rapport with a welcome second to none.
This was apparently the case over seven decades ago when Churchill famously said: “Never before, as in Madeira, have I been so enthusiastically welcomed by people that owe me nothing whatsoever”.

La Gomera: Isla Mágica

Picturesque port stop: La Gomera.
Picturesque port stop: La Gomera.
While subject to time restrictions when visiting ports, we’d always recommend disembarking from the ship to explore the local towns and cultures.
It took less than half an hour to get a feel of San Sebastian, a sleepy port at La Gomera and the second smallest of the Canary Islands which measures less than 20 kilometres from North to South.

The island is a hiker’s paradise - Garajonay National Park is a prehistoric forest and UNESCO World Heritage designation - and ecological jewel.
Set in a rural landscape and peaceful mountain villages, its coast is peppered with small beaches set between cliffs. Unfortunately, the ship was only docked for a few hours, but we made the most of the local sights and savoured our favourite Spanish coffee - a cortado made up of espresso and warm milk. Absolutely divine!

Special sunset memories: Sharon and Steve.
Special sunset memories: Sharon and Steve.
After our week-long venture, were we pleased we’d trawled through copious options to hunt down a bargain and see more of Spain via life on the ocean waves? Absolutely.

After all, what’s not to like about sailing into different Mediterranean destinations daily, wearing shorts and T shirts in early February, having your bed made, all your meals and drinks on tap - and a lively entertainment programme to throw yourself into - or steer clear of!

The overall verdict? Fantastico!


Key Facts
Canary Islands Tourism: https://www.visitcanaryislands.org/canary-islands-tourism

Visit Tenerife: https://visittenerife.es/

Visit Lanzarote: https://turismolanzarote.com/en/

La Gomera: //www.spain.info/en/region/la-gomera-island/

Official tourism site of Madeira: https://www.visitmadeira.pt/en-gb/homepage
Flights to the larger Canary Islands operate from regional airports including Leeds Bradford and Newcastle. Sharon and Steve travelled with Tui.
You can follow their eclectic travels on www.leaveworktotravel.com