We fly into Tenerife North airport (TFN), better known as Los Rodeos. This was of course the scene of the worst disaster in aviation history when two 747s collided on the runway. Although Myles was desperate to inform the rest of the group of this fact throughout our journey there, he managed to restrain himself until we were safely inside the terminal building.
It is here while waiting for our bags that we see the odd sight of a woman picking her luggage up off the carousel, and then promptly walking through the glass doors outside onto the secure apron area. Of course, an alarm goes off. She tries to get back into the terminal but the door had locked behind her. She taps urgently on the window and motions for us to let her back in. Instead, we go and get a security guard. He lets her back in, and she tries to go out to the apron again through another set of glass doors a bit further up, before the security guard helpfully points her to the exit sign on the other side of the concourse. I’m not sure if she was totally wasted, or just really stupid (or both).
We go to pick up our hire car for our time on Tenerife. We find we have been “upgraded” to a van by the car rental people, but unlike in Sicily there aren’t really any roads that are too narrow so it doesn’t present a problem, and we are old hands at van driving these days.
We opt to splurge a little for our accommodation for the next few days, staying at the Ritz-Carlton. This is about an hour’s drive away and actually much closer to Tenerife South but for some reason flying into the further airport was much cheaper. We feel a bit out of place as we pull up at the entrance to the Ritz-Carlton and fling the keys to the van to the valet, but we soon get a nice welcome from the check in staff and shown to our room.
There is a British-Indian wedding happening at the hotel at the same time which must have at least 200 guests. The TV in the room actually has a message from the bride’s parents cordially welcoming us to the wedding, but not having any formal wear with us we decide not to take them up on their kind invitation.
Our first night there we were kept up quite late with the noise from the ballroom, and when we wake up the next morning and go out onto our balcony and there are a lot of people still in suits and formal dresses carrying their shoes, probably doing the walk of shame (and/or pride depending on your point of view).
The hotel is very nice, and even comes complete with its own funicular linking the hotel to the beach. The only down side was that it is impossible to get a hot cup of tea at the breakfast buffet. Even when we asked for boiling water it came back only lukewarm. A five star hotel with a lot of English tourists should be able to get tea right but unfortunately not. #firstworldproblems
Tenerife is home to the Mount Teide volcano, which is a huge mountain. It rises from sea level to about the height of Mount Cook. Helpfully, they have built a cable car to the top*. However, even though you can do it in the comfort of a cable car, the altitude is such that they recommend you don’t take small children. Our friends therefore have to arrange a baby sitter for the next few hours. Fortunately, small adults are still allowed, so we don’t need to find someone to mind Keelie.
On the way to the volcano we ascend rapidly though forest of pine tress until we get above the treeline, and drive across the strange volcanic landscape. Midway across this landscape, we come across a group of hitchhikers flagging us down. Naturally we stop, and they immediately launch into some rapid-fire Spanish. When we can finally get a word in (or three words: No hablo espanol) they switch to English. They are hiking and have chosen the wrong trailhead, and need a lift back to get their car rather than walk back an hour or so to where they left it. Naturally we drive two of them back to their car (the extra seats in the van did come in quite handy after all). Keelie talks to them a little bit in Spanish on the way. They appear to be a more scared of us then we are of them, perhaps it is the empty baby car seat.
Eventually we park our car at the base station for the cable car (or teleferico as it is in Spanish). There is a bit of a line but not too bad, though they do squeeze us in pretty tightly. The ascent is quite steep and actually takes about 10 minutes. We walk along the two paths at the top that are open to the general public, each one going to a lookout. The air is a bit thin, but aside from maybe slightly tingly lips I don’t think we really noticed it. Fortunately we get a clear day, and you can see for miles: you can see all the way to the other Canary Islands, including our next destination, Gran Canaria.
Tenerife is also home to Siam Park water park, which is apparently consistently rated amongst the best water parks in the world. I don’t know who actually rates these things (best water park doesn’t seem to yet be a category in the Conde Nast Traveller awards) but I think it was pretty good despite being quite packed with British package-deal types (you can usually pick them from the sunburn and appallingly bad tattoos). We spend a long time in the line for a couple of slides in the morning, so after lunch we decide to buy an express pass. The express pass entitles you to go in the express line for each slide, and then to go again once more on whatever your favourite was.
We stumbled across it accidentally, but waiting until the afternoon actually turns out to be an awesome strategy. Most people buy the express pass in the morning, so have to wait quite a long time in the express line as well. By the time we get to the afternoon, most people have exhausted their express pass, and we hardly have to wait at all. Also by that time, the lifeguards can’t really be bothered ticking off the fact you have been on that particular ride and often don’t mark your wristband. In the afternoon we therefore smash out about 10 or 12 rides.
Our time on Tenerife soon comes to an end and we make our way to the ferry terminal for our trip to Las Palmas. The Canary Islands probably has the world’s most confusing place names: we want to go from Puerto de Santa Cruz de Tenerife (not to be confused with Puerto de la Cruz) to Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (not to be confused with Santa Cruz de la Palma). We therefore quadruple check we have the right place and have booked the right ferry.
Although we know where we have to go, it isn’t any easier trying to find the place to return our car. There are fairly recent changes to the roads near the port which haven’t yet flowed through to Google Maps or the GPS in the van. We drive around a little bit before a wrong turn followed by a series of one way streets funnels us into the narrow lanes of the old part of town.
We eventually stop to get our bearings and look at where we are: Trees. Park benches. OK it appears we have accidentally driven into a park. We all get the giggles for several minutes. Eventually we find out way out of the park and after narrowly avoiding going the wrong way up a tram-only street we make it to the port thanks in part to Myles asking for directions in broken Spanish, . After some “helpful” advice from the back seat drivers and several U-turns later we eventually find where to park the car.
The fun didn’t stop there. We go to the office to drop off the keys only to find they have just gone on a 2 hour siesta break. A sign on the door says to leave them in the letterbox, however there is no letterbox and a spot just next to the door where a letterbox clearly once was. We try to squeeze them under the door, but they won’t fit. After 5 or 10 minutes trying to work out what we need to do, we discover that the letterbox actually is behind the sign on the door.
After all that, we eventually make it on board the ferry to Las Palmas.
*Actually, the cable car doesn’t go right to the top. You can walk to the summit (a further 200m of altitude) but unfortunately you need to secure permits well in advance, so we don’t make it to the very top.