A Taste of Three Continents - November 2005 travel blog

black sand beach

north coast overlook

Opera House

imported Sahara sand

home away from home


The Canary Islands are Europe's Hawaii. They are a group of seven volcanic islands located far enough south that they have a mild spring-like climate year round. For Europeans they are an affordable spot to catch some rays, but at times they have been overrun by stoned backpackers and their reputation has suffered as a result. Although the Canaries are less than one hundred miles off the coast of Africa depending on which island you are talking about, they have belonged to Spain for five hundred years and there is hardly a black face so be seen there. If a Canary Islander wished to go to Dakar, our next stop, he would have to fly to Madrid first.

It is not clear why they are called the Canaries; there are no little yellow birds here. We have been given three different lame explanations as to why they have the name. In my opinion no one knows. What is known is that this spot was the Flying J of the Spanish explorers starting with Columbus. If you were on your way to the new world, this was one of the last places you could stop for fresh water, fresh food and fresh women. Today it is famous as a duty free port. How sad that we were here on a Sunday and the stores closed early.

Tourism is the main industry today. The steep coastline suffers from a lack of beaches, so massive quantities of golden sand have been brought in from the nearby Sahara Desert to remedy this problem. If you do come upon a natural beach, the sand is black. The volcanic soil is good for agriculture in those spots where the hillsides are not too steep. Fresh flowers are a reliable export and the local market overflowed with orchids and birds of paradise. A lovely bouquet is now gracing my cabin as well.

Our tour took a drive through the countryside on a road that would challenge most drivers. It was about one and a half lanes wide; enough for two small European cars to pass one another, but our bus driver kept slamming on his brakes so the cars could back up until we could come to a spot wide enough to pass.

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