From Dervishes to Samba - Fall 2011 travel blog

harbor panorama

colorful home

fisherman's hut

citrus trees

pebble beach

produce still life

sail boat contestants

typical local home

under the grapes

Vision at dock


Our beloved Windy City is no more windy than anywhere else in the world and the Canary Islands are not named after canaries. The early Spanish explorers found a lot of wild dogs here and they named the islands after them - think of the root of words like canine and carnivorous. Or the other version is that the original natives here ate dogs. The islands were created by volcanos eons ago and the older ones like Grand Canary are heavily worn and eroded. All the volcanos are pretty quiet these days, there are lots of little earth quakes going on all the time - some beneath the surface of the waves. Although the higher volcano tops tend to gather clouds around them, the islands enjoy over 300 days of sunshine a year. The Canaries have belonged to Spain for centuries but they are 700 miles away - much closer to the coast of Africa at 160 miles. Morocco is the closest neighbor and during bad times in Africa, refugees come over illegally.

Today we visited Grand Canary Island, which has half the population of the islands. You can drive the entire circumference in 35 miles, but we took a tour to the northeast coast that focused on agriculture, which after tourism, is how most folks here earn a living. With bountiful sunshine and fertile ground the only missing ingredient is water. Desalination plants produce 85% of the water on the island and that’s expensive. But we went to a farm that had some natural underground water supply and got the impression that if you poke a stick in the ground, it will start growing. Many tropical fruits and vegetables are grown here and coffee is a small scale money product as well. We tried local mangos, oranges, cheese, wine and coffee and they all were delicious.

Then we went to a little botanical park where a wealthy family had brought new plants to the island from their travels around the world. It seemed a bit ironic to be here in the Canaries looking at plants imported from Mexico, but when you’re a tourist you see what local folks are proud of.

Our last stop was a picturesque fishing village where families congregate for Sunday fish fry. This town had a nice beach if you like laying on volcanic rocks. Its claim to fame was a volcanic formation that looked like a finger pointing up from a closed fist. It was called the “Finger of God” and was the symbol of the town. Five years ago a bad storm swept the finger away, but it was still listed on direction signs all over - a real loss of identity.

The marina near where we are docked was crammed full with sailboats that had many colorful pennants strung from their masts. A race to St. Lucia in the Caribbean is beginning here today. Last year’s winner made it in twelve days. We’ll have to keep an eye out for them as we cross over to the New World ourselves.

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