Sunset in the Sahara and much more.

We were promised sunset in the Sahara is one of the most spectacular sights on earth. So with visions of Omar Sharif riding over the dunes in “Lawrence of Arabia”, we had high expectations.

Screenshot (1)It was a rather disappointing start to our journey as our 4×4 raced across a characterless landscape of rocks and scrub for several miles with hardly a grain of sand in sight. I wondered how the drivers’ didn´t get lost, with no landmarks and I was glad we managed to keep the vehicle in front within our sights. Just as I was beginning to think the rest of the world was a lifetime away, we finally saw the magnificent Erg Chebbi dunes looming in the background.

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Before we reached the dunes, we stopped at a Berber homestead. In the middle of nowhere was a small mud hut and a large tent made from goat and sheep wool. Our guide, Graham, makes a detour on each trip to visit the family and take them fresh fruit; otherwise, in this unforgiving land they would have to walk miles and miles, as almost nothing grows.

Just as dusk was setting, we spotted a twinkling light and as we got closer could see it was a small ‘restaurant’ and camel station. Camels mounted (which were far easier than those in India) a trek into the dunes began. It was surreal, as if we were the only people in the world being surrounded by so much sand.

The sight of the sun setting over the dunes was mesmerizing particularly as the colours changed from lemon to gold to bright orange. The warmth also disappeared the moment the sun went down and there wasn’t a single sound for miles around. The experience was magical.

I’m not quite sure which order the next part of our journey took, the days seemed to run into each other with one sight and experience more wondrous than the last. We were now crossing the High Atlas Mountains along the ‘Road of a 1,000 Kasbahs’ and the views were magnificent. After the flat desert, the dry, dusty mountain roads plunged through canyons and just when you start to think nothing could possibly survive in this land of stark, brown, and red cliffs, out of nowhere appeared a narrow sea of green that stretched as far as the eye could see. Below us, a row of houses and mud castles in a lush green valley, looking wildly out of place in the middle of the desert. So this is what a real oasis looks like, spectacular, rivers, and beautiful palm trees.

todgra gorge (3)We stopped to check an area of wells that accessed water underground in the traditional way. When one dries up, they dig another close by leaving multiple rows of sand and rock mounds.

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We then reached Ouarzazate its name translates to “city without noise”. This dusty Sahara town has immense charm, which is possibly, why it is the film capital of Morocco. In the town centre, opposite the Kasbah Taouirit is the Cinema Museum, at the end of the narrow street is the Atlas Films Studios complete with film sets all made of plywood and plaster and a short distance from town is the wonderful Aït-Ben-Haddou Ksar. This UNESCO site has been the backdrop for several Hollywood blockbusters, including Gladiator, Game of Thrones and Lawrence of Arabia, which means it attracts its fair share of visitors, but well worth a visit.

It is thought the fortified city that rises out of the desert plains was built in 17th Century on the trading route between the Sahara and Marrakech. The crumbling buildings include houses, some still inhabited, mosques and a cemetery. Once across the river you are free to explore the lower level buildings and climb to the top of the hill for a stunning view of the surrounding area.

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Our final stop on this part of the journey was the Todra Gorge. In recent years, the gigantic rock walls have attracted climbers but we were happy photographing the spectacular scenery that changes colour throughout the day and admiring the Berber nomads herding their goats through the winding roads.

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Nelson and the Battle of Santa Cruz

Admiral Horatio Nelson is probably best known for his victory at the Battle of Trafalgar, where he was killed. However, in the 1700s Tenerife was a stopping point for ships returning from the Americas, and between 22nd and 25th July 1797, the famous naval officer planned to attack the city of Santa Cruz in an attempt to conquer the island for the British Crown. If he had succeeded this battle could have altered the history of the Canary Islands and possibly Europe.

After two failed attempts, and angered by his failure, Nelson decided to personally oversee the next attack. The Admiral decided to attack Santa Cruz by disembarking in the town’s harbour at first light on the 25th July, however, the Spanish frigate San José spotted them and raised the alarm.

Under fire, only five boats were able to disembark, the rest crashed against the rocks. Admiral Nelson was travelling in the fourth of the five boats, but before he was able to land, he was struck by a cannon, shattering his arm and had to be evacuated. Severely wounded, the ships surgeon had no option but to amputate Lord Nelson’s right arm above the elbow.

Sir Horatio Nelson when wounded at Tenerife by Richard Westall.

Despite the intensity of the British attack, the troops soon realised they were fighting a losing battle. With his troops cornered and no chance of reinforcements, Commander Troubridge, surrendered.

The agreement was signed and sealed by Lieutenant General Antonio Gutiérrez de Otero, the commander representing Spain and Commander Samuel Hood, representing Great Britain. Gutiérrez allowed the British to leave providing Admiral Nelson agreed no British fleet would again attempt to attack the Canary Islands.

For the Tenerife islanders this is an important event in their history and as such each year it is commemorated on the nearest Saturday to July 25th by a series of events that includes a re-enactment of the battle.

In Plaza de Espana, soldiers in period uniforms give demonstrations of food preparation, how to load a musket, make a quill pen, old blacksmithing work and the type of tents and equipment use by armies of 1797. Soldiers are drilled and volunteers encouraged to participate. A cannon is fired over the pool at appropriate moments to great applause and at 7 o’clock in the evening members of Amigos del 25 Julio lay their wreath, at the bust of the man who saved Tenerife, General Gutierrez.

Then it is time for the battle – crowds of local people cheer their troops and every year the British attack and like every year, we are beaten.

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Play it Safe

You’re all packed for a day at the beach. You’ve got sunscreen, a good book, and you’re looking forward to a day in the sun and surf. When you arrive at the beach, though, a red flag is flying!

Below is the flag system that has been adopted by the Canary Islands

This is part of a warning system that has been adopted by coastal communities worldwide, to notify beachgoers of potential water hazards. Understanding and heeding these coloured flags keeps you safe in the water and helps you enjoy your trip to the beach. So be sure to educate yourself about the flags and their colours.

GREEN – ALLOWED swimming. A green flag on the beach is an all-clear sign, indicating that it is safe to swim. Even when the flag is green, though, exercise caution in the ocean, listen to lifeguard warnings and keep a close eye on children.

YELLOW – CAUTION a yellow flag indicates potentially high surf or dangerous currents and undertows, and means that swimmers should exercise extreme caution. If there is a yellow flag, swim only near lifeguards and heed all their warnings.

RED – BANNED from the water. The most serious of all beach warning flags, red flags warn swimmers of serious hazards and that the water is closed to swimming, as conditions are too dangerous for even the strongest swimmers.

BLUE – Certification of the quality of the water, first aid services, access and facilities on the beach.

WHITE – Presence of jellyfish, this warning is accompanied by the yellow or red flag. Jellyfish can turn a fun day at the beach into an unpleasant day at the hospital. When potentially dangerous ocean animals have been spotted, you will see these flags fly, but the water is not closed to swimming, however you should use extreme caution and keep a close watch for jellyfish.

BLACK – The beach is closed due to the state of sea and sand. There could be serious risk to health

Please remember that the absence of red flags does not assure safe conditions you should still be careful. 

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The Soul Lodge – Tenerife

At the beginning of July when my friend Carol was staying with me, we decided to have our Sunday lunch at the Soul Lodge. We had tried to book during Carol’s previous visit for Mother’s Day but there were no tables available for several months. This made us wonder what was so special and of course, being nosy we NEEDED to find out. This time, we were lucky and got a table but what we didn’t know was that it would be the last Sunday lunch for a while as Stefan and Simonne were leaving the following day for a month’s holiday.

The bar is in a horrendous area for parking, so we dropped into the Salytien underground and walked out the back door onto the promenade. Not knowing where we were heading we set off in the direction of Pueblo Canario and were faced with the steps. Ordinarily no problem but they seemed insurmountable in 30 degrees and by the time we arrived we were ready for a cool drink and this was promptly supplied by Sarah, one of the ladies behind the bar.

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Our table had been reserved for the whole day and as it turned out, that was a good thing, as we spent almost 7 hours over lunch and entertainments. The first act came on just as our lunch was being brought to the table. It was Katie Jay Allen. We both thought she had a lovely voice and fortunately knew everything she sang so we could sing along.

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Our food then arrived. We had prawn cocktail for starters. I don´t know why I ordered this as I’m not a lover of prawns but the sauce was nice and I fished my prawns out and passed them on to Carol who enjoyed them.

We then ordered the beef and pork. There was so much that I had to wrap up a thick slice of beef to take home for my girls, which was fortunate as they were sulking as I had been gone so long. The meat was the way we both liked it, we were impressed that the veg were fresh and the Yorkshires homemade. Nothing in the meal appeared to have seen a microwave, which is always a plus. The wine was very drinkable according to Carol and if she hadn´t been driving she could have had a bottle for just €7. We were so stuffed we couldn’t manage a pudding even though tempted by the Chocolate and Guinness cake.

The next act of the afternoon was Scotty D. He had a beautiful soul voice and while we both loved the songs we knew, he did sing quite a few we didn´t know. Scotty was joined by David Salmon. I would like to see his Tom Jones tribute, but that particular Sunday he wasn’t working and was out for a couple of pints and a curry, but was called up on stage and did a great job.

The final act of the day was the outrageous Roxy Risqué, (aka Tony Race). Carol didn´t know what to expect but I have known Tony for many years since, at one time, we both used to visit the same hairdresser. He is a hilariously funny act as well as a really nice guy. The audience all sang and laughed their way through the Golden Age of Hollywood and the three men on the table next to us blushed most of the time as they were on the receiving end of his jokes.

So was our visit worth the wait? Definitely, the food was first class, the waiting staff friendly and pleasant and once Stefan and Simonne are back from their hols. (There are Sunday Roasts during August) but normal service does not resume fully until September then we will definitely be booking for Carol’s next visit.

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Pavements are for Pedestrians

It may seem an obvious thing to say, roads are for cars, bikes and scooters and pavements are for walking on.

At least that used to be the case but in recent years, pedestrians will attest to the number of tandem scooters that seem to be multiplying like rabbits and taking over the walkways all along the seafront in Tenerife’s southern resorts.

I understand the need for mobility scooters, these are not the problem as the drivers are invariably courteous and don’t travel fast. The pain in the rear are the large scooters that sometimes have three or four people on board.

Image / RoundTownNews

The reason for the growing popularity is simple: They can be cheaply hired out by the hour. Young kids can whiz up and down on them without an adult’s presence. There seems to be no speed limit and lazy fat lumps pile on board with babies hanging off their laps and bags swinging from the handlebars rather than stretch their legs and get a little exercise.

The drivers of these vehicles seem to think they have right of way and regularly weave in and out of pedestrians as they silently approach along the promenades and pavements at high speed making it unsafe for those on foot. Little wonder accidents are on the increase and there is an upsurge in frayed tempers, as we now have to share our walkways.

Image Delfina Genovesi

They are supposed to be banned yet the police at Las Vistas beach seem curiously lenient toward these pavement-hoggers. At best, they might remind them to slow down but most of the time seem not to even notice. Perhaps they have not been given clear instructions. And of course, until we see more serious incidents the authorities will do nothing to regulate the use of these scooters in public spaces.

Sadly, as is often the way with these moneymaking schemes, consequences are rarely considered and the result is these drivers have taken spaces reserved for walking as their own. In short, pedestrians are paying the price. Do Arona and Adeje not realise these unwelcome and dangerous ‘joy riders’ are spoiling it for the holidaymakers who want to enjoy WALKING!

What is required is a manifesto: Pavements are for Pedestrians.

For weather & news updates  check Queenies Daily Snippets everyone’s favourite Tenerife Blog  
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