Saturday, November 5, 2011

Dry Canaries

The Canary Islands were for us a stop to wait for our transatlantic crossing which will be our second longest passage at sea after the Pacific. Obviously, we have to wait because of the hurricane season in the Caribbean and the huge storms in northern Atlantic but while we are here better take the time to enjoy the place. Did you know that the name Canary from which the archipelago takes its name is not about the little bird of the same name but really about the huge dogs that used to roam the islands? They were called Canaria, which has its root in canis, the Latin for dog. Who would have thought? I was sure to see tons of Canaries, the birds, here but nope if there were any in the past they probably all died from the major volcanic eruptions that happened a couple of centuries ago although there’s been regularly eruptions in the archipelago at an average period of 40 years. In fact, at the very moment there are many underwater eruptions happening around El Hierro the westernmost island of the group.

Among the pleasure of the Canaries we couldn’t miss trying a paella for the last time which is probably the national dish of Spain and for our geography lesson of the day let’s mention that the Canary Islands are part of Spain. Paella is a rice dish cooked in the oven with sea food or a choice of meat. October 31st is still Halloween although not very popular around here. As you can see my imagination is boundless when it comes to choose what costume I should wear. Note that if I really wanted to be accurate in my disguise I would have need to paint my skin black like Somalis, wear dirty worn out pants and t-shirt and carry an AK-47 as well as a rocket launcher. But unfortunately most of those items were missing on board Chocobo! Finally, there’s no need to be fancy to have fun. A simple walk can rapidly turn into a photo shooting frenzy.

If you’re like us you thought camels were only in Africa or Middle East. Well, geographically the Canaries are really in Africa but still somehow we didn’t expect to see “camelus dromedaries” in a Spanish territory. For 6 Euros ($8.70) per person our humpy friend took us for a 20 minutes ride in the black desert of Lanzarote Island.

The dromedary ride was part of a visit tour we took on Lanzarote, one of the seven major islands forming the archipelago. During that visit we saw many things out of the ordinary. The first picture shows a vineyard where the vines are planted in the middle of a little stone wall to protect against the elements. The island is very dry and growing anything is a definitive challenge. But what really impressed me was the number of these little walls and last time I checked there was no machine to build that kind of wall! Click on the picture to enlarge it and you’ll see that the circles expand as far as the surrounding hills. On the second picture if it wasn’t of the blue sky and the sea in the background we could easily believe we just landed on the moon. A large portion of the island is actually less than 200 years old from massive eruptions that changed the nature of the landscape. Finally on the third picture, besides Danielle unforgettable smile, we can see in the background a small green lake in the bottom of a volcano. The green color comes from an algae living in that pond.

We couldn’t pass on that one. We always say that sailors are always challenged when it comes to clothing wearing wrinkled faded t-shirts and over reused shorts. Well here we have the proof that tourists on cruise ships are fair contenders to the fashionably challenged specie in the world. I mean yellow socks in sandals with blue shorts and a beige shirt it’s hard to beat!