Tag Archives: Spain

Las Cats – Gran Canaria

They should have call it “Las Buildings”, – dropped Crisa while arriving to Las Palmas.
Really, it didn’t look like the capital of famous resort islands. Blocks of flats along the coast and some “significant” pieces of somewhat called “modern architecture”.
As I wrote before, we stopped in the marina Las Palmas that’s now a record-holder as the cheapest price in the whole Crisa’s trip around-the-world (if to stay a week – 7 euros per day).  We made spare parts in industrial zone of La Isleta – ugly district of plants, services, autodealer’s boutiques. But this is not why I will remember Las Palmas.
I love to run. For me running is not just a physical excercise but perception of the world. And way to talk to myself. Hear my heart beating, feeling muscles moving under the skin, I skip fake thoughts, dust of everyday routine. And then I start to listen to the voice inside, one that knows answers to almost all questions.
For the first time of my more than 4 months’ journey I was “back to track” again. Endless quay of Las Palmas looked perfect for that.
It was already full of runners. I climbed narrow high edge of the promenade that goes above the wavecrush stones. While running on it I could feel the fresh breeze from Atlantic. It helped to forget about the busy road along the coastline, and keep away from me the smell of dead crabs on stones down near water.
I ran till the sculpture that, probably, simbolizes the yacht – a kind of tribute to free dwellers of seas. There I sat watching ships raiding near Gran Canaria.
On the wavecrash line a small bird was searching for food. She was so close to water that waves rolled over her feet, covering them till knees. Waves, fiercly trying to climb the shore, were 5 times bigger than a feathery hunter. But the bird didn’t fly away. Just feeling that the wave is big enough to capture her, she jumped to the higher stone – and in a moment went back. What a small creature and what a great courage she posseses!
– Don’t judge on appearence, told I to myself.
Before visiting Las Palmas I was sure that Rome is a city of cats. But the ancient Italian capital can’t be compared in that with the capital of Spanish islands! Cats are everywhere here, sitting on beances and resting in shadow of parked cars. Playing with their kittens on the promenade and hunting in coastal stones. Sleeping under bar tables and sunbathing on benches.
City that hosts so many wise creatures can’t be just a set of buildings. It has soul. Free spirit.

Second chance

«A writer for instance talks about India which I have seen, and gushes about dancing girls, tiger hunts, fakirs, betel nuts, serpents: the Glamour of the Mysterious East. But what does it amount to? Nothing. Instead of visualizing India I merely get a bad toothache from all these Eastern delights. Now, there’s the other way, as or instance, the fellow who writes: ‘Before turning in, I put out my wet boots to dry and in the morning I found that a thick forest had grown on them (“Fungi, Madam”, he explained)…’ and at once India becomes alive for me. The rest is shop”.

I want to apologize for my blog being so touristic: common see sights, brief hazy notes about atmosphere.  I do not try my best to give you smell, smile and taste – feeling of places I visit, and I’m sorry for that. Neither hectic schedule of my journey, nor bad internet connections or my laziness can be an excuse. Tho I do not pretend to call these brief notes a kind of literature. I just hope they are not too boring.

Nevertheless, I will continue.

I believe that everything that happens to us is necessary to happen for some reason. As Soviet poet Vladimir Mayakovsky wrote, “If stars are lit, that’s means, someone needs it”. Yes, a kind of fatalism. Still, life proves that sometimes the worst thing can be premise for the best one.

The last evening in Lanzarote we made a short test-drive to check autopilot. Chris spent a couple of days, fixing the capricious device.  And – hooray! – the yacht obediently makes 180 degrees to the right. I celebrate the victory of (the mind + golden hands) over circumstances with a naked dive from a board.

The next morning we leave to Cape Verde. But don’t have a chance to get far…

We heard it before, sailing along the Spanish coast – knock that the rudder made. The rudder is one of essential parts of the boat: loose a rudder – loose the control. Chris tried to fix it by himself, and we reached Morocco without worries.

But here it is again… The tubes, through which the rudder infuses the hull, get loose with the time, and now they need to be changed. The whole Atlantic lays in front of us. And thought of unfixed rudder doesn’t make us feel more convenient. So Chris turns the yacht to the west: we go to Las Palmas  – the capital of Canaries.

The sea rocks: waves grow, wind gasps. Not fun at all. The air is cold and numb. Going south to relaxed Brazil – could never imagine that it will be colder and colder. Damn Atlantic.

We’re going round the island Puertoventura and awaiting the moment, when we will leave its shelter.  There the wind will, probably, become stronger: in straights between islands it accelerates like in a tube. That doesn’t happen after we pass the corner tho. But happens before and after it: Chris “was lucky” to catch 30-knot gasps from north. Where are you, calm and hospitable Las Palmas?

Before the sunrise I see the light) Numerous dots – it’s a coast of Gran Canaria. Soon the sky gets lighter, but I can’t see the sun. Clouds lost me a chance to admire the beauty of its the first beams.

And – ta-dam!  – we’re in safety of marina. I feel exhausted after 24 hours without sleep. Sometimes I have this problem – can’t sleep in a bumpy sea. But for crossing Canaries – Cape Verde I come prepared:  in local shop I bought herbal tea with Melissa, Mint and Valeriana. Valeriana smells strongly – hope the effect on my sleep will be equal.

We stay here for 8 days. Marina – Muelle Deportivo – is all right – and even more all right ‘coz they charge the less the longer you stay. For example, being here for 8 days we pay about 7 euros per day. It’s nothing! But to get here was a story.

ARC – Atlantic Rally Cup – is coming, and most of places in marina are booked. But we pointed out the urgency of stop (unfixed rudder), and they allowed us to stay near the ‘reception’ peer for a day. So – here we are for already eight…

Now rudder is fixed, and we’re ready to go to Cabo Verde.

Before we made a drive around the island, along the coastal road GC-1. Trivial statement, but Canaries are beautiful!!! Trust me. We made a way to Maspalomas – I’ve heard this name before and suggested that it was connected with surfing. So we took boards and went to Playa del Ingles. Unfortunately, Chris pointed that waves are not great. Well, will wait for another chance to start my surfing education.

Back we went through another road, GC-60, in direction of Fataga and San Bartolome. We went up to the mountains. Between rocks that reminded me Grand Canyon we made numerous twists and turns. Stopped in picturesque Mirador to give a last glance to the sea – and went further, higher and higher. Mountains of Canaries are low, all between 1000-1500 meters. But how free we breath there! We passed several towns-oasis – palm parks with water pools that were surrounded by white neat houses. In calm evening children played on streets, and senior citizens discussed rumors sitting in chairs outdoors (nice tradition of Southern countries). Tourists love these routs, so in every town you will find “table and shelter”.

At the end, tired of waving through mountainous roads, we rushed to the coast. On a narrow path we followed 4х4, and a small caravan tailed us. The road wasn’t easy, and the first jeep wasn’t in a hurry.  Those at the back of a line started to beep impatiently. These were definitely locals that make this way from time to time. They outraced us in rage and went ahead.

We were back on board late after dark. The whole trip, the whole stay was worth it.

Embrace of a volcano

In my journeys I like to take photos. They do not pretend to be exclusive, and I do not pretend to be a Photographer tho.

With the time I’ve been pleased to discover that some of natural views… can’t be fixed by camera. It’s excessive to mention that nature can never be “copied” by technologies: it’s always a moment, stuck in eternity, while life is always changing, and transforming, and moving forward.

This is what I felt in Timanfaya National park on Lanzarote, Canaries.

Lava fields cover one quarter of the island. Numerous volcanos tower above the gloomy landscape. They formed in 18-19th centuries and from the last explosion in 1824 keep silence.

Now Mountains of Fire (how Timanfaya is also called) is a territory of the national park. Visitors are welcome there but only by touristic bus (8 euros) or by camel caravan. I’ve made a 40-minutes ride around.

It was experience one of a kind, and even tourists, trying to fell out of windows in obsession to make a photo, couldn’t spoil my impressions.

This inhospitable land look lifeless on the first glance. And it’s true, not so many creatures can survive in endless fields of black sponge stones. But if to have a more thorough look… between rocks that are covered with thick layer of linens green bushes make their way to sun beams.  Rabbits and shrews, lizards and gekkons inhabit narrow passes between stones.

This inhospitable land possesses unexpected charm and beauty. Dark slopes reflect the sun, host the shadows of clouds – and change their color. This painting is not bright and racy but noble, full of hints.

This earth still preserves power of volcano: the local restaurant “El Diablo” cooks its dishes on the natural heat, placing them above a deep bell.

Neither on exhibition, nor in card shops we couldn’t find decent photos of Timanfaya, that would be able to transmit a certain percent of its beauty. That couldn’t make me sad – my memory will preserve these landscapes better than any paper.

We made a tour around Lanzarote. Suddenly a place that I expected nothing from turned to be one of the most stunning impressions of the journey.

Arrecife - near our lovely anchorage. Castillo San Gabriel.

The journey started in Arrecife. The anchorage there was really great, with lovely neighbors from all over the world – couple who live on board for 15-30 years.

Anchorage in Arrecife

28°57.2051 N, 013°42.5172 W

Another point that made my heart sing is a view on the Isla Graciosa – Mirador del Rio. This small island lays to the north-west of Lanzarote. It’s a national park but it has a marina, burdened with formalities like registration tho.

Mirador del Rio

Unfortunately, Canaries are so touristic that every lovely view is charged. To climb the top of the mountain in Mirador del Rio cost 4.5 euros. We’re budget travelers so simply climbed a fence. We didn’t get all the splendid view but it’s biggest part for sure : )

Marina of Isla Graciosa

After leaving Arrecife – the capital of Lanzarote we passed endless fields… of cactus. Guessing about use of this plants, our suggestions didn’t go further than alcohol.

Aloe Vera museum let us into the secret: cactus is used perfumes, cosmetics, medicine, liquids and many other useful things.

We were almost to visit Jardin de Cactus – a park, where flowerbeds can be undoubtfully called “cactusbeds”. Unfortunately, it wasn’t for free again… I suppose, this place would be more interesting for families than to vagabond travelers like us.

Jardin de Cactus from outside

Another coast – western – another stunning. From main salt mines of Lanzarote – Salinas del Janubio – through amazing underwater caves Los Hervidros – to volcano ash beaches of El Golfo.

Salinos del Janubio
Caves of Los Hervideros
El Golfo on the western coast of Lanzarote

Lanzarote has some surfing spots. We checked one on the northern coast, several steps from Orzola. Cris approved it as a spot for those who just start. Another spot is on Playa de Famara, also on the northern side of the island.

Wierd sculpture park of an unknown "artist"... reminded me of "outdoor" houses that I built being a child : )

1000 and 1 …troubles

In Tarife we met Dominic – a sailor from Belgium, who adores Brazil. He couldn’t miss a boat with Brazilian flag – not a frequent quest in a small harbor of Tarife. Dominic works as a guide of whale and dolphin watching tours, taking excited tourists to the Atlantic for the adventure of their life. www.turmares.com

Arabic spirit infuses the whole town.

Dominic became our guide too – he showed us around numerous bars and pubs of old Tarife. Bar crawl started with calamari, continued with alco drinks, accompanied by crying of flamenco singers, finished on the boat with psychological discussion and smoking session. The evening was all right.

In four days the wind calmed down. But we were destined for Cadiz… The freezer died.

Actually, time in Tarife (and Gibraltar in the plan A) we devoted to preparations for Atlantic crossing. There was much stuff to fix, like pasting holes in a sail, checking the engine, cleaning winches, repairs of a deck table, fixing a loose rudder… And freezer. It theory, we could feel it with ice and buy more cans – some sailors do round-the-world trips without the freezer. But that was considered the last option.

As you understand, the master, who knew all about yacht freezers, lived in Cadiz…

…Autipilot wasn’t in list. It was another unpleazant surprise. But in Cadiz it decided to join the freezer. We were not glad of idea to steer 24 hours a day, 21 days consecutively.

Another unpleasant one was that there were no technicians in Cadiz. But we were still lucky: we found one in a small town in 3 miles from the city center – Santa Maria. Here, spent 15 minutes and 300 euros, we resurrected capricious electronics.  We are ready for departure.

The quay of our marina – artistic maritime Spain

Another news waited for us… On our way to Canaries we could be caught by 35 knots wind, the latest weather forecast indicated. We decided to stop somewhere between… in Rabat, the capital of Marocco, for example. What about Arabic fairy tale for night?

Our almost neighbors – the copy of the ship of the 16th century. Unfortunately, we didn’t have enough time to meet the crew and kindly ask for a tour.

Cris on his site www.mundovagabond.com wrote a post about “gender” of a ship, a yacht. I can’t not agree: in amount of troubles SHE can be compared only to us, women : )

English Spanish

While travelling by yacht, I feel like a turtle: my house is always with me. Omnia mea mecum porto : ) That’s why some rare cases of inhospitality do not hurt.  But they can change plans much.

After Malaga we were going to stop on the corner of European continent, in Gibraltar. In this strategically important point the huge port is situated, supplying way between Eastern and Western hemispheres.

It’s 65 miles from Malaga to Gibraltar. We decided to break the distance and stopped in a town of Estepona for a night. Later, when we arrived to Gibraltar, we were grateful to ourselves for this decision.

…It was crowded there: dozens of huge cargo ships, we were able to see their silhouettes from far away. American, European and Arabic flags. Giants were staying side by side with small boats that loaded diesel to their depth. Passing between them, we read their names. Weird to see a clumsy and heavy ship poetically named “Aeolus”…

Soon we were close to a marina. Cris called them from VHS, asking prices in Spanish … and got the answer in perfect English.

–Well, – decided we, – it’s a huge port, where all ships stop before crossing Gibraltar. English is international language, nothing special about it.

We set ropes, put fenders and headed to the entrance of marina. “Queensway” was written on a wall. Queensway? Wat a fuk a queen is doing here? Hell, is it British territory? – was  the logical suggestion.

The next suggestion was about my visa: if Gibraltar is British,, as a citizen of Russia, I need visa to Great Britain that is not in a Shengen zone.  As you’ve already guessed, all suggestions were right.

That was pretty a surprise. We still had time to cross the straight – we left in the morning and there were just 20 miles from Estepona (thanks God, we stopped there. Otherwise, we could have two options: go back, or – cross the straight at night).

The wind was 25 knots, but bureaucracy didn’t give us chance to wait for calming down. We turned the boat and left inhospitable land.

The staight was tough: strong current + strong wind.  We needed to steer all way, ‘coz the autopilot said “Solve this situation by yourseves, guys. Adio”.

Finally, we needed to drop the main sail. Happily, the entrance to marina of Tarife was already in front of us.

We entered the harbour. There were no sailing boats in it. Noone. It was a fishermen harbour, not a marina. We were ready to leave it and go further, searching for anchorage. But another boat – a catamaran – had arrived, and their  captain, noticing our doubts, showed us a place to stop.

Parking was tough too. Wind gave no chance for a gentle arrival, pushing us to the shore. The nose of Vagabond hit the pier.

Even behind marina walls waves pulled and puhed the boat. Poor Vagabond trembled, held by mooring lines. The wind was moaning and shouting. We almost got used to listen to it all days long…

Dance, baby, dance!

Our “investigative” trip to Malaga gave me enough information to make a plan.

  • First – flamenco performance.
  • Then – the second biggest Arabic fortress in Spain – Alcazaba.
  •  Third – Picasso’s museum.
  •  Finally, like a cherry on a cake, – pleasant walk through the evening Old town.

I was in such an excitement. This curiosity about churches, fortresses, old towns, hundreds of which I’ve already seen, I hope I will preserve till the end of my life.

Cathedral of Malaga

Well, plans are on part of human’s mind, but reality is full of circumstances.

We planned to stay in the marina of Malaga. But SeaMax (a program for navigation) showed us an opportunity of anchorage. We were happy: No extra expenses : ) According to weather forecast, for the weekend this anchorage would suit “Vagabond” well.

View from an anchorage in Malaga

Anchorage in Malaga

36°42.7358 N, 004°24.7714 W (just in front of Playa de la Malagueta)

And it was good! Moreover, right in the city center, close to all attractions. So we cheerfully headed there –  and we politely asked to move by local sportsmen. Just for a couple of hours, till 20.00 – a boat competition was about to start.

Attempts to throw the anchor a bit to the side from the event ended with zero result – soil there was too hard. So we decided to stay on board till the end of the contest – watch the boat, and afterwards relocate it back to the chosen place.

I was in fury. Flamenco show started at 20.30! “We had no chance to be in time”, – I was grumpy and miserable. Actually, this restaurant – Liceo (Calle Beatas, 21, Malaga) – has flamenco parties “todos los dias” – every day, but for me was essential to see it on Saturday evening. I planned it!

The band Sonike in "Liceo". Author of the photo: Crisa

Finally we were on time : ) It was sparkling performance full of feeling. Actually, flamenco for me is not a dance, I never loved dancing. It’s a feeling that comes out with a story that body tells.Someone could say that every dance is a way of expressing yourself. And will be, probably, right: depends if there’s something to say, to feel or not. Flamenco is my way of telling the story…

Nature dances flamenco! Actually, he was just sunbathing : )

Put a tick in “flamenco” point – done!

Alcazaba – the center of the old town, the ancient fortress of 11th century.  For a Russian its name sounds funny: it’s not typical for Spanish and has its roots in Arabic language. Originally, it was founded to protect surroundings from pirates of Mediterranean, but after that changed many hosts.

At night Alcazaba dreams of "Old good times", when it was a formidable fortress of an empire, not just a touristic attraction...

Alcazaba used to be connected with the castle Gibralfaro on the nearest hill. Actually, the castle looks much more like a fortress. Such a playfield for children!

Alcazaba ft. Gibralfaro

And well-known Alcazaba looks much more like a place to live – full of gardens, fountains and decorations. And the palace is an amazing pearl of Arabic culture. Here’re some photos, enjoy : )

By the way, on Sundays from 2 pm the entrance to the fortress and the castle is free.

Another tick, and Alcazaba is done!

I’m definitely not a fan of modern art. Yes, art should be innovative but not every new approach becomes art, I hope you would agree with me.

Picasso with his new canon of beauty, the way to see beauty could be a philosopher for me. His talent is apparent. But for me his courage to show his attitude with the use of the most ambiguous tool – arts – is even more significant.

Probably, my mind is stick in classic canons. Probably, I’m not too brave to discover the other way of seeing things.

Picasso’s museum  – done!

Alcazaba is surrounded by cathedrals and castles, remains of ancient walls that are left from Phoenician, Roman, Visigothic, Arab and Spanish dynasties.

The bullring at Plaza de la Malagueta

This part of the city is a museum on the open air, full of splendor and spirit. The cinema, where we watched “Midnight in Paris”, is a neigthbor of a Roman theatre that is… 770BC! Near the place, where ancient tragedies were performed, today people drink beer in bars and listen to street artists. Thinking about that, I stop counting years but start to count centuries…

This theatre is almost 3000 years older than me!

Charming old town is full of laterna light in the evening. Busy tavernas, where between tables wander, in wait of regard, Spanish guitar players.  Violins send their tunes through narrow streets, and statues on ancient cathedrals listen to it solemnly. This is how I feel Malaga in evening – between old and new, past and present.

The plan is considered to be accomplished!

I see… rhinoceros!

Splashes over the board. Spines and bubbles show on the surface – it looks like someone fights under water. Would love to write now some horror about monsters of Mediterranean (tremble, Englishman!), but I will be frank – these’re just fishes, who are our neighbors in marina in La Caleta de la Velez. Marina’s quay is a popular spot among locals, who come here to feed – not to fish! – sea dwellers. Probably, this “pet” role is a reason, why some of them reach impressive size.

Marina in La Caleta de Velez

36°44.8021 N, 004°04.3394 W

Today is 3d of September… autumn has come to Spain. We feel it here from the first day of the month. Not only because of note on the gate of aqua park that says: “10.09 – el ultimo dia” (10th of September is the last day). But because of clouds and cold at night and in morning. September in France the last year wasn’t much different from summer.  But how precise Spanish climate is!

On Wiki page about Malaga is written that average temperature from December to February is 17 degrees at day and 7-8 at night. I feel as if it’s already December, despite that fact that during the day can be pretty hot.

On Wednesday we rented the motorbike (dream of my fiveteen : ) and went through the coast road to Malaga. First we visited a small town to the north – Velez-Malaga, famous for  its monumental ancient churches and a castle on the hill. The castle we saw from far away. Velez-Malaga appeared to be a lovely town with thousands of narrow twisty streets and secret corners, where it’s so easy to get lost.

After that – 40 minutes along Costa del Sol, passing picturesque rocks, pretty white houses with flower fences, long beaches with fishermen boats (some of them are barbeque bars).

It’s always pleasant when impressions turn to be more delightful than expectations. That happens rarely, and that happened in Malaga to me.  Look forward to the story about the magic city – it is in the next chapter.

Just a couple of words about our cinema experience in Malaga. “Midnight in Paris” – charming film about present and past, made with feeling, funny and philosophic, performed by awesome cast. “And see rhinoceros”, – Adrien Brody in part of Salvador Dali is brilliant (as always, indeed).

"I see... rhinoceros!"

I just advice you, my friends, if you have some free time and want to see light and thoughtful movie , that’s the right choice, you won’t be disappointed   ; )