Day 9 (February 10, 2011)
Itinerary: Book tonight’s ferry and hotel, drive to Los Cristianos, ferry to La Palma island
Talk about a winter wonderland! We got about 2 inches of snow last night on top of yesterday’s snow, so this morning, the view outside our hotel room was amazing. The whole area is white and the sun is shining. We admired the white Teide mountain while eating breakfast and then headed outside to see how buried the car was. I would guess about 2 inches on the car.
The hotel staff told us the roads were closed, so we spent time with all the other hotel guests outside snapping photos and cleaning off the car. Luckily the sun helped melt away the snow and ice as we brushed the car clear. While we were outside we saw two snowplows going down the road to the south. This was very good news because we were supposed to turn in our rental car on the south side of the island in Los Cristianos this afternoon.
If yesterday was my first time driving in snow, today was my first time driving in snow with a small layer of ice under the snow. Luckily going slowly works. It helped that there was no traffic to speak of. We first paid a visit to the visitor’s center at the base of El Teide mountain where the cable car starts. The point was to pick up the free wifi so we could book tonight’s accommodations. The road up to the cable car was still snowy, so we left the car at the bottom. We got in a little trouble with the local police for leaving our car where we did later on, but luckily they didn’t do anything but scold us. Oh well.
By the time we headed down the mountain the snowplows and the sun had done a good job of clearing the road and there were only a few small spots of slushy snow in shady areas. Only about a kilometer down the road we started seeing lots of people hiking on the road. We were wondering where their cars were. They were all going the opposite direction. Strange. Next we came across a road block of 2 police cars and about 6 or more police standing out on the road. This is where the police stopped me to look at all my various documentation and scold me for parking where I did up the mountain. They said the road past us was closed, but that we were free to drive around the yellow closed signs if we so desired. This was a rather odd statement, so we drove off curious what else we would find.
Now it truly felt like we were fleeing a natural disaster because groups of people were hiking along the road giving us strange looks as we drove down and they hiked up. I felt like we weren’t aware of an evacuation or something. If we were in a disaster movie, at this point they would have been storming the car to get in. Soon we came to the actual road block consisting of a ribbon strung across the road and a cone in the middle. As everyone stared in wonderment, Mark hopped out, moved the cone and held up the ribbon for me to exit. Here we found about 10 cars parked and realized why everyone was hiking along the road. They were coming in and were stuck here. They were wondering how we got up there and how we were coming down. We got many strange looks.
From here down, we only had snowy/slushy roads for several more kilometers. We had to pull off the road for a snow plow, but he was pretty small and was able to squeeze by. Down, down, down, the mountain we went. I was surprised at the lack of miradores or scenic pulloffs on this side of the mountain. We drove the sun, we drove through intense fog, and finally we reached a second road block much farther down the mountain. We were surrounded by various people hiking up the road here as well.
Eventually, and not too much later, we ended up in the towns of Los Cristianos/Playas de Americas/Costa Adeje. These 3 tourist towns are so close together they might as well be one town. Here is where the northern Europeans come to vacation. Our tour book said it best. Paraphrased from the Lonely Planet: You’ll need your sunshades for the blinding sun, blinking neon signs, and red-lobster colored northern Europeans laying out in the sun.
We found a lunch spot that served fajitas. Though they weren’t quite like the Tex-mex fajitas we are used to, it was still a treat for Mark. We wandered around on the beach for a while killing time and watching the surfers. Probably 50 surfers were sitting out in the ocean waiting for the perfect wave. Every now and then, one would catch a wave and crash down again. The clouds were coming down from Teide as well, and our 80 degree afternoon got a little chillier in the shade of the clouds.
Returning the rental car proved to be a challenge. We had printed out some Google map directions earlier, but we had no idea where we were going. I kept driving up and down the same street, around the same round-abouts looking for the Cicar rental car return. It did give me good practice on the round-abouts and perhaps driving in Ireland in April will be a little easier. There was one large round-about where I missed my turn off and did the Simpons-style drive around the round-about one more time to catch the exit.
Finally we parked the car and found a pay phone to call Cicar and figure out what to do. The rental car desk had staff that spoke English and gave great directions so that we could return the car easily on the dock where our ferry would depart later that day Thank goodness we called because there was no signage what-so-ever.
We were able to drop off our luggage to be stored until we got off the ferry and we spent some time on the beach, soaking in the sun and watching the people walk by. Probably the most interesting part of the people watching was noting that this is a very handicap accessible area. It seemed like one in ten people was on a scooter or other type of wheelchair, zooming around having fun.
Now we are on the ferry headed towards the island of La Palma which is the most northwestern island of the Canary Islands. The ferry is about 2 hours and has free wifi access. Sweet! We will arrive after 9pm tonight and hopefully will have no problems getting a taxi to our hotel in Santa Cruz de La Palma.
Tomorrow we shall rent another car and head over to the west side of the island to stay for almost a week.