Back on the Road again

Not the REO Speedwagon hit, but the cry from Kudus as we relaunch the 2022 programme with a January trip to Tenerife. Sterling efforts were made by Ruth Hackney in 2021 with two trips to the wonderful Orkneys and a Paddy Leigh Fermor tour in Greece , but that did leave Tereza and your author not exactly twiddling our collective thumbs but certainly raring to board a plane and fly for a Kudu adventure.

Admittedly, Tenerife might not make the first XI, though with the current state of English cricket it would probably open the batting with Extras at the other end of the pitch. Associated with high rise apartments, built, allegedly, with funds secured through an infamous bank job, and beaches crammed with kiss-me-quick hats, the island, the largest of the Canaries, has suffered from an unfair reputation for down market winter sun.

Kudus don’t, as a rule, do bucket and spade, preferring walking poles and razor sharp repartee, so from a sun-kissed southern airport, we head northwest, landing on the seashore at Garachico, a jewel of Spanish conquistador architecture and Canarian cuisine.

Garachico

A town of less than 5,000 residents, this community nestles at the foot of a 500m cliff which adventurous Kudus walked down as their introduction to the sublime views across the Atlantic Ocean and over a rock called, originally enough, Roque de Garachico and situated 300 metres offshore, providing a home for migrants birds and species such as Bulwer’s petrel and the little shearwater. While Tereza marshalled Kudovans down this wide but steep path, your author reassumed his traditional role of bag carrier, ensuring that on arrival our guests had their suitcases in their rooms and any unmarked items were distributed on the basis of ‘that looks like so-and-so’s handbag, coat, scarf, etc.

Our home for the next five nights is a 16th century renovated Marques’ home with an internal patio that screams ‘this is Spain’ and has 20 rooms with traditional partitioned wooden windows which control the flow of air; quite useful when it is 23 degrees outside. The food is pleasing and the owner herself, the delightful Paloma (known as una blanca), looks after us wonderfully well. Her family bought the hotel 30 years ago after the last descendant of the aforementioned Marques had sold it to the municipality. Paloma has turned this into a beautiful oasis in a charming town and has survived Covid shutdowns still smiling.

One of the ‘joys’ of Kudu is the thorough research insisted upon by Tereza, so we visited Garachico prior to the arrival of our small but exclusive group of Kudus, staying in a charming AirBnB with an internal courtyard which meant when it rained you were drenched running from the stairs to the kitchen. Fortunately, the rain was infrequent, though we walked through mist and the insistent rain that penetrates the most determined waterproof. It was all worthwhile, as Kudus rejoiced in walks at altitude looking out over seas and valley. Challenging, but enjoyable. As resident crash test dummy, your author strained every muscle to avoid walking on ridges but was helpless in the force of Tereza’s traditional exhortation “we have to get off this mountain so move your ancient arse”.

Food has been excellent with the hotel providing a good first night, followed by a feast of tapas at a street side bar.  Bocadillos supply a lunchtime break for walkers and the fruit in the island is first class. Wine – mostly local – flows freely. Tenerife has pre-phylloxera grapes and a wide range of indigenous varieties such as Listán, both Blanco and Negro, Gual, Albillo Criollo, Vijariego, Moscatel, Marmajuelo, and Verdello for whites and Negramoll and Tintilla in the reds.

Of course, the best known may be Malvasia, which also features on our tour of Istria and was the original source of that favourite of Elizabethan England, Malmsey, actually known as ‘Canary’ at that time and providing the execution method for the Duke of Clarence as dramatised by Shakespeare in Richard III. It is said he got out three times to go to the loo.

Malmsey’s major shipping port was Garachico and the British exporters gained such a monopolistic grasp on the trade that on one dark night in July 1666 three or four hundred masked men broke down the doors of the bodegas and destroyed the barrels, spilling the wine and causing “one of the strangest floods in world history”, wrote Viera y Clavijo. In other words, the local producers decided it was better to have washed the wine down the drain than to let the British have it for next to nothing. This ‘wine riot’ or ‘Derrame del vino’ is still commemorated in Garachico with a statue as you enter the town from the east. I think we have been forgiven.

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