Travel Through The Canary Islands on a Harley-Davidson

By Peter & Kay Forwood

Canary Islands on a Harley (30/9/06 - 10/10/96)
Distance 525 km (472573 km to 473098 km)

This is part of the twelfth section of our around the world trip.
Complete Trip Overview & Map

Coming from Cape Verde

30/9/06 We awoke to sunrise and the vessel slowly moving towards Las Palmas harbour. The Canary Islands is a remote territory of Spain situated just 100 km off the African coast and has recently become a major point for illegal immigrants to try to enter Europe. Many arrive in wrecks of boats, many die in boats that don't make it. We were expecting there to be stringent customs and immigration, clamping down on this illegal trade and were surprised to find we could unload the motorcycle and ride in and out of the port area without being stopped. Many ships come here from the West African coast to use the dry-dock facilities. Stowaways have become a big problem both for the authorities and shipping companies, they could also easily move out of the port. A wash of the motorcycle removed most of the salt spray inevitable from a few days at sea and a photo session with the crew. There are fifteen and the Captain provides each one with a small bundle of shipboard memories when they leave. A photo of each crew member sitting on the motorcycle with the vessel in the background will be added to that package.

Group photo of the crew, ship and bike 1/10/06 We have been allowed to remain on board until it enters dry dock tomorrow, saving on our food and accommodation expenses. Spent most of the day in Las Palmas where the place throngs with people avoiding the onset of Europe's winter. The new promenade stretching along the beach is a great walking area and the caged animals who have spent their lives in high rise apartments and working in office blocks pace up and down in a regular routine each morning before feeding time. We strolled amongst their overweight bodies contrasting to the leanness of Africans. The beach slowly filled with chairs and umbrellas, beach towels and bared breasts. Few entered the cool waters, choosing to read books and sip drinks. We again pondered the arriving illegal immigrant and the image of their first sighting of Europe. For us knowing the culture it is a quick adjustment but for them all their senses must be in awe. The streets are paved and tidy, the vehicles new, buses not overcrowded, every second shop is a bar or restaurant and the people are well dressed in clothes they bought new.

"Smaragd" being hauled into position by two tractors 2/10/06 A fast catamaran runs weekly from Las Palmas to Cadiz in Spain taking vehicles and passengers, two nights and a day. We booked the cheapest berth, shared, single sex, four berth, internal cabin, for 600 Euros, leaving next Monday, giving us a week to see this island. MV "Smaragd" entered dry dock this afternoon and we moved to a hotel in town. An unusual dry dock arrangement with the ship floating onto a submerged platform which is raised out of the water. Sitting on an array of train lines it can be pushed by a couple of tractors to a convenient location within the shipyard. This way one dry dock can accommodate a dozen ships on land. The whole process took a few hours with the ship's crew remaining on board. Dry dock repairs are likely to take about ten days when they apply one coat of paint to the entire hull each day. An expensive process both in time lost and repairs it is only done every couple of years for smaller vessels and every five years for larger ones.

3/10/06 Headed westward around the island but only reached the port townModern cave dwellers of Nieves where we were offered an apartment in an old refurbished house on a narrow street. Being the low season prices here are reasonable. In fact they are better value for money than in West Africa, something that has always surprised me is the high cost of much of Africa. We are enjoying the clean streets and public places where the pavement is not full of holes, the parks have green grass and plastic is not afloat in the oceans. Restaurants open for lunch in this old fishing village to catch the bus tour groups. The pebble beach attracts swimmers in the port and people stroll the pavement in the evenings. We are enjoying our out of Africa holiday.

4/10/06 It is still hot here but an early morning loop ride up into the mountains kept us cool. The peaks of the old volcano are high but people terrace the fertile slopes, irrigating small plots with dammed water and protecting them from the sun and wind with shade mesh that extends for hectares. Many people live underground, inside caves that have a facade out front to look like a normal house. The twisty road passed through historic villages, houses surrounding the town square and church. We are enjoying the variety of foods available in supermarkets.Pebble beach at the small fishing village of Puerto de las Nieves Different fruits, yoghurt, items unavailable to us for the past months. Followed the steep cliff road back to our apartment for an afternoon laze on the pebble beach.

5/10/06 Out along the coast road south in strong winds that had us feeling we were about to be blown off the cliff edge which drops 1000 metres to the ocean. This wind that drives electric turbines in the north disappears in the south where high rise tourist complexes run up the steep hills and resort development beaches fill the narrow valleys along with sun worshippers from Europe. The one draw card, the weather, has been expanded into a many faceted destination. Cruise and sailing ships, scuba diving, duty free shops, restaurants, fun parks, cinemas and man made beaches all merge the holiday. We passed through, stopping only for photos, preferring Las Palmas where the reality of life co-exists with the tourists.

6/10/06 Felix, "Smaragd's" captain, had arranged for his wife to visit for the time the vessel will be in dry-dock. Most of the crew are on a six month work contract or longer and don't get to see their wives and family for that time.Tourist sand beaches with all the facilities on the south coast Even though Felix works during the day he can spend the evenings with his wife at the resort hotel where she is staying. Most of today I took her for a Harley ride through the island. Violetka had not been on a large motorcycle before but comfortably relaxed in the back seat armchair through the tight corners of the mountains shrouded in fog. In the evening we climbed the ten stories from beneath the vessel's hull to its bridge deck for a seafood celebration dinner overlooking Las Palmas as "Smaragd" sat on the railway wheels and wooden foundations in dry-dock. A farewell to one crew member and us and an introduction to the captain's wife the reason for the party. Kay had spent most of the day shopping. Nine months into the trip there are clothes that were suitable for wearing in Africa but look pretty tatty in upmarket Europe. Anything new requires an equal item thrown away.

7/10/06 There are few, if any, reasonably priced places in Africa to phone internationally so we keep in touch with family by emails however after nine months away the sound of family voices and being able to ask and have answered immediately questions about their lives by telephone was great.Violetka on our ride along the western roads cliff face. The $US 0.10 cents a minute calls to Australia an indication of technology's victory over cheap labour, of free enterprises advantage over government monopolies. The rest of the day was relaxing, on the beach, in the park and the hotel room.

8/10/06 A farewell dinner with Felix and his wife Violetka. A great two weeks encounter but with little prospect of ever meeting again. One of the disadvantages of just passing through the world.

9/10/06 The large Transmediterrania ferry was scheduled to leave at 2pm but was three hours late. We were on board by 1pm, lunch was provided and were shown to our single sex four berth cabins. A modern vessel, each cabin has an ensuite, well appointed and is almost a cruise ship with swimming pool, jacuzzi, sauna, gymnasium, bars, shops and restaurants. Bingo and a movie theatre livened up the afternoon for those who spoke Spanish. Motor homes and caravans rolled off the ship on its arrival in Las Palmas, heading south for the winter, but only a few cars were heading north along with truckloads of bananas. We settle into another two days on another boat.

Relaxing in the jacuzzi, shipboard, on the way to Cadiz 10/10/06 Shipboard life as a passenger is not that exciting. Meals are a distraction to resting. The scenery is all around blue green and the smooth conditions didn't even provide white caps. The morning was spent writing an article for the MC-Schiffahrt newsletter of our travels with them. The afternoon lazing in the jacuzzi in the solarium out of the wind as we headed north towards Europe's winter. The only excitement for the day was that I ended up being moved to a four berth cabin to myself as one of my cabins passengers refused not to smoke in our non smoking cabin, despite threats from the crew of police action on arrival in Cadiz.                       

Move with us to Spain .