Thursday, 30 June 2011

Masca Bay

The trip back from the whale watching took us to Masca Bay - a place which can only be reached by sea or after a 3 hour trek down from the village at the top of Masca Gorge. It's a very scenic spot but there isn't anything there except a little greenery and the view of the huge cliffs on each side and the sea.

Masca Bay
The boat stops off to pick up anybody that wants a lift back to Puerto Santiago and doesn't fancy the climb back up to the village.

The cliffs on each side form part of Los Gigantes and, as we were told, are really the inside of the mountains of lava after the outer layers have fallen away. To be honest, they are very impressive. They rise upwards from the depths of the sea and form an impressive outline against the sky.

It's possible to see the lava chimneys where the hot lava was pushed upwards from the volcano. They look like white water marks against the black rock. But the lava always goes up, cooling as it reaches the top of the chimneys and then being overtaken by more hot lava rising behind. This is how the different layers are formed.

The lighter brown colour is fossilised earth that has formed on the surface after an eruption and been trapped after the volcano has erupted again. You can appreciate the size of Los Gigantes if you look at the last photo, in the bottom right-hand corner is a canoe!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Whale watching

The real reason for the visit to Puerto Santiago at the weekend was to go out on a boat trip for 2 hours to do a spot of whale watching! We'd already done it once in March but i enjoyed it so much that I wanted to go back and do it again. It's pretty likely that some whales will be seen although it's not guaranteed as they are obviously swimmimng free in the ocean and not in a tank at the aquarium. But we were lucky enough to come across quite a few whales on both occasions.

The ones we came across both times were Pilot whales. According to the guide there are over 18 different varieties of whales and dolphins that live in the area. Between the islands of Tenerife and La Gomera there is a channel which reaches 2000m in depth and in which there is an abundance of giant squid which is the main source of food for the whales. Apparently whales don't look for somewhere nice to live but look for places with plenty to eat - quite sensible really! So in the waters between the two islands whales and dolphins have settled and are permanently resident throughout the year. Which means that it's possible to go out and see them at any time. We were also told that there is only one other place in the world (although they didn't say where!) where there is a permanent colony of whales.

All the whales we saw at the weekend were in small groups of two or three. They didn't seem to be phased at all about there being boats around and a number of expectant faces peering down at them. I supposed they must be used to being the subject of photos for snap-happy tourists (me included!). The good part is that the whales are not attracted by the guides on the boats, no food is thrown to them or devices used to attract them - if they're not in the mood then you're not seeing them!

As with scuba diving, I always find it fascinating to be around aquatic life. They seem to be so calm and not worried about anything. The two hour trip for me was way too short, I could have bobbed about on the ocean for hours just watching them. But it was great to be able to get up close to them again and share a few moments with them.

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Puerto Santiago

At the weekend we visited Puerto Santiago on the south-west point of the island of Tenerife. The real reason we were there I'll post about tomorrow but I thought the town deserved a special mention all on its own.

It's not a very big place but it does have its' own sandy beach and is very popular with tourists. There are plenty of hotels and entertainment and also a high number of 'resident' tourists.

Residential area Puerto Santiago
As with a lot of tourist locations, the residential areas tend to be away from the main town centre but the residents in Puerto Santiago have a great view of the port and the cliffs called Los Gigantes (The Giants).

Port and Los Gigantes
The port is mostly recreational but there are still a number of small fishing boats which leave every day. It's possible to hire canoes, jet skis and small motor boats. Or go on an organised trip on a glass-bottom boat, a pirate ship or high speed boat to discover other aquatic life (more about that tomorrow!). The organised trips tend to be about 2 hours long but can be longer, depending on the type of trip you're looking for.

Puerto Santiago and Los Gigantes
The port area has its own charm with the buildings overlooking the harbour being built in, more or less, the same style. They are all painted white and have wooden balconies. It helps to give the place a little more style and it doesn't look like just any other harbour.

Puerto Santiago
For anybody that has ever visited Tenerife, you will know how difficult it is to find somewhere that does a decent cup of coffee - I don't know if it's the coffee beans they use or the water but in most places it's awful. In this photo there is a café on the corner (yellow umbrellas) and the coffee is delicious! If you're ever in Puerto Santiago I can highly recommend the coffee here.

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 27 June 2011

Dive, dive, dive

Monday seems to have rolled around again, the weeks' holiday is over and it's time to put things in order that have been left to their own devices for the last few days.

Last week we managed to go diving again on Thursday afternoon but the sea was a bit too choppy for us to go to the site where the turtles are (what a shame, we'll just have to go again sometime!!) so we went to a different site - Roncadores del Faro. Our dive depth this time was 12m so we had plenty more scope to see the aquatic life. Again there was no coral at this site due to the volcanic rock but there was plenty of anemones and plant life to mak it more interesting. There was an abundance of fish and they were obviously used to divers being in the area as they followed us around the whole time. One even swam close enough so that I could gently touch it with my finger.

Bluefin Damselfish (Image source)

European Parrotfish
European Parrotfish & White Bream (Image source)

Photo of trumpetfish
Trumpet Fish (Image source)

We also saw a Sharpnose Puffer fish, an Ornate or Turkish Wrasse, Zebra bream, an anemone which was as pretty as any flower, a sea cucumber - deep red with yellow circles, and a Lime urchin (sea urchin) with long black spines. I'm sure that there were many other creatures there as well but these are the ones that I was able to identify. It's almost as much fun flicking through the fish book back at the dive centre afterwards and trying to identify everything that we'd seen!

Once again I thoroughly enjoyed it (as did hubby!) and I felt that the dive centre was first rate in looking after us and making sure that we were safe the whole time. We will certainly be considering going back for another dive soon - the turtles are still waiting for my visit!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 22 June 2011

Sea view

Yesterday was hot - really hot! But we had planned a little excursion that was going to take the heat away. It involved the beach - yay! - the sea, and a lot of equipment. Oh yes, we went scuba diving!! I've been a couple of times and have the PADI scuba diver card but it's something that's totally recreational - I love being under the water with the fish. It's so peaceful and watching the fish up-close and getting on with their everyday stuff is fantastic.

Yesterday hubby came along with me. He had a go for the first time last summer and wasn't really that impressed. It wasn't that he didn't enjoy it but he felt a bit apprehensive about being under the water for so long. So it was a real thrill for me when he said that he'd like to give it another go.

Image source
We did the level 1 dive which went down to 6m. It was enough for the first time in a year and was good for refreshing the memory and remembering how the equipment works and the hand signals. Even though it wasn't that deep there was plenty of fish to see and all in beautiful colours. There was no coral where we were because the volcanic stone around the island doesn't have the right conditions for it to grow. We also had the opportunity to get up close and 'play' with an arrow head crab.

diving  lanzarote
Image source
We both really enjoyed it and if anyone is in Tenerife and fancies a bit of scuba diving then I can highly recommend the Aqua Marina Diving Centre. The equipment is in good condition and well maintained and the dive guides have experience and know their stuff. They'll make sure that you have a safe and enjoyable dive.

Well, we enjoyed it so much that we decided to go for another dive in Thursday - this time to 12m and hopefully we'll get to swim with turtles! I'll let you know.

Hasta pronto!

When life gets in the way

It seems like I've abandoned my blog - but it couldn't be further from the truth! I think about it and wonder how it is every day, but sometimes life just gets in the way. This week is a little bit special as hubby has a weeks holiday from work - the first in a year - and we're trying to make the most of the time! Who wouldn't?

I don't think it's too late to tell you about the weekend is it? Saturday started with

Carrot cake
Coffee and carrot cake is a great way of starting the day! We spent the morning down on the beach practicing kitesurf. It's not really my thing but hubby is enjoying it so I'm doing a bit of 'shore assistance' - helping out if he needs it! I don't mind having a go myself but it's not something that really shakes me up so I don't mind letting hubby get on with it. He's doing really well and, even though it's a sport that takes a fair bit of time to see any progress, he's managing to maintain his balance on the board.

Saturday afternoon was spent with (he was eating his breakfast when I took the photo and there was no way I could make him pose!)

and (doesn't she look pretty?)

We enjoyed it so much that we did the same on Sunday morning! After lunch we went snorkeling in El Medano and this is what I was fortunate enough to come across

Image source
It was amazing to see a loggerhead turtle calmly eating about 3 metres below me as I floated on the surface. It certainly wasn't upset about me observing it and didn't move away while I moved to see it from one position and then another. A wonderful experience and the first time I've seen a turtle close up (that wasn't in an aquarium!). It really made my day.

Sunday afternoon was rounded off with another short session of kitesurf, although this time it was a bit more complicated as it was high tide and there wasn't a lot of beach to move along. But we made the most of it and the weekend was over. I don't think it was physically possible to squeeze anything more in and we thoroughly enjoyed it. This week is going to be difficult to post but I'll do my best as we have quite a few things planned that should be fun!

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 17 June 2011

Dressage glamour

There is something infinitely satisfying about seeing a horse and rider with a total understanding of each other, moving harmoniously and looking like they are enjoying what they are doing. In my case, it probably lasts for a few seconds during an hour of training! But that's what I love about dressage - the challenge. There's always something new to learn, always a way to improve and always someone that does it better and is a real joy to watch.

I love the way that dressage practically forces me to be calm, to take deep breaths and relax - ever tried riding a horse when you're stressed? Believe me the results are awful! The horse picks up on the negative vibes and it's a rough ride (literally!) all the way.

I love the competitions, the attention to detail and the glamour! It's elegant! There's nothing better than a well turned out horse and an impeccably dressed rider. And if, on top of that, they perform well together......!!

The men also look very smart but it was hubby on the camera at the weekend while I was at the judges table, so they didn't get a look in! I'll try and get more photos next time.

Wishing you all, wherever you are, an enjoyable and elegant weekend!

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Practice makes perfect

Or at least I hope it does! (Apologies for this not arriving yesterday as promised - a mad day made it impossible.) Much of being a dressage judge involves being visually agile. What on earth does that mean? Well, it means that with the relevant knowledge of the regulations and the 'Scales of Training' (from the German training system) it's necessary to be able to evaluate a certain exercise being executed by horse and rider in a matter of seconds - and give it a score out of 10 and a comment if appropriate! Sounds complicated? It does to me too.

Last weekend a national level dressage competition was held at the riding club where we were doing the course. And we were told that we could use it as part of our practical tests. I thought that it would be a good idea to get started on them as there are quite a few to do. The practical tests involve taking part in different areas of the organisation of a dressage competition and not just the judging part. But, two of the practical tests to be done involved 'writing' for a judge - which means that you fill the score sheet of the reprise with the scores and comments given by the judge. So as the judges at the competition were all very experienced I thought it a good idea to do this test.

I was lucky enough to be able to sit on both days and 'write' for an international level judge. A privilege indeed! Some of the reprises are more complicated than others to score depending on the level but with most (and once I got the hang of what I was supposed to be doing!) it was possible to watch the movements and then write down the score. How interesting to hear a judge score and comment on a horse and rider that you are watching! It is a totally different experience from being sat in the stand and watching. And also have the opportunity to ask questions and have an explanation of why.

'Did we all see that?'
In the photo all three judges are sat together for the Young Horse reprises (horse in the photo is a 5yr old mare) because they give a general score for each gait and look for potential rather then specific scores for each movement. How nerve-wracking for the horse and rider to have to pass the three judges together and half a dozen hopefuls!

I have to be honest and say that by the second day I was beginning to get an idea of what I should be looking for and at and mentally scoring moves and waiting for the judge to give his score to see how similar they were. If I was way off then I innocently asked why he'd given the score he had to see where I'd gone wrong! I found it interesting, enjoyable and mentally stimulating. I don't think that it's possible to judge well or properly in two days but I do think that practice (a lot of practice!) will make perfect. And I believe that having an active interest in dressage helps immensely.

There are plenty more practical tests to be done (I haven't received the full list yet) but I'll share the experience when it happens.

BTW, I just found out this afternoon that I passed the Phase 1 exam and the 300 questions on the regulations!!! Pleased beyond words!!!! So, on with Phase 2 and the practical tests - I'll make a dressage judge out of me yet!!

Hasta pronto!

Monday, 13 June 2011

Judging isn't that simple

The weekend is over and I feel exhausted! I'm not sure if I felt more stressed before I started the course, or now that I know exactly what's involved....

For anyone not familiar with dressage, a 'regional or territorial dressage judge' is the person sat on the edge of a dressage arena during a competition that has to give marks out of 10 to the riders that present their horses doing a series of different moves in a specified order. Each set of moves is called a 'reprise' and belongs to a certain level (there are a number of reprises in each level with an increasing amount of difficulty) and they range from elementary (beginners) to Grand Prix. There are also different levels of judges, territorial, national 'B' and national 'A'. Territorial is the basic level. The judge has to evaluate each move, basing it on a number of different factors, and give it a score depending on how it was executed.

Enter at 'A'
Before the course started I had to read the regulations, the general federation regulations and the dressage specific ones, and answer two questionnaires of nearly 300 questions. And if that wasn't enough, right at the beginning of the course we had an exam! It's a while since I had to do exams and I have to admit that I'm not sure if my nerves didn't get the better of me - I realised when I handed in the paper that I'd made a couple of pretty silly blunders! Questions that I really knew the answers to but I'm not sure that I wrote down the right thing. Oh well, I'll just have to wait and see when the results arrive.

It was a day and half of regulations, visual training and explanations. I know quite a bit about dressage (as that's what I do when I'm riding) but I still found it brain-numbing with the amount of information that we had to absorb. So I have no idea how other people got on that didn't really know much about dressage - I suppose they a learned a lot!

There is a second part to the course (in October, I think) that also has to be completed and another exam. So I have to continue studying the regulations and really learn them well. But apart from all that we have to do about 12 different practical tests as of now and within the next 12 months. The practical tests have to be done during an official competition - and I'll tell you more about that tomorrow!

Dressage arena
I have to say that I really enjoyed the course, even though it was hard work and it's going to be a while before I even know if I qualify to be a judge. But it certainly made me look at dressage in a different way and I think that it'll be useful for training as well.

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Fizz. Fizz. Gurgle. Whirr.

That is the sound of my brain fizzing away, on a slow boil, my eyes feel like they are about to drop out of my head and I have little puffs of steam coming out of my ears (v. attractive!).

I'm sat in front of 5 different sets of rules and regulations (with the electronic version on the computer screen) and 2 questionnaires with 300 questions! I have decided to do a course to be a Regional Dressage Judge and for the past three days I've been reading the Equestrian Federation regulations - general, vet, disciplinary, dressage and regional specific dressage rules.

Rules & regulations
The questionnaires are completed and the theory part of the course starts this afternoon and continues all day tomorrow. Over the weekend there is a national level dressage competition being held at the riding club where the course is taking place so we can use it as part of the practical training. Then there's another theory part to the course in October and more practical training throughout the year.

So I know where I'll be all weekend and I don't think I'll have time to post again this week so I'll wish you all a fabulous weekend and we'll catch up next week, hopefully buzzing from time well spent. Wish me luck - I think I'm going to need it!!

Hasta pronto!

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Thinking about friends

This week the posts are going to be real quickies and a bit sketchy. Why? Because I have loads on, a very busy week (the type that I haven't had in ages and I'm enjoying getting the little grey cells zinging again!). I'll definitely fill in all the details bit it'll probably be for the beginning of next week.

Yesterday evening I saw a report on the news about a questionnaire that was carried out in Spain recently (in the north I think) about friendship. According to the report, 1 in 10 people considered that they had NO friends whatsoever. It doesn't sound a lot, but 10%, 1 person for every 10 considers that they are totally alone. At first I was surprised, then it really made me quite sad to think how these people must feel. Perhaps they don't care, but I don't think that's true.

And it got me thinking. How many true friends do I have? I don't mean colleagues from work, or the neighbour that I always say hello to in the morning, or family, I mean real friends. And I was pleased that, after some thought, I would probably consider 6 people to be real, true friends and for who I would do anything to help if they needed me. I consider myself to be their friend too.

So, I should probably call them more often, or write, or visit. I live a long way from most of my friends and don't get to see them for long stretches of time but, you know, I know that they will always be there and when we catch up again it'll be like we've never been apart. True friends. It still makes me sad to think that there are people out there that believe that they have no-one that they can turn to if they need help or even call just to have a giggle. It makes me feel truly blessed to know that I have real friends - and yes, I'll call more often!

Today isn't International Friend day, or anything like that, it's just the same as any other day with so many things to do and many distractions. Life sometimes gets in the way but today I'm going to make the effort and find time to get in touch with one of my friends.

Hasta pronto!

Friday, 3 June 2011

Friday feeling

Friday's rolled round once more and here we are waiting for the weekend to begin. We don't have a plan for the days ahead yet - but that will be solved this evening over a cool beer! There are a couple of things left on Tenerife that I'd still like to see, and I also fancy visiting one of the other nearby islands but that needs to be organised a bit more in advance, ferry tickets need to be bought, etc.

As the weather is nearly always good here, warm and sunny, then I think that time outdoors is what is called for! Time spent with the horses is never wasted, even though we see them every day, and I always enjoy walking along the seafront, never tire of it. The most important thing, in my humble opinion, is to do whatever it is that makes you happy.

- Everyone chases after happiness,
 not noticing that happiness
 is right at their heels. -
                                                            Bertolt Brecht

What are your plans for the weekend? Whatever you're doing and wherever you are, enjoy!

Hasta pronto!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

On Stranger Tides

Ahoy me hearties! Yes, I've been to see Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides - and loved it! I have to say though that I'm a big Pirates fan and an even bigger Johnny Depp fan. I think his acting is brilliant and I love the diversity of his characters.

Image sourced
Image sourced
Image sourced
Captain Jack Sparrow returns alongside his former enemy Barbossa (Geoffrey Rush) to search for the fountain of youth. Along the way he comes across an old flame, Angelica (Penélope Cruz), who turns out to be the daughter of the terrifying Captain Blackbeard (Ian McShane). Tricked by Angelica, Sparrow finds himself as a deck-hand on the Queen Anne's Revenge and captained by Blackbeard. Now he's not sure who to fear most...

The film is swashbucklingly action packed, as could be expected, but the story moves along nicely and there is no lack of humour. I went to see it in 3D, which added more depth to the picture (although at one point it gave me a bit of a headache) but I don't think that it makes such a huge difference. It's fun to see but not totally necessary. The storyline is supposedly based on the book 'On Stranger Tides' by Tim Powers, which I'd never heard of or read so I can't say how closely the film follows it.

It's an entertaining film that won't disappoint. Have you seen the film yet? What did you think?

Hasta pronto!

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Banana shake

How on earth did we get half way through the year already?? So, 'hello' June! As the weather warms up and we hit summer, what could be nicer than a deliciously cool fruit shake?

Six easy steps to making a lovely banana shake - I promise that this is the last post about bananas (at least for this week!).

Step 1: Put your peeled bananas in a blender (the number of bananas used depends on personal taste),

Step 2: Add milk,

Step 3: A little sugar to taste,

Step 4: Put the lid on the blender (very important not to forget this part!),

Step 5: Blend,

Step 6: Serve. And there you have it, a delicious banana shake. Couldn't be easier!

Do you like natural fruit shakes? Which fruit would you use?

Hasta pronto!