Friday, January 13, 2012

La Palma vacation, part 1: days one and two

Following an incredibly horrible spell of gray, dark weather and absolutely no sun that lead me to hole up in the apartment, do nothing but read books and knit and nearly lose my mind, we hopped on a plane and flew to La  Palma, my 4th of the seven Canary Islands.  Previous trips have taken me to Tenerife twice, Gran Canaria and La Gomera.  The minute the plane landed and I saw the beautiful golden sunshine, I relaxed and came back to life.  Aaaah.  Too bad I nearly puke every time I get into a car on one of these islands because of the winding mountain streets.  Oh well.  That's just a sacrifice you have to make.

We went from skies this color:

To skies this color:

That makes a big difference in your mood, even if you do feel like you have to puke because your friendly driver is driving like a bat out of hell on winding mountain roads.  And no, I'm not pregnant with all of these references to vomiting.

On our second day, we left our apartment in Los Quemados and drove just a short way to take a walk in the volcanic landscape in the south of the island.  Here you can see a nice panorama of the area, with the Atlantic Ocean on the left, the brown rocks are a cliff that the natives of La Palma considered holy, to the right you can see the mountains and volcanic formations.

The holy cliff is famed for the petroglyphs that the natives carved into it, here's one example.  These were kind of hard to spot, so several vandals have carved their own names into these rocks to make up for the small number of actual petroglyphs.  Or supposed actual petroglyphs, as my kind companion would say.

The Lizard Whisperer

Way cooler than the petroglyphs, however, were the lizards!  Those who know me know I love wildlife, and I was absolutely thrilled to hear these guys rustling around, and then see them racing around.  I was wondering on the whole boring walk to the holy cliff where the lizards were, the weather was perfect for them, and as we got closer, I heard the sound of their darting around.  At first I was busy searching for petroglyphs when I noticed my kind companion standing suspiciously still by the holy cliff.  I wondered if he was peeing on the holy cliff because he was mad about the petroglyphs, but no, he was lizard whispering.  At one point, there were at least 20 lizards gathered around his feet!

Later on the same day, we drove over to Los Llanos, one of the bigger towns on the island.  I don't remember our exact motivation for the trip, maybe it was to look for a fish market, maybe it was to shop for sunglasses (my kind companion lost his while gathering mushrooms in the fall, but that's another story).  Whatever the reason, we were wildly unsuccessful doing whatever it was we had originally planned.  But we did luck out and happen upon an interesting cultural event.  On the way to Los Llanos, we were stuck driving behind a number of cars, all of which were behind this truck and couldn't pass, due to the winding mountain streets.  After 20 minutes or so, I noticed that there were three CAMELS in the back of this truck.  That doesn't exactly look like the kind of truck you should be transporting camels in, but hey, why not?
After consulting one of our guide books, I realized that this day (January 5) was the day before Three Kings' Day.  It just so turns out that on the evening before Three Kings' Day there's a parade in the bigger towns of La Palma with some floats and with the three kings riding in on camels. 

The floats had a Disney theme, which reminded me of parades during my childhood.  Here you can see Tinkerbell and Mickey Mouse.

Here are Beauty and the Beast.  The characters from Toy Story were also marching, as were Aladdin and some other characters I don't know the names of.  

There you have it, there's old St. Nick on a camel!  While we didn't need jackets due to the approximately 70 degree temperatures, St. Nick was wearing his regular heavy cloaks.  He must have been warm.

This one's pretty blurry, but if you look closely, you can see all three of the three kings and the three camels.  So that's why they were hauling the three camels halfway across the island.

January 6 is the day when the kids in Spain get their Christmas presents, so this ritual is pretty important.  It also explains the connection of the three kings to this whole event:  they are the ones who bring the presents.  Now I can see the sense in the decorations that we see every year hanging from lots of windows and balconies on each of the Canary Islands that we've visited, and that I've never really understood and therefore found really funny, but also slightly disquieting:

Here are the Three Kings, climbing up their handy rope ladder into someone's window.  But it's okay!  They're bringing presents! 

On the next day, it was obvious that lots of presents had been given, because we spotted some grinning kids loading their new stuff into the car to head to their relatives' houses or outside playing.  But the really impressive thing were the mountains and mountains of trash next to every dumpster we passed.  Packaging for giant cars and trucks and slides and playhouses--every plastic toy you can imagine was given generously on this Epiphany!  My poor kids, all they got were a couple of books and some CDs that I copied from the library.  But we don't make a big deal out of Christmas.  We prefer to get the hell out of Dodge for it!

More soon about the rest of our vacation!

No comments: