Boat hitchhiking (take two)Jan 202017
© Alejandro Vilar
I'm heading off to La Gomera - with Uldis, the 69-years-old Latvian sea wolf, who claims to be the best boxer amongst cellists and the best cellist amongst boxers. He wants to circumnavigate the world in his 9 m sailboat "Single Malt". But first I ask him in the marina of San Miguel, if he could give me lift to La Gomera. He says, he hasn't thought about going there but if it's worth a visit, why not? But first of all he invites me on board and wants me to play a few tunes on his guitar.
Boat neighbours in San Sebastián de La Gomera: Joshi, Anna, Uldis, Albi and Christoph © Joshi Nichell
So Uldis (in the middle of the photo) takes me over on his sailboat to the hippy island La Gomera. We depart early in the morning when it's still dark, and it takes us ten hours to get to the harbour of San Sebastián, which is only 30 nm away. The current goes against us and there is hardly any wind in the sails. So we rock over the waves and can't do much than watching the land becoming closer. I get a little bit sick, so I lay down in the cockpit for a while. When I wake up, I can see the chess board being put up, ready to play. So he is actually looking for a chess buddy in the middle of the very unsettled sea! But he is the captain, his wish is my command. As expected, I couldn't play for very long. Looking down all the time on the wobbly boat and being aware of hearing "Check!" pretty soon, makes my stomach turn again. So I have to abort the game with the promise to continue when we are in the harbour. Uldis approves of that.
We get along pretty well. Behind the typical boxer facade there is a self-conscious character of good-nature. Our English skills allow us to fill conversations with a good portion of irony and, on the one hand, to lead profound discussions, and on the other to laugh our guts out! Uldis calls himself the most modest man, he knows. What a good example of being ironic!
We moor at the marina of San Sebastián and immediately meet our new neighbours:
Christoph is 18 years old, comes from Hamburg and has been sailing all the way on his own from Cuxhaven to here on his tiny "Shalom" (22 feet long).
The next boat in a row is called "Saudade". It belongs to the Frenchman Bernard. He took the two 18-years-old German friends Anna and Joshi from Gran Canaria to La Gomera. Bernard will fly back to France and come back in four weeks. Anna and Joshi can stay on the boat and make sure that no one breaks in, until he comes back.
A few days get past and Uldis decides to depart. He finally wants to cross the Atlantic Ocean. He doesn't know yet if he should aim for Brazil or the Caribbean. But anyway, I help him to get the huge shopping done for one boat, one man and four weeks of ocean ahead:
After Uldis left, I move over to Joshi and Anna. Bernard is still in France for a month, so there is a place for me to sleep on the 8.5 m long boat. Rarely we spend the days being only the three of us. Most of the time we get accompanied by Christoph and Willi.
Willi is working for bed and board in a diving school on this island. Most of the evening he spends with us on the boat, though.
We go dumpster diving nearly every day. The supermarkets can easily be reached by foot and most o the time we get some bananas, oranges and avocados from the farmer's market, just before the close. So we spend hardly anything on groceries. But that also means, that we eat stale bread on a daily basis. That's how a usual breakfast looks like on the "Saudade":
It's absolutely convenient, that Joshi is posting a weekly update about his journey through video blogs. So I don't have to write too much more about our adventures on La Gomera. Just have a look here (and switch on the subtitles):
I won't leave you before posting some photos, though:
© Joshi Nichell
In the end of November Christoph decides to sail to the Caribbean. He has been waiting all the time for a sponsor to send him a new self-steering device. Unfortunately, he can't ship it this year anymore. So Christoph thinks, that his DIY version should do the job. After the big shopping, we help him to stowe away everything and say goodbye just before sunset having a few qualms.
Transforming the old water tank into a milk deposit.
Apparently, even 20 kg of bananas found their way into the wee boat.
Bye-bye Christoph! © Joshi Nichell
There he goes...
A few days later we know why we had a strange feeling about his departure. His self-made wind vane finally resigned and let him drift back towards the island. To avoid steering 24/7, he has to wait for the new wind vane. So his dad decides to bring it in the plane and flies from Hamburg to the Canaries. Now he can help his son to mount the device and say properly good-bye to him.
After we realise, that it's actually going on a bit too relaxed on La Gomera and there are no boats looking for a crew to cross the Atlantic, Joshi and me want to sail to the capital of Gran Canaria. Its harbour is the biggest among all islands. We should definitely be able to find a boat there! "S/Y No Stress" gives us a lift.
04.12.2016 - We leave La Gomera to make the first leg of the journey to Santa Cruz de Tenerife with the Norwegians Trond, Tommy, Tor and Tore. Trond and Tommy are working in Norway on an oil rig, are in their mid-twenties and already have enough money to buy a big sailing boat. On their way across the seas they get visited by their friends, who want to escape from the cold Norwegian winter for a few weeks. We sail through the entire night. By doing two hours of night watch each, we can pay back the favour of taking us over.
Always heading for the Teide.
The next morning we arrive in Santa Cruz. We even saw a family of pilot whales sleeping on the surface of the water just before entering the marina. Joshi and I take the opportunity to ask for boats crossing over to the Caribbean. We write a little tune and stand in front of the boats while singing and holding up our sign. That seems to go down well with the sailors but unfortunately all the boats are full already. There are a lot of people crossing, though. So we hitchhike back to the south of the island, where we find "Hoppet". We spend one night on deck and I meet Siim, Udu and Ain again. They tell me that if I ever need a decent place to sleep, I can just work a few hours on sanding the deck and get a cabin in return.
In the morning we are asking for boats and discover Michel and Sonja's "Pantera", who I got to know in La Línea and Joshi in Morocco. Together we want to hike a bit through the national park at the bottom of the Teide (highest mountain of Spain with 3,718 m).
At 8 pm, when it is already pitch dark outside, Sonja and Michel drop us off at a parking place in 2,400 m altitude. At first, they don't even want to let us out, asking if we really want to follow our plan: We want to look for a place to sleep a little bit further up to start ascending at 2 am, so that we would reach the summit for the sunrise.
This night, I can't sleep more than two hours, because I have only got a summer sleeping bag with me, which can't really cope with 3°C outside. Like two drunkards, being super tired and feeling the effect of the altitude, we stagger up the mountain. After three hours we reach the refuge, where we can quickly warm ourselves up a little bit, before reaching the summit. The first half of the path we could actually walk without torches, since the stars were bright enough to lead our way. But when it got steeper and rocky, we took out our head torches to be a bit safer.
You can see the whole adventure with moving pictures and sound in one of Joshi's videos:
After 12 hours of hiking and 2 hours sleep in the last 24 hours, I can feel the Teide in every muscle. This night, I need a proper bed and higher temperatures, so I hitchhike back to the port of San Miguel, where Sonja and Michel invite me to stay on their boat. In the marina bar I even meet Stefan, my first captain, just in time before he departs to the Caribbean! What a beautiful meeting.
The next day we meet on "No Stress" and head off to Gran Canaria. When we start, the sun shines bright and the wind blows in our sails. The conditions are perfect. But after a few hours Trond is being told that the marina is completely full and they can't enter with their boat, since there is literally no space left. So we actually have to turn around halfway between the islands to go back to Santa Cruz de Tenerife.
Slightly disappointed by the sequence of events we ask around in the harbour again, if anyone else might be going to Gran Canaria. A Swiss couple faces us with a counter question: "Are you climbers?" - "Umm, yeah, why?" - "Because we can't take you across the ocean, but we would like to go climbing tomorrow!" That's awesome! The next two nights we can spend aboard the big Catamaran of Roland and Nathalie.
After the breakfast we pack our equipment and go climbing. Another hitchhiker from Germany joined us. His name is Birger and while he talks about his travel, I can't ignore the feeling that he reminds me of Hanna's friend Jasper, whom we visited in Flensburg in the beginning of our journey. It turns out, that these two guys are brothers! Seriously? The hitchhiking world is too small...
So together with Roland we climb some nice crags at Arico. There are loads of different routes with all kind of grades. The only thing is, that they are all quite short. But for us, it was just perfect.
After this amazing trip we go back to the harbour. One night, we go to the beach to look for a place to sleep. The three of us find a nice little hidden place not far from the marina, but still in the middle of the city. It's calm here and we can pitch our tents without disturbing anyone. To get some fresh air and clear our minds from not finding a boat, we make a trip to the mountains of Anaga. Since the season to sail across the Atlantic doesn't last forever, we start to worry about getting an opportunity. So the plan is as follows: hitchhike to Anaga to regain some energy and contemplate about the situation while hanging in a hammock between the trees, far away from ships and coastlines. The next day, Birger is hiking further up the mountains and Joshi and me make ourselves comfortable.
When I go down to the village to fill up our water bottles, there is a car stopping next to me. The man asks me, if I need a lift. So that's how easy hitchhiking on the Canaries can be. You just walk along the road, without even intending to stick out your thumb and the people stop to pick you up. I get in the car and tell the man, that I am camping in the woods with a friend of mine. In his opinion it'S way too cold and humid out there. He says, that if we would need a shower or a proper bed instead, we should not hesitate to call him. He lives only 15 min from our camping spot. Before I get off the car, I write down his number. His name is Alejandro.
It's about to get dark. Both of us are still quite knackered from the travels and the disappointed search for a boat. We can't really imagine to spend Christmas in the harbour. We don't even have a place to stay! A warm shower and a cozy bed for a night sounds like a good treat. I call Alejandro. "Yeah, where are you guys?" he answers. "I have been looking for you in the forest to invite you for dinner, but I couldn't find you." Wow, that's what I call a warm welcome!
Immediately after arriving at his home, he hands me the keys to his apartment. There is dinner, a warm shower and a bed for us! We feel so much at ease at Alejandro's and well, what can I say? We have been here for four weeks now. It seems to be the perfect symbiosis. He lives on his own and has got a home office. For his kind of job he constantly has to be present at the phone or computer, so he rarely leaves the house for a long time. So it's perfect that we bring some life into his apartment and cook everyday pretty healthy stuff. It' like a dream come true to be able to live here. Every other day he lends us his car to go down to the harbour. Now we can comfortably ask for boats, since we don't have to worry about finding a place to sleep every night. And the best thing is: when he has a day off, we make little road trips to explore the north of the island, which is extremely beautiful.
So I can practice my landscape photography skills a little bit.
Here in the Anaga mountains you can step out of the door and find loads of hiking paths to discover the woods. I filmed one of these typical afternoon hikes. Actually, I only needed an excuse to test the slow motion function, haha!
One day we drive again to the Teide. Together with Alejandro we take a few night shots from the stars. He has been a photographer himself and has got some valuable tips for me.
Alejandro drives back in his cozy bed, but Joshi and me crawl into our sleeping bags at -4°C. Now I finally got one which is made for cold seasons, too. It's surprisingly comfortable to sleep beneath the stars now. Just the dew in the morning was a little bit irritating, since it was all over our mattresses and sleeping bags, too:
Joshi looking for the perfect scene
In the afternoon we ascent 900 m to spend the night on top of the old crater, the Pico Viejo at 3,100 m. There is even some snow left, so we can scent some winter air on the Canaries!
In the cold and windy morning we get rewarded with a beautiful sunrise and a stunning of of the Teide.
Now we can say that we got to know quite a few facets of Spain's highest mountain and feel quite connected to the whole national park. And we didn't take any damage apart from one thing: the volcanic stones are so sharp, that I had to repair my mattress with at least ten patches. But it was worth it. The landscape here is quite unique and if you spend a night outside, it's even more inspiring.
We spend Christmas and New Year together with Alejandro. You get the best impression if you just watch the video:
Mika, the owner of the local grocery store, invited us to her home to show us how to make Canary delicatessen like Truchas and Mojo.
But the best is yet to come
After weeks of asking and waiting, we finally found a boat! We still can't believe it. Marianne and Bernhard are from Switzerland and were mooring in the marina of Santa Cruz on their boat "Jolene". They just got here after departing from Gibraltar five days ago. But eventhough they invite us for a beer on their boat and we have a little chat about our journeys.We got along so well and interchanged our email addresses. A few days later we get the more than pleasant news: they want to take us with them across the Atlantic to share this adventure with us. Wow! We can't believe it and jump around like crazy in Alejandro's apartment. We are so happy that the waiting is over now and we can go with these super nice, open minded and young sailors over the ocean.
On monday, we will move aboard the "Jolene", get the shopping done and wait for some good winds to set sail!