Sun and Cycling (on a budget) - Tenerife, 13-17 May 2017
About six weeks ago I decided to book a short trip to Tenerife. The weather was great (highs around 27C and sunny) and both the outbound and return flights arrived on time. I had pretty good seats assigned: 3A on the outbound and 33C on the return (being in 33C meant I was first of the rear exit of the plane on arrival back in Edinburgh and whizzed through the eGates at passport control).
I had been looking at flights to places with direct connections from Edinburgh and saw that I could get a return to Tenerife for £59 if I travelled out on the Saturday afternoon (with Jet2) and back on the Wednesday evening (with Ryanair). I'd travel only with hand luggage to avoid baggage fees and stay in an AirBnB. The AirBnB was the most expensive part of the short trip at £39 per night (exactly half of the total trip cost; £34pn plus AirBnB fees) but it was a great little studio apartment in Los Cristianos with terrace, fridge, hob, double bed, shower, sofa, and TV.
Flight from EDI left at 1450 and arrived at 1940. The girlfriend of my AirBnB host met me at the Airport, gave me the keys to the studio and advised me which bus to get. The 111 bus runs every 30 minutes (and takes 15-20 minutes) and I must have just missed one as I waited 20-25 minutes for the bus to arrive. My cabin bag had to go in the hold of the bus but I retrieved it again quickly after I found out the bus was going north to Santa Cruz.The bus stops in the same place whether it is going to Santa Cruz or west to Los Cristianos - but if you ask for Los Cristianos and the driver isn't going there he won't sell you a ticket. The bus fare is only €3.20 (apparently a taxi to Los Cristianos is around €25). At the bus stop, I met a man from Dublin who visits Tenerife 5-6 times a year for a week at a time to get some sun and do some running. I also met an English man who had sold his house and moved out to Tenerife six weeks earlier and brought out all his carpentry tools with the intention of plying his trade in Tenerife at some point, although he indicated he'd treated those weeks as a holiday and hadn't really started looking for jobs yet.
When I arrived at the bus station/stop in Los Cristianos, I bid farewell to Dave from Dublin and looked around for taxis. I couldn't see any so typed in the address of the AirBnB in Google Maps (I was using O2 Travel so only paying £1.99 per day for mobile data when in Spain) and decided to walk in its direction for a while until I found a taxi rank). I got some Euros from an ATM and walked for 15 minutes or so without seeing any parked taxis. Google Maps was telling me the AirBnB was a good one hour walk and I wasn't even convinced it knew where the place was. I caught the attention of a passing taxi and jumped in. He didn't speak a word of English and my Spanish is close to non-existent, but I showed him the address and then where Google Maps thought it was. He wasn't sure himself and called someone to check. It was good that I hadn't continued walking/following Google Maps as he proceeded to make a U-turn and drive up a hill - we were there in no time. I paid him the fare of €3.80 plus tip and thanked him, then walked up to the 4th floor to find the studio. I caught the end of the Eurovision Song Contest and went to sleep.
I left the AirBnB a little after 10 AM to find a supermarket and stock up on some food and drink. The prices in the supermarket were very reasonable. A highlight was probably getting cans of San Miguel for €0.65 a pop, a steal in comparison with the £6 pints of Lagunitas I'd had in Edinburgh two days before. After returning to the AirBnB and doing some sunbathing with my book (Jack Kerouac's On the Road), I headed out to the Olympic sized municipal pool. Unfortunately, I found out the pool is closed on Sundays, so proceeded towards Playa Los Cristianos. I put my bag on a deck chair, got changed, and headed into the sea. I was a bit worried about someone taking my bag so didn't stay in the water too long, coming out to check on my bag once, but there were plenty of other sunbathers around so I thought the risk of theft was fairly low. I dived down to about three metres and was pleased not to experience any pain in my ears, as I had in Bali a couple of months before. The nasal spray prescribed by my GP seemed to be helping.
I went to the pool at 10 AM (which wasn't closed this time!) and swam 2.6km. After the pool, I went for a walk to Las Americas and along the coast back to Los Cristianos, past surfers and countless tourists, bars and restaurants.
I left the AirBnB just before 10 AM to get to a local bicycle hire shop, Bicisport. The shop is run by an ex Spanish pro cyclist and the prices are very reasonable. I hired a carbon bike with Ultegra gears for €33 for the day. I left the shop at 27m ASL and headed into the mountains, through San Lorenzo, San Miguel (is that where the beer takes its name from? Perhaps there are lots of San Miguels in Spain?), past the El Frontón turn off and up towards Vilaflor, the highest village in Tenerife. The average gradient on the road up to El Teide is 6%, but it reaches 11% around 1,100m and this, combined with the heat and me running out of water, led me to stop and turn around at 1,149m. I managed to get a can of Fanta and a large bottle of water at a bar in San Lorenzo on the way down but even if I had continued on to Vilaflor, I'm not sure I would have found somewhere to purchase drinks without letting my bike get out of sight. The 1,258m of ascent from 27m to 1,149m in under 25km was by far the biggest climb I've done on a bike (in 2009 I did the Bealach na Ba in the Applecross Peninsula, the greatest road climb in the UK at only 626m). The descent was magnificent, especially the first half, flying down smooth empty road for almost 25km, overtaking a pick up van at one point. Unfortunately, my phone wasn't recording the route accurately so I wasn't able to check the speeds afterwards. I hope one day I can come back and do the full cycle up to 2,325 metres from El Medano (which includes the longest continuous road incline in Europe)!
I had a nap when I got back then headed out for another 2.1km at the pool. After the pool, I went back into town and sat down at a restaurant for a pizza and a beer. After I'd ordered I realised it was actually an Italian restaurant - oh well!
My AirBnB host had kindly advised that I could leave any time, which was very convenient for my as my flight wasn't until 7 PM. I went for a job up Montana de Guaza, a 400m hill to the east of Los Cristianos with great views of the coastline and mountains. I brought only my key for the studio so no photos to report back with. After gulping down water back at the AirBnB I had a one hour nap then headed to the pool for a final swim (1.9km). I was back just in time to pack up and head out to catch the bus to the Airport. I had managed to check in online for my Ryanair flight using my phone but there was no WiFi in the AirBnB so I had to wait until I got to the Airport to download the Ryanair App to obtain an electronic boarding pass. Attempts to download this using mobile data had been futile ("5 hours remaining" followed by "download failed") but it downloaded within three minutes using the Airport WiFi. It took 2-3 minutes for the app to realise I had already checked in and show my boarding pass, but in the end it worked fine.
Airport transfers: £13.60 plus €6.40 [five buses and an Uber]
Accommodation: £156 [four nights]
Food and drinks: £7.34 plus €67.25
Bicycle hire: €33
Swimming pool entries: €6.50
Total trip cost: £312.36 (excluding about £18 on souvenirs)
The trip could have been even cheaper had I stayed in a hostel rather than the comfort of the AirBnB.
Unlike most of my trips, for this one I decided only to take my GoPro Hero 4 Black camera. This was partly due to the fact that I was only taking hand luggage but also because I didn't spend much time thinking about packing and ended up in being in a bit of a rush to get the bus to the Airport, and also because my main intention was for this to be an active short break rather than photography focused.
I managed to visit the Olympic sized outdoor pool in Los Cristianos three times, swimming a total of 6.6 km. I also fitted in a 12.35 km jog up and down Montana de Guaza on Wednesday morning and a 50 km cycle towards Vilaflor in the Tuesday heat.
Four Munros in a Weekend - Scotland, 6-7 May 2017
Three of us travelled north to hike four Munros (hills in Scotland over 3,000ft [914m]; there are 282 of them in total) over the weekend of 6-7 May. The weather was great all weekend (I think it was 22'C in Killin on Sunday afternoon).
We drove from Edinburgh, picking up a friend in Inverkeithing on the way, and stayed Saturday night at The Crainlarich Hotel. After hiking up three Munros on the Saturday (Meall Greigh, Meall Garbh & An Stuc), we headed to our hotel in Crianlarich. The Hotel must be the largest in Crianlarich and was able to accommodate our request for three single beds in our triple room. It had its own bar and restaurant which served great food. I had a generously sized and delicious main of moules frites.
On Sunday, we drove back through Killin and hiked up another Munro, Meall Ghaordaidh (1,039m; 360' panorama from the summit is shown below), a straight forward out and back route. After descending, we returned to Killin and sat on the rocks by the Falls of Dochart with coffees before heading home.
IIreland, 29 April - 1 May 2017
I travelled to Ireland with my Dad to explore the West Coast for a couple of days (Saturday afternoon until Monday morning). I booked the flights using Avios (9,000 Avios return plus £42.50 taxes each, mostly earned through purchased with my American Express card) and we hired a car for the trip. One of the benefits of Avios bookings is the included hold luggage allowance.
We flew into Knock Airport from Edinburgh and hired a diesel Ford Focus with Thrifty (pre-booked online). It only cost about £14 per day plus fuel - and we only spent EUR 27.50 on fuel, despite driving 440 km. This works out at 53.8 MPG, quite close to the Focus' advertised 56.5 MPG (combined) figure. My 2013 Nissan Qashqai's fuel economy, by comparison, is almost 20% worse than the advertised figures (around 37.5 MPG versus 45 MPG advertised).
The blue line in the map below shows the route we drove.
The YouTube video was mostly shot on my Nikon D7000 (which is now almost seven years old and which Nikon recently released a third successor to, the D7500; mostly with the 18-70mm and some with a 300mm f/4) with a few clips from the GoPro Hero 4 Black.