Garachico and Pirates (!) in the Canary Islands

I wrote a post (quite a while ago now – sorry) about an easy day trip I made while staying in Puerto de la Cruz in the north of Tenerife, the Canary Islands.

This is a follow up about another easy day trip you can do to the unlucky, albeit pretty, seaside village of Garachico.

In its short history Garachico has endured the Bubonic plague, floods, storms, fires, plagues of locusts and volcanic eruptions, the worst of which in 1706 destroyed a large part of the town and the source of its wealth; the harbour.

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More pictures than words!

Today Garachico is one of Tenerife’s prettiest destinations with cobbled streets, beautifully restored churches, picturesque sea water swimming pools hewn from volcanic rock and a taste of the traditional Canaries.

The main attraction is the unique sea water volcanic rock pools. If the sea is calm enough you can enjoy a dip or wander their paths to see tropical fish darting under the surface of the pools. In autumn and spring the pools are usually cordoned off for safety.

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Wander at your own risk.

 

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Volcanic debris and Castillo de San Miguel.

 

You can visit Castillo de San Miguel, a fortress built in 1575 to defend against pirates. Inside is a small historic exhibition and you can pop up on the ramparts to have a geezer.

In the main plaza (Plaza de La Libertad), you can wander the ruins of the former Convent of San Francisco which dates from the 16th century and is the oldest in the town.

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Pretty streets to explore

Each August 16th they host a festival of San Roque where you can enjoy the spectacle of oxen pulled carts filled with locals in traditional dress parading the streets and giving out free food and wine which sounds like my idea of fun.

 

Pirates!

I mentioned pirates above as a threat to Garachico.

In the early days of Spanish colonisation, the Canaries (then known as the Fortunate Islands) were easy pickings, although Tenerife was protected by a reputation as being populated by ferocious savages.

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A mural in Garachico showing the Canary Islands

The fiercest Corsairs were called ‘renegados’, Europeans who embraced the piratical way of life. The most successful of these was Murat Rais ‘King of the Seas’, and he was a Dutch settler from Lanzarote. Taken prisoner during a raid in the 17th century, he was seduced by the Corsairs’ profitable lifestyle, and converted to piracy with such relish that he even pillaged towns he had once called home.

Unpopulated inlets around the Canaries were ideal bases for pirate cruisers waiting to prey on galleons filled with jewels and gold returning from the New World. Pirate attacks intensified on Tenerife, coastal communities moved inland, and fortifications like those at Garachico were built to strengthen defences.

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A good vantage point

With pirate incursions making trading between Europe and The Indies difficult, merchants lobbied governments to eradicate the pirate threat. In a classic case of poacher turned gamekeeper, Woodes Rogers and William Dampier, privateers who plundered ships out of the port of Puerto de la Cruz (and achieved fame by rescuing a marooned sailor, Alexander Selkirk, the inspiration behind Robinson Crusoe) were commissioned to rid the Caribbean of the pirate menace.

By 1830 the golden age of piracy was over and trade routes between the Canary Islands and the Americas were free from the pirates that had plagued them for almost five centuries.

 

Directions

Garachico is only 30mins drive from Puerto de la Cruz.

If, like me, you are scared of driving in a foreign country in an unfamiliar car and on the ‘wrong’ side of the road, you can take a bus.

The number 363 bus leaves about every 20-30mins from Puerto de la Cruz on Calle Cupido (it’s a major bus terminal – you can’t miss it) and the journey takes about 1 hour. You pay cash on the bus to the driver.

 

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C’est moi!

 

Complete your experience

Read

‘Pirate Latitudes’ by Michael Crichton

I love Jurassic Park and I love pirates, so of course I loved this book.

It’s a great action adventure novel which takes place in the 17th century, revolving around a fictional pirate Captain Charles Hunter and his quest to raid a Spanish galleon, El Trinidad.

 

Watch

There are so many pirate movies to choose from and none of them have anything to do with the Canaries (that I know of, correct me if I’m wrong, I could definitely be wrong) so I’m gonna go with my favourite – The Princess Bride, starring the dread pirate Roberts. Have fun storming the castle.

 

Eat

The above mentioned William Dampier, “a pirate of exquisite mind,” was a prolific author, world traveler, and adventurous foodie. Over a thousand entries in the Oxford English Dictionary are attributed to Dampier, many of them about food. So go barbecue yourselves some cashews, cumquats and breadfruit, garnished with soy sauce and served in a tortilla.

If you want something even more adventurous, try this:

Dampier observed, carefully described—and then ate—flamingos (“the flesh is lean and black yet very good meat”), armadillos (“tastes much like land-turtle”), guavas (“bakes as well as a pear”), locusts (“very moist, their heads would crackle in one’s teeth”), sea lions, ostrich eggs, and Galapagos tortoises, the flesh of which he compared to chicken.

 

Listen

Tropical Oceans by D.D. Dumbo

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