Tag Archives: airport

The last days on Tenerife (with a HC climb)

The 6th (last) night of observing with the IAC-80 did not turn out well, as in the first half of the night it was raining heavily, and when it started to clear up in the second half, then the wind speed rose (50-80 km/h) well above the safety limit (45 km/h) of the telescope, so I could not even open the dome. This way I ended up with 3 clear night out of 6, which is much worse than my typical ratio. But as staff member told me, this autumn was exceptionally crappy until now compared to what is usual at the Observatorio del Teide, so I was lucky that I could observe at least on half of my nights…

On Sunday, I got up a bit erlier (1 PM), because I wanted to use my last day for a big cycling trip. So I first had the longest decent of my life (with 0 cars overtaking me – but that is normal on the way down, so do not start freaking out about my speed please), then after reaching the sea, I turned back, and had the longest and highest climb of my “cycling career”. It was a truly epic climb. I started at 50 m above sea level (ASL) – that was the closest I could get to the water on the road -, then the climb went on almost uninterrupted for 42.2 km till I reached the highest road of Tenerife (which is a private road of the Observatory, so if you are not an astronomer, then the top is a bit lower) at 2360 m ASL. This gives an average slope of 5.6%.


Remember, this lasted for (exactly) three hours, so in Tour de France terms, this is a HC (Hors catégorie) climb – mainly because of its length and partly because of its steepness. Now the cloud layer was thin and low (between 650 and 950 meter ASL), and the weather was perfectly clear and sunny above (I used my sunscreen every day when I rode my bike), while hot and humid below. There was a part (Calle del Risco Caido) in La Oratava, where the slope was generally between 10% and 14% for 750 meters (with a maximum of 22%) – now that was a killer, I had to stop twice (and this was at 5 km into the climb at 300 m ASL in almost 100% humidity and 27°C). After that, I took only very short (1-5 min) breaks at 1000 m, 1400 m, 1700 m, and at 2000 m ASL before I reached my destination. (GPS details here.)


By the time I arrived back to the Observatory I was a bit exhausted (and covered with a surprising amount of salt), but extremely happy, because a month ago I was not even sure if I am able to do such a climb at all. This was the first time for months that I really felt tired (from physical activity and not because of working till midnight)… The one hour which I had to wait until dinner seemed really long (luckily I could skype with someone, thus time passed a bit faster). I managed to do the climb with three 0.75 litre bottles (so no use of the hydration pack which I brought with myself especially for these days…), and only an energy bar and an energy gel. So being a bit hungry afterwards was not a surprise. (I had more food with me – do not worry -, but I did not need it on the bike.)

Then on Sunday evening, packing everything in was again a struggle – I really hate it. Finally after three hours of sleep, I took the taxi to the airport where the largest plane crash took place in history (Tenerife North). But now the weather was sunny and crystal clear (amazing views along the road down from the Observatory), nothing like the foggy day when the accident happened. After a 30 minute flight (on board a Binter Canarias ATR-72) we landed on La Palma, I took the taxi (the second one, because my bike box did not fit in the first :D) up to the Observatory, and now I am here :) Good to be back! In the next two days, till my observing run starts, I will make small modifications to my article according to the comments of my co-authors.

First days at the Observatorio del Teide

After finishing the internal version (ready to be sent to the co-authors) of my first paper on Wednesday evening after weeks of hard work (even on weekends) and iteration with my supervisors, I had to pack in for a full moth, as I was getting ready to leave for two observing runs and for some holidays to the Canary Islands. As always, packing took ages, so I had no sleep at all before my taxi arrived at 5 on the morning. The most difficult part was packing my racing bike to its bike box, because everything had to be placed very carefully, to avoid any possible damage during the flights. (The wheels were placed on top of the whole stuff in separate wheel-bags, but still into the bike box).


At the end (after I had to reopen the box – at which point I was swearing a bit – because I forgot to put the big pump inside…), I had 60 kg of luggage (and I even had to leave my tripod at home, because it really did not fit in anywhere): 32 kg in the bike box (as the box itself weights 12 kg, plus the bike is 8 kg, plus I put in some other stuff too to save space in my normal bag), 22 kg as normal check-in luggage, and 6 kg in my hand luggage. (And I had to pay only 75 € for the bike box, and nothing else. Luckily.) I took the Iberia flight to Madrid at 8 AM, then another from the same company to Tenerife after waiting two and a half hours at the airport. (I still love airports like this one.)


Luckily, as the original plan was only one and a half hour, and I was a bit afraid, that the bike box will not make it in time from one plane to another… A managed to get some sleep during the flights, but I was still extremely tired upon arriving to the Canaries. (And then it came to my mind that I will have to do the same endless packing three times again in the coming month… But OK, I stop complaining.) After collecting my normal luggage, I had to go down one floor to pick up my bike box, but that floor was completely deserted – with only a few lights turned on, endless baggage claim areas with no people around at all, and then, at the very end of the area, my bike box rolled out on its own, alone. With no personnel or anyone around. It was a bit scary… Then as I stepped outside, I was shocked by the 28°C air temperature, so I took off some clothes (:P) and headed to the taxi area as fast as I could. There, the taxi drivers were the ones under a slight shock, as they realized, that all this luggage was mine, and there was no other person traveling with me :D But no worries, everything fit in perfectly (with the rear seats leaned forward), and we were on our long way up to the observatory in no time. It was still early afternoon when I arrived and checked in at the Residencia of the Observatorio del Teide. (I might consider learning Spanish instead of Dutch, if I want to get a job after my PhD as a support astronomer somewhere…) I even met two Hungarians, which was a nice surprise! As I was extremely tired, I had not done anything later that day, except that I assembled my bike, and unpacked all my bags. Yesterday I woke up at around midday, and after a nice lunch, I went for a relatively short acclimatization ride on the afternoon. (GPS details here.) My policy is the following: as I am on a work trip here, I only go cycling on those days, when I have no observing duties on the following night (because I might be in a good shape, but staying up all night and working with expensive equipment is not something you want to do tired).


First I went down to 2000 meter towards the NE (passing the famous colorful curves of the TF-24 road – see picture above), than I turned back, and climbed up almost to the point where I started, but as I felt still quite strong and I had still a lot of water in my bottles, I decided to ride a bit to the other direction on TF-21 towards the Teide volcano. It was really nice, with slopes between 4 % and 12 % (with 7-8 % most of the time).


I made two short videos about the roads and the scenery from the bike, which are not the best quality (as I had only my compact camera with me), but they can be seen here and here. It is worth checking them anyway, as you can see how my new cycling glasses fit me :) I think they are extremely cool ;D The road quality is not the best everywhere, but it is generally OK. There are silk-smooth parts, and there are places, where one have to be a bit more careful… After 50 km and 1000 meter of elevation gain, I arrived back well before lunch, so I had time to take a shower and check my mail before I joined the others at the table. Later that night I tried to stay up as late as possible (watching TV series on my MacBook) to shift my rhythm from day to nigh-time, but I had to go to bed already at 3 AM. Still I think it is OK, as I managed to sleep till midday today, so by the end of the forthcoming night, the shift will be complete. Now I am praying for good weather, because the last nights were a complete disaster for the previous observers, and we need data badly…