We returned home from a fantastic day spent exploring the Anaga Rural Park in the very north eastern tip of Tenerife.
As I wrapped myself up and settled beside the log-burning stove, feeling the crisp warmth on my skin, I started to go downhill.
For the entirety of the day I had been suffering with the usual symptoms of a cold. My nose needed blowing every few minutes, it was blocked to the high heavens and I had a sore throat. I hadn’t let any of these minor symptoms disrupt my explorations of the island.
But suddenly I felt dizzy, nauseas and very, very cold. I’ve had a fever enough times to know now what the hints of a high temperature are.
Our plans for eating out for the night were not looking likely so we decided a takeaway would be a better option. We had no idea if anyone did takeaways around here but Lewis decided to venture out and see what he could find us.
I knew I had to sit out on this adventure. I was shivering heavily by the fire, not sure if I wanted to throw up or sleep.
Inwardly I felt utterly despairing. Why did it seem as though we were cursed as to never have a trip go to plan? Every single trip we go on, something goes terribly wrong.
On our last trip alone, I suffered enough mishaps to last me a lifetime. On our trip to Barbados and Dominica we found ourselves stranded in a tropical storm, Lewis nearly drowned in the ocean, our rental car company cancelled drop-off on us because of the storm and pre-booked us a taxi without telling us (which I didn’t have the money to pay for), we arrived at accommodation totally unprepared for zipline only access and the hugest moth in the world tried to crawl into my bed.
Then before that we were attacked by a machete-wielding gang of masquerades in The Gambia, I came down with a mystery fever in Kefalonia, we missed our flight, got a speeding ticket, got food poisoning and got in trouble with the police in Mallorca and we both got food poisoning so severe in Sri Lanka we nearly didn’t make it on to the flight home.
And that’s just the last 2 years.
And that’s every trip we’ve been on in the last 2 years apart from 1.
We had been so determined to make sure everything was perfect for this Tenerife trip. We booked an island we had already visited, a car with a rental company we knew, a more expensive, comfortable villa and booked for a decent length of time so we wouldn’t be rushing. I also like to think we’ve now learnt how not to get food poisoning.
But still somehow things had gone wrong again.
Fortunately, we had some food left over from last night’s meal which we had cooked out: chorizo and tomato pasta. Lewis effortlessly was able to reheat the sauce and cook some fresh pasta.
I couldn’t stomach that much but tried my best. Despite my fever, I was still able to enjoy it.
The night was rough.
Just before I snuggled down into bed, my hearing became muffled. It felt like I was on a plane coming in to land but couldn’t get my ears to clear. They were hopelessly stuffed up and no matter how many times I tried to clear them or pop them, as I prefer to say, they remained muffled and itchy.
It felt strange to be shivering like crazy, feeling incredibly nauseas, not being able to hear and having a blocked nose. I could quite easily say without a doubt that this was the worst cold I had ever had.
I popped 2 paracetamol tablets but they did nothing. I knew I’d have to pay the pharmacy a visit the following day. So much for trying to lay off the nasal spray! I just hoped I wouldn’t get addicted this time.
The following morning I still felt shit.
I’d secretly been hoping that my hears would have cleared over night as when I had previously had a cold which interfered with my ears, that’s exactly what had happened. This time… they were still hopelessly clogged. I felt like I was underwater, surrounded by a muffled and surreal world. When I spoke, my voice was distorted. When Lewis spoke, his words were painfully muted. I felt trapped inside my own head – a painful head where pressure was intense.
After breakfast it was time to head to the pharmacy. I swallowed nervously as I jumped into our gleaming white Volvo, contemplating the steep drive upwards which would undoubtedly upset my fragile sinus system.
The ascents are never normally too bad for me. The constant pressure in my ears persisted but didn’t get any worse.
I felt a shimmer of hope stir within me as I thought of the treatment I’d receive. I was confident that a nasal spray would be the magic bullet and cure all my woes. Sinus sprays always worked wonders. They made it possible for me to fly with a cold. I never experienced extreme ear pressure when using sinus spray.
We drove down the narrow one-way streets of La Esperanza until the vibrant ‘Farmacia’ sign became visible on our right. I rehearsed in my head how I would start the conversation with the pharmacist. I just prayed they’d understand English. I knew that perhaps was wishful thinking as everyone I’d encountered in this small town so far had barely spoken a word of English. Oh, well. I’m sure we’ll get there. I can always try and act it if it comes to it, like pointing to my ears and nose and stuff.
By some means of a miracle, the pharmacist spoke superb English and in no time at all she handed over a nasal spray and some antihistamine tablets. I was delighted with my haul and practically skipped back to the car, ready to lap up my new medication.
“So what do you want to do now?” Lewis asked.
That morning we’d discussed our plans for the days. Lewis was keen to check out a bakery just out of town which had gleaming reviews. The only catch was that you had to journey all the way down from our current elevation and I wasn’t sure of the effect that would have on my already tender ears. However, I now had my medication. Surely, my ears would be fine now?
Feeling brave, I responded. “Let’s go to the bakery.”
Lewis smiled and we began our journey.
The sinus spray managed to clear my nose almost instantly. Sure, my nose was still painfully sore but at least it wasn’t gunked to the high heavens.
My ears were another story. I tried and tried and tried to clear them by opening my mouth quickly and yawning. Alas, it was futile.
We began our descent from the hill. I gulped as I lay eyes on the road before us which sloped steeply downwards like a rollercoaster. I watched the cars in front of us as they grew smaller and smaller as they hurtled towards the bottom of the hill.
It was our turn.
“Go slowly. Please.” I was nervous.
Steadily we followed the smooth grey tarmac as it sloped down.
Almost at once I felt the pressure building inside my head. I groaned in pain. My head already felt like it would burst with pressure before. This was unbearable and with every passing second it only worsened. It felt like someone was stamping on my head and I was helpless to do anything about it.
“I can’t do it!” I wailed.
Lewis gave me a sideward glance, his eyes brimming with concern. “Do you want to go back?”
I nodded, my breathing becoming short as I filled up with anxiety. “Please. I can’t do it. The pressure is too much.”
Lewis nodded. “I’ll turn around then.”
He pulled into a side-road and managed to turn the car around.
I felt like crying. My head was pulsating and I could barely hear a thing. My ears burned in pain. As if that wasn’t enough, I was mentally drained. I wanted so badly to explore Tenerife but I knew now that I’d have to hide away in our villa until my ears were better. It was so hopeless.
To make things worse, the only way to get back to our villa was to drive up to La Esperanza and then down another road which took us slightly downhill to our villa. In other words, I still had another descent to deal with which would undoubtedly kill my ears some more.
As I expected, the descent from La Esperanza to our villa sucked. I gave into the fact that the pressure was going to get even worse, which felt odd as it felt like it was impossible for them to get any worse.
I could have kissed the ground when we arrived back at the villa. At least my ears couldn’t get any worse here.
It was with a heavy heart as I watched the large wooden front door shut behind Lewis. He was off to the bakery and I was stuck in the villa. I felt so frustrated. All I wanted to do was explore the island but instead I was ill and forced to relax. Relax. It’s not exactly a word that I know the meaning to. I struggle to sit still and my mind never stops whirling.
The day came and went. I enjoyed the treats which Lewis brought back from the bakery but felt a twinge of sadness as he described to me the rural scenes which had whizzed past the car. He spoke of fields of golden crops, feral cats crossing the road and of old mechanics ploughing through fields. I could only try and visualise it all after having seen nothing but the same four walls all afternoon.
As evening came, Lewis ventured out once more. This time, he went to the local restaurant called La Sardinera, the same restaurant we had visited on our first night here, to order and collect a takeaway.
I found myself huddled beside the log-burning stove wrapped in blankets, staring into the flames and every so often tending to the hungry fire. Warmth began to spread into the villa and I ensured all windows were locked and boarded up.
At least I still somehow had my taste-buds and managed to enjoy the takeaway.
That night was slightly better than the night prior. At least I no longer had a fever and could effectively unblock my nose. Other than the sore, flaky red skin around my lips and nostrils, the only issue that remained was my stubborn ears. They just refused to pressurise, no matter how hard I tried. My mouth hurt from the countless attempts to re-pressurise them.
When I awoke the following morning to the same intense throbbing in my head a muffled hearing, I could have wailed. Another day of doing nothing. I thought bitterly.
“Do you want to go for a walk?” Lewis suggested. “Just a short one. To get out.”
I pondered the idea. A short walk outside couldn’t possibly hurt, could it?
“And see the feral cat colony?” I prompted.
Lewis had seen numerous cats just a minute or so up the road whilst out collecting the takeaway. I had been so despondent that I hadn’t witnessed this spectacle myself and was itching to get my own sighting. I just can’t get enough of seeing cats on holiday.
“Yes.” Lewis smiled. “I know exactly where it is. It’s not far at all.”
“OK.” I agreed.
I was excited to be getting out and possibly seeing the feral cat colony but at the same time, I couldn’t shake the anticipation that the outing may damage my ears further.
As I stepped outside the villa, I delighted as the soft rays of sun gently touched my skin. The air was warm and alive with the choir of birds. I gazed around me at the beautiful purple flowers that hung in the bush which was perched beside our car. Their delicate petals faded to white in the centre.
We crunched through the white gravel and pressed the key fob to open the grey sliding gate.
I felt light for the first time in hours, thoroughly enjoying my time outdoors. I no longer felt guilty for sitting on my ass and my mind was not pinned on my ailments. Instead, I allowed myself to become distracted by the sound of my Converse on the smooth grey tarmac and by the neighbour’s cream-coloured dog who sat by the wall of their complex but who no longer barked at us as we passed. It felt good to be accepted by the drooling pooch.
We reached the end of the narrow lane that led to our villa. The lane was flanked by grand coral-coloured villas, each with a set of tall electric gates. I gazed at the stretch of road that lay before me, following the lines in the road as it snaked upwards towards La Esperanza. I briefly wondered how this would affect my ears before shrugging off the thought. I needed a walk.
The breeze carried with it the gentle song of a wind-chime and I envisioned the metallic ornament swaying slightly in the warm breeze. Somewhere a goat called and a mere few seconds later a cockerel answered it with a loud and distinctive cocka-doodle-doo.
This was the Tenerife countryside and I loved every inch of it.
A couple of houses down, we came across a pale orange villa on the opposite side of the narrow road. A set of low iron gates shielded us from two yappy dogs, their faces concealed behind scrappy, curled fur. They were small and were clearly trying to make up for their short stature in their loud cries. One was a tawny colour whilst the other was black with flecks of white.
What intrigued me the most about these miniature dogs was the fact that behind them, lounging in the shade of a stumpy tree, were several felines. Cats and dogs living together? It seemed unheard of! Yet there were several cats, calmly going about their business, as if the endless yapping of hounds was nothing more than a buzz on the horizon.
I watched as a black and white cat stretched out its lustrous limbs and rolled onto its back, before curling up to lap rhythmically at its shiny pelt with a pink tongue. An ear flickered nonchalantly.
“This must be them.” Lewis began enthusiastically. “This is the feral cat colony.”
“Really?” I could barely grasp how a group of cats chose to live beside such noisy canines.
I noticed a grey striped tabby laying near the black and white cat. This feline was equally indifferent to the dogs.
It was time to continue our walk.
As we walked steadily upwards, I continued trying to clear my ears. Then suddenly. My right ear could hear again! Sound, so crisp and beautiful, entered my eardrum and I stopped dead in my tracks, a smile appearing on my face.
“I did it!” I squealed. “I popped one!”
I could barely believe it. After close to 48 hours of next to no hearing, I couldn’t believe that one of my ears was working again. Although, it did feel rather disorientating having one perfect ear and one that still heard nothing but muffled sounds.
“That’s amazing!” Lewis beamed.
He was supportive but I knew he had absolutely no idea about the sensations I had been going through. He was blessed with well-behaved ears.
We walked a little further until we reached a bend in the road. I decided not to push myself too hard. Gazing around at the beautiful green hills backed by cloudless turquoise skies, it was with a heavy heart that I chose to turn back. But I was grateful that I got to enjoy a few moments of quiet countryside.
As we made our way back down the hill, I spied a small tortoiseshell cat sprawled out on a narrow path beside a field of yellow flowers. The petite feline looked up at us with round green eyes before rising to their paws and trotting back to the main road.
I watched as the cat quickly crossed the road and slipped under the iron gates which led to the coral-coloured villa guarded by two shrimp, yappy dogs.
As the black tip of its tail disappeared into the garden, I noticed the two shaggy canines bounding across the clipped green lawn to the gate and start up their chorus once more.
They were like the cats’ personal bodyguards.
Still unable to clear my remaining ear, I decided to spend the afternoon at the villa. But with the warm rays of sunlight beating down on our patio I realised that life could be worse.
I sat out on the soft outdoor seat and vowed that maybe on this holiday I would finally get a tan.
I suck at tanning. Once upon a time I used to stop to lie out in the sun but those days seemed long behind me. my recent trips were all go, go, go and that style of trips allows for minimal time to get optimum sunshine.
But now. Now was the perfect opportunity to change that. I will be a milk bottle no more!
I waved goodbye to Lewis, who was off to find a butchers in the nearby city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna, and started working on my tan.
The sun bore down on me. I lay, watching the world go slowly by and listening to the tranquil sounds of nature and country life. Goats were calling and dogs were barking. I looked up at the sound of a sudden screech which split the air, and gazed in wonder at a majestic bird of prey, gliding smoothly above our villa.
A low-flying aircraft droned out the sound of everything as it flew overhead. I jumped at a loud bang which sounded exactly like gunfire coming from just over a hill.
Soon, peace returned once more.
It wasn’t long before Lewis returned with a delicious haul of goodies. He presented beer, meats, cheeses and the most surprising purchase was a pack of Iberico ham which cost a whopping €50! Now, I adore Iberico ham but I’m not sure I would have spent quite that much on it myself.
“It didn’t have a price on it.” He began. “And then they told me what the total of my purchase was and I just went with it.”
I couldn’t help but laugh.
I wasn’t sure the ham was quite worth the €50 price tag but it was good. And we had enough of it to last us until the day we were due to fly home, assuming we had it for breakfast every morning.
I sipped on my cool beer and satisfied my senses with a mouthful of Iberico ham whilst the sun shone radiantly in the sky above.
Despite the perfect scene, I couldn’t help but feel a niggle of concern. Would my ears be better soon? We only had two days until we were due to fly home. I knew for a fact that my ears couldn’t cope with the drastic change in air pressure involved in flying in their current state. What would I do if they weren’t better in time?
I shook my head. I couldn’t think like that. They had to be better in two days’ time. There was no other option.
The sun set on another day in Tenerife.
After a delicious home-cooked meal, I made my way to bed feeling deflated. I still hadn’t managed to clear my remaining ear and to make matters worse, the other seemed to have worsened again and wouldn’t clear anymore. I sighed. Deeply. This was not good.
I flicked the light switch on in the bathroom and nearly gasped in horror when saw my reflection in the mirror. Could that be me? Could that bright red lobster-coloured creature with humongous panda eyes be me?
Yep. I’d only gone and got sunburnt.
I marvelled at the pathetic creature in the reflection. So red with such huge white patches around her eyes from the oversized sunglasses. With dry, cracked and painful skin around her nose and mouth. With inflamed lips. With tired, weary eyes.
How could I have got myself into such a state? The relaxing trip to Tenerife was turning into anything but.