Archive for the 'Walking' Category
Waylaid By A Tenerife West Coast Wander

Seagulls packed the breakwater that was exposed by the low tide and a small group of kayaks tailed behind their leader like ducklings following their mother. Aah yes it was a delightful morning as I made Playa San Juan my kick off point for a stroll along the west coast of Tenerife.

One of my favourite sculptures has been moved along to greet walkers as they take the concrete path that hugs the coast. The rock formations left by the receding tide were spectacular, nimble footed fishermen and women had found some precarious perches while others explored brimming rock pools. Up top an enclosed petanque court was staging a hotly contested game and the pink cactus pears were plentiful on the plants. It’s a busy walkway and a fairly gentle one but it pays out so much in sights and sounds.

Half way to Alcala there’s an interruption in the form of the new desalination plant, this small section  is sealed off but hopefully may reopen soon, the diversion leads inland a few yards to the small village of Fonsalia. There are two modest sized bar restaurants that open after 1.30 pm but all could change if they expand and link the road out to the new ring road. The whole point is to service a new port, it was first planned in 1995 but still only exists on paper, in the meantime I enjoyed my 10 minute diversion through the charming back water of Fonsalia. Emerging back on the coastal path I rose upwards on a narrow and tricky section with a vast expanse of craggy fingers reaching out into the sea.

The approach to Alcala is always good, I love the drag of the shingle below in the small coves. A few people had taken the steep stone steps down but I pushed on into the plaza for a cold drink. My old Western Sun office was just off the fishermen’s quay and I have fond memories of lunch break sea swims followed by home made sarnies as I sat on the rocks. Much has changed and mainly for the good, the walkway around the bay is always a blaze of flowers and opens out to a wide strolling area in front of the Palicio de Isora hotel. The play areas, wooden benches, and Tourist Information Kiosk help to encourage hotel visitors to explore back down into Alcala, and it is reaping the benefit from more trade.

Pressing on the Playa La Jaquita is another good addition, a mix of small, subtle, dark sand coves and rocky bathing pools, all well served by the Arela Beach Bar. The recent upgrade could have distorted the canvas but it has just opened it out and what a pretty picture it makes. Around the headland and I could see the cliffs of Los Gigantes in the distance but the path was signed as closed for a new coastal walkway to be made.

I of course detoured up to the main road and didn’t squeeze around the barrier, If I had, I might have seen the new path taking shape, again it’s that balancing act, this time between encouraging more people to see the wild Punta Blanca coast without smoothing over too many of natures wrinkles. Time will tell but hopefully it will finally stop the illegal campers, I can remember the piles of rubbish they used to leave behind. I still ended up in Varadero ready to revisit old friends on the way through Playa de La Arena. It’s still good up west.

 

Iffley Lock Is the Key To A Relaxing Oxford River Walk

Enough feathers to stuff a warehouse clearance of MFI beds and more quacks than a dodgy doctors convention. There we were surrounded by hungry ducks waddling towards us demanding their daily bread. That’s probably how it would look in a cheap horror film but they were quite cute and more like an eager welcoming committee as we crossed over the Thames at Iffley Lock half way through a sunny September stroll.

Iffley is a delightful village about 2 miles outside Oxford city centre, walking off the busy main road I met my former work friend Christine in the shade of the tree lined Iffley Turn. Other small feeder road names like Stone Quarry Lane were clues to the history and sheer beauty around us. Old stone cottages with thatched roofs were joined by new dream home developments that padded out the village. Walking further into the village we passed a few horses in a paddock and a couple of tempting pubs before reaching the old church.

A large twisted oak tree stood guard and reminded me of an infant school trip so many years ago when a thunder storm raged as we sheltered briefly under the then larger spread of branches before common sense and a church warden ushered us into a nearby dry barn. On this modern visit the graveyard looked a little neglected with the long grass lapping at the memorial stones. As we walked around I noticed a figure huddled in a hedgerow and thought it was someone sleeping rough, closer inspection showed it was a chap sketching away on a large pad of paper. The church and its setting is certainly an inspiring sight and the serene feel must get the creative juices flowing.

Moving on we took the tight turn further down the lane over the old weir and across the first part of the lock. Several narrow boats were negotiating their way through the gates and we waited for them to pass before crossing over to get the full splendour of the lock keepers lodge, and the river stretching ahead in either direction. Once on the other bank the ducks came calling, no wonder they were keen, Christine confessed she had fed them generous amounts of bread on previous visits. With as much grace as I could muster I walked down a few stone steps until just above the water line to get a photo of an old mooring point disguised as an Oxon’s head, the ring to tie up to was long gone. The plan was a food and drink stop at The Isis (the name given to the Thames as it passes through Oxford), a lovely riverside pub a bit further downstream towards Donnington Bridge.

Our timing wasn’t good, the pub wasn’t going to open until later in the afternoon, so it was an about turn to follow the footpath the other way along the bank as it headed off to Sandford and eventually Abingdon. Some older, less loved narrow boats were moored along the way and horse chestnut trees provided a carpet of conkers bursting out of their prickly green jackets. Quite a few cyclists were also using the path as we veered off to take the bridge over the railway track and into Kennington. I had mixed memories of my time living there and The Tandem pub stirred a few flashbacks as we popped in and ordered some food. We sat out the back on the decking in the garden and soon realized how frequent the trains were on the main line to London. Suitably refreshed we retraced our steps back over the railway line, stopping to admire the fish design on the gate. We were soon back in Iffley village again, a nice gentle walk and a lovely way to revive thoughts of long hot Oxford summers from years ago.

For A Different Masca Experience Just Add Water

Refreshed and vibrant, Masca barranco (ravine) welcomed ice cold mountain water that added a new dimension to my latest trek down the north west Tenerife hikers delight. The streaky remains of snow on Mount Teide were a clue as I arrived in Santiago del Teide with football friends Gordon and Martin from the Armada Sur. The mid morning April temperature was just 14 degrees as we changed from the 460 Titsa bus from Los Cristianos but the air was crisp and the sky was clear blue with just a few whisps of cloud.

This initial view never fails to deliver, our 355 mini Titsa chugged up the twisting road before we got the full on majesty of Masca village deep in the clasp of the rocks down below. As always the tight hairpin road was busy in both directions as cars, coaches, and a few cyclists bobbed, weaved, and slowly squeezed past each other. The tingle of anticipation was undeniable as we swapped the tarmac road for the shifting stones and dirt as we started our walk into the valley.

Just a few minutes down the first steep incline and I could hear the trickle of water through the greenery and a small dribble underfoot was a caution that this trip might be more challenging than usual. There was a good flow going under the wooden bridge a bit further on and small pools reflected the sun. The thawing snow from an unusually heavy coating on Teide’s peak was making its long journey down to the sea and leaving a grateful bounty in its wake. Trees and plants were showing off their fresh green foliage and bird song was competing with the water’s tune for top billing.

Turning a corner I was delighted to see a brace of Barbary Partridge, they looked plump and happy and were preening for their passing audience. There are many species of birds that call Masca home but they are usually easier to hear than see but the presence of water was given plants and animals a feeding bonanza. A little later on a clump of small trees bristled with activity and some blue tits led me a merry dance as I tried to get a pic. The light and shade deep down in the walk is also fascinating, bizarre rock formations reach up to the sky and large boulders seemed to balance on very tiny ledges, it seemed like a random sneeze might see us all being used as human skittles.

The increased water did call for more dexterity and a few alternative paths, streams that had previously been just been a distraction had now spread across so stone stepping was the order of the day, my toes soon got a wash through my trainers. Others were embracing the liquid, we passed a group who had stripped down and were braving the icy welcome of a bigger pool. Nature is very resourceful, plants were growing in some very precarious spots and thriving with the minimum of soil. It was trial and error in some places, picking out a route around the wetter spots, but that suited us fine. There were plenty of nationalities and ages along the route, Masca’s fame ensures a steady stream of new converts. Towards the end there was a little bottle neck as we negotiated a particularly tricky combination of a thin ledge and some steep rock steps down to a wide pool but we all got through.

With the smell of the sea in our nostrils, the promise of beer in our bellies, and the widening of the cliffs ahead we knew we were close to the large shingle beach and the end of our hike. It had taken us 3.5 hours, a little longer than usual but we were just in time for our water taxi to Los Gigantes. We had pre booked with Flipper Uno, follow this link to book and you can see they offer a range of sea based excursions. Our 20 minute sea trip was a great way to end the adventure as we anticipated a high tide of beer to toast our day.

Keep Walking Downhill And You Cant Go Wrong !

I wasn’t lost, I just wasn’t too sure about where I was or where I was heading. You would have thought that after nearly five hours and 9 kms on the almond blossom walk I would have been keen to peel my socks off and soak my toes in some water but it didn’t quite work out that way. Arguayo is only a few miles from Santiago del Teide so there were several easy options to get from the finish to the start, trust me to do it the hard way.

Following a small crowd of clinking sticks and crunching boots through Arguayo I pointed out to a group at the Titsa bus stop that the public bus no longer runs on Saturdays. I should have adjourned to the cultural hall to await the free ferry buses to Santiago del Teide but when a couple of Canarian chaps announced they were going to walk it seemed a reasonable idea. The steep road took us upward past the distinctive rocky slab outcrop and rounding the corner the view showed there was quite a corkscrew road down to the roundabout below Santiago. One of the other walkers pointed out a steep, rough path down the grassy area below the shrine of Ermita del Santo Angel so I followed.

Clicking a few pics on the way down and stopping to water the plants I soon lagged behind and lost sight of the pair. The path briefly touched on a small settlement so I asked an ancient local lady on a bench for directions and she sent me into the little hamlet. A small modern church identified it as Pilar and it was slanting away in the wrong direction for me so I took more advice and was sent downwards. That seemed right as I rejoined the rough path I had started on but I could see now I was well short of my target. A brand new road bridge crossed the ring road near to the tunnels that link the north west of Tenerife to the south but there was just a mud track linked to both sides of the bridge. Even if it was concreted they didn’t really lead anywhere, maybe it’s a ghost bridge leading into another universe.

I wasn’t the only soul wandering free, on the way down to the bridge I met a young British couple walking up and we swapped vague directions to nowhere in particular. Passing over the bridge was surreal, I was waiting for a blast on a horn or a shout to get off but nothing came. The track on the other side curled away from the ring road and down onto the TF 345 which was at least in the right direction and on the bus route for Los Gigantes, my amended destination. There was no real path alongside the road so I walked facing the odd bits of oncoming traffic and ready to hurl myself into the small ditch. It wasn’t very encouraging to see a shrine for a 16 year old that had perished on one of the hairpin bends but I pressed on. A middle aged British couple in a brick bus shelter asked how to get to Tamaimo and they followed me at a distance as I vainly looked for a bus stop going downwards.

A good 30 minutes later I spotted the Vista Guama restaurant near El Retamar with a basic but very welcome bus stop opposite. My two new recruits hobbled around the corner behind me and we settled to wait for the Titsa bus. Amazingly on this descent not one passing car driver beeped or shouted any lifestyle advice, just shows how many rogue walkers are out there. The weather was so lovely it just seemed like an extra adventure to add to a long but very rewarding day, the beer and food at The Bamboo Bar in Los Gigantes revived me and like a Duracell bunny I was good to go again.

 

In Awe Of The Almond Blossom In Santiago Del Teide

Mother Nature is a right tease and a bit of a flirt, she threw the whole charm offensive at me on the Almendro En Flor, each step brought new delights. This was the fifth year I had strode out on the almond blossom trail from Santiago del Teide to Arguayo but there are subtle differences each time depending on the Tenerife weather.

So there I was just before 10 am cresting the ridge of a hill by the reservoir and accepting a warming swig of home made red wine from a group of Canarian chaps. It was sweet, strong, and tasty, perfect to deter the chilly morning, the temperature had been in single figures when hundreds of walkers set off from the church plaza just after 9 am. This winter has been exceptional with loads of daytime sun and hardly any rain, the reservoir still looked well stocked and the first flush of pink and white blossom was sprouting forth on all sides of the old track.

Showers had been foretold but as the wispy clouds evaporated they left a clear, deep blue sky guaranteed to lift the soul. I had started out in jeans and pullover but soon stuffed the thick top into my rucksack. This special promotional day came with informative guides for those seeking knowledge, there were shorter routes but I went for my usual full 9 km stretch. The routes will be at their best for the whole of February, I could see lots of new buds forming on the trees to replace the fallen blossom that made a colourful carpet along much of the walk. The first burst of sunshine left me with a two tone feel, my face and arms were glowing nicely but I was still glad of my jeans in the shadows from the stone walls that lined the early route. That soon changed as the path rose higher and became more exposed, a large open plain was dotted with blossom laden trees and the shrill cry of birds was joined by the low buzzing of bees feasting on the petals.

It’s not just about the almonds, the edge of the lava field at Chinyero was heralded by the shrine to the 1909 eruption when the statue of the virgin was taken out to stand guard against the flowing lava and it stopped in its tracks. This was nearly half way through the walk and good place to stop for snacks, before attacking my sarnies I consigned my jeans to my rucksack, it felt good to be back in my usual uniform of shorts and t shirt. The atmosphere among the enthusiasts was relaxed and we all found our own pace, I pushed on into the large expanse of lunar like lava so I could make a few small detours from the well worn path to appreciate the strange formations of dark rock. It’s always a striking contrast to see the army of pine trees rising in the distance on the edge of the solidified flow, nature always prevails.

The state of recent weather accounts for most of the variables along the way, previous wetter winters have produced a dazzling white cap of snow on Mount Teide, this time it was almost clear but still majestic. Lack of rain ensured firmer ground underfoot and a crispy sprinkling of fir cones and dried twigs over a dusty base. Santiago del Teide came back into view as the semi circular route almost curled round on itself. The spread of almond trees was relentless, some of the almonds were taking shape but the commercial harvest will have to wait until later in the year. After four hours Arguayo was also looming into view but there was still a steep zig xag pathway down to the small village. It was 20 plus degrees as we started to stream down the final hill, my rucksack was fully stuffed now, maybe I hadn’t needed to pack those snow shoes, distress flares, and inflatable canoe after all.

My senses felt fully loaded as I swapped the rough track for a tarmac road, looking back there was still a strung out procession off more walkers to come down. In the later stages several groups had passed us making the trip in the opposite direction and there was a good mix of nationalities enjoying the challenge of the day. I was looking forward to a short journey back to Santiago del Teide before heading back to Los Cristianos but I didn’t realise I still had a bit more adventure to go…

Bad Lands Are Good Lands At Malpais De Rasca

Coaxing the morning sun to spread down from the mountains I set off from Las Galletas with another neglected walk stretching ahead of me. Malpais (badlands) de Rasca is a hike I have done several times in large groups but not for about five years. The bus into Las Galletas was full of German walkers heading up the east coast of Tenerife but I bailed out on them and got a coffee near the pebble beach before setting off.

 

My entry point to the track was by the Matinal Beach Club where I had seen live performances from local rockers Oi Se Arma, and Pornosurf. There is always a small community of people sleeping in tents around the bay but as I followed the track up and around the coast I was surprised to see a good few dozen makeshift homes. It might seem a romantic way to live but with clouds waiting to be dispersed it was pretty chilly. The path skirts the edge of the sea, more or less, and offers glimpses across to the Marina del Sur in Las Galletas. The cactus is a very underrated plant, along this route there were great clumps of them looking proud and majestic. The shifting stones and dust made demanded some careful footwork but even so relatively near the main road there was a lovely feel of tranquility and peace.

Small coves fell away into the sea making shallow rock pools, fish are often stranded in these and locals used to crush the tabaiba plants and sprinkle them in. This made the fish feel like they had been out on a drinking session and made them easy to catch. I spotted the remains of a few old settlements and even some rough steps hewn into the rocks to make it easier to reach the shoreline. After nearly an hour I reached the edge of the netting clad banana plantations and a smoother path overlooking deep drops to more rock pools. This is all a prelude to the Malpais de Rasca protected area where the modern candy striped lighthouse peeped up over the horizon.

Once I had crested the hill I had a clearer view of the two lighthouses, the old squat stone original was built in 1895 before being replaced by the tall sentinel that is easily seen from Los Cristianos in 1978. Beyond was a large pebble beach backed by low level cactus and plants which sheltered the remains of old stone houses, basic and hard living from many years ago. A tight but clearly defined path picked it’s way through the exposed landscape, several walkers were using the route in both directions, I could make out the outline of Guaza Mountain ahead. A very attractive young lady stopped me and asked if I would take some photos for her – I’m always willing to oblige. The lovely Katie was from Belgium and a yoga teacher and slipped into some classic poses against natures delightful backdrop.

Moving on in different directions I could now see Palm Mar looming into view below the plateau of Guaza Mountain. Just out to sea the fish farm cages blighted the view but beyond them I could see the coast of Los Cristianos – nearly home. I could have taken the steep steps up the mountain, over, and down the other side, probably at least another hour, but with nearly two and a half hours completed I made my way up through Palm Mar and out to the main road, that was another 30 minutes, to catch the bus back home. It was another good stroll, next time I shall head upwards into the hills and mountains.

El Medano Is Going Up In The World

Resolutions, like china shops near bull rings, are destined to be smashed, so it was just a need to revive my more healthy activities that drove me to the top of Montaña Roja in El Medano two days into 2016. It’s a good job I checked, there are a lot of changes going on along the Granadilla coast of Tenerife.

I thought I’d take a good run up at Red Mountain so I got the bus to Los Abrigos to walk the 6 kms to El Medano. With a glorious clear blue sky to spur me on, and a spring in my step, I cut down to survey the pocket beach of Playa Grande, despite being a Saturday in the height of holiday season it was almost deserted. In the past I have walked from Las Galletas, through Golf del Sur and San Blas before reaching Playa Grande and beyond, it’s a well used route. Satisfied that all was well I made my way past the promenade of fish restaurants and up to the TF 643 main road. My red target was already looking wonderful as I viewed it from one of the recently created mirador viewpoints.

The rugged coastline stretched out ahead with a track just back from the shore where cars and motor homes had been parked up for fishing and bathing. There were a fair few other walkers stretching their post Christmas legs and further on nudists were using stone semi circles as wind breaks. El Confital is the first expanse of open beach rather than just rocks, pets are allowed here and several pooches were taking a dip. There’s a point where the banana plantation covers seem to signal the end of the track but a cut through leads to a long stretch of path between the sea and the ripening fruit. As I emerged onto the start of the extensive Playa la Tejita I noticed a new gray building up near the road. Behold a new commercial centre, CC La Tejita, had appeared just ahead of the closed down camping site and café.

Clearly only a few months old, the centre still had some empty locals but offers car parking and an interesting mix of shops. A bar caught my eye, Beers (written in the same style as the American comedy Cheers) had three cabinets of imported booze, I even noticed some Hobgoblin, but they weren’t opening until 6 pm, just as well, but I will have to return, purely for research. I asked the owner about the recently approved five star hotel and he pointed out a plot of land between the centre and the beach.

La Tejita Luxury Beach Resort will cover a 26,000 square metre site, have 136 double rooms, and 33 suites, work is due to start in the second quarter of 2016. It’s going to make a big impact on El Medano, hopefully it wont ruin the charm, I believe it is to be fairly low rise, and it is behind this big sweep of natural beach. Despite the hotels name, they wont be able to seal off a section of the beach, that’s not allowed under Spanish law, even Abama Hotel in Guia de Isora couldn’t impose that. Sun beds, bars, and food can be provided just for hotel guests but other people can still use the beach. There will be a major boost to trade in El Medano even if most people are all inclusive, Palicio de Isora has certainly had a knock on for Alcala as it’s easy to walk from the hotel to the village.

It was an interesting distraction but my goal was near now, taking the signed track opposite Hermano Pedro’s Cave I started the ascent up the back ridge of Montaña Roja. The fine red dust and stones make it a crunchy and potentially slippy walk but with a bit of care it’s not difficult. The sand dunes and Playa El Medano to the east were busy with kite boarders cutting through the sky as they skipped over the waves. The views just get better as you get higher, further to the east the new arm of the Granadilla port is steadily growing and the sea was twinkling under the glare of the January sun. I always expect to see an army of plane spotters perched on the dusty track, you can nearly reach out and touch the mighty iron birds as they take off and land at Reina Sofia airport. The peak is only 171 metres high, just over an hour up and down, but it delivers some fantastic views and there’s room to sit and ponder at the top. Just down below is the small, secluded part of Playa La Tejita where the nudists throw caution, and their clothes, to the wind.

Change is certainly coming but looking at the vast spread of La Tejita and the sparse amount of people peppering the sand below, there is plenty of room to wedge a few more towels in. Looking down I could see the small car park overflowing as always and cars wedged against the side of the road. The protected reserve below still attracts a bumper crop of resident and migrating birds, and the beaches lure wind and kite surfers in flocks. El Medano will carry on unruffled, as for me, the three hour trek has put me right back on track.

A Seagulls View Of Los Cristianos

Searing summer temperatures have put my high mountain walks on hold but it wont stop me from visiting a few shorter routes where I wont need a fully stocked fridge and a hosing down every few minutes. So there I was a trifle sweaty and on top of Montaña Chayofita overlooking my favourite sizzle spots on the beaches of Los Cristianos.

With schools closed and the annual search for sunshine well underway packages for Tenerife holidays were filling the hotels and apartments that fanned out to either side of my downward vision. It only took a cautious 20 minutes to take the smaller track up the side of Chayofita, I could have followed the old road base to the white markers and peeled off there but decided to do a full circle from the opposite direction. The usual unanswered questions flashed through my brain, how did anyone get building permission or start without it and not get noticed. Chayofita is supposedly protected land and the half finished grand home has been frozen in time for at least 15 years, people are squatting in there, the previous evenings torrential rain must have shaken them up a bit.

I had plenty to think about as I made the short descent, the views keep changing, Parque Santiago 6 shopping centre was a recent addition below and I could just make out the Tower of Power at Siam Park in the distance. Cresting the crown I had a lovely view up the bypass to the centre of town and beyond to the side of Montaña Guaza and the ridge sloping down to the sea, that’s a more serious hike that I have done many times. I was surprised to see the wooden bench on the top of my mini mountain was no longer in place, not that I was planning to take root.

The marina and the ferry port looked quiet as the Armas ferry slumbered before another inter island crossing, even the old beach look fairly sparse for such a hot day. Las Vistas was busier, I was already anticipating a cooling swim in the sea as I started to descend down the other side into the collapsed centre of the volcanic cone. There was a little rough shack nestled in the lower fold of the track down, a lot of people are scraping by as and where they can these days.

As I passed through the white markers to the early attempt at a road, I thought about the Sortija de Caballos I had seen nearly two years ago as mounted marksmen on horses galloped up the road and tried to grab small metal rings suspended on overhead arches. Oh well this old horse was back at ground level and took a short cut through to the beach for a long dunk followed by a nose bag at a local bar.

 

El Porton A Gateway To History In Costa Adeje

It took the jolly sculpture of a banana farmer to make me revisit one of the shortest but historically important walks in the south of Tenerife. Some ten years ago I last passed under the stone archway of El Porton on the TF1 slip road below Adeje old town but a decades absence of my feet was hardly a blip in the ancient scheme of things.

For most visitors to Tenerife, Fañabe means modern shopping centers and a lengthy golden beach but a little further west the old original town rises into the hills behind the bridge over the motorway. The sculpture is a recent addition and I have been itching to see it up close, sadly there are no details of the sculptor or subject ( possible a nod to Fyffes who brought commercial banana farming to Tenerife), just a very lifelike and kindly presence complete with a sleeve of bananas. Crossing the road bridge and heading down over the Barranco del Agua a large swathe of the cloth protected fruit spread down towards the coast, a small, tatty scarecrow stood on guard.

El Porton marks one end of the Camino de la Virgen, an important track allowing fishermen to get their catch up to Adeje town and when pirates showed up they were able to transfer the statue of the Virgen from the tiny La Enramada to the safer inland church of Santa Ursula. The track of the pathway is etched with the constant flow of the years and despite the modern intrusion of the motorway, power lines, and the five star hotels at the bottom end, it still has a comforting serenity. The old water channel has long since dried up but the tabaiba, and cardon plants still thrive and defy the bone dry old reservoir.

It’s just a 2 km stroll but several stop offs along the way are set aside for worship, La Tosca Colorada is the first on the way down, the big focal point is El Humilladero where a natural altar has been carved out under a limestone outcrop. The second Sunday after Easter marks the big pilgrimage as the statue of the Virgen is taken down the route and onto the Playa La Enramada in La Caleta. Just across the modern main road at the bottom end is the old original church and it’s imposing modern replacement. I was greeted by a melodic peel of bells as the clock struck noon. It’s quite a contrast from the modern tourist hotels to the pathway up to Adeje with the added attraction of Roque del Conde in the distance. I was very pleased with my short journey and I’m sure the banana loving sculpture at the other end will still have his benevolent smile next time I see him.

Candelaria And Guimar Unfold Beneath La Mesa

Even the oil refinery and the motorway into Santa Cruz looked attractive viewed from my lofty perch in the hills above Candelaria. It was breather time a couple of hours into the La Mesa walk from Igueste to Araya and after a false start I was having some doubts about the trail I was following.


After trying the Samarines coastal route last year I was keen to try another suggestion from the Candelaria Ayuntamiento leaflet, this time it started in an inland area I was not familiar with. An early toddle around the basilica town and I caught the 131 Titsa bus to Igueste, a local advised me to head for the cemetery thankfully it wasn’t a veiled insult, just a helpful nudge down from the final bus stop at the church to the Plaza Dimas Coello with its wine press. I thought it would be a small village but it stretched and wound along several steep streets and had a nice combination of old and new buildings. Local pride was clear from notices urging a fight against any cut back in their bus lifeline, and announcements of the Good Friday morning procession at 6 am.

The walk signs got me to the start point but I picked an old looking downward trail through a barranco and had to come back to follow the tarmac road up to the right before I could connect to the old path heading up La Mesa mountain. The multi language council leaflet was only launched last year and the route showed little sign of regular visitors. It only takes a few weeks for the plants and flowers to encroach on the trail so I had to guess a little but used the overhanging rock ahead as my direction guide. Looking back I could now see the coast winding its way up to the Tenerife capital and the city outskirts were appearing over the horizon. Once past the rock I found more shade as pine trees began to share my progress, looking out to sea Gran Canaria was prominent on the skyline.

The next landmark was the partially ruined Casa de La Mesa, one of the few original dwellings that had defied the years. The path led up and round the pine trees and was now skirting the sides of a series of barrancos, quite tough on thee legs but easy on the eyes. Scaling the brow of a hill it was reward time, the Guimar valley fell away below me with the tower of Candelaria basilica a distant coastal landmark. It was a glorious sight, low whispy cloud was like a transparent dome over the terraced hills and I could see why the valley had inspired tales of mysterious and haunted trails. After plenty of admiring I started the descent down the track, there was much more greenery here and I was soon up to my armpits in flowers and shrubs.

Araya should have been calling me but at the lower level I was strolling through vineyards and almond orchards on farm land nurtured by a strong gushing water channels. La Florida was marked on the modern service road and a quick enquiry at a garden gate told me I had veered off to the side of Araya. The motorway was in sight so I walked downwards along the TF 247 saving a lengthy wait in Araya for the sporadic bus service and I was soon on the Titsa 111 heading south. Even with the detours and snack stops it had only taken me around five hours but my feet assured me I had burst through the official 6.5 km rating. That still leaves another five Candelaria routes to try, they will have to be very special to match La Mesa.