Getting To Know Magnificent Masca

There is always another wow moment in Tenerife, slicing down into Masca valley on the corkscrew road from Santiago del Teide, the island of La Palma shone brightly in the distance as the rocks and the centuries parted for amazing views of the village below. For me this was a chance to close a glaring gap in my exploration of Tenerife, despite many treks and jolly jaunts I had only had a brief brush with Masca village on a jeep safari as it slowly recovered from the big fires of  2007.

Clasped in the palm of nature the not so secret seven clambered, squeezed, and carefully picked our way down the high sided Masca valley. This was an Armada Sur based group adventure with myself, The General, Kirsty and Gordon with the girls and Federica a visiting language student from Italy.

We met up on the 460 Titsa bus from Playa de Las Americas before changing to the Titsa mini bus 355 that always waits for the connecting buses at Santiago del Teide plaza prior to taking the 5km road to Masca. The driver was great, not only skillfully negotiating the tight road but also stopping at key points so passengers could take photos. This mini marvel was only 1.45 euros one way but the second discounted fare of the morning on my Bono ticket was a mere 10 cents.

Spilling out at the top of the village we had a quick look at the church plaza and then hit the trail downwards past the bar restaurant with just some brief fruit snack buys from a local vendor. The pathway isn’t clearly marked but it’s easy to find, especially as it’s a busy and popular route, we could pick out a few bobbing backpacks up ahead. The exposed rocky path was soon embraced by fertile green undergrowth and a bridge over the barranco gave us a chance to do a panoramic sweep of all the nature had laid out before us.

Probably the biggest challenge of this walk is the diverse terrain, changing rapidly from smooth and dusty to rugged and cracked with plenty of blocks of exposed rock calling for a well placed step up or down. Looking up the towering stacks of rock were carved and etched by a combination of the elements, natural stairways rose in small crevices and old water channels still trickled despite the current alert for dangerously high temperatures. At several crossing points of the stream it was easy to imagine how even a small amount of winter rain could make it difficult to pass.

Of course we came prepared with ample water and snacks, shady spots became natural breaks and Christmas for the lizards that scuttled out of the plants and rocks looking to scavenge any stray bread. There were notices early on warning against feeding the skinny feral cats as they also devour smaller species and tip the balance of the eco system. Numbers on little squares fastened to the rocks were clearly some indication of distance but we found out later they are also reference points for anyone needing to call emergency rescue. There’s not a month goes by without people needing rescuing from Masca, it’s not a walk you can easily opt out of part way through, lack of preparation is a common cause but as this is the second biggest natural attraction in Tenerife after Teide National Park there are bound to be a few accidents.

Settling in one of the large clearings for a breather it was like being in a giant cathedral and the echoing quality of the air added to the sense of awe. There was a steady procession of other walkers, some on organized trips and some making their own way. The stream came and went as it burbled under the surface only to re-emerge later, it encouraged plenty of insect action and a selection of dragonflies in contrasting colours. Maybe we were deluded but was that the faint sound of the waves wafting in on the cooling breeze? Myself, The General, and Federica hit the front and worked our way over and around a particularly challenging section of rocks and tight ledges as the rock stacks parted wider and we got our first glimpse of the sea.

The beach of large pebbles that greeted us spread out to our left where it became a sandy cove, and to our right where a rocky outcrop below the steep incline served as a launch point for swimmers via metal stairs, and also as a mooring point for the water taxis. Two companies operate from under sunshades on the beach, we booked our sea trip to Los Gigantes with Top Class Tours, just 10 euros each or 5 euros for children aged 2 to 12.

Some of our group took a dip before our taxi arrived, the 20 minute skip over the waves came with a refreshing sea breeze and some on board entertainment. The skipper held a biscuit aloft for the seagulls who powered into our windy slipstream to take turns at grabbing a little snack. At one point we thought we might have to hang on to The General’s feet to stop a feathered kidnapping but the biscuits were their preferred treat. The walking part of the day took us 4.5 hours but we took our time and made several stops. It was a cracking day and Masca lived up to all my expectations.