Archive for the 'Exploring' Category
Reaping A Harvest Of History At El Tanque Eco Museum

Teno rural park, the pools, caves, and peaks of Erjos, and the last big volcanic eruption site at Chinyero. They are all linked by popular walking trails, but dig deeper into the soil of this north western corner of Tenerife and a common bond is revealed. A trip to the El Tanque Eco Museo will show how a special bond between nature and people was forged by hard work and respect.

Nestling between a pine forest and and view to the distant ocean, a huddle of renovated 17th century farm buildings with courtyards, threshing circles, and even spme small caves to shelter goats, have plenty of tales to tell. An ancient plough stands proud on the roundabout by the entrance ro the museum, just above the Los Llanos turning where Santiago del Teide blends into Erjos. A short walk up from the Titsa bus stop by Bar Fleyta or a drive to the ample car parking of the museum is all that´s needed.

Inside the FREE museum, old rural tools are complimented by interactive display screens in English, Spanish, and Germman, with GR codes ready to give phone access to personal testimonies from people who have worked the volcanic enriched soil. There´s even solar panels to save energy – very ancient meets modern.

There were no such short cuts in the past, seasons were long and hard with ground being broken, fertilised and seeded before a range of cereals and potatoes could be grown. Threshing was also a long process of around six weeks with cereal crops dried in the sun and then raked over by a threshing board pulled by oxen or horses. Whole families would take part, it was a big social event with songs, stories, and meals shared as they worked. Every year a threshing fair still takes place in the last week of July to preserve and celebrate yhose traditions.

Large picnic areas now encourage visitors to linger on their visit. The museum is open every day except Monday, from 1st June to 30 September from 11 am to 6 pm, and from 1st October to 31st May – 10.30 am to 5.30 pm. The museum can arrange group visits and tours, just contact them via the website. Whether your rural knowledge is a seedling or fully grown, the museum will make you feel closer to nature.

Dry Wetlands Green Tunnels And Black Caves In Erjos

Memories of summer camps as a very green “brussel sprout” resurfaced as sweet scented blooms emerged from  delicate bushes. Puerto del Erjos bus stop was just a few downward strides in my wake with Santiago del Teide, and Masca shielded by green ridges. The north west of Tenerife added parched trails and volcanic outcrops to daydreaming of my lost youth, and the heat was a much different setting from those rainy walks.

Bird song drew me to the pools in the wetland spread but on this August day they were distinctly dry. It was a start reminder of how quickly nature can change, in recent years wild fires had swept through the area but the balance had swung back and new growth sprouted at every turn. My aim this trip was to  head for the black caves on the lower trail to the coast of Los Silos. Heading across to the white church tower in the hamlet of Erjos, I ploughed down a bumpy track between a cluster of old houses. A few months before, I had taken the high road up and over Monte de Aqua above the rising tree line. This was more of a hidden pleasure as the track narrowed and sunlight speckled the ground through a curtain of leaves.

It was short of markers and outside sound was filtered to a low level, I was grateful to a narrow water pipe that stretched ahead of me with reassurance that I was making progress. It gave me time though to appreciate the delicate shades of the leaves thrusting their heads up towards the light in the few spaces that appeared. The gaps became bigger and I got clear views of the cave openings that seemed to suggest facial features.

Not mnay other walkers desturbed my reflection, although there always seems to be at least one super fit athlete running against the flow. A family group from the Czech Republic stopped for a chat at they started at the coastal end – Tenerife´s walking pedigree reaches far beyond our shores. It was difficult to guess how far back the caves went but there were plenty of them to offer valuable shelter for farmers and traders as they cut off a long round trip against the sometimes fierce waves that batter the coast.

The final stretch gave me a base upwards view of mountains that I had viewed across barrancos, either way it was an impressive sight. Los Silos loomed into view and my path converged with the concrete path that cut directly out to the bus stop up past Garachico and into Icod. My admiration of Erjos had risen another few notches, theres still plenty more variations to explore and the seasons will keep changing the outlook on what I have seen so far.

Answering The Call Of History In La Matanza

An iron clad Spanish conquistador reeled at the feet of Guanche warrior, Tinguaro, as he sounded a defiant call on a conch shell. Cars thundered by on the Tenerife north motorway between Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz below were oblivious to the large mural but I felt like I was straddling two ages as I gazed through the wild grass.

Not that I was feeling critical of the local council gardening services for La Matanza de Acentejo. A worker was expertly trimming the garden on the rise into the town, It set the tone for the overall appearance of the municipality, a small picnic area with seating overlooked the dual carriageway. The rest area also featured a modern art version of the brother of Mencey Bencomo, one of the original tribal kings and a key player in the rearguard stand to delay the Spanish invaders back in 1495.

A mix of old dwellings and vineyards steerd me up a steep climb , beckoned by the twin towers of the El Salvador church. There were more benches and breather points along the way. From one I watched as two chickens played out their own turf war below a canopy of green leaves and ripening grapes. The church and large plaza were noble and well tended, A school of music, and a centre for people of the third age (such a nicer term than OAPs) boosted the range of facillities. Posters for a series of concerts featuring Cuban music kept up the cultural choices.

Heading back down to Calle Real, the street that meanders through the town, it was quiet but a few people were adding little proud brush strokes and repairs to houses with plenty of character. Plaza de Cuchareras gleamed brightly as the Ermita looked down on the roses and the fountain . It was a fair walk along to the end of town, a modern sports centre offered plenty of excercise to keep bodies nimble for treading the higher parts of town. With the coast far down below and the looming figure of Mount Teide above, La Matanza had plenty to say for itself before the road meged into the start of La Victoria. This corridor of the north keeps calling me back, and i have still only scratched the surface.

 

 

 

Arafo Makes Leisure A Pleasure

Figs, bee keeping, and hunting dispelled my first impression of Arafo as a quiet backwater of the Guimar valley. They were all championed at the crescent shaped Centre of Leisure, Artesans, and Agriculture which pulled my attention from nature´s own panarama of mountains and clear blue Tenerife skies.

 

What a lucky change of plan after rain and wind had rerouted me from La Laguna and beyond. Back at Santa Cruz I had already noticed that it was the launch day of a new improved Titsa bus network linking Candelaria, Guimar, and Arafo. My destination changed in a minute – im so fickle. Micro climates can mean a short shift in position and suddenly its a whole new outlook.

The tight uphill back streets that greeted my arrival at Arafo, led my curiosity by the nose. The Ayuntamiento (council) building was a two tone stunner as it commanded the intersection of two roads. It still hardly prepared me for the historic centre of the town. The church of San Juan Degollado was the centre piece backing onto a partly shaded plaza.

My weakness for a striking sculpture was satisfied by a lady wrapped solely in musical notes (not even a whistle and flute) as she held her baton aloft.  Pueblo de la Musica is the proud boast of Arafo and the setting of the sculpture made me think of the Sound Of Music.The modern Auditorium just down the road looked suitably grand, it was closed on my visit but a later look on the impressive website of the municipality showed that the 500 seat building was a fitting stage.

There were a few teething problems for the revised bus service but the councils of the main towns covered are discussing a few possible tweaks to the running order. I headed back south via Guimar old town on the north side of the TF1 motorway and spotted a few more stops I would have to pick up on another day. The barrancos that swept down past Arafo also set me thinking anout a few more walking routes that this service will benefit from.

Needles On The Record In La Esperanza

Plane spotters would normally be well blessed with a trip to La Esperanza in the municipality of El Rosario. Alas there was not so much as an Airfix model on the Tenerife North runways as my bus took the uphill turn just across from the La Laguna bus station – well that´s the ongoing Covid effect.

Never mind, my bell was soon rung when I spotted a perplexing duo of scylptures presiding over a fork in the road at El Calvario, a traditional spiritual home for church crosses. The old TF24 is a direct route up through the pine forest on the way to Mount Teide national park. The two sculptures reflected a local commercial tradition of using pine needles to pack wholesale fruit and vegatables. The rights to this process are put out to tender but the gathering of the pointed articles is still very much a manual labour, the monument paid tribute to the pinocheros and pinocheras who have gathered the tricky little blighters over the decades. The artistic salute was made by local artist Dacil Travieso,

I was a few stops short of my intended destination but nothing that a short uphill stroll would not put right. La Esperanza plaza soon appeared and the neighbouring Ayuntamiento (council) building. Dacil had been busy with her chisel, a lechera stood proud with her delivery of milk perched on her head. A fountain, starved of water, was also nearby but the nearby greenery showed that the drought would only be a short one.

My compass had been drawn to La Esperanza by an orange intruder among the green Titsa buses at the La Laguna bus station. Although an independent company they run two services into La Esperanza, one with a direct link to  Tenerife 2 prison, and they take the usual Titsa payment cards. Back at the two central plazas, an old wine press promoted another local industry. The main road wound on up towards the pine forest to reveal some great view over Santa Cruz and out to sea. It was eerily quiet, a few TUI tour buses, and lycra clad cyclists headed through, and BRIFOR forest fire patrol trucks added reassurance against summer fires.

A good selection of restaurants, cafes, and bars with big parking areas, stood ready to receive once tourists come back to the island in numbers. Vilaflor is a more common route for Teide visitors but there´s plenty of scope to see some local history while breaking a journey at this alternative. The Ermita Las Rosas looked a little lonely and forlorn but the local council news magazine held plenty of promise, especially with a new cultural centre just opening.

 

 

 

 

All Aboard For Punta De Teno

Where 500 metre high cliffs stand shoulder to shoulder into the horizon, and the north and west coasts of Tenerife dovetail together, Punta de Teno imposes itself on the landscape. I felt envious of the osprey that soar and nest in the folds of the cliffs. Even at ground level there´s plenty to admire, it is still a living part of the island with fishermen well versed in the unpredictable currents of the sea.

Easing into my visit, chugging up a tight single file mountain road, Far below breaking waves lapped at the Buenavista del Norte golf course and a pristine stretch of shingle beach. On one of the first days of the 2021 summer season of the 369 Titsa bus, I gazed forward as the road  seemed to hit mid air. The inside rock face was being kept in check by heavy duty steel fencing and pins embedded by pile drivers. Punta de Teno was the destination beauty at the end of this magnificent beast of an incline, and worth my preceeding 460 bus ride from Adeje to Icod, and a short coastal change past Garachico and Los Silos in Buenavista del Norte.

The partial collapse of the mountain link road in 2016 led to restrictions on the rebuilt access. A manned barrier allows a few people through including the bus during July, August, and Septenber. A mere one euro each way secures the 460 ride, a Ten Mas plastic pre paid card or its mobil app version is alo acceptable, but not the residents and OAPs tickets. Cyclists were also sharing our temporary immersion in a long dark tunnel on part of the upper route.

Fisherman have access to their fleet, a dozen boats were sheltered at the back of the small Teno beach, and an equal number were out riding the waves just beyond a scattering of bathers. The lighthouse  stood guard where the conflicting currents came together. Even with a green flag and guards in attendance, the exposed waters outside the bay are worthy of the utmost respect. Farolgists love to study our candy striped friends, this sample dates back to 1897 and is a very reassuring prescence.

At the western side of the bay, the modern holiday hire Casablanca is a strange anomoly but may have been updated from an old and more modest farmhouse. The paths through the old lava deposits meander to other vantage points but the potential dangers are there at every step. just a short distance from the drop off and pick up point, its easy to feel the isolation that spans the centurys. A view down the line of cliffs conjours up Masca and beyond Some hardy souls swim from Teno to Los Gigantes in the Travesia race once a year.  However you view this corner of Isla Bajo, it always stirs a new respect for nature.

Leafing Through The El Sauzal Summer Collection

Mount Teide rising through a cushion of cloud, seemed to be admiring the cascade of neat houses on the terraced green slopes of the north east coast. Must be my stop, I thought, after letting the Titsa bus take me below and beyond my previous samplings of El Sauzal town. The tight modern road revealed plants and trees bursting forth from every rocky crevice. It´s a thirst for life, shared by the locals of the Tenerife municipality, especially as they geared up for three big religious fiestas.

My upward walk back into the heart of El Sauzal was a constant battle between the blue and green for my attention. Flowers, a knarled tree trunk, and even seed pods got into the act. The Parque de Los Lavaderos looks more impressive with every visit, this time, June heat brought a myriad of pond insects in the old washing area that lends its name to the park. Some had evolved into red and blue dragon flies that skipped across the surface of the pools.

Up near the church of San Pedro Apostol, the tower was decked outfor the patron saints (St Peter) three day fiesta, Santa Cruz de Ravelo, from 22 to 26 July, and Our Lady of Los Angeles on 2 August, The wooden peacock Luis Stinga was stunning as always, framed by seasonal blooms as it marched up the steps of the town hall. Even smaller touches made a big impression, the street signs of El Sauzal have their own flourish. The wine coloured background making a subtle reminder of the municipality´s rich harvests of wine, often sampled at the Casa del Vino uphill beside the motorway linking Santa Cruz and Puerto de la Cruz.

Hermanos Toste are legendary firework experts who paint the skies like a huge canvas, the Los Realejos based company would be busy over the next few months plying their trade at fiestas across the Canary Islands. Specialist safety was also being deployed in El Sauzal for their celebrations, the posters outline some very precise guide lines including advance tickets for all performance areas, and even a check list for pet owners to ensure no undue stress. Music drifted across from a sound system trail as I sipped my coffee outside the Cafe La Avenida as I waited for my return bus. Once again it was clear I had only scratched the surface of the municipality, but seeds had been sown for my next return.

 

Ancient And Modern Tenerife Pride In La Victoria De Acentejo

All tight sinews and seductive promise. Not quite what I expected when answering the motorway sign invite to “Visit La Victoria de Acentejo” in the north west of Tenerife. There were plenty more surprises to come in this natural treat of a municipality that packed an historical punch.

Just a few minutes after getting off the Titsa 101 bus from La Orotava, I was face to expressive face with Evolution, a metal sculpture from Julio Nieto, a Vizcaya born artist who  settled in Tenerife in 1986 and has stopped me in my tracks before with his bold, attention grabbing work.

The wild sea drew the attention as the road rises just above the motorway and wild coast beyond. That was just the access, the best goodies were stacked inland. The steep incline from my arrival unveiled wider views of green hills rising to meet the shyline. Evolution was in a prime elevated position, on one side a modern sports centre sat below walking trails up into the barrancos (ravines), but my eye was caught by the church tower, a more elaborate version of a popular Tenerife theme.

If I was being reeled in, I wasn´t complaining, the church led onto the Ayuntamiento (council) building for the municipality of La Victoria. An under staed  blue, and dark wood combination stood alongside a large plaza and gave me a wonderul view of a two stage towering pine tree. At the foot of the dominating tree, a carved stone provided me with a history lesson of historic resistance.

When the conquistadors from mainland Spain were invading the Canary Islands at the end of 1495, they met stiff resistance from the Guanche natives. Yhe north west provided the last pocket of defiance and Fernandez of Lugo was held at bay in Acentejo as the locals prevailed on 26 December 1495, and he had to draft over reinforcements from Gran Canaria before his troops could push on to the final vicrory in Los Realejos in the new year. The sturdy pine tree is a monument to that La Victoria stand.

There are always pointers to the life and community involvement of any town. An upcoming early Sunday clean up and walk in the Barranco Hondo caught my eye on a poster. Mentions of wine, pottery, and chestnuts filled in some more background. A poster for a second competition of historic photos of the municipality hinted at a well supported earlier contest. Even on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, the town centre and main shopping street had a good choice of bars and cafes to tempt me. La Matanza de Acentejo, takes over at the end of La Victoria, I will have to return to see what they can add to the mix.

 

 

 

 

 

Squaring The Circle To Unite San Miguel And Aldea Blanca

Not so much a fork in the road, more like a full set of cutlery. Contradicting signs on the track down from San Miguel  Arcangel church demanded a return visit to descend to Aldea Blanca, not far from Las Chafiras in the south of Tenerife.

Mix and match seemed a good idea so this time I started from the La Centinela mirador (viewpoint) high above Valle San Lorenzo in Arona. Volcanic cones popped up on the  lower horizon but sadly the La Centinela restaurant with its panoramic views had been closed for several years. At least the wooden cross above it stood firm as a rough dividing line between the municipalities of Arona and San Miguel, as well as a hard work destination to carry the statue of the Virgin for the top spot on the annual fiesta.

The downward trail into the bowl of the valley showed off some great natural features., Wild ferns and grasses popped up between stacks of cracked stones, crop terraces clung to hills, and a stone viaduct bridged a plunging ravine. Above all this, the modern road curved along with the fragmented El Roque standing guard over the drop below. The big attractions to settlers and travellers were two old springs for drinking and washing, most of the water now stays below ground, leaving the eroded concreye troughs a little green and mossy.

A steep concrete ramp led up to the restored Caserio  de la Hoya and a recent dipping tarmac road . Another sign for Aldea Blanca pointed down to where I had just come from, and looking up, I could see the previous dual dilema from the earlier walk. This time my aim was true, and was rewarded with the sight of a classic two tier tile kiln. The road had no pavement but soon delivered the encouraging view of a football ground below, it had to be the Aldea Blanca pitch. Other tell tale signs were the distant buildings of Las Chafiras and the turrets of the modern breeze block castle, built for Medieval Banquet shows – but even bold knights are on hold for Covid for now.

Let´s not leave San Miguel as a bit part player in this walking saga, The walk from San Miguel church is an exceptional uncovering of layers of building history. Great designs, well looked after, and with in depth history panels in a range of languages. With friends on the original trip we took the top path at the identical signs and reached the gurgling water channels before the path faded. Including La Centinela and Aldea Blanca as options make the area even more tempting and well worth the effort.

After about 30 minutes of walking down the tarmac road from the tile kiln, the tightly packed dwellings of the hamlet of Aldea Blanca opened up to reveal the dainty plaza and church showing pride in the 500 year history. Beyond this point there were a good selection of cafes and bars and a relaxed, sedate atmosphere. A wide, overgrown water source offered more possible answers to the confused sign posts. It promised upcoming work on theree barrancos (ravines) although there was no date on this intention. There are a few bus links through Aldea Blanca and a short divertion leads to Buzanada with a busier Titsa bus service. I took the longer route out through Las Chafiras to the motorway and a wider choice of buses.

 

 

Praising The Other Peak Of El Medano

Refusing to be upstaged by a red mountain overlooking a surfers paradise, Montaña Pelada is well worth the wander to the east of El Medano. Where else can you experience a flattened volcanic cone born out of an epic tussle between red hot magma and the deep cold sea. Even a gallery of misfit neighbours can´t reduce the impact of nature.

Taking the wooden boardwalk around the headland to Playa del Cabezo, we passed the concrete look out bunkers and the Hotel Arenas del Mar. Veering off we answered the lure of the  Playa de la Pelada with its secluded cove of dark sand. There was plenty of contrast from the yellow tinted base of the mountain, and the sea had sculpted big rocks into altars for the less shy sun worshippers to sit astride and bare all.

Going for a more frontal assault on the crater, we crossed pock marked rock and ash like earth deposits. The diversity of the ground called for  maximum attention, the wider circular track would have been a far easier ascent. Even in the throes of a calima dust cloud, we could pick out an old satellite station down below, all rusted with age. Hitting the plateau we caught our breath. A dep rumbling, a metallic shimmer, and a burst of power proceeded the take off of a large plane from Tenerife South airport. A rare sight in these Covid restricted travel days.

 

Following the marked path around the edge of the crater, we took in more small coves below, linked upwards by more slender tracks. ITER renewable energy centre boasted an array of wind turbines and a field of solar panels. Next to them, Granada portdwarfed the oil rig and Africa Mercy ship, both looking forlorn and abandoned in the seldom used modern addition to the coast. The sandy coves were quite remote but had a steady stream of visitors, some popping in on jet skis.

Completing a circle of the crater we tried a couple of unmarked steep descents rather than the far path that fed of the marked area. It was quite testing but brought us down by a small ravine that guided us back to the entrance point. It was good to get a different viewpoint on the south east coast and it was rounded off with self indulgent paddling along the shore of the La Jaquita beach.