Archive for the 'Walking' Category
Shining A Light On Malpais De La Rasca

Candy striped and 167 feet tall, the most modern of two lighthouses can be seen from Los Cristianos beach in the south of Tenerife. Answering its call with two friends, we uncovered the harsh but beautiful coastal history of lava fields, salt production, and moody seas. Malpais de la Rasca is the protected cultural heritage site but we started out at the fishing village of Las Galletas. Freak waves had punched a gaping hole in the beach promenade, a reminder that this stretch of twinkling blue sea could pack a punch anytime it chose to. The modern marina soon faded as small coves and crunching shingle led us through tall spikey cardones plants. Rock pools abounded as a meandering path climbed and dipped. Shade arrived alongside huge plantations of bananas that looked enough to feed an army of monkeys.

A notice and the rearing tower of the 1978 built lighthouse announced the entrance to the malpais (badlands). Dried pools harked back to the days when sea salt was harvested from the waves that buffeted the coast. There were other welcome uses for these small puddles of water. Tabaiba plants sprout in clusters around the lava field, the toxic armaga variety sprinkled in a pool would induce a drunk like state making the delirious fush easy to grab.

The squat buildings near the sea beacon are from the 1898 original lighthouse, built from stone quarried from Guaza mountain were for the lighthouse keepers family, and the lamp room which needed lighting by hand from acetylene gas. There was no such burden  on our visit, just a few young sun bathers on the nearby outcrops of rock, oblivious to the daily dramas that used to play out as ships were kept well away from the rocks.

Pushing on into the lava fields, we followed an uneven surface a few yards back from the sea. It must have been a slow and uncomfortable procession for herders, cattle, and traders. Some of the old stone huts (goros) still remain at least in part, they would have provided welcome relief from unexpected turns in the weather and any accidents on slippy surfaces. In recent years people have built illegal shacks on the protected zone, a few weeks before our visit a big clean up removed 1,335 kilos of rubbish. that doesn´t mean it´s lifeless out there, some 40 species of reptile call the area home.

Guaza mountain and the modern developments of Palm Mar steered us past the old protective fort and onto even roads to a small promenade. Familiar landmarks over in Los Cristianos looked enticingly close but its a choice of a steep up and over the mountain or our chosen route up the main street of Palm Mar to the busy bus road back into Los Cristianos. The mountain is worthy of a dedicated walk in its own right with a track up the spine to the radio mast park at the peak. A few bars in Palm Mar ensured we cot some cooling liquids after a hot 2.5 hour stroll. Rasca is a taste of tradition and a connection to tougher times.

Stand Back In Amazement Over Valle San Lorenzo

Threading delicate strands of cotton to make an artistic roseta is a Canarian art form. So it was fitting that it was featured on a series of large murals that greeted me on my arrival at La Escalona, just 6 kms below Vilaflor.

Walking down through La Hondura, an even bigger mosaic of natures making  spread out below with ancient tracks almost touching before heading down to Valle San Lorenzo, Arona town, and the south coast of Tenerife beyond. How does nature pack it all in? Between neat terraces and the peaks of the Ifonche walk, the  modern road that brought me to the higher ground, skirting along the lip of the deep barranco (ravine).

It was a seroiusly hot day but I passed a full reservoir complete with a memorial stone on its side. Further down there was a more unusual road side tribute A bag of Canarian potatos added a few more wrinkles from the heat, normally salt gives them the distinctive look and delicious flavour. The sweep of the valley below stretched as far as the rising road to the La Centinela viewing point to my left as well as showing familiar land marks from Arona town, a little further adrift than anticipated to my right.  A nifty cut back took me to Camino Altavista and swung me back on course for the village of Tunez.

I keep on seeing abandoned farm buildings on my travels, stripped of their past glories by the ravages of time and weather. Altavista showed showed some that had been kept in tip top condition and looked magnificent and functional, Other dwellings have found a new lease of life as rural tourism holiday retreats. One new recruit just below my path included a clear perspex bubble in the courtyard for observing the uncluttered night time skies that attract many astronomers to Tenerife.

In between the two extremes, there is always plenty of scope for good old muscle stretching on challenging paths that link villages and trade routes. I could see the distinctive white tower of Tunez church far below but it wasn´t going to come without some effort. Plenty of twists and turn over large awkward and uneven stones dominated the slowly descending route. Eventually it opened out to a flat exit at the entry to Tunez and a water break in the shade of the church plaza. Tunez commands a wonderful position looking out over the valley bowl of Valle San Lorenzo and an easier descent towards the town.

Barranco de Chijas dominates the valley as it carves irs way down from the hills. An old stone viaduct was always a popular diversion. It´s now sealed off but still worth the hour extra to head up to imagine rain water powering down through the tall bridges when the rare heavy rains arrive. There are more precarious view points to survey the valley but I had my eyes fixed on the circular terrero (Canarian Wrestling hall) and the football ground beside it. Once past that its an easy exit back to the main street of the busy and popular town.

Feeling The Rub Of The Green In Erjos

It could have been dawn breaking as sun filtered through leaves, casting eerie shadows. Noon was a more accurate time check, and I was just ten minutes into Erjos in the north west corner of Tenerife. The large green wedge of laurisilva forest marched across Teno rural park as a robin flitted away from a wooden gate. It was an inspiring welcome after I had stepped off my Titsa bus from Los Cristianos, after it had passed through the 20 degree sun of Santiago del Teide.

It was an easy transition from the blue skies and bursts of flowers as I trailed family groups strolling up the gentle grass rise. As the foliage closed in, moisture hung in the air, and moss clung to branches, it summoned thoughts of myths amd legends. Views from the mirador, about 30 minutes in, added to the contrasts and marked the point where most people retraced their steps to the plaza and church.

 

Others pushed on through the stark contrast of  the cool  tunnel created by tree branches entwined overhead. Twisted roots and dribbles of water made it all seem alive, I wouldn´t have been surprised to see strange eyes  glowing in the undergrowth, birds singing lightened the tone and sharp bends offered a realm of possibilities with each step.

Erjos offers a range of well signed walks, more choices cme up after two hours, I was doing the full 11.7 kms to Los Silos so took a tight dipping path marked for Monte de Aqua and Los Marados on the way down to the finish point. It was like opening a door on another dimension as fertile valleys plunged into the barrancos (ravines) as trees and plants hugged the hill sides. The roof was off and the sun sneaked through to spotlight a circular trail down the mountain.

Every branch and leaf was a conduit for moisture that eeked out of the clouds and into the thirsty soil. Rocky fingers protruded from the high sides as if reaching out to grab their share of natures bounty. There were only a few other walkers on this stretch, and they were coming up from the coast that appeared in the distance between the peaks. Los Maradas farm dwellings bore witness to the lure of this area, plentiful water being a must for cattle grazers and farmers.

The final 30 minutes trek was another tight path to the left of the derelict dwellings and linked up to a wider water modern channel that emerged just oposite the urban centre of Los Silos. I wasn´t too impressed by the seven adventure cyclists who poured down behind me, despite signs at two points forbidding their access. Lycra clad and in helmets they must have felt secure, but I didn´t fancy tyre marks up my legs. The good news was the walk emerged just by the Titsa bus stop to Garachico and Icod.

It was a very rewarding four hour walk in this rich corner of Tenerife,Erjos in the inland key to a range of walks of varying lengths. Coming up from the south, the first bus stop is Puerto de Erjos for the black caves, or in my case, two stops later was the busier Erjos with the plaza and a few cafe bars. There is limited parking near both bus stops to unlock a choice of options. !Quite a green heaven.

Charco Del Pino Answers Walkers Prayers

Longing to get down and dusty after a smooth, modern road led us out of the historic centre of Granadilla de Abona. Lycra clad cyclists whizzed downhill towards San Miguel, and El Medano loomed large looking across to the south coast. At this stage we had only a fleeting glimpse of the ancient Camino del Real track that criss crossed Tenerife when foot power was king.

Maybe we felt a little under whelmed to be retracing the route of our Titsa bus but Charco del Pino was warming up in the wings and greeted us with surprises and insights into the past. “Pond of the Pine” arrived with a hint of Ooh La La in the shape of the church of San Luis IX. Petit and classy, it honours the 12th century King of France who brought the crown of thorns from the head of jesus, to Europe, Paris to be precise, during the crusades.

 

Alongside the church, a lane took us up to the Chiñama mirador, offering spectacular views of  natures harvest for miles around in every direction. The importance of water to this part of the island became apparent as the fluid of life filled small reservoirs and encouraged the growth of crops. There was a stone wall barn bonanza as well, some small holdings had two or three of the iconic buildings, simple, strong, and effective. In the main street there were a few cafes to quench the thirst and fill provide protein boosts for the cycle squads. My eyes grew misty as i admired the old cinema building for Charco del Pino – I yearned for a choc ice and a Kiora.

When we began the walk from the Plaza Gonzalez Mena by the leafy gardens and admin offices in Granadilla town, there were no clear pointer to routes start point. There was similar uncertainty just after the church of Charco del Pino. A wide path dropped down to the south and seemed to head for the lip of the La Orchilla barranco, but it veered off in the wrong direction and turned out to be a false dawn. After puffing back up we found the true path in all its glory, a few yards from the main road. The universally regocnised white and green  bold stripes on large rocks confirmed our path down into the deep ravine.

 

It was like a green cathedral once we followed the zig zag path down, and it was framed nicely by the 1940s bridge that spanned the main road high above. What a pleasure to test the legs on the tight turns and the steep climb back up the far side. Varied crops battled for supremecy as we squeezed past a fence dividing a modern farm from the old Camino. The thought of herding animals up that challenging climb gave us a new respect for the farmers craft. When we hit the top road it was like a culture clash, seeing how easily modern machinery had carved out the road like a knife through butter. It left us with just a short walk down to San Miguel where cold drinks welcomed us as we refelcted on the many other walks that spilled out among the hills that spread down to the coast.

 

 

 

Don´t Pull Up A Pew, Reach For A Beach In Candelaria

Although perched on a grassy knoll, we were innocent of taking down two Guanche kings. Their absence at the edge of the Basilica Plaza in Candelaria was caused by the constant undermining crash of waves. The gap still looked strange from a steep path curling up behind the church tower but we could see the coast was clear to head south on the Sanmarines trail.

Crumbling mountain edges had to be respected but the way forward was beckoning us to follow. The sea breeze, call of the gulls, and the glint of the ocean induced a feeling of peace and solitude. Tufts of tabaiba plants looked like a green moss from a distance but  closer up they clung to any inviting rock face at the steepest of angles.

Samarines beach had a well trodden track meandering down and up through a small cove. Sprayed by the waves it looked refreshing but big razor sharp rocks lurked not far below the surface. The coast was always close to us but on cresting the next hill, the path ran close to the industrial estate. At one stage a detour to the main road was the best option before cutting down the wider rocky stretch that channelled us down tino Playa de Viuda (Widows Beach) a small fishing hamlet. Weather beaten dwellings seemed to be breathing in away from the  eager grasp of the sea. The tides had clearly knocked on a few doors and even the wooden barriers looked pickled by the salty swell.

Further along, El Socorro welcomed us with its choice of a sandy cove or a wilder surfers beach. In busier times, a couple of shacks, near the mural of the Virgen, would be seling drinks and snacks. Crunching pebbles were denied the pleasure of making their mark on polished boards that were looking to ride the waves. Old low level crumbling homes blended in as lava marked the start of the Malpais de Guimar. We were a mere 10,000 years late for the volcanic flow but picked our way along paralell to the sea. Our  gratitude to the dedicated path maker s soared with each step.

El Puertito de Guimar was getting nearer as the sea served up increasing driftwood. looking inland we could see the motorway linking Santa Cruz with the south, and Montaña Grande spreading to the junction up to the historic heart of Guimar in the hills. As we left the lava behind, young explorerswere led by family over the threshold to sample the legacy of the past ages. It´s hard not to be inspired by the dramatic intrusion from beneath the earth.

Twin Peaks, Terraces, And Tiles As Ifonche Drops In On Arona

Tilling the chalky volcanic soil may have looked like a thankless task but the beauty emerging through the haze of a calima was priceless. The mineral rich jable plays a big part in producing the distinctive wines of Vilaflor and the other crops of Tenerife. It´s a great insulator and keeps the  warmth in the ground

The mountain peaks dominating the skyline added to the welcome as we got off the 482 Titsa bus from the south via Arona town, before spotting our 3 km stroll into Ifonche. It wasn´t just the air that was dry, cracked, and broken, roof tiles popped up above cactus and crops. Closer inspection at the edge of the roads showed a jumble of pipes and troughs spreading the valuable water.

One man who strolled these tracks as a young goat herd was Hermano Pedro. A shrine to the Vilaflor born wanderer, had a clear drinking water source and a shelter for reflection. Nature struck a chord with Pedro who later became a missionary in Guatemala, and ultimately became the Canary Islands only Saint. Modern travellers to Ifonche can find a restaurant and bar bearing the local lads name on the early stages of the walk.

Caves abound in these hills, just beyond a large hewn dwelling, a sign pointed to El Refugio, another popular eating place, sitting on the lip of a ravine strewn  with conflicting signs about directions and privacy. Casting our eyes up and beyond to an old ruin at the foot of the smaller peak, it was possible to trace the path backwards and through the mix of bushes and stone steps through the ravine. Aiming to the left of the elevated ruin kept us well away from the modern conversion that stands on private land in the opposite direction.

We emerged between the peaks of Imoque and Los Brezos and in a huge threshing circle. To the left the valley plunged but a wooden railed fence coaxed us round the tight downward turns overlooking the barranco far below. Roque del Conde loomed ahead with terraced fields cascading down our inside track to Arona town. Our path was gentler and brought us out on the more familiar side of Roque del Conde. The table top showed the face that looks down on Los Cristianos.

One more down and up weave through Barranco del Rey and Arona town was in sight, 6 kms and nearly four hours from the start. Cold drinks at the Atletico Arona bar just before the bus stop gave us time to reflect on a tough but rewarding trip through history, nature,  and culture.

 

Budding Stars Battle For Peak Positions In Santiago Del Teide

Just as the leg muscles began to pinch and the Santiago Del Teide church shrunk below us, Mount Teide served up its snowy reward. Pink and white almond blossom had already made its slightly subdued greeting high above Tenerife´s north west coast.

The Almond Blossom Walk is not an excat science, the weather always makes it  difficult to predict the perfect time to enjoy one of several routes that emanate from the church plaza. With Teide making its bow, nature stood to attention. More trees cascaded with colour, pines danced along the ridges of hills, and young eager buds were ready to join the party over the next few weeks.

Many people had already made their mid week devotion when me and my friends arrived from the south on the 460 Titsa bus just after 1 pm. Bars and restaurants had pink and white trim to show that they were selling almond influenced tapas and meals. A near full reservoir was our first landmark as we started to match the rise of the hills shielding Masca from the road to Icod and the north.

Gurgling water channels and rocky, well marked paths introduced us to more bursting bushes of blooms before we turned off to the Chinyero clearing. A miracle was declared when placing the statue of the Virgen from the local church stopped the lava in its tracks during the 1909 eruption. That solidified magma was now our path and a natural compliment to the other wonders. The wild shapes and twists of the rocks reflected the power and the glory that spilled forth from the bowels of Tenerife in that frightening last roar from the volcano.

Even when we reached the forest section of our circular walk, Teide was determined not to be out done by the majestic pines that thrive on the mineral rich soil. Seeing the contrasting aspects of nature thriving in such harsh conditions was a great inspiration and a calming influence.

We had to pay our dues for such an enriching afternoon, Arguayo village was in sight but the signs pointing down either side of private farming land heralded one last test of changing terrain. Experience had taught me they shared similar surfaces of small rocks and stones that tried to force the pace on a steep decline. A careful, steady descent and we completed our stroll in just under four hours and ready for cold drinks at the Tropic Bar in the village. An eight euro taxi ride won the nod over a 45 minute road hike down to complete the circle to our Santiago Del Teide start point and the 6.30 pm bus to Las Americas and all points south.

 

 

No Almond Blossom, No Snow, Just A Classic Santiago Del Teide Walk

Hot lava carving a path down through the pine forest. Even 111 years later, cold and dormant, the sight was still powerful and invigorating. Chinyero, the Santiago del Teide village where the last Tenerife volcanic eruption halted is forever frozen in time.  the placing of the statue of the virgen fom the local church put on the red light and ensured the status of miacle. On previous February walks over the popular route, snow has capped Mount Teide and pink and white blossom dotted much of the landscape. This time a 20 degrees start from Santiago del Teide church plaza met with warmer air as mother nature showed off her summer collection.

Clearly indicated on route boards, the low stone walls guided me out along the compacted and uneven trail. Summer plants bloomed in sheltered corners and the trees chipped in with charred sculptures and coatings of moss. Rising quickly, the path squeezed by a half full reservoir and an old water channel. Big clearings of almond trees were taking a back seat in their plain clothes attire while a welcome chilled breeze marked my cresting of another hill.

Tell tale twitches and rustles hinted at cautious birds and other wildlife. A large rabbit stood tall in a clump of grass, my heavy footfall had heightened its senses. The wise bunny  turned and bounded powerfully away after one whiff of my trainers. Nearly half way on the 9 km  stroll brought me to the clearing where the abrupt halt of the 1909 eruption attracts pilgrims and history buffs. Flowers are regularly replenished at the shrine and its a good spot to take a breather.

Moving on the lava rose into a high ridge, help was at hand in the form of guide signals. Basically it was a curl around the ridge before taking some roughly hewn steps onto a clear path picked out between the wave of pine trees and the large mounds of ash and stone. The contrasts were amazing to contemplate, dark brooding boulders, perky green pines, and a clear blue sky as natures components battled for supremecy.

The walk wraps around in almost a complete circle, so Santiago del Teide began to appear in the near distance to one side below.  Reassurance of taking the correct path came from yellow and white lines daubed on rocks at key points, a similar two coloured cross was clear advice not to go forward on false trails. The mountain plateau above Arguayo was another good indication of progress to the village finish, and what a wonderful backdrop for the local football stadium. Resting in the spread roots of giant, thick trunked trees was a good chance to cool a little before the final push and a choice.

The undulating nature of the walk left a big descent still to tackle, sign posts indicated two differet routes, past experience had told me they both ended in the same place but presented their own challenges of shifting loose dirt and tufted grass as they meandered between parcels of private land. Arguayo is a small village and I missed the solitary afternoon bus back down to Santiago del Teide (a taxi would be a cheap option) and had to close the circle with a carefull slog down a spiralling main road, adding another hour to a very satisfying day.

Unwrapping Guimar Layer By Layer

Montaña Grande doesn´t just mark the half way point from Los Cristianos in the south to the Tenerife capital Santa Cruz in the north. Looming large over the motorway, it´s also a punctuation mark between El Puertito on the coast and Guimar up in the hills.A mere 275 metreshigh, the volcanic cone has long been calling me to have a look. It´s peak remained enigmatic as the pathway wound around the base without delivering me to the summit, but it still woke up my walking mood.

From the bus stop just north of the crossroads, I could see Candelaria in the distance. I have often trodden the Samarines coastal walk from the spiritual heart of the island, through El Socorro surfers beach and along the edge of Malpais de Guimar to El Puertito. This time the solidified volcanic flow stretched out between me and the sea as I enjoyed the clusters of prickly cardon plants and breaches in the stone walls. Tomatoes, lettuce and other crops once flourished here and attracted a range of insects to the rugged landscape.

El Puertitp came into view over an hour after my start.Cloud had bubbled up as it often does over the bowl like valley near the mptorway. The large plaza facing the sea was quiet and the calm sea stretched down to the south àst the modern sports marina. Catching a 120 Titsa bus gave me a 15 minute ride up and under the motorway into Guimars older core. The cloud was pressing down as I admired the Plaza Las Flores with its fountain and statue tribute to the gardeners who created and maintain this tranquil spot.The explosion of colour at the bus station was in marked contrast to the stark, austere frontage of the old Guardia Civil HQ.

There was an air of apprehension in the quiet Friday afternoon streets. I wqas hopeful that my day out would allay thoughts of the Coronavirus threat but notices of cancelled shows at the former Cinema Los Angeles, and instructions for safe communion at the imposing San Pedro church added to the sense of forboding. As further cases of the virus were confirmed, I caught the Spanish government announcement of the State Of Alarm via the TV in a local bar, it was a sobering moment. However the enduring culture and history of Guimar gave me cause for hope. The HQ of a local radio enthusiasts network backed up the statue dedicated to “ham radio” trail blazers of earlier decades. Cimmunication brought people together then and will continue to do so.

Getting off my return bus to the motorway I had to smile at Guimrs name written large in the paving stones outside the old cement works. and on a proud welcome sign of tiles, leading into the municipality. Recently Guimar announced a 120 million euro investment in tourosm. Maybe it was with one eye on the proposed new beach and four hotel project for Punta de Abona just down the coast. Plans can change so quickly , as events were about to prove.

 

Making Tracks In Guia De Isora

 

Improving or spoiling, it’s a very fine line when it comes to dealing with nature. The latest Tenerife coastal walk to get a makeover is the stretch linking Alcala to El Varadero in the west coast municipality of Guia de Isora. On my last visit, work was in progress but I returned on a scorching May day to see the finished project, and was delighted by the respectful balance that had been achieved.

There’s a lot going on up west, my Titsa bus journey reflected that, the 477 direct service from Los Cristianos veered up onto the modern by the ring road at Armeñime before heading back down at the new Fonsalia roundabout to back track to the edge of Playa San Juan and then taking the old coast road to my Los Gigantes destination. One of the longest drawn out updates for the island has been to build a new ferry port at the little hamlet of Fonsalia, the closest point between Tenerife and La Gomera. The new 477 route would help to take pressure off the coast road, if the port ever becomes a reality.

So it was with some trepidation, I later found myself at the El Varadero entrance to the coastal walk. First impressions were good, the sensitive two colour tone, and meandering progress of the new surface meant it didn´t intrude like Dorothy´s path to Oz. Little touches like the split level upright wooden slats, and hopefully vandal proof concrete rubbish bunkers, played their part. One of the eternal problems has been the arrival of vast numbers of illegal camper vans and their abandoned rubbish on big holiday weekends. Green chain fencing, and large irregular sized boulders should help to deter those intent on trying to park on the shingle shore.

The Punta Brava coast alongside the trail is notorious for its wild, unpredictable currents and waves that have claimed several lives over the years. This has made it attractive to surfers, a few bobbed up and down in the waves, a slight calima made the horizon a little hazy, normally you can see pleasure boats in the distance. It was noticeable that more people were using the walk, taking time out to enjoy the views, jog, or even cycle on the smooth surface.The new look makes it more accessible, there was always an uncertainty as to whether it was possible to get out of the El Varadero end. I was particularly pleased to see the partially collapsed walls of the old banana plantations left in their semi decayed state. They are an important reminder of the historic and economic past of Guia de Isora.

Ancient and modern interlock nicely just after the halfway point (about 30 minutes) when rounding a headland, the new La Jaquita beaches take over. They start with a series of natural rock lagoon which has metal ladders and small break waters to make it inviting to bathe in. There are also three pocket sized black sand beaches separated by rock breakers which give them a secluded feel. Although only open for a few years, the La Jaquita stretch has earned its Blue Flag for quality, and it flies proudly near the lifeguards look out towers. Add in disabled bathing and changing facilities and a couple of relaxed cafe bars, and it´s a very welcoming place to take a dip.

Development at this end has been spurred by the presence of the Palicio de Isora five star hotel resort, close to the fishing village of Alcala, which has no beach of its own. The expansive decking and sports courts outside the hotel and facing the sea are well used and popular with the younger locals from the village, and they lead you on nicely around the quayside and into the Alcala plaza. It´s a great place to relax and watch the world go by at a sedate pace. I enjoyed my dinner at El Veril, there´s a nice selection of food and drink stops around the plaza. There was even a balcony crammed with home made art animals to make me smile. Normally I would have then pushed on along the coast to Playa San Juan via Fonsalia, but had already packed plenty in for the day. The two ends of the coastal walk are served by regular Titsa buses, so whichever direction you stroll in, it´s easy to get back to Los Gigantes or in my case, back to Los Cristianos.