Underground, Overground Wandering Three In Icod

What a contrast, from the majestic pine trees, vibrant flowers, and bird song, to the cool, dark, silent world of Cueva del Viento below Icod in the north west of Tenerife. I had visited the volcanic lava tubes before but it was nice to share the experience with Andy and Jim from the Armada Sur as well as the others on the full mini bus from the visitors centre where the tour started.

The first hint of the contrast came when we peered through the metal grid of a 17 metre chasm. Surrounded by greenery and vegetation it has swallowed up a curious local lady many years ago, luckily she survived and it led to the full exploration of the 17 kilometers of tunnels on four levels. Our trip was in a 180 metre downward plunging section with a guide and plenty of informative information. We learnt at the visitors centre about the different types of lava, this Tenerife natural wonder is of the layered type where lava has cooled and solidified to sculpt bizarre shapes and textures. Cueva del Viento (cave of the wind) is the biggest set of volcanic tubes in Europe and the fifth longest in the world.

The day started at Playa de Las Americas bus station, originally there were to be 8 of us on the outing but only myself and Andy Van Man boarded the 460 bus for Icod. Jim phoned to say he was at the wrong bus station but a frantic car catch up saw him hop on at Tejina. As we drove up through Chio and Santiago del Teide the cloud was hovering low to mask the scorching sun. We arrived in Icod a couple of hours ahead of our booked tour time so after a stroll through the historic back streets we settled outside Bar Hesperides for a few Dorada’s as we watched the world go by. For our delight and entertainment we were treated to a Mrs Merton look alike, a female Jabba the Hut impersonator – who turned out to be English, and a scattering of pretty young ladies also caught our roaming eyes.

A taxi whizzed us up the steep winding roads to the tiny village of Cueva del Viento and the visitors centre. We paid our 10 euros and collected our helmets with mounted spot lights and listened to the introduction talk and video. Suitably clued up, we piled into the minibus for another steep climb to a clearing were we set off across natures garden. Several expanses of lava rock gave us a better understanding of how the lava had poured down from Pico Viejo, next to Mount Teide, and created a 300 metre wide lava field. Part of the ancient Camino Real track, that linked remote parts of Tenerife, became our path as we neared the entrance to the tubes. Before putting the helmets on we had to pull a cloth protector over our heads, some of us got yellow ones, not a good colour for CD Tenerife fans. With the helmets tightened and the lights turned on we descended one by one down the entrance stairs.

In the first large cave we perched on the ledges as our guide explained more about our surroundings, a mummified body of a Guanche king had been found on a high ledge, and a small metal door in the distant rocks was a crawl space into the main tunnels where most of the tiny species of creatures live. Our journey led the other way through a tight, twisting, plunging tunnel with an uneven rocky floor. Our lights cast flickering shadows on the walls and ceiling to show the many small offshoots and the tree and plant roots that poked through. The air was chilled and drops of moisture plopped now and then as we explored some of the collapsed rocks. At the end of our stretch of tunnel we were just under the grid covering the chasm the old lady dropped down, and just to the side was a tight lava pipe leading down to the lower level, there are plans to offer that as an extra option for braver explorers.

Retracing our steps we stopped to look at some spiders on the ceiling of the passage and also to have our brief exposure to total darkness. The warmth of the late emerging sun caressed us as we climbed back to ground level, on the walk back to the minibus we were able to check out some obsidian rock and learn how it was used by the Guanches to make rough tools. By the time we got back to the visitors centre the whole experience had taken two hours so feeling educated and thirsty we rewarded ourselves with Dorada’s at the nearby bar and ordered our taxi back to Icod. As luck would have it we had well over an hour until our bus back south so we put the time to good use with more beer outside a large bar near the bus station. There was still time to pack more into the day, breaking the journey in Tejina we were able to meet the General in Bar Achimaye and enjoy some food and drink while watching the first half of the Europa League final before the last leg into Playa de Las Americas.

I jumped out in Torviscas to meet a couple of friends over from Bournemouth at The Wigan Pier, the second half of the football, extra time, and penalties allowed me to force a few more beers down and we even won their quiz. That was it for me – oh apart from a few nightcaps at The Merry Monk in Los Cristianos. It was a great day in good company, our next lads trip out is shark wrestling or hang gliding – as long as it includes beer I’m up for it.