Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A Walk Through Tenerife's Past

El Roque at the start of the walk

The south of Tenerife is often dismissed by many walkers in preference for the more traditionally 'pretty' areas of the island. This walk however, despite rarely being far from towns and villages, has just about everything you could ask for in a walk, mountain views, impressive barrancos, ancient trails, miradors, and many historic examples of a past way of life. The walk begins from the stunning Mirador de La Centinela above Valle San Lorenzo and descends on the old camino real to San Miguel below the slopes of the imposing Roque de Jama.

Descending to La Hoya

Roque de Jama

The whole walk is punctuated with useful information boards giving details of various facets of a past way of life in the south of the island. In the early part of the walk, on the ascent to La Hoya, the camino passes the Fuente de La Hoya, a spring at the side of the trail. The spring, along with two others, was the reason for the choice of location for the first country house, the Caserio de La Hoya, in the San Miguel region. This impressive building, which is now a casa rural, is passed just after the spring and shortly after this, along the road from the house, you will find a well preserved tile-kiln.

Tile Kiln at La Hoya

Dropping down into the scenic Barranco del Drago, the Fuente del Drago is found beneath the towering rocks. Here, there are well preserved remnants of the past in the form of a water cistern, which was sadly mostly dry when I passed by but the water channels feeding it could be clearly seen carved into the rock as could a number of stone sinks, once used as a public laundry for washing clothes. This spring was a very important resource for the local population who used it for obtaining water for drinking as well as washing clothes and irrigating crops.

La Fuente de Tamaide in the Barranco del Drago

In this area, the rock was quarried for use in the building of terracing walls as well as paving the caminos. On the approach to Tamaide, an old 'tuff' quarry is encountered. This light-coloured volcanic rock was quarried for building, including the construction of the water channels that criss-crossed the countryside carrying water to irrigate the terracing.

Giant Houseleek

Climbing out of the Barranco del Drago

Looking into the Barranco del Drago

 San Miguel is the next stop along the way and it is worth leaving the walk for a short detour around the town. The camino real parallels the current main road and is lined with simple but attractive Canarian houses and would have at one time been a busy thoroughfare with merchants transporting and selling their wares as they travelled across the island. The camino real was part a the Camino Real de Chasna, an important artery connecting the south of the island via Vilaflor and the Las Cañadas National Park with La Orotava in the north.

Roque de Jama from Tamaide

My White Bicycle, Tamaide

Ornate garden near Tamaide

Just before the walk turns right following a sign for Aldea Blanca, the 18th Century Casa del Capitan is passed. This traditional old Canarian house belonged to the Alfonso family until the end of the nineteenth century and Miguel Alfonso Martinez achieved the highest military rank in the municipality, which is where the house gets it's name. After the house was devastated by fire, it was purchased and restored by the town and now houses an historical and ethnographic museum.

Camino de Las Lajas corpse road

San Miguel was also the first location in the south to receive electricity and the remains of the generating station are still visible from the camino, here known as the Calle de La Iglesia., which eventually arrives at the church in the quiet shady square where you will also find the old biblioteca. This is a good spot for a break in the walk or if you prefer, you can head up to the centre of the village to avail yourself of one of the cafes in the high street.

Descending to Aldea Blanca

Returning to the walk by the Casa del Capitan, the route now descends to Aldea Blanca, initially on tarmac, following an old corpse road before arriving after a steep descent in the middle of the village. For some reason, the information boards along this trail, which up until now have been in three languages, suddenly revert to 'Spanish only' but if you have a smattering of the language, it is still possible to glean some information. 

Vineyards & volcanoes

After passing through a cultivated area on the valley floor, close to riding stables, the long climb back to the Mirador La Centinela begins. Part way up the climb, there is another information board detailing the recent volcanic activity in the south of the island and the viewpoint highlights just how many volcanoes litter this part of the coastal plain.

Climbing to the Mirador La Centinela

After a fairly stiff climb, the refreshments on offer at the mirador restaurant are too tempting to resist and it is worth relaxing with something cold and refreshing as the huge 'picture window' allows you to observe much of the route you have just walked from the comfort of a welcoming chair.

The GPS track for the walk can be downloaded by clicking on the Wikiloc symbol in the top right hand corner of the map below.

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Sunday, 12 February 2017

Montaña Sámara & the Las Cuevas Negras

View from the summit of Montaña Sámara

This walk was a new route in an area that I had intended investigating for some time so I was pleased to find details on the web about a new path leading from Montaña Sámara to the Cuevas Negras, a series of lava tubes just off of the path in the volcanic landscape below the slopes of Pico Viejo. There is a convenient car park just below the Montaña Sámara cone and after parking the car I was soon climbing up the cinder path to the summit. The views from the top were simply stupendous and far-reaching to the summits of Pico Verde and Pico de Gala in the Teno range with the twin summits of the island of La Palma in the clouds beyond providing a fitting backdrop. 

View from the summit of Montaña de La Botija

Descending from the summit, I followed a path up Montaña de La Botija, another volcanic cone from where I had views across the lava fields to the towering peak of Pico Viejo, the second highest summit on the island. In the other direction, I had further views to the harbour at Playa San Juan and the prominent bulk of Montaña Tejina. Descending once more, I continued as the path wound a tortuous course through the volcanic landscape, passing large 'standing stones' of lava at the side of the path. 

Collapsed lava tube or 'jameo'

As the path turned downhill, I suddenly realised that I had passed the Cuevas Negras lava tubes and back-tracked a little until I located the first of these, which was a large opening in the ground with a 'lava bridge' across the centre. This type of tube is called an 'jameo' and is formed when the roof of a lava tub collapses, leaving an opening in the ground. 

Entrance to a lava tube

I continued to backtrack and located all five of the tubes, one of which, as with the first, had collapsed. The others were still intact and had cave-like openings, all of which had metal gates blocking entry into them. Lava tubes are formed when slow a moving lava flow solidifies on the surface but this then insulates the lava below, which continues to flow beneath the solidified surface, leaving a tube when the flow ceases.

Lava stalactites on the roof of the lava tube

Looking through the gates I could see lava stalactites on the ceiling of the caves in various shades of reddish brown. Despite not be able to access the tubes, it was still interesting to see into them and I thought it was odd that, although the path is signposted as the Cuevas Negras path, the location of the lava tubes is not signposted from the path as they are very easily missed if you don't know where to look for them. After leaving the lava tubes, I followed a return route to my car at Montaña Sámara as I enjoyed excellent views to the island of La Gomera hanging in the clouds ahead and to Pico Viejo behind.

Looking back to Pico Viejo & Teide

Video of the walk

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Sunday, 4 September 2016

Las Cañadas to Poris de Abona - A walk from Summit to Sea

The 'El Filo' path is a route in the Las Canadas National Park that starts from the TF24 road close to El Portillo and initially follows a broad track through the desert scenery of the park as it weaves through the Tiede Broom and heads towards the parador. I recently set off on a two day hike following the path as it wound it's way through the parched landscape typically found in this part of the park. Being summer, the weather was very hot and as I could not be sure that I would be able to replenish my water supplies, I carried around 7.5 litres in my pack, which made it quite heavy when combined with my camping gear.

In the early part of the walk, there were superb views of Teide and I took numerous photos of the imposing cone, which dominated the scenery. Eventually, the broad, dusty path veered away to the left and began to ascend the rim of the vast caldera and, once on the top, the scenery became even more impressive as the route crossed and re-crossed the ridge, giving views both to the south-eastern parts of the island to the coast and also to the northern side of the ridge, affording excellent views into Las Canadas. 

Roque de La Grieta
Ahead, the views of the ridge were punctuated by the peaks of Roque de La Grieta, Montaña Pasajiron and in the distance to Montaña Guajara, Tenerife's third highest peak which towers over the parador. After around three and a half hours, I dropped off of the ridge into the pine forest above Arico before heading to El Contador, a recreation/camping/BBQ area high in the pine forest. 

Los Roques de Tamadaya
As I approached El Contador, I discovered a camping area above it called Fuente del Llanos and veered off towards it. Here, I found some fairly level ground and pitched my tent. I spent a peaceful evening watching the sun go down and enjoyed the silence as I sat outside my tent stargazing. The following morning, I was up early and drank coffee as the sunrise bathed the high mountains I had descended from the day before in a soft, pink light. 

Camping at Fuente del Llanos
After packing up my campsite, I began my descent to El Contador and the Barranco de Tamadaya. Reaching the El Contador recreation zone, I replenished my water supplies from a tap in the barbecue area and passed the Casas del Contador and climbed into the forest towards the Barranco de Tamadaya.

Arico Nuevo
The views into the barranco to the pine-clad Roques de Tamadaya formation were particularly impressive. Eventually, I reached the pretty village of Arico de Nuevo from where I followed a path past wind turbines to El Poris on the coast.

Monday, 11 July 2016

Walking through the Island's Volcanic Past

Montana Samara

I have recently been exploring the area between Montana Samara and Montana Chinyero, site of the island's last eruption. The north-west Santiago rift is littered with many volcanic cones and makes the area a fascinating one for observing the recent volcanic history of the island. I parked at the Montana Samara car-park and followed the obvious path to the summit where I had fantastic views towards the Teno Mountains, Teide and even down towards the south-west coast. 

Views from the summit

The surrounding countryside was a fascinating mix of cinder cones, frozen seas of lava and pine trees, all set to a backdrop of the Teno mountains and nearby islands of La Gomera and La Palma. I stood for some time on the summit absorbing this amazing scene while to my right lay the harsh volcanic hollow of the volcano's crater. Descending, I crossed the road and followed a forest path downhill towards Montana Chinyero, although today, this very familiar cinder-cone volcano was not my objective as I was heading for Montana del Cascajo, another volcanic cone, which lies at a higher altitude. 

Montana del Cascajo

Montana Chinyero erupted in May 1909 and for ten days spewed lava into the surrounding countryside. The lava flowed down into the Santiago valley and threatened the village of Santiago del Teide and neighbouring villages before coming to a halt without causing any damage. 

Views from the summit of Montana del Cascajo

Having reached the start of the path to the summit of Montana del Cascajo , I began the climb to the top, which was quite difficult as the path was almost vertical and the surface was comprised of very deep volcanic soil, which made progress very slow. Once on the top, I skirted around the cone to the highest point where I enjoyed more excellent views over the volcanic terrain and also to Santiago del Teide. 

Volcanic Landscape around Montana del Cascajo

Path through the forest

Montana Chinyero

 Having descended, I followed the easy track through the forest for a while until it became more indistinct before disappearing altogether in an area strewn with yellow birds foot trefoil flowers. Picking my way through this was slow and difficult as I climbed steadily uphill. Crossing a volcanic ridge, I was suddenly confronted by a very rough, frozen sea of Aa lava. 


Areas of land such as this in the Canaries are usually called 'malpais' and the literal translation 'badlands' was certainly appropriate in this instance. Fortunately, there was a path, albeit fairly rough and rocky, skirting around the edge of the lava and I picked my way very carefully along this as it headed uphill. Soon, I arrived at a waymarked 'sendero' onto which I turned right and followed it very easily downhill back to Montana Samara and my car.

Teide & Pico Viejo

Monday, 4 July 2016

Climbing El Sombrero

El Sombrero from the start of the walk

Since living in Tenerife, I have long had an ambition to climb El Sombrero, a very distinctive mountain in the National Park. The mountain is instantly identifiable because of the rocky, 'turret' on the top but until recently, I have never found a route to the summit. 

El Sombrero

Most visitors familiar with the approach to the the National Park from the south will recognise the peak as the road passes below it as you enter the park and with it's very distinctive summit, it's difficult to miss. I set off yesterday in stunning, clear skies, although below, on the coast, it was fairly cloudy and I began my walk near the National Park sign at the side of the road. 

Teide & Pico Viejo

The initial climb was fairly steady but across rough, pathless ground and I had to keep checking my direction to make sure I wasn't straying too low. Eventually, I found a path of sorts that contoured the steep ground below the peak and followed it through the Teide Broom, which proved a bit of a problem because the paths were draped in cobwebs and spiders and being something of an arachnophobe, I spent quite a while clearing them with my walking poles. 

Summit cairn on El Sombrero

With the combination of rough ground and unwelcome wildlife, progress was quite slow but eventually I reached the edge of the crater rim and began the start of the steep climb to the summit. This first section wasn't too bad as it climbed fairly steeply through rocky terrain but soon, I reached the start of the climb onto the rocky, 'turret' of the summit cliffs. This was fairly vertical in places and required hands as well as feet to pull myself up.

Panorama from the summit

After what seemed a surprisingly short time, I found myself crossing the summit plateau to the summit cairn where I took an extended break to enjoy the simply amazing scenery. The views of the National Park were extensive with Teide, Pico Viejo and Montana Guajara dominating the view. After a long rest break on the summit taking numerous photographs, I began my descent and was soon back at my car after a challenging but exhilarating walk. Click on the 'Wikiloc' symbol in the top right hand corner of the map if you want to download a copy of the GPS track for the walk.

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Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Coast to Coast through the Anaga Mountains

Coast viewed from the path to Chinamada from Punta Del Hidalgo

Last week, I hiked a two day 'coast to Coast route from the northern side of the Anaga Mountain range to the coast on southern side. Starting in Punta del Hidalgo, I climbed in superb scenery through the Barranco del Rio to the cave-house village of Chinamada, around two thousand feet above. 

The start of the path in Punta del Hidalgo

Heading into the Barranco

On the path to Chinamada

The village is a fascinating relic of a past way of life and although the cave houses now have electricity and some even have satellite dishes, it still retains an atmosphere of a bygone age. After a short break by the 'modern' church in the plaza, I followed a beautiful path towards Las Carboneras and enjoyed the stunning views across the Barranco de Tomadero to the tiny hamlet of Batan on the other side of this vast valley. At the top of a path called Las Escaleras, I stopped to refill my water bottle at a fountain by the side of the path, which proved vital later in the trip, and descended into Las Carboneras. 

Cave Houses in Chinamada

Las Carboneras & Roque Taborno

In the Barranco de Taborno

Here, I took a path across the Barranco de Taborno which meandered along on some delightful forest paths before climbing very steeply up into Taborno village. Leaving Taborno, the path rounded a corner and I was suddenly confronted by the awesome spectacle of the Afur Valley framed by the incongruous sight of a line of washing drying in a nearby garden and, deciding that this was probably the most scenic washing line in the world, reached for my camera. 

The worlds most scenic washing line

Descending into the Afur Valley

Descending steeply, I arrived in the village of Afur before beginning the steep climb out of the other side. My plan was to get as far as my legs would allow for the day although I needed to get to the Casa Forestal on the TF12 road on top of the Anaga ridge as I had read that there was water available and I would need to top up  my supplies again. 

Ascending from the Afur Valley

After a long, tiring climb I reached the Casa Forestal but was dismayed to find that the information I had read on the internet was wrong, or out of date. I checked my supply and discovered I still had 1.5 litres so decided I would have to make do with what I had. It was now getting into the early evening and I still had to find somewhere to pitch my tent but having crossed the TF12 and begun descending into the forest again, I was concerned that the ground was too steep for camping. As I descended further, a sudden opening in the forest gave me a superb surprise view down to Santa Cruz, my eventual destination the following day. A short distance further along I managed to find a level clearing in the trees where I could pitch my tent. 

First View of Santa Cruz

My Campsite in the woods

Having set-up camp, I cooked my meal and settled down for a pleasantly relaxing evening listening to music and the sounds of the birds in the trees. The following morning, I packed up early and began my descent down to Valle Brosque. The weather was cool and there was a little light rain but as the path emerged from the forest, I was confronted by a stunning view of Teide rising above the serrated Anaga mountain ridges. 

Teide rises above the Anaga Mountains

The vast volcano was lit up by the early morning sun and I stood for a while admiring this awesome view. My plan was to descend to Valle Brosque before climbing back up into the mountains a little and then contouring along a path following a water channel, which passed through some tunnels. The area around Valle Brosque was superb, a real ‘lost world’ of towering mountains, deep ravines, trickling streams and waterfalls, all set to the deafening soundtrack of hundreds of croaking frogs and the more melodious sound of birdsong. It was here that I managed to find more water.

Frog in Valle Brosque

Desecending to Valle Brosque

After climbing back up to around 1700ft, I located the path along the water channel and this is where my plan fell apart. A sign blocking the path warned of landslides and toxic fumes in the tunnels. This rather threw a spanner in the works so I continued to climb all of the way back up to the road I had crossed the previous evening. I knew that if I reached the road I could follow it to the Pico del Ingles mirador and pick up a pathway down though the Barranco Seco to Valleseco and the seafront at Santa Cruz. 

Descending in the Barranco Seco

In the Barranco Seco

The climb back up to the road was a real drag but not as bad as walking along the road, which seemed to go on forever. Having reached the stunning Pico del Ingles mirador, I picked up the path and descended into the beautiful Barranco Seco after which, I followed the road through Valleseco to the seafront in Santa Cruz. In all, over the two days, I walked 40 kilometres but more significantly, ascended 8,900ft and descended 9,240ft. I walked for 7.75 hours on the first day and 7 hours on the second.