Wednesday, 29 October 2008

The Guimar Valley & The Candelaria Trail

I have long had a fascination with the Guimar Valley from a walkers viewpoint for a couple of reasons. One is that it doesn't feature very much in walking guidebooks, and two, because I always think it's one of the most spectacular sights on the island when viewed from the TF1. One walk that does feature in the guidebooks is the Candelaria Trail, an old pilgrims route from La Orotava to Candelaria, over the top of the island. Nowadays, because of building development, it is usually started from Aguamansa and finished in Arafo, which is where I decided to start the walk from. The plan was to climb to the cumbre road between La Esperanza and El Portillo at La Crucita and then turn round and walk back to Arafo. This involved about six hours of walking and around 5,000ft of ascent and descent. A tough sounding walk, which it was, but what a walk!Climbing out of Arafo was hard enough on the seemingly vertical tarmac lanes but after leaving the roads, the climbing just went on and on and on, seemingly never ending and very steep. After leaving the tarmac, the path snaked uphill through pine forest, past an old water channel. Eventually, the route broke free of the pines and the views were simply stupendous, along the coast to Guimar, Candelaria and Santa Cruz below but up ahead, the most amazing sight of a mountain boiling away like an old kettle, as cloud swirled around the summit in an otherwise blue sky. Upon reaching an old stone shelter, I came across a rather incongruous bath-tub sitting by a huge mound of spiky chestnut casings as the huge black sand mound of Las Arenas came into view ahead. I have to say that by this time I was really feeling the climb. The relentless steepness was taking it's toll and I was still around and hour and a half to the cumbre road. I was now totally enclosed by mountains and plodding at a very slow pace. My resolve nearly gave out when the path became much steeper and covered in loose red picon. Eventually, after much puffing and blowing, I reached the cumbre road and had a break for lunch with fantastic views of Teide.Setting off back downhill, I slithered back down the slippery path and as I neared Las Arenas mountain for the second time, I had the strange experience of being under clear blue, sunny skies with rain blowing into my back. Looking back, I could see that the cumbre was now invisible, covered in a grey blanket of cloud. I assumed that it must be raining high up and the strong winds on the top were blowing it downhill, into the valley. As I descended further, I realised that the rain was following me down the valley but I seemed to be staying just ahead of it in the sunshine. As I passed the the black cone of Las Arenas, I suddenly became aware of a rainbow in a shallow valley about 150 metres to my left. I could actually see where it touched the ground at both ends! As I rounded a bend in the track, one end of the rainbow was actually touching the track a few yards in front of me!I continued past the chestnut trees I had seen earlier to the stone shelter and the source of the empty shells became apparent as an old man sat in front of the shelter, removing the casings from them and adding to the enormous mound in front of him. I descended the last section back into Arafo fairly rapidly, observing another rainbow off in the distance as I went. I have to say that I have done some spectacular walking both here and in other locations but this walk was one of the most stunning but exhausting I have ever done. Photo album can be found on the right.

Thursday, 16 October 2008

New Routes

During the summer months, the weather can be a little hot for walking so I have not had many bookings in this period. The summer is when the sun-worshippers head for the island and moving from the beach or the pool usually involves the odd coach-trip to Teide or Masca, or for the particularly laid-back, the bar. I took the opportunity during this period of relative inactivity to explore more walking routes to add more choice to my website. I found a number of routes in the Ifonche and Vilaflor area including one that is virtually all downhill and ends at a spectacularly sited restaurant and another one that starts in the huge crater at the top of the island and finishes in Vilaflor, Spains highest village. Probably my favourite of all of the new routes is the one to Montana Negra (pictured) in the west of the island. This is a trip to the site of the eruption in 1706 that destroyed Garachico on the north-west coast and is an amazing black-sand desert with fantastic views of Teide and Pico Viejo. The black ash and sand contrasts sharply with the pine trees and other greenery and the whole area is an amazing sight. Certainly a route not to be missed by the keen walker. I have added photo albums of shots taken on each of the new walks.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Going Native in Tenerife

I have recently been asked to write a piece for a 'Native Spain' guide called 'Going Native in Tenerife' by Tenerife photographer/writer Jack Montgomery. He has asked me to write a short piece about walking and hiking on the island. I recently submitted a short account of a hike I recently undertook with a client who asked me to find him a 'walk that hurts'. I did not have anything strenuous enough for him in my programme of walks, so I took one that was mostly downhill and reversed it. This meant that we spent most of the walk climbing uphill up to an altitude of around 8,000ft. It was certainly a pretty tough walk and the client seemed to be satisfied at the end of the walk.

Jack made some very kind comments about my item and I hope that it will be published in the guide in the near future.

The Deserted Village of Las Fuentes

I have recently been exploring the area around Montana Tejina. This is a rounded hill on the side of the road heading west from Adeje towards Playa san Juan. Despite looking like a green hill from the road, at over 1,000mtrs high, it qualifies as a mountain. A friend had alerted me to the fact that hidden directly behind Mt. Tejina are the remains of the old village of Las Fuentes. Unable to resist the temptation to investigate, I set off from the village of Vera De Erques and climbed steeply into the hills on a route running roughly parallel with the Barranco de Erques. My intention was to climb to a height above that of Mt.Tejina and then circle around and down into the village. In the event, I climbed much higher than intended, above the cloudline in fact, before locating a route that led me back down the hills and through the cloud. As I emerged from the mist, I was faced by a fantastic view of Mt.Tejina and Las Fuentes below. Descending into the village, it appeared that most of the houses were long deserted, although one or two appeared to be in good condition. One even had a television aerial! Mostly though, the buildings were in a poor condition and a melancholy atmosphere prevailed. Some of the terracing appeared to be still in cultivation and I guessed that the cottages in good condition were perhaps used by whoever farmed them, possibly as holiday homes or weekend getaways. I found an old stone camino and followed it back to Vera de Erques .
A week later I returned along the camino from Vera de Erques to Las Fuentes. Passing an old wine press, I followed a signpost to the village of Acojeja across the impressively deep Barranco de Guaria, from where Mt. Tejina took on the more rocky aspect of a mountain. The path descended steeply into the village, passing another path into the village of El Jaral. Returning from Acojeja, I took a short walk into the Barranco del Pozo below El Jaral to check the route before returning steeply to Las Fuentes. One theory is that the village was built behind Mt. Tejina to conceal it from passing pirates but a more likely explanation for the location is probably to be found in the name, which literally means 'springs'. I returned along the old camino to Vera de Erques, planning to add this very interesting route to my website. A slideshow of the walk led by myself for a group of walkers on Sunday 20th October can be found on the right.