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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.
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