Sunday, 16 November 2008

Birthday Cake-walk

Last Thursday was my birthday. To celebrate this momentous event, I went to the Las Canadas National Park with my wife Ann for an easy stroll around the park in the shadow of the huge bulk of the volcano, Teide. Strolling from the Parador (state run hotel), we left the tourists behind and headed for the low, sandy coloured mound of Montana Majua, facing the cable-car station at the foot of the volcano. Thursday in Tenerife is a hunting day and as we wound our way through the harsh volcanic landscape, we spotted a number of hunters on top of a rocky ridge ahead. As we neared the ridge, we passed a pack of hunting dogs foraging in the shrubs and cacti looking for rabbits as the hunters looked on from above. Leaving the hunters to their search, we approached Montana Majua and climbed to the summit. From here we had a terrific 360 degree view of the huge volcanic crater we were walking through. The mountains on the southern wall of the crater created an impressive sight but the star of the show was Teide, filling the entire view to the north. We watched the cable-car taking another car-load of tourists to within a couple of hundred metres of the summit as we descended to a wide, dusty track below. We followed this back to the parador, passing the old sanitorium buildings nestled silently among the rocks as we headed for the ever-expanding view of Montana Guajara, Tenerife's fourth highest peak at around 9,000ft. Picking up the Siete Canadas trail at the base of the crater wall, we passed beneath this imposing mountain, admiring the rock formation of Piedras Amarillas as we completed the easy circuit back the the parador. The easy stroll through the stunning scenery of one of Spains most visited and unusual National Parks was a lovely way to spend three hours of my birthday. We finished the day off with a visit to one of our favourite restaurants in Los Cristianos.

Thursday, 6 November 2008

Rain Forests and Ravines

Today I am recovering from yesterday's strenuous hike, which I did with Alan, a friend of mine. The walk was in the north-west of the island in the Teno mountains and involved conditions I have rarely experienced on the island, walking in pouring rain! The walk began on a cool ,overcast day from the tiny village of Erjos with a steep descent through the beautiful Barranco de Cuevas Negras (Black Cave Ravine). As we descended into this steep ravine, there were constant reminders that we were on the opposite side of the island, confirmed by the presence everywhere of lush, green vegetation. Laurel trees and ferns had replaced the the prickly pear and candelabra spurge so common in the south. As we left the last of the gardens of Erjos behind we descended rapidly with the green walls of the barranco towering over us, occasionally passing a solitary old house half-buried in the undergrowth. After passing an abandoned village, the barranco took on an even more dramatic appearance as the green gave way to formidible cliff and mountain scenery and the village of Los Silos put in an appearance far below towards the sea. As we reached the floor of the barranco, a few outlying buildings of Los Silos came into view as well as numerous banana plantations. Eventually, we reached a lane that led through the village and across the main road and into the main square. This proved to be a delight with an attractive kiosk in the centre and many locals sitting and chatting or drinking coffee at the kiosk cafe. On one of the benches an old man sat selling lottery tickets and playing a whistle. Unfortunately, he only seemed to know about five notes, which he repeated constantly. Besides the kiosk, there were a number of attractive buildings including a pretty church with a striking spire.
After a break in the square, we set-off back up the lane to start the return trek. As the first half of the walk had been all downhill, we were now faced with an uphill return journey that included 3,000ft of ascent. The path climbed steeply after leaving the village, above the Barranco de los Cochinos giving spectacular views into the barranco and back down to Los Silos. High above, we could see cloud on the summits and soon we were walking in light rain. As we climbed higher and closer to the cloud covered summits so the rain got steadily heavier. The surrounding scenery however was ample compensation for this minor inconvenience as the barranco scenery took on epic proportions, with green, tree clad peaks soaring into the sodden clouds. I remarked to Alan that it reminded me of a scene from a documentary on the Borneo rain forest! As we continued, the rain became very heavy and we finally admitted defeat and stopped to put on our anoraks. This was only the second or third time I had been forced to do this since moving to Tenerife in January, not bad when considering that I walk here regularly! Eventually, after a long, tiring climb through the forest, we reached a level forestry track and strolled back into Erjos and the car, six hours after setting off. We were tired and wet but happy to have spent the day in one of Tenerife's most spectacular corners.