Thursday, 17 June 2010

Walking the GR131 on Tenerife - Vilaflor to Siete Canadas

Distance: 10 Miles Ascent: 3,500ft Descent: 1,120ft Time: 5 hours 40 mins

For the second section of the GR131, or Stage 6 as it is officially known, I set out on Tuesday morning from the Plaza San Pedro to the sound of workmen renovating the square. This seems to be taking an age to complete, which is a shame as normally it is a pretty, peaceful spot to sit with a drink and enjoy the sun. Today however, it was a pleasure to be leaving the sound of digging behind as I located the route out of the village. Strangely, although the GR131 and the Lunar Landscape walk coincide for the first two or three miles, they leave the village by different routes! Soon, I was climbing steeply out of the village on a section of the Chasna Royal road called El Atajo or The Shortcut. The Chasna Royal road is an ancient trade route from Vilaflor to La Orotava in the north of the island and was used for transporting goods and herding goats to the high pastures of Las Canadas for grazing during the summer months. After passing Casa Galinda, a finca in a picturesque setting near the top of the climb, I descended into the Barranco de Las Mesas on a path that pushed it's way through a number of giant Tajinaste Rojo plants that depite now being green, had been a riot of red flowers on a previous visit a few weeks earlier. Crossing the Pista Madre del Agua, I continued climbing as the peaks of Montana Guajara, Roque Encaje and Montana Arena provided a spectacular backdrop to the surrounding pines. Soon, the Lunar Landscape path and GR131 parted company and the path now climbed steeply above the Lunar Landscape, which I could see far below in a valley to my right. Continuing the climb, the scenery began to change as the black, sandy mound of Montana Arena became more prominent and I descended into and out of a barranco as I admired fabulous views down through pines to the sea of cloud below. Leaving the trees behind, I emerged at a junction of paths and followed a pathway marked by a two lines of stones as it ascended the back of a broad, black-sand ridge towards the peak of Montana Guajara. The walking now became more difficult in the loose sandy soil and this combined with the effects of the altitude made for slow progress as I stopped fairly frequently to catch my breath. Leaving the black sand of Montana Arena behind, I climbed a rocky path on the slopes of Guajara and after passing the turn-off to the summit, the peak of Montana Pasajiron came into view above the Degollada de Guajara pass. Reaching the pass, I decided to stop for a lunchbreak and enjoyed the superb scenery from the rim of the caldera where I had a chat with a group of German walkers walking from the parador to the Lunar Landscape and back again! Wishing these intrepid if somewhat insane hikers farewell, I descended to the Siete Canadas trail where I left the GR131 and turned left to the parador. After admiring the rock formations of Piedras Amarillas I reached the parador where I pushed the boat out and paid an outrageous price for a large slab of chocolate cake and a coffee before catching the bus back to the south.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Walking the GR131 in Tenerife - Arona to Vilaflor

Distance: 11 Miles - Ascent: 3,500ft - Descent: 1,200ft - Time: 5.75 Hours

Having decided to walk a section of the GR131 long distance route from Arona to La Esperanza, I set off on Sunday morning on the the first stage from Arona to Vilaflor. Actually, the official direction appears to be the opposite way around as this section is 'Stage 7', the last part of the route from La Esperanza to Arona, which when you look at the ascent/descent figures above would make sense. Never having been blessed with much common sense, I set off from Arona on an overcast morning as local people decorated the streets with pictures made from sand, salt and flowers for Corpus Cristi. Leaving Arona, I walked to the village of Vento and here left the road for the Camino de Suarez, which forms the first part of the route. As I crossed the Barranco del Rey, the surrounding peaks were cloaked in swirling clouds but it was already hot and humid. Climbing to the Degollada Frailitos pass, I paused briefly before ascending into the cloud and climbed steeply to the threshing circle at the pass between the peaks of Roque de Los Bresos and Roque Imoque. Although misty, the climb proved to be very hot in the humid, moisture laden cloud and the surrounding flora was dripping almost as much as me! An hour and a quarter after leaving Arona, I arrived at the large threshing circle at the pass and followed the country lane to Ifonche. As I left the village, I emerged from the cloud to be greeted by a stunning sight. Ahead lay pine forest stretching as far as the eye could see, the huge 'scar' of the Barranco del Rey the only interruption in the otherwise green carpet in front of me. High above the forest, the peaks of Sombrero de Chasna and El Sombrerito marked the boundary of the National Park and I began the long ascent of Montana Chimoche alongside the Barranco del Rey and after what seemed an age, I reached the edge of this impressive ravine. As I decended to the streambed, I passed a brand new GR131 sign warning of temporary flooding, which I suppose could be a problem if you were mad enough to be walking in some of the monsoon-like rain that the island gets from time to time but seemed otherwise superfluous. A short distance later, I arrived at the attractive Puente Guayero stone bridge in the Barranco de las Goteras before ascending Montana Mohino. Great views now opened up of the surrounding Ifonche countryside and the high mountains above as I puffed and panted my way uphill. Reaching the top, I descended once more to a track at the foot of Montana de la Vica, a mountain with a spilt personality it would seem as it is marked on most maps as Montana de los Guaniles or de la Vica. Vica is shorter and easier to spell than Guaniles so that's how I usually refer to it. After following the track for a short distance the route once again begins to climb towards La Coruja where there is a fantastic viewpoint surrounded by an amphitheatre of cliffs overlooking the surrounding countryside and on a clear day you can see down to the southern coastal plain. This was such a day, the earlier cloud having cleared, so I took advantage of the large, stone seat conveniently placed at the cliff edge and enjoyed the scenery as I took a well earned break. After leaving La Coruja, I climbed a short incline on a path below cliffs, which signalled the end of the climbing for the day. Not long afterwards I found myself on the outskirts on Vilaflor as I reached tarmac at the Villalba Hotel. From here it was just a short downhill stroll into the Plaza San Pedro and the end of this stage of the walk.