Saturday, 22 January 2011

Paradise Found Out

While putting together the routes in the Ifonche region for 'Discovering Tenerife on Foot', I became aware of a large amount of work happening in the area on path upgrading. In fact, because of this, I eventually altered the end of the Ifonche route to include a section of path that I later discovered was the new GR131 route from Arona to La Esperanza. One of the reasons for writing the guidebook was that I knew there were many paths in the south of the island that weren't, as far as I was aware, detailed in any guidebooks. As I reconnoitered the paths in total solitude I realised that the GR131 would pass through three of the routes in the book, the Ifonche route, the Crater to Coast route and the Vilaflor Circular. A few days ago, while walking the Vilaflor Circular, I had the unusual experience of meeting a number of other walkers, seven in all plus a group of mountain bikers. This may not seem a lot but I have walked this route quite a number of times in the past and have never met anyone else on it. One of the beauties of waymarked routes is that they take away the doubt and uncertainty when walking in unfamiliar countryside but this can also be a drawback because it popularises previously uncharted walking territory. Routes that previously allowed you to walk all day in solitude attract more walkers and this seems to be happening with the new GR131. For most, this is not a problem but I must say that I personally love nothing more than walking alone and not seeing a soul all day. Of course, this may seem a selfish desire, and probably it is, but I am always on the lookout for the more remote, unused paths in preference to the well-walked trails. Alfred Wainwright, author of the famous Lake District guidebooks, was often known to hide when he saw other walkers heading in his direction but his superb guides are responsible for drawing more walkers to the area than any other. He would probably never go out into his beloved mountains now with the huge amount of walkers to be found clambering over the fells, many ironically inspired by his own guidebooks. I wouldn't say that my preference for solitude extends to those extremes but I understand where he was coming from. Hillwalking is one of the few pastimes where you can totally get away from all other distractions and lose yourself for a day. Although a fairly small island, it is still possible at the moment to walk in Tenerife without seeing too many other walkers and enjoy a sense of solitude and adventure. However, as more and more paths are signposted and routes created, it must be hoped that it does not become more difficult in the future to find peace and solitude as the island attracts more walkers drawn by the GR131 and other waymarked paths. While it is good for the local economy that Tenerife is becoming a destination for walking holidays, as well as the traditional sun and sand for which it is renowned, it is to be hoped that the very thing that attracts them in the first place isn't lost under the bootprints of armies of holidaying hikers.