Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Walking in a Winter Wonderland

One of the attractions of Tenerife as a winter walking destination is that you can be fairly sure that you will be spending a lot of your time walking in sunshine. Similarly, you can also be sure that you will be walking in mild, if not hot temperatures. At least that was my experience up until this week. For the past two or three days, the island has experienced temperatures the like of which have been more akin to an early spring day in the UK. Yesterday, I was guiding on a walk in the west of the island and the scenes that greeted us were more Lake District than Teno Mountains. Starting from the village of Santiago Del Teide, we began to climb the attractive mountain path to the Degollada de La Mesa (pass). This eucalyptus and pine clad valley is my favourite way to the summit of Pico de Gala and follows a normally dry streambed as it winds uphill through endemic plant life and pine trees. Yesterday however, we had an additional attraction to entertain us, a beautiful mountain stream complete with waterfalls! One of the things I miss about walking in Tenerife is the total lack of permanent rivers so this was a wonderful bonus, enhancing what is already a lovely walk. As we ascended, we turned to look beyond Santiago Del Teide and were greeted with another unusual sight, peeking just below the cloudline. It is not unusual to see Teide snow-clad in the winter but now, as well as the lower flanks of the volcano gleaming white in the general gloom, we had views of the lower hills also covered in a silent white carpet of snow. Reaching the pass, we enjoyed the stunning views into the Masca Valley before climbing to the summit of Pico de La Mesa for an even more impressive vista. This was followed by a walk on an enchanting path through a section of laurisilva forest, one of the few remaining pockets of this ancient woodland that at one time covered the south of Europe. As we emerged from the woods, we gazed down on the Erjos Pools, disused quarry workings that have now been reclaimed by nature. These pools are fairly unique on the island and it often seems odd to see moorhens gliding across the water in Tenerife accompanied by the sound of croaking frogs. On this visit, the pools were full to overflowing and the footpaths in the area were doing a good impression of fast flowing streams as we splashed our way back to Santiago del Teide.

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