Monday, 18 April 2011

Walking the Royal Road

The Chasna Royal Road is an ancient trade route that from pre-Hispanic times up until the end of the 19th century linked Vilaflor, Spain's highest village, with the north of the island at La Oratava. This route is a high-level traverse of the island, crossing the high mountains via the Las Cañadas National Park and was at one time the quickest way of travelling between the two regions. Traders would carry their wares on the backs of donkeys, oxen and sometimes even horses, mules or camels, as they led their laden animals on foot, walking alongside them as they toiled up the steep mountainsides. The trail was also used by goat-herders heading for the high pastures of Las Cañadas as the heat dried out the grazing in the lower parts of the island. Even in the height of the summer, the huge caldera still provided grazing for animals, as it once had for the Guanche's animals before the arrival of the Spanish wiped out the indigenous island population. The ruined house of Casa Marrubial can be found along the path and marks what was once an overnight resting place along the way for the goat-herders and their flocks as they headed for the summits of the island. The way was also used by farmers as they went to work in the terraces and Casa Golindo, at the top the El Atajo (the shortcut), the steep hill out of Vilaflor, is now the only remaining finca still operating along the way. The first section of the Crater to Coast walk, which follows the path over the Degollada de Ucanca, is a branch of this ancient way. This lesser used branch, avoids the main GR131 long distance route to the east of Tenerife's fourth highest summit Montaña Guajara, descending to the west of this impressive peak and could not be more different scenically to the GR131 route. Whereas this official route traverses the stark, black-sand dunes of Montaña Arena, the Crater to Coast walk descends through the wild and beautiful Barranco de Eris de Carnero (below), which is framed on one side by the impressive tower of Roque Encaje and on the other by the cliffs of Montaña Guajara. In early summer, the way down is lined with Tajinaste Rojo and Teide Broom, that occasionally encroaches on the path and this, along with the rough, boulder strewn going underfoot, gives the walk in this area an undiscovered feel. Later on in the walk, after descending alongside the lower sandy slopes of Montaña Arena, the route eventually joins with the more populated Paisaje Lunar or 'Lunar Landscape' path back to Vilaflor. The whole of this section of the Crater to Coast route is scenically spectacular, passing through the majestic scenery of the Las Cañadas National Park to Vilaflor, Spain's highest village, with Teide, the islands 'Jewel in the Crown', providing a wonderful backdrop to the beginning of the walk. Last Saturday, I led a group of walkers along the route on a superb day, with very clear views to the coast 8,000ft below the Degollada de Ucanca pass. After around five hours walking, we descended through the 'Corona Forestal' pine forest and admired the carpets of orange California Poppies that greeted our arrival in Vilaflor, adding a vivid splash of colour to this attractive mountain village. For more photos click here
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