Monday, 20 June 2011

Walking in the Afur Valley

Despite having lived and walked in Tenerife for three and a half years, the island continues to surprise me. Yesterday, as forecasts promised temperatures rising to the mid-thirties by the early part of this week, I set off for the Anaga Mountains from the south with the temperatures already nudging the high twenties. As I drove north, the whole island appeared to be quietly simmering in the heat, with the haze as evident over Santa Cruz and La Laguna as it had been in Los Cristianos in the south. Turning off of the TF5 autopista, I headed for the mountains and was surprised to see a white topping of cloud slowly tumbling over the summits and hanging over the nearby valleys as I headed towards the village of Las Mercedes. Climbing up into the Anaga Rural Park on the steeply winding road, the atmosphere changed abruptly as I passed through laurisilva forest, the wet roads evidence of the moisture laden cloud drifting through the branches and condensing on the leaves before dripping onto the tarmac below. Soon, I was forced to turn on my headlights and slow my speed considerably as I was having difficulty seeing more than a few yards ahead in the gloom. Arriving at the Casa Carlos restaurant, I parked and surveyed the scene, or I would have had there been one to survey. Normally, from the restaurant there is a fantastic view into the Afur valley, which was my destination for the day but now all that was 'visible' was a swirling white blanket hiding everything apart from the nearby flora. Setting off, I followed the steep path in eerie silence down towards Taborno as it passed through tree heather dripping with condensation from the moisture laden clouds. From Taborno, I followed a contouring path through giant ferns and brambles, the wet ferns soaking my shorts as I pushed through them before arriving at a house that abruptly materialised from the mist. A woman brushing the path outside the house wished me 'buenos dias' and I replied 'mucha bruma', which in the circumstances probably didn't need saying and as I continued downhill, pungent smelling woodsmoke from a nearby bonfire mingled with the fog, as more houses materialised out of the mist before de-materialising just as rapidly .
Descending to the 1,400ft contour, I was suddenly treated to a superb view into the Barranco de Guardoz and as I continued, the village of Afur came into view below me. Descending further, I reached the outlying houses of the village clinging to a ridge and followed a paved path down into the bottom of the the valley. The fertile valley is known for it's stream and as I crossed the bridge to the village it was clear the flow of water, which in the winter months almost becomes a river, would soon be reduced to a few rockpools until the winter rains returned.
The main part of the tiny village consists of a few houses and a church haphazardly arranged along the valley road and often, when arriving in places as remote and isolated as this, I feel a little like an intruder, so I didn''t hang around long before locating the path out of the village. Climbing steeply, I arrived at a ridge and the amazing site of abandoned cave houses hanging precariously in a cliff-face, a wall built in front of these dwellings being all that stood between the original occupants and the valley floor several hundred feet below. Having passed this awe-inspiring sight, I re-entered the mist and climbed to the tiny hamlet of Roque Negro, where I located a relentlessly steep path up to the ridge road, which I followed back for a couple of miles to Casa Carlos. From here, I observed a cloud inversion in the Afur Valley and the amazing sight of the nearby summits protruding like mystical islands from a sea of white cotton wool before I set off on the drive back south in brilliant sunshine. Full size versions of photos below.

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