Monday, 28 November 2011

Walking Tenerife's Badlands

Puerto de Güimar
Last week, I finally got around to walking the Malpais de Güimar, the volcanic coastline close to Puerto de Güimar on the east coast of Tenerife. This walk has been on my 'to do' list for some time and while it doesn't present much of a challenge either in time or effort required, it did prove to be a fascinating walk. Starting from the pleasant, if unremarkable seafront of Puerto de Güimar, the walk starts by an information board at the edge of the malpais and there are a couple of routes to choose from.

The Malpais de Güimar
I decided to follow the coastal path to the village of El Socorro and then return through the lava-fields at the base of the volcanic cinder cone of Montaña Grande. The word 'malpais' translates as 'badlands' and almost any area of volcanic wasteland in Tenerife gets saddled with this rather sinister sounding title. The lava in this instance issued forth from Montaña Grande a mere 10,000 years ago, so the area, geologically speaking, is in it's infancy. I was fortunate enough to have picked a gloriously sunny morning for my walk and set off from the edge of the village, passing ramshackle fisherman's shanties on the edge of the shore.
The Salt Flats
I followed the well-defined path as the sun sparkled on the Atlantic Ocean, the dramatic mountains of the Güimar Valley forming a fantastic, contrasting backdrop to the black, cardón strewn lava. As I approached the next information board, I noticed a number of flat, rectangular areas set in the lava and the board explained that these were 'slat flats', where sea water would become trapped and evaporate in the sun leaving behind the sea salt. Continuing, I arrived at the 'summit' of Montaña de la Mar, which at 27 metres above sea-level, barely qualifies for the title 'montaña' but on the top I found another information board explaining how the malpais came into being. The elevation, though modest, also gave an excellent aerial view of the lava fields. After around an hour of walking, I arrived at the village of El Socorro. Here, I found a pleasant stretch of black sand beach, which provided an excellent opportunity for a breather and I sat for a while in the hot sunshine watching the waves breaking on the shore before heading off through the village to locate the return path.
Montaña Grande
El Socorro, although pleasant enough, is unfortunate in that it has a large industrial estate backing onto it and as I left the village, I skirted the edge of the incongruously situated warehouses before picking up the path to Montaña Grande. Leaving the industry behind, I now followed a wide path to the volcanic cone, where it became covered in sand and yet another information board informed me that this originated from the beach at El Socorro, having been blown there by the wind. There are two routes around the foot of the cone and I had chosen the one closest to the sea as the other paralleled the TF1 motorway too closely for my liking. From Montaña Grande, I followed the easy path back to Puerto de Güimar, where I relaxed with a drink in the square on the seafront at one of cafes after a fairly easy but fascinating walk of around three hours.  
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