Monday, 28 May 2012

A Circular Walk from Mirador La Centinela

View from the Mirador La Centinela
The Mirador La Centinela is a spectacular restaurant/viewpoint situated around 1,800 ft above the San Lorenzo valley giving stunning views down to the coastal plain and inland to the mountains. A good circular walk starts here from in front of the restaurant and descends into the barranco below, initially on a track of volcanic cinder, before climbing up to the hamlet of La Hoya. As the path climbs to the hamlet, it passes the  Fuente de La Hoya spring that would, in the past have refreshed travellers and their animals along the way and if you look carefully, you will see water troughs carved into the volcanic rock at different heights to serve both human and animal needs.

View inland at the start of the walk
La Hoya is the site of the first settlement in the area and the route passes the picturesque Casa Vera de La Hoya rural house before arriving at the road, close to a well preserved tile kiln.  After crossing the road, the route descends into the impressive Barranco del Drago before arriving at the site of the Fuente de Tamaide on the barranco floor.

Abandoned terracing
Here, at the spring, is an old communal laundry area and after a scramble between huge boulders the route crosses a wooden walkway as it climbs out of the barranco. The walk now crosses a  quiet rural road and follows an old cobbled camino that crosses a smaller barranco before a road at Tamaide is reached and signposts lead you into the town of San Miguel, passing the Casa del Capitan . This traditional old Canarian house belonged to the Alfonso family until the end of the nineteenth century and Miguel Alfonso Martinez achieved the highest military rank in the municipality, which is where the house gets it's name. After the house was devastated by fire, it was purchased and restored by the town and now houses an historical and ethnographic museum .

Church in San Miguel
Now, you have a decision to make. From the Casa del Capitan continue along the Calle de La Iglesia to soon reach a signpost for Aldea Blanca on the right near the La Bodega Vieja restaurant. If you want to explore San Miguel or have had enough walking, you can continue along the Calle de la Iglesia into the church square where where you can take advantage of the shade and benches provided by the Indian Laurels. From here, it is a short walk up to the main road where you can catch the bus back to La Centinela. However, if you still have plenty of energy, and want to continue the walk, you will need to return to the Aldea Blanca signpost by the La Bodega Vieja restaurant following green and white signs.

View across the vineyards
This downhill route follows an old corpse road, initially on tarmac that soon gives way to a rough track by a house. There are parts of the route where the signposting leaves a little to be desired but if you keep right at all of the major intersections, you will eventually find yourself descending to Aldea Blanca. Bear left in the village to reach the church square where you can take advantage of the shaded benches before setting off on the steep climb back up to the Mirador La Centinela.

Adeje Mountains
After leaving the square, heading for the main road, the route leaves the village on a road alongside the Cafeteria Agora to a plaza on the right, where you pick up the path to La Centinela, which can be found up some steps in the right hand corner.  This follows a track around some industrial units before passing close to a riding stables and climbing steeply up to the Buzanada-Aldea Blanca road. The signs here are a little misleading, giving the impression on reaching the top of the climb that you carry straight on, where in fact you turn right along the old road to reach the main road.

Montana Cambada
The continuation is across this road and the path climbs steeply, giving excellent views across the nearby vineyards to the surrounding volcanic cones and Adeje Mountains in the background. As you climb higher, you will catch glimpses of the restaurant at the Mirador La Centinela above you, until eventually, you rejoin the path you descended on at the beginning of the walk. Just turn left here and climb back up to the Mirador where you can recover in the restaurant with a cool drink while enjoying the views down to the coast. The whole walk takes around four hours, not including breaks for refreshments and sightseeing in San Miguel, the last hour of the walk is mostly uphill so you will need to be reasonably fit. There is also no shade on the walk, apart from the plazas in San Miguel and Aldea Blanca, so plenty of water and a sun-hat are also recommended.   

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Pico Viejo – Climbing Tenerife’s Second Highest Mountain

The gap in the list glared at me, like a tooth missing from the smile of a small child. I had climbed three of the four highest mountains on the island, but for some unexplained reason the second highest summit had eluded me. Now, I was setting off to fill the gap with a climb to the 3,134 metre summit of Pico Viejo.
Montaña Guajara & Parador at the start of the walk
I set off from the parador passing the incredible rock sculptures of the Roques de Garcia in the Las Cañadas National Park, that at this hour of the morning were thankfully free of the hundreds of tourists that would inevitably arrive by tour bus and hire car to scramble over them later in the day.
Los Roques de Garcia with Pico Viejo in the background
 Turning away from the display of ‘rock-art’, I set-off on ‘sendero 23’ following a vague line of cairns across the lava in the direction of Pico Viejo, my objective for the day. At this point in the walk, my attention was dominated, as is every visitors’, by the towering presence of Teide, dwarfing Pico Viejo and reducing it to an insignificant protuberance on the western flank of the giant volcano.
Looking back along the path into Las Cañadas
 Initially, the path was fairly easy going as it climbed very gently across the lava fields but soon, it began to steepen, and I could already feel the rarity of the air caused by the altitude. I lost the path briefly, seduced by some erroneous cairns but soon found my way back onto the path as it climbed steeply over a ridge of sharply jagged lava before descending into a valley. The ascent out of this was very steep, on a path of loose, deep volcanic grit and I found myself staggering backwards as the ground gave way under me.
First view into the summit crater
 Most of the ascent was like this, as each ridge was conquered, so another appeared and the upward slog began all over again. At one point, the path vanished altogether as it crossed an area of huge lava boulders but I soon regained the path on the other side.
Pico del Teide
 After three hours of ascent in ever thinning air, I reached the path between Pico Viejo and its more illustrious neighbour, the climb from here to Teide’s summit looking impossibly steep. After another half an hour’s climb, I sat on the summit of Tenerife’s second highest peak, which turned out to be simply a high point on the rim of the large summit crater.
Altimeter reading over 10,000ft
From the top, the views were stunning, encompassing four islands, as well as the Teno Mountainsin the north-west, the north coast, and standing silently overlooking it all, the brooding presence of Teide’s towering peak, decorated with frozen fingers of lava, like icing on a badly decorated cake.
Looking down to the north coast
The summit crater on Pico Viejo is far more impressive than that of Teide’s, which tapers to such a point that it has only a small indentation on the top.  Here, however, the crater is an impressive sea of lava surrounded by rugged cliffs that would dominate the scene but for Teide’s presence.
Summit crater with Teno Mountains and the island of La Palma 
 After over half an hour exploring the summit, I turned and headed back downhill and mentally filled in the gap in my list. It had been a long but worthwhile wait.