Friday, 30 November 2012

Valle Arriba circular walk via Arguayo and Las Manchas

 Valle de Arriba

Continuing my recent exploration of footpaths in and around the Santiago valley, I set off on Wednesday from Valle de Arriba to walk to Arguayo with the intention of returning via La Hoya mountain and the village of Las Manchas. As usual, I was wearing shorts and T-shirt but had to stop fairly soon to don my lightweight anorak owing to a sudden downpour of chilly rain. As the Santiago valley marks the dividing line between the north and south micro-climates, it can often be shrouded in mist and rain on the northern side while the southern side is bathed in sunshine.

Rainbow over the Santiago valley

Today, however, didn't look very promising in either direction as I climbed out of the village following signs for Arguayo on a steep rocky path that was soon flanked by drystone walls. Looking across the valley, I enjoyed the wonderful sight of a rainbow, which combined with the weather gave the walk a strangely 'non-Tenerife' feel.

Ascending from the Santiago valley

This feeling was soon dispelled however after reaching the top of the climb as I joined a path across the lava fields of the Chinyero reserve below Montaña Bilma. This part of the walk, despite being uncomfortable underfoot, was scenically remarkable, the lava having the appearance of a frozen, stormy sea. After crossing the lava, the walk entered the Corona Forestal natural park, the scenery now softened by the green of the Canary pines and the amazing display of hundreds of 'bejeque' plants growing from the lava.

Crossing the lava below Mt.Bilma

Pines and bejeque plants soften the landscape 

The weather improves

The path now descended fairly steeply in improving weather before arriving in the village of Arguayo, which has a tradition of producing pottery but unfortunately, I arrived too late to visit the Cha Domitila pottery museum, which had just closed.

Descending to Arguayo

Wine press in Arguayo

Leaving the village, I passed a well preserved wine press and climbed up a driveway leading to a spectacular pathway around La Hoya mountain. The scenery from the path was superb with views the length of the valley from Tamaimo to Santiago del Teide and across to the mountains on the far side. The only negative on this wonderful stretch was the sight below of the unfinished ring-road, threatening to spoil the natural beauty of the valley. After descending to the edge of the road, I climbed the very steep track into the village of Arguayo.

Views from La Hoya

Here I crossed the main road and continued climbing towards Montaña Bilma and shortly after passing a calvario shrine, I turned left onto a wide path marked out with stones across the black volcanic cinder. Looking back, I enjoyed a superb view of Teide complete with a dusting of snow on the summit before reluctantly turning my back on this marvellous scene to follow an undulating path across the hillside.

Montaña Bilma

Teide with a dusting of snow

Soon, the village of Valle de Arriba came back into view and I rejoined my outward path, descending in a shower, the second time in a week that I had finished a walk in the village in rain.      

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

A Walk from Valle de Arriba

Recently, I have been exploring footpaths in the west of the island and today I decided on a walk that I had found on the internet from the village of Valle de Arriba, close to Santiago del Teide . Although I was already familiar with many of the paths in the walk there were some promising variants that I hadn't tried and as I am always on the lookout for alternative routes, this was an interesting choice. 

Ascending from Valle de Arriba

Setting off from the village on a pleasant but cool morning, I located the path up and out of the valley. This section was new to me and was a delight to walk and must be wonderful in spring when the flowers are in bloom. As I climbed fairly steeply up the narrow valley my attention was drawn to the cry of a buzzard just overhead and I stopped to watch as it soared above me and disappeared out of the valley.

Teide is obscured by clouds

After climbing out of the valley, I followed a road for a short distance before turning onto a path to the rural hotel at Los Partidos de Tranquis, which seemed to be fairly deserted as I passed by, with no signs of life anywhere. I now followed a path through pine forest signposted to the Chinyero reserve, where the cinder cone volcano of  Montaña Chinyero marks the spot of the last eruption on the island in 1909. 

Edible Boletus 

As I walked through the forest, I was amazed to see carpets of edible boletus mushrooms spreading in every direction under the pines, covering the ground in hundreds of reddish-brown fungi as far as the eye could see. Apparently, they grow in the pine forest in the the autumn and winter after rain, which we had recently experienced on the island after a long period of drought. 

Volcan Garachico

Emerging from the trees, I arrived at an amazing landscape of volcanic ash and the black cinder cone of Volcan Garachico - also known as Montaña Negra - which erupted in 1706 and destroyed large parts of the northern coastal town of Garachico. Often, from this spot, there is a stunning view of Teide, which today  was obscured by clouds but this didn't detract from the superb views of the surrounding black landscape and cone of Volcan Garachico, framed by the bright green of young Canary pines growing out of the ash. 

Montaña Chinyero and the lava fields

After another section of pine forest, I arrived at a track by the Montaña Chinyero circular path, which I am quite familiar with but passed by on this occasion on the wide track giving excellent views of the nearby lava flow from the 1909 eruption with the dark cone of Chinyero, looking like the identical twin of Volcan Garachico, visible in the background. 

Descending path to Valle de Arriba

I began the descent back to Valle de Arriba through some pleasant landscapes with views of the nearby forested hills, arriving eventually at a single track tarmac lane, which I knew led down back to Valle de Arriba in long looping bends having descended on it some years earlier. Since then however, a good, albeit steep path has been cleared which makes for a much more satisfying and rapid descent into the village. As I descended, a heavy shower forced me to retrieve my anorak from the rucksack, something that I rarely need to do on the island, although it had stopped by the time I arrived back at my car after 4.5 hours of very enjoyable walking.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

An Erjos circular walk

Dodging the puddles on the way to Las Portelas

The village of Erjos, which is situated at over 3,000ft above sea level in the north-west of the island, is crossed by numerous footpaths and offers many opportunites to create circular walks in the area. I had planned a route from the village to Las Portelas from where I would climb to the Cumbre de Masca and then onto the Cumbre de Bolico before returning via the Erjos Pools.  As I set off to walk to Las Portelas, the air was cool and a little damp, the wet roads and puddles on the footpaths evidence of overnight rain.

The paths are well signed

Climbing out of the village, I located a forest track to Las Portelas and having done so, relaxed into a steady rhythm along the fairly level track into the Monte del Agua forest, which appeared to be living up to it's name as I dodged the large puddles spanning the track in places. This area was affected by the fires in the summer but although I saw some damage, it wasn't as bad as I had feared, at least not in this area.

The Memorial plaque

The views on this stretch were limited to the trees and plant life with only occasional glimpses of the mountains until I reached the turn off for Los Silos. After this brief but spectacular view into the Barranco de Los Cochinos, I continued at a fairly brisk pace until after around two hours I arrived at a memorial plaque set on a large boulder at the side of the track surrounded by six newly planted trees. The memorial related to a tragic incident near Los Silos in 2007 when six walkers were killed after they entered a galleria - a tunnel bored into the mountain for water extraction - and were overcome by carbon monoxide fumes.

Views of the El Palmar valley

Continuing, I emerged from the trees and paused to enjoy a superb view of the El Palmar valley before descending to Las Portelas where I located the path to the Cumbre de Masca and began the very steep climb out of the village, which gave me plenty of excuses to stop and take photos.

All paths lead to Las Portelas

Because of the steepness of the path I was soon high above the village once more and after crossing the main Masca-Buenavista road, I found myself on the summit of the ridge with spectacular views in every directions. Below me, Masca and the prominent 'V' shape of the barranco were now in view and the village of El Palmar, with it's peculiar volcanic cone 'sliced' like a cake dominating the view in the opposite direction. The 'slices' were created when the fertile volcanic soil was removed to use in banana plantations.

El Palmar and it's 'cake-like' volcanic cone

After a break, I began ascending the ridge, which although not as steep as the climb out of Las Portelas, was still a fairly tiring ascent. On this section, I found it difficult to know which way to look as in every direction the views were simply stunning.

Views of the Masca Valley

Soon, the summits of Pico de Gala and Pico Verde became prominent ahead and I emerged from the laurisilva forest at a junction of paths before plunging in again as I followed a signposted path to Erjos. As I approached the descending path to the Erjos Pools, I had a superb view of Teide and the neighbouring Pico Viejo through the trees and it was in this area that I saw the most evidence of damage from the recent fire.

Teide and Pico Viejo

As I descended steeply, the terrain, which earlier in the year had been a lush, verdant landscape was now a barren wasteland of twisted black trunks and branches. Despite the recent rain, there appeared to be water only in the largest and lowest of the pools, which are old quarries formed some decades ago when the fertile volcanic soil  was extracted for use on farmland in the south of the island, where the soil is traditionally poor.

Erjos pools

Now, nature has reclaimed them and they form an incongruous landscape feature and a home for coots, a number of which glided across the surface as I read the information board on the edge of the largest pool. Leaving the pools behind, I followed the signposts back to the village where I arrived after five hours of superb, if somewhat strenuous walking

Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Climbing Montaña de Guama

The Santiago Valley

After a fairly lengthy spell in which I have walked very little, I decided it was time to get out of my armchair  and lace up the walking boots again. The previous week in Tenerife had been wet with some fairly heavy rain and although this had passed by when I set off for Santiago del Teide, the skies were still quite overcast.

Teide is hidden in the clouds

I planned to walk above the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz with a view to perhaps locating a 'window', or hole in a rocky ridge overlooking the barranco, which is also visible from the Los Gigantes area. The information board at the start of the walk in Santiago del Teide describes the barranco as the Barranco Seco, which a quick glance at the Instituto Geografico Nacional 1:25.000 map for the area will show you is incorrect.

Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz

It is in fact the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz, the Barranco Seco, (which in it's higher reaches is called the Barranco del Natero) being the 'filling' in the sandwich formed by the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz and the Barranco de Masca. I have noticed this often with official signs on footpaths on the island, the most memorable of these was a sign at the start of the descent into the Barranco del Rey informing walkers that they were about to descend into the Barranco del Infierno, the well known walk some miles away in Adeje. Fortunately, the sun has now bleached this out but I have noticed other errors on information boards on various walks around the island. Surely it can't be that difficult to get these things right?

Roque Blanco

I followed an old camino real for the first part of the route, which contoured comfortably above the village of El Molledo before arriving at a path junction. Here, the view opened out to give a superb vista down the Santiago valley to Tamaimo and beyond and as the path swung right it continued on the same contour passing an old, apparently abandoned finca. Soon, the path reached a saddle in the ridge and crossed to the other side where a stunning view into the Barrranco Mancha de Los Diaz was revealed, with the prominent, light coloured spike of Roque Blanco dominating the view on the opposite wall of the barranco. The barranco held some uncomfortable memories for me as I had suffered a fall while descending through the bottom of this rugged ravine on a walk down to the Playa Seco beach around eighteen months earlier. My plan had been to descend the Barranco Mancha de Los Diaz to the beach and return up the Barranco Seco.

The barranco meets the sea

Upon reaching the beach however, my knee, which I had landed on heavily on when I fell decided it had had enough and seized up. To make things worse, my other knee came out in sympathy with it as I struggled back up the barranco. I had decided to abandon my plan to return up the Barranco Seco and return the same way, but a combination of dodgy knees and the heat turned the walk into a marathon slog back up and out of the barranco.

Los Gigantes

Today however, I wasn't planning anything so adventurous and a short while after starting to descend into the barranco, I located a narrow path, which left the main path and headed off in the direction of the 'window'  in the ridge, my intended destination. This narrow path, hugging the upper reaches of the southern barranco wall, was a delight to walk and apart from the occasional minor scramble stayed on the same contour for most of it's length.  At one point, the woody 'croak' of a raven overhead made me smile as I had heard the same call on my descent into the barranco eighteen months earlier just prior to my fall and I concentrated hard on where I was putting my feet to make sure that this wasn't a portent that history was about to be repeated.

The view from Montaña de Guama

Soon, the path began to climb steeply and I reached the top of the barranco wall and arrived at a spectacular viewpoint. Below, the ground fell away into the depths of the barranco, while on the far side, the communications masts on the summit of Pico de Gala were clearly visible behind the sharply pointed summit of Pico Verde.  Ahead to my left, the whole of the west and south coasts were visible as far as the lighthouse at Punta de Rasca and directly below, the marina at Los Gigantes was clearly visible. Along the ridge ahead the 'window' could be clearly seen and I made a mental note of a path heading south before continuing along the ridge in the direction of the window. After a short distance, the path became indistinct although there were paint markings to follow.

After around 15 minute of following this ever dwindling path, I arrived at a rocky promontory where the path and markings disappeared.  I surveyed the ground ahead, which looked decidedly unpromising and this, combined with the height loss required to reach the window, helped me make the decision to turn around. I didn't think the effort required was worthwhile to get to what is essentially a hole in the rock and besides, I wanted to keep some energy in reserve to explore the path heading south I had passed earlier. I returned to the path and followed it for around ten minutes and arrived at a cliff edge overlooking the Santiago valley just below Tamiamo where I turned left and began the steep climb up the back of Montaña de Guama before arriving at the highest point of the mountain.  From here, I had more stunning views before locating a path off of the mountain. This proved to be extremely steep and rocky and at times I had to sit down and ease myself carefully down each 'step'

Cruz de Los Misioneros

This proved to be very tiring but eventually I reached a path junction with a signpost pointing to Cruz de Misioneros, a large white cross set on a rocky outcrop just above the path which apparently, if the information board in Santiago del Teide can be believed, was placed there in the 1950's by two missionaries. I climbed the short distance to the cross and sat here for a break enjoying the view down to Tamaimo directly beneath me.  After my break, I continued the descent, which although a little less steep, still gave my knees a good workout. Eventually, I reached the old camino real between Tamaimo and Santiago del Teide and followed it as it paralleled below my earlier outward route before arriving back in Santiago del Teide after 4.75 hours of walking in spectacular scenery