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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

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