Wednesday, 3 May 2017

A Walk Through Tenerife's Past

El Roque at the start of the walk

The south of Tenerife is often dismissed by many walkers in preference for the more traditionally 'pretty' areas of the island. This walk however, despite rarely being far from towns and villages, has just about everything you could ask for in a walk, mountain views, impressive barrancos, ancient trails, miradors, and many historic examples of a past way of life. The walk begins from the stunning Mirador de La Centinela above Valle San Lorenzo and descends on the old camino real to San Miguel below the slopes of the imposing Roque de Jama.

Descending to La Hoya

Roque de Jama

The whole walk is punctuated with useful information boards giving details of various facets of a past way of life in the south of the island. In the early part of the walk, on the ascent to La Hoya, the camino passes the Fuente de La Hoya, a spring at the side of the trail. The spring, along with two others, was the reason for the choice of location for the first country house, the Caserio de La Hoya, in the San Miguel region. This impressive building, which is now a casa rural, is passed just after the spring and shortly after this, along the road from the house, you will find a well preserved tile-kiln.

Tile Kiln at La Hoya

Dropping down into the scenic Barranco del Drago, the Fuente del Drago is found beneath the towering rocks. Here, there are well preserved remnants of the past in the form of a water cistern, which was sadly mostly dry when I passed by but the water channels feeding it could be clearly seen carved into the rock as could a number of stone sinks, once used as a public laundry for washing clothes. This spring was a very important resource for the local population who used it for obtaining water for drinking as well as washing clothes and irrigating crops.

La Fuente de Tamaide in the Barranco del Drago

In this area, the rock was quarried for use in the building of terracing walls as well as paving the caminos. On the approach to Tamaide, an old 'tuff' quarry is encountered. This light-coloured volcanic rock was quarried for building, including the construction of the water channels that criss-crossed the countryside carrying water to irrigate the terracing.

Giant Houseleek

Climbing out of the Barranco del Drago

Looking into the Barranco del Drago

 San Miguel is the next stop along the way and it is worth leaving the walk for a short detour around the town. The camino real parallels the current main road and is lined with simple but attractive Canarian houses and would have at one time been a busy thoroughfare with merchants transporting and selling their wares as they travelled across the island. The camino real was part a the Camino Real de Chasna, an important artery connecting the south of the island via Vilaflor and the Las Cañadas National Park with La Orotava in the north.

Roque de Jama from Tamaide

My White Bicycle, Tamaide

Ornate garden near Tamaide

Just before the walk turns right following a sign for Aldea Blanca, the 18th Century Casa del Capitan is passed. 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.

Camino de Las Lajas corpse road

San Miguel was also the first location in the south to receive electricity and the remains of the generating station are still visible from the camino, here known as the Calle de La Iglesia., which eventually arrives at the church in the quiet shady square where you will also find the old biblioteca. This is a good spot for a break in the walk or if you prefer, you can head up to the centre of the village to avail yourself of one of the cafes in the high street.

Descending to Aldea Blanca

Returning to the walk by the Casa del Capitan, the route now descends to Aldea Blanca, initially on tarmac, following an old corpse road before arriving after a steep descent in the middle of the village. For some reason, the information boards along this trail, which up until now have been in three languages, suddenly revert to 'Spanish only' but if you have a smattering of the language, it is still possible to glean some information. 

Vineyards & volcanoes

After passing through a cultivated area on the valley floor, close to riding stables, the long climb back to the Mirador La Centinela begins. Part way up the climb, there is another information board detailing the recent volcanic activity in the south of the island and the viewpoint highlights just how many volcanoes litter this part of the coastal plain.

Climbing to the Mirador La Centinela

After a fairly stiff climb, the refreshments on offer at the mirador restaurant are too tempting to resist and it is worth relaxing with something cold and refreshing as the huge 'picture window' allows you to observe much of the route you have just walked from the comfort of a welcoming chair.

The GPS track for the walk can be downloaded by clicking on the Wikiloc symbol in the top right hand corner of the map below.

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