Sunday, 20 December 2009

Sunday Strolling

The eastern coast of Tenerife is the part that every visitor sees as they whiz along the TF1 motorway from the airport to their resort, and back again. Very few visitors ever spend any time there which means that, when it comes to walking, you’re quite likely to have the whole place virtually to yourself.

Last Sunday we wanted to do a short walk with a friend of ours who lives in the south of the island. The weather had been cloudy and damp just about everywhere on the island and the forecast was for more rain so we wanted somewhere that was a) our best shot at catching dry weather b) somewhere half way for us each to travel and c) in or around 2 hours maximum with a nice restaurant in which to end with lunch.
There was just one place that fitted the bill perfectly; the Güímar Malpaís.

Starting at the little port of El Puertito, we ambled across the badlands alongside the sea amidst great swathes of tabaiba, cardón and sea lettuce. In the spring and summer, the grasses are tall and green but in winter they’re brown and wispy, rippling the landscape in the breeze.
Crossing the lava fields we headed inland to Montaña Grande and skirted the base before heading back on a different route to the fish and seafood cafes and restaurants of Puertito. An idyllic little 2 hour circular stroll with views along the coast northwards to Las Teresitas beach and Santa Cruz and southwards to the lighthouse at Poris de Abona.

And if you’re staying in the south of the island, there’s a fantastic drive that takes you to El Puertito along the old Forgotten Road so you can combine touring with walking…perfect.

Thursday, 10 December 2009

Walking on Tenerife: Using Public Transport or Hiring a Car on Tenerife

When we first travelled abroad, we used to go on all the excursions available. I loved getting to see all sorts of interesting things, but hated being herded about and eating mediocre meals.
Within a few years we dumped the excursions, bought guide books and set off on our own. If it was in Europe, we’d hire a car, if it was further afield we’d use whatever public transport was available - tuk, tuks, trains, dhows, river taxis and even the occasional elephant. Instead of simply sightseeing we started having adventures. The experience was worlds away from the world of organised excursions.

It’s probably a safe bet to assume that if you’re reading this blog and you’re interested in walking on Tenerife, you are the sort of person who enjoys setting out under their own steam whether it’s by car or by local bus (sorry, no elephant transport here, although there are camels). But which depends on personal preferences and on what areas you hope to explore when you visit Tenerife.

The bus network on Tenerife is excellent in my opinion. Although we both drive we use it regularly if we’re going into Puerto de la Cruz or Santa Cruz for a night out, or to and from the airport, or the port at Los Cristianos if we’re travelling to La Gomera. Buses are cheap and on the whole reliable and if you’re planning on walking, you can get to many good walking areas by public transport. For example, if based in Puerto de la Cruz, a regular bus service will transport you into the heart of the pine forest in the upper La Orotava Valley. If you’re in the south west around Los Gigantes, the bus to Puerto drops walkers off at the Fleytas bar where there are a number of classic routes to explore.

But, and this is a giant sized ‘but’, if you’re the sort of person who relishes exploring the most remote corners of the places you visit, the less populated an area, the less likely it is to have a regular bus service. The most spectacular route to Mount Teide isn’t on a bus route because no-one lives along most of it.

I read a post on Tripadvisor recently from someone who had been to La Gomera. He said that it was completely different from Tenerife and that it was probably what Tenerife was like before tourism. He was wrong about that. The Anaga Mountains with their tiny agricultural hamlets are exactly like La Gomera; if anything, they make La Gomera look over developed. But some of the spectacular walks there are more or less ‘out of bounds’ to someone using public transport, so for many visitors there are great swathes of Tenerife which remain ‘hidden’.
For me that’s where the car wins hands down. Hirting a car on Tenerife opens up the whole island rather than just part of it.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

I Can't Buy Island Walks Because I can't Speak Spanish!

We'd like to publicly pass on a thousand 'thank you's to J in America for pointing out to us that when she tried to buy Island Walks, the Paypal page came up in Spanish.  No problem to any Spanish speakers out there, but a serious deterrent to those who aren't on best pal terms with that lovely language.

We've no idea how this happened; it was all set up in English, so some mischievous little Castilian gremlin has clearly been at work.

Anyway, thanks to J, everything is now once again in English, so anyone wishing to purchase any of the Island Walks will be able to do so without having to enrol in Spanish language courses first.

Apologies to all for any inconvenience caused by this annoying little glitch.

Guided Routes: Arico Coast and La Cueva Del Viento

Granadilla council are organising a couple of short walks this month.

The first is from Poris de Abona to Los Abades on the 12th and costs €5. The pick up point is outside the tourist office in El Médano at 9am (returning at 1pm).

And the second is into the volcanic tube, La Cueva del Viento near Icod de los Vinos. Entry to the cave and transport is included in the €12 price and the pick up point is also outside the tourist office in El Médano, but this time it’s an earlier start at 7.30am (returning at midday).

Anyone interested in joining the walks should contact José Juan Cano Delgado on 922 75 99 95 or by email at:

Monday, 23 November 2009

Events on Tenerife: Walk for Life in Playa de las Américas

We receive lots of queries about walking on Tenerife, well here’s the opportunity to indulge in something you enjoy and also do it for a great cause as donations made go to (AECC) “Asociación Española contra el Cáncer” (Spanish Association against Cancer) and (AMATE) “Asociación de Mujeres afectadas por Cáncer de mama” (Association of Women Affected by Breast Cancer).

Each year, thousands of people turn the promenade at Playa de las Américas into a pink parade in a colourful show of support for those who have been affected by this horrible disease.

Simply, register, make a donation, pick up your Walk for Life t-shirt, or pink cap and you can become a member of the pink parade.

Walk for Life this year takes place on Sunday the 13th December and the route runs along the promenade from the Mediterranean Palace hotel in Playa de las Américas to the Sally Tien Plaza, Costa Adeje.

Have a look at the Walk for Life website for more information

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Good News for Tenerife Walkers

The press invitation had quite clearly stated that walking shoes and warm clothing should be worn but it seems that for the staff of the local Town Hall, a visit from the President of the Tenerife Council was too important an occasion not to dress up for.

18th November was the 100th anniversary of Tenerife’s last volcanic eruption which came from Mount Chinyero in the pine forests of Santiago del Teide municipality. To mark the anniversary a plaque was to be unveiled at the foot of the volcano and some doves were to be released to fly over the frozen black lava that today fills the landscape.

Heeding the advice in the invitation and wearing sensible shoes and a warm jacket, I had to stifle my giggles as I watched the ‘suits’ from the Island Council and the local Town Hall trying to walk over the lava fields to where the plaque was being unveiled. Even funnier were the women, one in little white ballet-type shoes, one in gold sandals and one in high heel knee boots.
Apart from the Dick Emery type gait that they all had to adopt as they slipped and wobbled on the pumice rocks, they all had hunched shoulders and goose-pimply flesh from the distinctly nippy breeze that was blowing around the volcano.

Still, plaque uncovered and doves released, we all trooped our way back to the Casa del Patio in Santiago del Teide for the much more sedate second part of the centenary celebration.
Casa del Patio is the 17th century former home of the Hoyo y Solórzano family who used to own Santiago del Teide and it has now been beautifully restored by the Tenerife Council. Housing a permanent exhibition to the Chinyero eruption of 1909, this was the perfect occasion to officially open the Casa to the public.

It’s in an idyllic setting just behind the church in Santiago del Teide and stepping through the gates is like stepping back in time. Apart from the assorted cockerel, ducks and geese underfoot, there’s a wine museum, a wonderfully atmospheric Tasca with cheeses, hams and local wine and a rather elegant restaurant. There are also riding stables and there are plans to open riding trails locally so everyone can enjoy the spectacular scenery on horseback, the way many locals still do.
If you’re planning a trip to Masca I recommend stopping off here for an hour to wander the grounds, browse the shop and museums and sample some local produce at the Tasca.

Best of all, there’s a small rural hotel on the site which is due to be opened shortly and which will be the perfect stopover for hikers.
The trails around Santiago del Teide valley are some of the most diverse on Tenerife with terrain moving from lush, wild flower-filled valley, to pine forest and frozen lava fields around Mount Chinyero. You even move through climate zones from the humid, cooler Erjos Pools to the arid south at Arguayo. Walking these hills and valleys is akin to walking on at least three different islands.

When Casa del Patio Rural Hotel opens we’ll be able to combine a great day’s walking with a night in a stylishly rustic hotel and lunch at the Tasca.
Now that’s something to look forward to.

Friday, 30 October 2009

Walking in the South of Tenerife

The most enquiries we get from people about walking on Tenerife are:
1) I’m staying in the south and would like some walks within easy distance and
2) do you have any walks that aren’t too long?

Well, if I was a stone, I might just have killed two birds…

This week we’ve published ‘The Old South’ which is a series of five walks set, as the name suggests, in and around the south of Tenerife.
They range from an ancient trading route which takes you through the pretty hamlet of San Miguel before heading out into idyllic rural scenery and spectacular views, to pine forests and cliff-side paths above plunging ravines with magnificent vistas over Costa Adeje.
From above barrancos to within barrancos and from village to valley, all the walks in The Old South are less than 3 hours in duration and can easily be done by any reasonably fit person without the aid of breathing apparatus!

You can buy ‘The Old South’ for just €2 or you can buy the whole Island Walks series for just €6. Every purchase gets a free copy of ‘A Captivating Coastline’ which gives you a free bonus of five beautiful Tenerife coastal walks.
Happy hiking!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Fuzzy Walking Directions – A Recipe for Disaster

The term ‘recipe’ seems quite appropriate to use when talking about walking routes, especially when talking about writing walking routes.

Let’s be honest here, most walking routes anywhere have been written out any number of times by any number of people over the years. It’s very rare to find a completely ‘new’ walking route, but that doesn’t mean to say that there’s not something fresh to say, or a different approach to take.

It’s the same with recipes. Most recipes are variations on ones which have been handed down through families or recorded in cook books over aeons. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing new about the recipe. A dash of cumin here, a sprinkling of fresh herbs there and you’ve got something which improves on the original.

I bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this…hang on in there, I’ll get there in the end.

The recipe analogy came into my head the other day as I surveyed a bewildering noughts and crosses grid of identical looking paths heading in all sorts of directions. I’m sure from the air it must have looked like one of those ‘landing strip for flying saucers’ images from Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods.

I was heading up to the summit of Montaña Guaza beside Los Cristianos and had reached a crossroads of paths which had me scratching my head in confusion.

You might be thinking, ‘surely if you’re heading to the summit of a mountain, it’s pretty obvious which way to go… up’.

And normally I’d agree, but in this situation I was following instructions which very clearly told me, against my better judgement I have to add, to ignore the obvious and then held me tightly by the hand until they deserted me at the crisscross of paths at which point they ran off into the distance feebly shouting ‘I’ll meet you again when the path becomes a bit clearer.’

It was like following a recipe for a curry which, when it got to the stage of adding the exotic seasonings, told you to ‘now add some spices’ but didn’t tell you which ones.

I was pretty peed off, especially as It’s not the first time this has happened with these particular ‘walking instructions’ and decided to do what Andy and I regularly decide to do when trying to work out what we think is the best walking route – follow our instincts. More often than not this ends up being our way of adding those extra tasty spices and handfuls of aromatic fresh herbs.

As it turned out the route we would have followed, had the directions not told us otherwise, was the most direct and was much, much simpler. God knows why we were encouraged to go off on some wild goose chase.

But once again this is exactly one of the reasons we are putting together a series of walking routes for Tenerife which we think are more user friendly than… well anything we’ve come across yet.

We’ve specifically designed them so that they look great and are full of beautiful photographs and interesting snippets of information about the area and what people should look out for.

However, the most important aspect of them for us is this.

Unlike the instructions we were using which basically just ignored the fact that there were paths in all directions, we want to be there holding your hand, saying ‘don’t worry; we’ll stick with you all the way, especially when the path ahead is unclear.’

P.S. Our version of which route to take up Montaña Guaza is now available as part of our new ‘Island Walks – The Old South Routes’.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife - The Medio Ambiente Are Still Trying to Kill Me

I had no idea what to do. I squatted down and peered at the ground in front of me… nothing, not even the slightest suggestion of a path. I was a pine needle’s width away from putting my ear to the ground; not for any particular reason other than it looked good when Hawkeye did it in Last of the Mohicans and Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The forest stretched almost from horizon to horizon in front of us (well that’s what it seemed like), every inch of it looking exactly the same. Only Mount Teide dominating the horizon to the right provided an indication that at least the general direction we were going was right.

The Medio Ambiente had done it again. They’d sent us off into the wilderness with shiny new signs which kept us welcome company where the path was clear and which deserted us completely when it wasn’t. And now we were in danger of becoming lost forever… or a few hours anyway.

To be fair I can’t lay all the blame at their door. Although we were on a former official walking route, we had strayed from the new path that, for some strange reason, the Medio Ambiente now wanted us to follow.

We were in the hills above El Tanque with friends Richard, Nikki and Basil of Tenerife Dogs fame. Basil was unperturbed by this turn of events, enjoying his frolic in the forest, whereas the rest of us stared at the expanse of forest in front with expressions which must have matched those of the 300 Spartans facing the Persian army at Thermopylae.

It had started out well enough with an easy stroll along a clear path through the pines from the recreation zone at Arenas Negras. The first alarm bells should have sounded when a signpost, which had pointed the way 18 months ago, didn’t appear where it should have done. Still, there was only one clear path and we followed it although it veered away from the way we were sure we wanted to go.

The signposts along it looked shiny and new; something which would normally be helpful. On Tenerife this isn’t always the case. Eventually we arrived at a path which circled the Chinyero Volcano, not the place we intended to be at all, and decided to retrace our steps and follow another new sign to San José. The route took us back in the right direction; however, within a few minutes the path became almost anonymous and there was a severe shortage of any helpful signposts whatsoever. A strategy of fanning out like a police line looking for a body helped get us back on track and we eventually joined up with a main path beside the impressive looking black and rust coloured cone at Arenas Negras.

We followed the ‘unofficial’, but more interesting, path around the volcano through a strange landscape of scattered pines, with perfect circles of tobacco coloured fallen pine needles at their base, and uneven lava formations. The path was easy to follow and the views of Mount Teide and the peaks of La Palma breaking the sea of clouds were breath stealers.

All was well with the world until we reached the point where the path completely disappeared.

I remembered similar happening the last time we walked this route, but this time I had an ace card. There was a small campsite of wooden chalets which was right above the end of our route and which should have become visible as we walked in a straight line from the end of the clear path… except this time there wasn’t.

We stared and stared at the forest, but there were no hints to the right direction, nothing… apart from the thinnest of straws. A flattish section of the forest up a slope to our right looked vaguely familiar and sort of like the spot where the chalets had been, but even as I climbed I knew that it was more in vain hope than anything else. Sure enough I reached the top and my hopes were dashed; there were no chalets. Unsure of what to do next I wandered a few feet to a ridge to think what I was going to tell the others…and there below me was the recreation zone where we’d started.

The relief was palpable and we were able to enjoy our bocadillo lunch at the comfort of a picnic table before heading to Fleytas Bar for the most welcome of post walk beers to debate what had happened to the chalets.

This experience is exactly the reason we have written walking routes on Tenerife and this particular route will be coming your way sometime in the near future – as soon as we can figure a way out to describe a path through a forest where everything looks exactly the same.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – The Mystery of the Adeje Troll

Something spooky is going on in ‘them thar hills’ above Adeje.

A couple of years ago we spent quite a bit of time walking in the Adeje Mountains as research for the ‘Walkabout’ series we were writing for Living Tenerife Magazine. On one path we came across a particularly strange rock formation which looked like a face; a troll’s face to be exact. I took a couple of photos of it, so here’s the proof that it wasn’t simply a hallucination brought about by sniffing some toxic flora along the way (not that there was any, but the smell of curry plants at one point had been quite intoxicating).

Last weekend we returned to the area to map out some routes in more detail in preparation for our new ‘Walks in the Old South’ addition to the Real Tenerife Island Walks series and as we drew closer to the area where we’d seen troll face we kept a look out for his distinctive features.

However, he’d gone!

At first we assumed we must have missed him, even though he had been right beside the path, and the return journey turned into a mission to find him. But as we passed the spot where I was 99.9% certain he’d been, he simply wasn’t there.

Maybe he really had been a troll and after we’d published his photo decided his cover had been blown, so upped sticks and headed deeper into the forest.

Or maybe his face had simply eroded. Personally, I much prefer the first explanation. The World needs a bit of magic now and again.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tenerife Lizards

Wherever you walk on Tenerife it’s a fairly safe bet that you’ll be accompanied by lizards scuttling around in the undergrowth and playing ‘chicken’ across the path in front of you.
It never ceases to amaze me how these painfully shy creatures suddenly turn into your best mates the moment you get your butties out of the rucksack. I reckon it’s evolution; lizards have learned that the crinkle of foil or the rustle of plastic equals crumbs.

Yesterday was hike-athon day for us. Three hikes in one day, an arduous feat as my buttocks will now attest. The final hike was from San Miguel de Abona to La Centinela Mirador and as we sat on a bench overlooking the southern landscape I remembered the last time we were here. We’d sat down on the same bench to eat our lunch and within seconds lizards popped up from everywhere grabbing the crumbs we threw and disappearing back into the undergrowth with them.

One time we were hiking through an overgrown barranco in Guimar and we nearly stepped on a lizard that was peeking out from a crevice in the path. We stopped and Jack started photographing it at close range. We were amazed how confident the little fellow was. He didn’t move at all despite the close proximity of the camera lens. We must have been there for 3 or 4 minutes before I sensed that something was wrong. The lizard was actually trapped. He’d got the top half of his body through the crevice and was firmly stuck. Who knows how long the poor thing had been there and more importantly, how long he would still be there had we not come along. This was an abandoned barranco that was extremely difficult to navigate and clearly hadn’t been traversed for a very long time. In all likelihood he would have starved to death there.

Jack carefully dislodged a couple of rocks and the lizard wriggled free. For a moment he just stood there, as if he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened, and then he was off, scuttling into the undergrowth and away, already composing the narrative he would tell his children and grandchildren.

The experience gave us a warm glow, a combination of feeling really good that we’d just saved a life and mortification that we’d spent several minutes photographing the poor thing in the throes of his ordeal.
So next time you’re hiking, keep an eye out and pack some extra crumbs for the lizard life.
And if you're interested in some walking routes in the south of Tenerife, you'll love our selection of the best southern walks in 'The Old South' - only €2 including your FREE copy of our favourite Tenerife coastal walks, 'Captivating Coastline'. Buy online for delivery to your in box.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – The Closure of the Barranco del Infierno

Back in August we told you that the Barranco del Infierno was closed for a bit of a facelift.
It was estimated that the work would take a few weeks to complete.So, working on a formula specifically developed for Tenerife – take the official estimate and double it – we thought that it was time to check with the people at the Barranco del Infierno how things were progressing.

The bad news is that the Barranco is still closed. The good news is that the person we spoke to reckoned that it should be open again by around mid October. The typically Tenerife uncertain news is that he added a ‘mas o menos’ at the end.

Now we’re guessing November, but watch this space.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

If the Cap Fits…

I love hats. All my life I’ve wanted to own and wear hats and have spent countless hours in front of shop mirrors trying berets, caps, trilbys, cowboy hats, top hats and beanies. But the sad fact is I really don’t suit hats. So when I find one that looks okay, I tend to stick to it.
And that’s why the cap I wear when I go hiking which was once velvety black is now faded to grey, scruffy and dirty (despite its intimate knowledge with the inside of the washing machine) and has travelled much of the world with me over the countless years that I’ve owned it.

Last week I was rummaging through the various boxes of goodies in the ‘Todo a Euro’ sale at the local Al Campo supermarket and distractedly pulled a khaki coloured baseball cap from a box and put it on.
“My God,” said Jack. “That actually looks good on you.”
With a grin of delight I threw the cap into the shopping basket and went back to get one in a different colour for Jack.

When I got home I took the old caps off the rucksack handle where they permanently live and replaced them with the clean, shiny new ones.
I felt a twinge of regret as I threw the old ones into the back of the wardrobe and a slight worry that the newness of the cap would only serve to emphasise the age of the rest of the outfit.
Hmm, I fear this could end up costing me a lot more than the Euro I paid for the cap.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Simply Stunning Scenery from Off the Beaten Track #2

We have two very contrasting areas which involve heading above the clouds for our ‘Stunning Scenery’ shots this month. The first is still an area which is relatively unexplored by visitors and where it’s possible to walk all day and have the forest all to yourself. The upper Güímar Valley is a bugger to get to from anywhere - even if you live in Güímar. This has an upside as it keeps the forests virgin and any walks feel like real voyages of discovery, but it does mean that a lot of effort to get there is required and if you’re using public transport… well, good luck.
This photo was taken near the start of the Pedro Gil route. The ruddy track leads into the pine forest and around a volcanic cone. The deeper you delve into the forest, the more remote it feels as the rocky valley walls loom overhead and any sound is courtesy of birdsong – it’s a magical and mysterious spot.
Ironically the second photo isn’t that far from one of the most visited spots on Tenerife, Mount Teide, and yet it could be a million miles away. Hundreds of thousands of people might visit the mighty mountain, but only a handful of them stray from the well beaten path where more crater treasures await the intrepid visitor. This shot was taken on the Montaña Guajara trail during winter when the sun was hot on the skin, snow lay on parts of the ground and a sea of cloud added a spectacular backdrop to the barren landscape creating a wonderfully unique scene.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Return to the Enchanted Forests of La Orotava Valley

We never tire of walking in the La Orotava Valley – the forests are simply enchanting, the views are epic and the air has such a clean fresh quality that to breathe it feels like cleansing the lungs with purifying pine scented goodness.

A couple of friends, Richard (Life on the Reef) and Nikki (Tenerife Dogs) fancied a change from the ultra cool wind surfing scene at El Médano and suggested we meet up for a walk. And as we don’t need much persuading to put down the metaphorical pen and head into the hills for a date with nature, we jumped at the chance.

The Aguamansa circular walk is the perfect introduction to walking in the La Orotava Valley. It’s only just over two hours long and meanders through the emerald pines and below the organ pipe rock formation appropriately known as Los Órganos before heading downwards through the forest to join little country lanes on the approach to Aguamansa.

The weather was perfect for walking. At the level of the route, around the 1000 metre mark, at this time of year it’s warm without being hot. There were a few clouds around, but they were below us which just added to the visual feast of the upper valley. I always get a buzz, no matter how many times I’ve experienced it, of looking down and seeing a sea of white fluffy clouds below me. Mount Teide standing proud on the opposite of the valley, a dry and ruddy looking giant rising above the lush green forest, just adds that special finishing touch.

It was doubly pleasurable on this occasion to walk the route in the company of people who appreciated the beauty of the valley as much as we did and time passed quickly as we chatted and strolled, stopping every so often to absorb the views and marvel at the wispy lichen hanging from the trees like beards.

It’s a gentle, relatively easy walk; the only potentially dodgy bit being at the final descent where the forest meets the country lanes which is quite a steep section of about a couple of hundred yards or so. When the ground is dry, as it is at this time of year, it can add an ‘extreme sport’ element to the route and the danger of participating in a bit of impromptu ‘dry skiing’ is always a risk. On this occasion, I was the only ‘victim’ and just before I reached the bottom, my left leg shot out and down I went. Actually, my backside didn’t actually hit the dirt, but my right knee did, so Andy technically declared it a ‘fall’.

The route finished back at the little log cabin La Caldera restaurant where we replenished energy with some cervezas, Spanish tortilla, Carne con papas, papas arrugadas and fresh trout from the trout farm just down the road for under €30 whilst forest workers came and went and riders trotted by on their horses.

It is a blissful little walk which shows another, stunning face to this marvellously diverse island. It’s just a shame that the majority of visitors to Tenerife never experience it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Organised Walking Routes on Tenerife – Walk to the Cave of Hermano Pedro

Admittedly this walk isn’t going to get the lungs going or test those leg muscles, but it involves an interesting little pilgrimage to the cave of the Canary island’s one and only saint, Hermano Pedro. It’s also guaranteed to give an insight into what much of the real Tenerife is about.

The walk begins in El Médano’s plaza at 21.00 and the route to the cave takes about 45 minutes. Many people carry lanterns and bring food and drink so that they can have a nocturnal picnic beside the cave before making the return journey at around 22.45.

Okay, it isn’t really a walk as such, but it is a nice little bit of local tradition to experience.

Date: Friday 18th September

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Walking on Tenerife: Organised Routes – The Almond Walk at Vilaflor

This sounds like a lovely little walk organised by the council in Vilaflor. Juan Antonio, an expert in keeping old island traditions alive, is organising a harvest of the almond crop. The walk begins in Vilaflor’s picturesque square before heading into the area’s alpine-esque countryside for 5 kilometres to a charming finca where the almonds will be harvested and loaded onto mules.

Afterwards there’s a picnic in the pines (bring your own food and drink). It sounds absolutely delightful.

The harvested almonds are due to be sold at the almond fair in Aripe (Guia de Isora) on the 8th November and proceeds sent to a hospital in Guatamala which was founded by Vilaflor’s very own saint, Hermano Pedro – so it’s for a good cause to boot.

Date: Saturday, 26th September.

Anyone wanting more information should call Montse, or María José on 922 709 802 at Vilaflor Town Hall.

Walking on Tenerife – Into the Eastern Anaga Mountains

Yesterday was one of those days where I turned into ‘Mr Bean does Walking Tenerife’.

We were exploring some new routes in the north eastern Anaga Mountains and by the end of the day my hat and sunglasses had blown down a barranco, I’d nearly ended up on my backside three times, I had a grazed foot, a bruised ankle, sunburnt knees and cactus spines embedded in my right leg. Andy escaped completely unscathed.

As we hadn’t been walking for some time we decided to ease back into it with what I thought would be a relatively easy route beyond Igueste.

Route details were typically scarce save for one brief online Spanish description which sort of said there’s a hard bit at the start and a hard bit at the end and that was about it…hmmm.

But surprise, surprise the initial stages of the route were clearly signposted with the walkers’ yellow and white markers.

Did I say we thought it was going to be an easy route? Anyone who knows the Anaga Mountains will know that ‘easy walking in the Anagas’ is an oxymoronic statement. Any route is going to involve lots of ups and downs.

This one was a real thigh tester. The path was good hard volcanic rock, but it snaked directly upwards and walking in the September sunshine made the ascent just that little bit more strenuous. However, numerous stops to catch the breath and glug down plenty of fluids gave us the opportunity to soak up the scenery. There was a bit of a haze, so the vistas weren’t as impressive as they would be on a clear day, but still we could see the outline of Mount Teide dominating the centre of the island and the coast all the way down to Las Galletas.

One of the things which fascinates me about the Anagas is that they are full of sleepy little villages and hamlets stuck in time and yet the island’s bustling capital is only a relatively short drive away. From our position on the hillside we could see the little town of Igueste, with its fruit trees and neat plots, and also in the distance, the ultra modern Auditorio gleaming in the sunshine – complete opposites.

The path seemed to climb upwards for ever before we eventually reached the top and almost immediately began a steep descent – what was that about a hard bit at the beginning and end? Where was the bit in between? Walking markers became scarcer and then petered out altogether along with the path at a curious abandoned lookout point called the Semiforo where there were pretty amazing views along the coast on one side and over a deserted remote bay on the other.

At this point we decided to try another route. The path became less of a path and more of a goat trail and I picked up injury number one as my heel made contact with a pointed rock (not normally a problem, but I was wearing walking sandals, so had no real protection for my foot). The goat trail climbed to an old derelict building (strangely with a brand new door) on the summit of a ridge and just as we arrived the cloud descended and the wind blew up a gale. Andy sensibly decided to stay sheltered beside the derelict building whilst I went to explore an old mirador, which is where my hat was rudely removed from my bonce, taking my sunglasses with it and thrown down a barranco by the wind. I picked up the grazed foot and leg-full of cactus spines while Andy sat blissfully unaware that I was risking life and limb to retrieve a pair of cheap sunglasses and a NYY baseball cap which was probably older than some NYY players.

Unfortunately the low cloud made the views of secret and completely remote valleys less impressive than they should have been and we headed back down to Igueste along a trail which had seemed solid on the way up, but on the way down became a slithery trail of scree. Cue three ‘cartoon stepping on marbles moments’, which Andy at least found very amusing, before we emerged back at Igueste.

Overall, it was satisfying to give the leg muscles a decent workout and it was interesting to explore a new area, but whether to include it as a walking route when we complete our eastern Anaga routes, we’re unsure. I’m still deciding if ending up with a pin cushion leg was a price worth paying.

Thursday, 27 August 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Tenerife Government to Improve the Network of Paths

Good news for walkers on Tenerife, I hope. The Cabildo have just announced that they are going to invest 2.3 million euros in improving 135 kilometres of forest paths and recreation zones between Los Realejos, San Juan de la Rambla, La Guancha, Icod de los Vinos, Garachico, El Tanque, Santiago del Teide and Buenavista del Norte.

It’s another step forward in developing Tenerife as the ideal walking destination and looks as though we might have to start thinking about investigating new walking routes in those areas.

You might have noticed that I said ‘I hope’ at the start, but that’s only because part of the press release talks about one of the machines which will be used which sounds like something out of the Transformers. it’s called the ‘StoneCrusher’ and everyone knows what boys and their toys are like – so I’m just hoping they don’t get carried away and it ends up more destruction than creation.

Walking on Tenerife – Simply Stunning Scenery from Off the Beaten Track #1

Although it’s true that you don’t need to spend hours walking to find some of the most stunning views on Tenerife (our driving guide includes many of what we consider the best views you can get on the island from some incredible miradors) what walkers are more likely to experience are views that people who stick to their cars, or coach excursions, will probably never see.

Because much of the information and even photographs about Tenerife in print and on the web still sticks to the well worn tracks, walkers who explore Tenerife’s countryside are almost guaranteed to emerge from a forest, or over the top of a hillock and find themselves going ‘WOW’.

We’ve been walking, exploring roads and researching this island online and in libraries for almost 6 years and there are still plenty of occasions where we’ll turn a corner and stop in our tracks and one of us will announce. “Well, I’ve never seen a picture of that before”. Such was the case with this bullet shaped rock in the Anagas - spot the little houses built into the cleft halfway up the rock.Even Tenerife’s iconic Mount Teide can still surprise. Ask me 3 years ago ‘where do you find the best views of Mount Teide’ and I might have said from El Sauzal. Ask me 2 years ago and I might have answered ‘from the coast at Icod de los Vinos on a clear day'. Last year I would have probably responded with ‘Oh, definitely from the hills above El Tanque’ after viewing it from a completely new angle where the mountain seemed to rise menacingly from the pine forest rather than the volcanic landscape of the Las Cañadas crater. Next year no doubt I’ll have a different answer. But hopefully you get my point. When you’re walking in different areas, the mountain changes its aspect, revealing many faces from various angles.
It is just one of the many rewards facing visitors who take the time to explore Tenerife’s great outdoors

Every month we’ll post another couple of shots of Tenerife’s beauty spots from a walker’s perspective.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Favourite Refreshment Stops

At Real Tenerife, we love that feeling when you come to the end of a long, immensely satisfying walk when the end is in sight and you know that in a few moments you can slip out of the hiking boots and into some soft sandals – it’s a bit like ‘skinny dipping’ for the feet. However, what’s even better is to plonk yourself down at a welcoming hostelry and order an ice cool beer as a reward.

It’s something we feel is an integral part of a really good walking package – spectacular vistas, diversity of landscape, interesting curios along the way, challenging but not soul destroying terrain, attractive flora and fauna and a cosy little bar to collapse into at the end.

We have a few personal favourites across the island.

In the Anaga Mountains, the Cruz del Carmen restaurant is a sanctuary for walkers and local forestry workers, especially when the bruma descends and chills through to the bone. We’ve found ourselves held prisoner by the ambience here for a couple of hours after we’ve finished a walk in the past - the horizontal rain outside the window didn’t help with motivating us to leave.

There are great other little bars in tiny hamlets as well, places where you feel you’re their first customer in days. In a bar in Chamorga, the owner had to break off from painting her nails to serve us. Another fave is Casa Carlos on the road which runs along the Anaga’s spine. On a clear day, the views of the lush mountains are something quite special.

Up above Santiago is one of the most popular walkers’ bars on Tenerife, Bar Fleytas. It’s perfectly placed as a starting and finishing point for exploring the Erjos Pools and the Valle de Santiago – and they have great home made almendras.

In Teno Alto the little bar is more like a mix of corner shop (not a lot of items) and bar. Grab a beer and sit on a wall in the sunshine as abuelas wander by with clumps of aromatic herbs in their hands – it epitomises the simple pleasures in life.

At Ifonche in Adeje, the Tasca Taguera is a higgledy piggeldy mix of cable drums turned into tables and vine covered terrace where bags of water hang like decorations (apparently to keep the mosquitoes away). It’s the most bohemian feeling walker’s bar we’ve frequented.

My favourite of all is the La Caldera bar and restaurant. For me it’s just the perfect walker’s rest. Log cabin exterior, chunky wooden tables and benches, a roaring log fire inside (essential for winter months when the cloud descends), fresh trout on the menu and any number of little birds like Canary Island Tits, Blue Chaffinches, Capirotes and Robins looking for easy pickings. We never go into the place before setting off on a walk as the walk would probably never happen if we did.

There are more great little places and I’m sure others have their own personal favourites. We’d love to hear about any little gems that any of you walkers out there might know about.

Walking in Tenerife – News - Barranco del Infierno Closed

Anyone planning on walking in the Barranco del Infierno in Adeje in the near future is in for a disappointment as it’s closed for a bit of TLC and improvements over the next few weeks.

Nearly €362,000 is being spent on improving one of Tenerife’s most popular walks, renovating water channels and cutting back overgrown vegetation and should last about a month (just remember a Tenerife month isn’t the same as a month anywhere else).

We’ll let you know when we hear that it’s open again. Meanwhile there are plenty of other great walks on Tenerife and what’s more, the others are all free.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Exploring the undiscovered Eastern Valleys around Güímar and Arafo

When we were researching suitable areas for the ‘Walkabout’ series of articles in Living Tenerife Magazine, we spent some time venturing into the ravines around the Arafo area.

We’d picked up some officially produced mini-guides with the usual directions which were a cross between confusingly ambiguous and outright code and went in search of routes which sounded as though they might be of interest. One of them led to a cave and formed part of a pilgrims’ route to honour San Agustín who had ‘miraculously’ saved the town from disaster after their water supply had been cut off for 5 years (you could say he took his time to getting around to helping them out).The directions sounded straightforward enough, simply head into the ravine behind the town until you reach the cave with the saint’s image. However, when we left the town the entrance to the ravine broke off into three or four other smaller ravines which the guide failed to mention. For hours we explored paths, some of which were completely overgrown and some which were little more than faint outlines. There was supposed to be an annual pilgrimage, but there were little sign that anyone had walked these ravines in years. The guides had obviously been written a long time previously.
The scenery wasn’t fantastic, it was a grey damp day which didn’t help, but the depths of the ravines held some unexpected surprises. In one ravine water galleries, roaring with rushing mountain water, ran parallel to the path,keeping us company until we ended at an abandoned miners’ camp which could have been straight out of the Yukon gold rush. Railway tracks disappeared over hills which had collapsed; mined caves led deep into the hillside and in one small building a table was set with empty plates and a seriously dusty half full bottle of wine – it was all a bit Marie Celeste and, to be truthful, a bit unnerving. We didn’t hang about long in case whatever had scared off the miners decided to return.
We continued exploring the ravines and eventually, after many wrong turns and dead ends, found San Agustín’s cave. The approach was covered in brambles, but we fought our way through and finally, triumphantly entered the cave (more of an overhang in the rock) to see the image of the saint tucked inside. Despite the route appearing overgrown, there were fresh flowers inside. Somebody was a frequent visitor. We would like to have continued further into the barranco, but the path was blocked by an impenetrable ‘Sleeping Beauty’ wall of brambles, so whatever lay ahead remained hidden to us and we turned back toward Arafo.It’s typical of the eastern valleys which are still a bit of an enigma in Tenerife walking terms. You can walk all day and never encounter another soul, even in the more accessible parts. The area isn’t really included on walking routes, yet I’m convinced there are rewards as yet undiscovered in them thar hills.

Night Walk in the Anaga Mountains

The Adeje ayuntamiento are organizing a nocturnal walk in the laurisilva forests in the Anaga Mountains on the 22nd August.

I’m not sure what time it's at and whether ‘nocturnal’ means it’ll be at dusk, or in darkness as there’s no time mentioned on their website.

Is it me or are nocturnal walks a bit like watching a movie with your eyes closed? (Actually I have walked in Tenerife at night and it was spectacular, but that was on Mount Teide and not in a forest)

Prices: €8 with an Adeje empadronado, €12 without.

Contact the Casa de Juventud in Adeje for more information: Tel 922 78 18 08

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Walking on Tenerife – The Masca Barranco

There’s something magical about Masca. It feels as though it belongs to another time and place and it comes as no surprise to learn that tales of sorcery and humans who can change into animals are commonplace in the ancient mountains and valleys which lend Masca its uniqueness.

It’s deservedly one of the most popular tourists’ locations on Tenerife, but only a tiny percentage of visitors to the charming hamlet stray from the path and descend into the mysterious barranco which wends its way through a prehistoric landscape to the coast three hours down the line.

The last time we walked through the Masca Barranco we had to shimmy down a rope near the start of the walk; the bridge across a small ravine having been destroyed in the forest fires of 2007. It added to the sensation that we were entering a lost world and if tiny dinosaurs had emerged from the undergrowth to accompany us as the walls of the ravine closed in above it wouldn’t have seemed too fantastical.The thing that always amazes us about walking in Tenerife is the diversity of the landscape. Many times whilst walking one of us will announce ‘this is definitely my favourite walk on Tenerife.’

That's until the next walk, of course.

The truth is that it’s difficult to compare like with like. How can you compare the other worldly weirdness of Las Cañadas del Teide with the ancient laurel lushness of the Anaga Mountains, or the sweeping beauty of the pine forests in the Orotava Valley? The prehistoric drama of the Masca Barranco is just another natural feather in Tenerife’s walking cap. At some places you feel as though you could spread your arms and touch both walls of the barranco at the same time (okay, maybe if you were one of the Fantastic Four, but hopefully you get the picture). Ferns and trickling streams accompany walkers through a wonderful, if bordering on claustrophobic in places, world.

I was foolish enough to think that walking through the Masca Barranco would require little navigation. I mean you hit the valley floor and there’s only one way to go, right? Wrong. For most of the route this is the case, but there are areas where scars in the cliff face open into other narrow ravines leading to who knows where and what – mysterious places that’s for sure.
One day, if I’ve got the time and energy, I’ve promised myself I’m going to venture deeper and hopefully make some Indiana Jones type discovery – a lost Guanche tribe hidden from the outside world for 500 years, or perhaps conquistadors’ treasure buried in the depths of a cave cut into the cliffs. When you’re in the deepest reaches of the Masca Barranco these thoughts don’t seem so far fetched, believe me. So far the best I can manage is to make it to the coast and little Masca Bay, a popular stop with dolphin cruises and a pick up point for those sensible people who opt to take a boat ride to Los Gigantes rather than make their way back up the barranco.

It’s not a particularly easy walk, especially if done both ways. The path can be quite difficult on the soles of the feet in places, but it is spectacular and exhilarating and definitely one of those magical Tenerife experiences.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Walking in the Hills and Mountains on Tenerife

If I had a euro for each time that I read that it can be cool during the day on Mount Teide even in summer, I’d be rich. Well I might not be rich, but I’d be able to pay for a nice meal.

It’s one of those Tenerife myths of which there are a few. It’s usually advice given by well meaning people, but where they got this idea I really don’t know and anyone walking at altitude on Tenerife in summer expecting it to get cooler the higher they climb is in for a shock.

This post is a sort of companion to a recent post about taking precautions at this time of year, but with the temperatures blowing the top off the thermometers we felt that it was important to reinforce the message that during the height of summer, the higher you go the hotter it is likely to get and it’s essential to realise this.

Last weekend we had planned to camp on the North West slopes and do some walking in that area in preparation for the next in our walking guides. Unfortunately I developed a 24 hour tummy bug and didn’t feel up to a long trek. But we headed into the area anyway to go to the splendid little Dia de la Trilla fiesta near El Tanque at around the 1100 metres mark.

It had been 30+ degrees at the coast, but as we drove higher with both car windows open and my arm leaning out of the window, the air rushing past became hotter and hotter until it felt as though someone was pointing a hairdryer at it. By the time we reached the fiesta the temperature was in the 40s and we bought a couple of straw hats to protect our heads.

Within moments, even with the hats, we were a pair of sweaty messes. At that point it occurred to us that my tummy bug had been a blessing in disguise. To walk in these temperatures would have been madness.It is incredibly hot at the moment, even for summer and most of the time you can still enjoy walking on Tenerife at this time of year as long as you are prepared. But don’t head into the hills expecting some relief from the heat or you might find that it feels as though you’ve literally stepped from the frying pan into the fire.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Coastal walks near Puerto de la Cruz: La Rambla de Castro

One of the nicest coastal walks on Tenerife, in our opinion, is merely a hop, skip and a jump from Puerto de la Cruz and can be reached via a path behind the Maritim Hotel near Punta Brava in neighbouring Los Realejos. La Rambla de Castro forms part of the old merchants’ highway which used to link the coastal communities along the north west coast. What makes this walk special is not just the spectacular scenery, but also the incredible diversity of interesting little curios that can be found along its winding path; It acts as somewhat of a time warp and a glimpse into life on Tenerife in bygone days as well as a beautiful and not particularly difficult walk. Where else can you find banana plantations and beautiful old haciendas; drago trees and palm and Indian laurel tree groves; tunnels leading to secret coves and wooden bridges over ravines; old communal washing areas and the building which housed the first steam engine on Tenerife; a tiny pirate lookout fort and even a rock which looks like an animal?

Oh, and did I mention the views of the North West coast were simply stupendous? The last time we walked it a warden from the bird sanctuary was releasing seabirds back into the wild and paragliders were launching themselves from the cliffs to glide inches above our heads.

It really is quite a magical part of the countryside that is only now being discovered by visitors to this area of Tenerife.
The Rambla de Castro walk is one of five coastal walks included in 'Captivating Coastlines' - FREE with any purchase of Island Walks or Island Drives.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Walking on Tenerife in the Heat of Summer

Driving into Santa Cruz yesterday to take our friend Jo to the bus station for her bus and ferry back to La Gomera, I noticed that the Anaga Mountains were completely clear and shimmering in the heat haze.
“This would be a perfect day for walking in the Anagas,” I said.
“Too hot,” said Jo, “unless you stuck to the forests.”

Jo lives in Los Aceviños, right at the edge of La Gomera’s Garajonay National Park; a dense rainforest of lichen-covered ancient laurisilva and Jo’s favourite terrain for walking
Wherever we’ve been walking with Jo (Britain, La Gomera, Tenerife, Greece...) she’s always embarrassed us by wearing wholly inappropriate head gear to protect her from the sun. She has never invested in a proper hat or cap for walking, on the grounds that they really don’t suit her, although how she can possibly consider a T shirt or a pair of shorts draped across her head, ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ style as a better solution, eludes me.

But for all of that, Jo’s remark about the heat acted as a timely reminder that walking on Tenerife in summer can be a dangerous business if you don’t follow some simple but critical rules.

Temperatures here are hitting 32° C by 9 o’clock in the morning, and that’s in the north of the island. By midday they’re nudging the mid to high 30s and they don’t lose their ferocity until around the 5.30pm mark. And if you’re walking at altitude, like in Teide National Park or in the mountains, then the intensity of the sun is even more magnified.

A couple of summers ago Jack and I set out on a cloudy July morning to walk in the Anaga Mountains from Chamorga to Roque Bermejo. By the time we reached the lighthouse high above World’s End (as we christened Roque Bermejo), the clouds had disappeared and the sun’s heat was merciless.
Stupidly, we didn’t refill the water bottles in the village before setting off along the interminable barranco (ravine) which would take us back to Chamorga.

With just a trickle of now hot water left between us, the landscape took on a distinctly ‘Sergio Leone film set’ look and Jack and I had visions of the lizards picking at our bleached bones. We laugh about it now, but there were some seriously dodgy moments on that return hike and we were very relieved and badly dehydrated by the time we finally made it back to Chamorga.
So, a word of advice for walking on Tenerife in summer:
Always wear sunscreen and head protection (whether you chose to go with the over-sized knotted hanky look or not is entirely up to you) and carry at least 1½ litres of water per person, refilling whenever and wherever you can.
Other than that, take your time, enjoy the spectacular vistas that will accompany you and keep reminding yourself that you’re actually on Tenerife; a Tenerife that exists only to those who choose to venture away from their resorts and see something of the real island.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Walking on Tenerife - A Glimpse of Rural Life

Last week, I took advantage of the glorious weather and decided to head up to La Caldera on the road to Teide National Park to spend some time communing with nature.
The scent of hot pine needles is one of the most evocative fragrances I know. When I breathe it in deeply I get an enormous sense of well being and joy and I find it almost addictive. So any opportunity to head to the woods on a hot day and I’m there.

Strolling through dappled forest paths, almost hyper-ventilating on the delicious smell, I dropped gradually down hill to the outskirts of Aguamansa and along a path I think of as ‘Flower Lovers’ Lane’. A narrow, winding lane is bordered on both sides by allotments of rich, red earth in which neat rows of potatoes, vines, cabbages and tomatoes flourish.
Lining the path, high hedgerows are ablaze with colour; campanula, cranesbill, foxgloves, daisies, forget-me-nots, trailing geraniums, poppies and wild sweet peas all vying for attention amidst the elegant tall grasses.

Sometimes, walking on Tenerife can transport me back to idyllic days on country lanes in Britain, and dreamily wandering this lane, I could have been in Devon or Cornwall. The illusion continued as I travelled further into the heart of rural Aguamansa passing stone cottages with thatched roofs.

But then I turned a corner and the commanding outline of Mount Teide filled the skyline, its peak shimmering in the heat haze and its shoulders mantled in rich, olive pine forests. I stood to take a photograph and watched an eagle circling the fields on the hot air currents before it landed in the uppermost branch of an enormous fir tree.

On the return route I called in at the trout farm to see the rescued birds of prey and ended my walk where I began; in the hot, pine-scented forest where a cold beer on the terrace of a log cabin bar provided the perfect end to my Tenerife/Devon day.

Tuesday, 26 May 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Stunning Views and Great Photo Opportunities

Every great walk should have some sensational views. The route which winds through the forest above La Caldera in the upper La Orotava Valley (Real Tenerife detailed walking route available soon) packs a real knockout punch in the stunning scenery department.

There are any number of wonderful shots to be had throughout this particular route, but one of my favourites is quite early on in the route.

Looking back towards Mount Teide, the very last two houses on the way to the cumbre puts the epic scale of the landscape into perspective. Lush verdant slopes carpeted with thick pine forest and the volcano reaching for the sky in the background.

Walking in Tenerife – If You Go Down to the Woods Today…

Last week walking in the upper La Orotava Valley we passed a young German couple walking the route in the opposite direction. We said hello, or more accurately 'Buenas Tardes' (when in Rome and all that) and carried on.

About an hour and a half later, and about thirty minutes walk from the end of the route, we were stopped in our tracks by somebody shouting at us. It was the young German couple. The girl came running through the forest to join us.

“Hi again, can you help us? Do you know the way to La Caldera?” She asked.

“Err, yes…I hope so any way,” I replied, I wasn’t yet 100 percent convinced that we were definitely on the right track ourselves – there are a lot of intersecting paths in those woods. “But I thought you were going in the other direction?”

“We were,”
she laughed. “But the descent looked very dangerous, so we turned back. But now everything looks very different in this direction.”

At that point her boyfriend/husband/pal joined us. He had a map in his hand. He looked at it, turned it on its side and looked at it again, then stared at the path ahead.

“We are wanting to go here,” he pointed at a tent symbol on the map.

“Can I have a look?”

He handed me the map.

It was a good map of Tenerife for sure, one of the better ones I’d seen. It had the La Caldera zona recreativa marked on it, but it wasn’t Ordnance Survey. Apart from the little tent to show there was a camping area at La Caldera, there weren’t any paths shown through the woods; the scale was far too small. As a walking guide it was useless. A one way ticket to ‘getting lostville’.

At the junction where we stood there were paths leading in four directions; none were signposted.

We pointed them in the right direction and they went off at a pace; they’d clearly had enough of their time traipsing around woods.

Tenerife is a fantastic place for walking, but even if you’re an experienced walker, you do have to be prepared. Routes can start off with clear signposts pointing to wide tracks and then, when you’re deep in the forest, the tracks and the forest floor can gradually blend into one another and signposts annoyingly go missing.

A bog standard map, even a relatively detailed one, just isn’t a good enough tool for helping people find their way around the countryside.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Walking on Tenerife: No Entry...Fact or Fiction?

One of the great things about walking on Tenerife is that there are very few barriers to where you can hike. Unlike Britain where some farmers can make you feel about as unwelcome as a fox in the hen shed, the countryside here is, on the whole, a place to be enjoyed by everyone.

Clearly there are places which are off limits and common sense and ‘privado’ signs should help avoid embarrassing forays into people’s fincas, but apart from that walkers are free to explore the great outdoors…except for when there are Cabildo workers in the area and paths are suddenly blocked off.

It’s happened to us on a few occasions, the trouble is you never know that a path is going to be closed until you reach the sign telling you and that can be quite a way into the route. Take yesterday for example. We’d been walking for an hour and a half, having ascended a muscle challenging and lung busting 600 metres, before we found our progress blocked by a sign across the forest path which read “Alto! – No Pasar”.

There had been no previous warning, nada and suddenly here was a sign which was ostensibly telling us to turn back. Having come this far without any prior warning that the route was closed, we weren’t happy bunnies.

So what do you do when this happens?

Well we’ve been here before and have an idea what signs to look for to determine if it’s a serious warning, or just something designed to put you off so that you don’t disturb the forest workers doing whatever it is they’re doing.

In this case there were two things that told us that this might not be a serious deterrent to continuing:

  1. There was no actual evidence of any forest workers in the area.
  2. We’d passed some Spanish hikers coming the other way and they didn’t mention that the path was closed.
We eased ourselves around the path-block and continued on our way.

Sure enough, apart from a couple of bags of cement and three green forestry sacks, there were no sign of any workmen; nine times out of ten there never are, so you can come to your own conclusions about what purpose these signs actually serve. A few kilometres, and half a dozen hikers later, we came to the ‘sister’ sign warning walkers coming in the opposite direction. In this case there was no reason at all for blocking the path.

If you don’t know an area very well, it’s a difficult call as to whether you pay attention to these signs if you’re unlucky enough to come across one. The best I can advise is to apply common sense.

If there is any work taking place, there will be workmen around and they’ll tell you where you can and can’t go, but they’re never heavy about it, so most of the time it’s worth taking the chance and continuing.

Like I said, we’ve encountered this on maybe four or five occasions…on not one of those did we actually have to turn back.

Sunday, 17 May 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Organised Hikes – Chinyero

It’s 100 years since the last volcanic eruption on Tenerife when rivers of lava spewed from the Chinyero volcano and threatened to engulf villages in the Santiago del Teide Valley. Anyone who’d like to visit the scene of the crime might be interested in the organised walk arranged by the Tenerife Cabildo on Saturday 23rd May. Places are limited so book your passage now. The route starts in San José de Los Llanos and should take around 6 hours…as long as Chinyero doesn’t decide to celebrate its centenary with a bang.

Price: €5 (includes breakfast and insurance)

Call 922 136 715/ 922 815 705 for more information

Monday, 11 May 2009

Walking in the Teide Crater - An out of this world plant for an other-worldly landscape

The next few weeks are an ideal time to explore Las Cañadas del Teide on foot. In truth any time of year is perfect for venturing deep into the incredible landscape which makes up Teide National Park and after a few minutes walking from even the busiest tourist hot spots you’ll soon find that you have the awe inspiring scenery all to yourself.

But what makes the next few weeks extra special is the flowering of the incredible tajinaste plant. On terrain as epic as this it takes something special to drag the eye away from the basaltic lava fields and the coils of pahoehoe spilling down the mountainside like dried wax. The tajinaste is more than up to the challenge. Its vibrant red spikes mock its surroundings, a loud splash of colour against an earthy canvas. It’s an alien life form in an other-worldly environment and even when you photograph it, the results don’t look real, like a Photoshop creation instead of nature’s.
And if you think I’m exaggerating, go see for yourself. You’ve probably got until about mid June to see the tajinaste fields at their best.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

How to get lost walking in Tenerife

Here’s a confession which might raise a Roger Moore style eyebrow from anyone thinking of buying any of our Real Tenerife Walking guides…I have become lost many times during my exploration of Tenerife’s wonderful countryside.

I’ve followed forest paths in the Anaga Mountains where the vegetation has just become thicker and thicker as the path got smaller and smaller until I had to concede that a bird’s trail through some leaves didn’t constitute a path. I’ve trekked three hours to see the incredible Paisajes Lunar only to find the path ended at an outcrop above said rock formations…so close and yet so far (a bit of dry slope skiing sorted that dilemma out). I’ve reached crossroads in the middle of the forest above Garachico where every direction looked like a mirror image of the other three. My best was to spend an hour walking through dense laurel forest to end up at an outcrop about 20 metres from where I started.

Not much of a vote of confidence you might think; however there’s another side to this story.

On every occasion I had route instructions in my possession. Some were freebies provided by the Island’s government, some were ones which I’d bought. In some cases I was following signs which basically gave up the ghost at various points during the route, in others the route had been mysteriously changed by the powers that be and I ended up on a wild goose chase. In one ‘squeaky bum’ experience, the official route I was following fell away and I was left to inch my way along a narrow water course above a sheer drop into a bottomless abyss (the imagination doesn’t help at times like that).
I have certificates for map reading, so I always take a compass with me…not that it’s always helped; on one occasion the compass icon on the ‘route map’ I was using had north in the wrong place; which I didn’t notice until I’d gone way wrong. Eventually though, I’ve always found the right route.

The point is this there’s a big country out there. The more rewarding routes sometimes have the fewest walkers and, especially where there are forests involved, finding the right path is not always as easy as it might sound.

I guess what I’m really saying is that I’ve gotten lost walking all over Tenerife so that you won’t.

Wednesday, 22 April 2009

Tenerife Guided Walks – Erjos Pools to Portela Baja

Arona council are organising a guided walk from the Erjos Pools to Portela Baja on the 25th April. The route is classed as being of medium difficulty and is about 8 kilometres long; it should take around 4-5 hours.

It’s €10 to take part and there’s a maximum of 25 places.

Call 922 761 600 to register.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Tenerife’s Most Popular Walk – The Barranco del Infierno (Hell’s Ravine)

It’s got a great name and it’s known as Tenerife’s most popular walk.

The Barranco del Infierno’s proximity to the main tourist resorts probably has more to do with it earning the title of Tenerife’s most popular walk than anything else. Lying at the top of Adeje old town, it’s easily accessed from Playa de las Américas, Costa Adeje and Los Cristianos and for that reason it attracts people who may not normally venture too far into the countryside. It’s not uncommon to see people arrive at the entrance to the walk dressed as though they were about to spend a day at the beach.

Basically the route involves venturing deep into a ravine, criss-crossing a trickling stream until it ends at a magical little grotto where there’s a small waterfall; anyone expecting Angel Falls might be a tad disappointed. Along the way it’s worth looking out for falcons, kestrels, wagtails and tiny green frogs in the little pools that run parallel with the path. The walk to the waterfall and back again takes around three hours.

There are a few factors which set this particular walk apart from hiking in other parts of Tenerife – some positive, others less so. Firstly for conservation purposes the number of walkers is limited to 200 people per day, so booking a reservation is recommended, if a bit at odds with walking most other places on the island where you can just more or less go where and when you want. There’s also a charge of €3 to enter the ravine; another unique aspect. Having a kiosk marking an entrance to a walk makes me think of the toll gate in Blazing Saddles.

The walkway itself has been nicely developed, but if you like your countryside paths to be more of a ‘walk on the wild side’, you might find it borders on being a tad manicured.

The big difference for me is the ‘kit inspection’ before you’re allowed to enter the ravine. Seeing the state of some people who turn up, I understand the safety reasons behind it, but it’s very ‘nanny state’ and it just doesn’t happen anywhere else on Tenerife.

However, saying all that, it is a very pleasant walk and the existence of streams, pools and a waterfall on the arid south coast is fascinating in itself. Serious walkers might find it not particularly challenging, but it’s a good introduction to exploring Tenerife on foot.

For me, walking the Barranco del Infierno is akin to reading an abridged version of a classic book.

Barranco del Infierno official website: There’s a downloadable pdf about the walk here.

Spring: A Magical Time for Walking in Tenerife

If you happen to be staying on Tenerife at the moment, take my advice and head into the hills at the first opportunity, the landscape is ablaze with a spectacular display of wild flowers. Possibly one of the best areas to experience nature’s artistic hand is in the northwest hills around Santiago del Teide, El Tanque and above Garachico.

It’s a few weeks since we walked in that area and at that point the hedgerows and borders of the little agricultural allotments were just beginning to fill with profusions of scarlet, violet and buttercup yellows.When we travelled the road the other day there were stretches where carpets of vividly coloured wild poppies covered the verge; it was stunning and I wished I’d had my walking boots in the car so I could just park up and head off along the first path I saw.