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.