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 AceviƱos, 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.

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