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.