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.

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