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.

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