Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Return to the Enchanted Forests of La Orotava Valley

We never tire of walking in the La Orotava Valley – the forests are simply enchanting, the views are epic and the air has such a clean fresh quality that to breathe it feels like cleansing the lungs with purifying pine scented goodness.

A couple of friends, Richard (Life on the Reef) and Nikki (Tenerife Dogs) fancied a change from the ultra cool wind surfing scene at El Médano and suggested we meet up for a walk. And as we don’t need much persuading to put down the metaphorical pen and head into the hills for a date with nature, we jumped at the chance.

The Aguamansa circular walk is the perfect introduction to walking in the La Orotava Valley. It’s only just over two hours long and meanders through the emerald pines and below the organ pipe rock formation appropriately known as Los Órganos before heading downwards through the forest to join little country lanes on the approach to Aguamansa.

The weather was perfect for walking. At the level of the route, around the 1000 metre mark, at this time of year it’s warm without being hot. There were a few clouds around, but they were below us which just added to the visual feast of the upper valley. I always get a buzz, no matter how many times I’ve experienced it, of looking down and seeing a sea of white fluffy clouds below me. Mount Teide standing proud on the opposite of the valley, a dry and ruddy looking giant rising above the lush green forest, just adds that special finishing touch.

It was doubly pleasurable on this occasion to walk the route in the company of people who appreciated the beauty of the valley as much as we did and time passed quickly as we chatted and strolled, stopping every so often to absorb the views and marvel at the wispy lichen hanging from the trees like beards.

It’s a gentle, relatively easy walk; the only potentially dodgy bit being at the final descent where the forest meets the country lanes which is quite a steep section of about a couple of hundred yards or so. When the ground is dry, as it is at this time of year, it can add an ‘extreme sport’ element to the route and the danger of participating in a bit of impromptu ‘dry skiing’ is always a risk. On this occasion, I was the only ‘victim’ and just before I reached the bottom, my left leg shot out and down I went. Actually, my backside didn’t actually hit the dirt, but my right knee did, so Andy technically declared it a ‘fall’.

The route finished back at the little log cabin La Caldera restaurant where we replenished energy with some cervezas, Spanish tortilla, Carne con papas, papas arrugadas and fresh trout from the trout farm just down the road for under €30 whilst forest workers came and went and riders trotted by on their horses.

It is a blissful little walk which shows another, stunning face to this marvellously diverse island. It’s just a shame that the majority of visitors to Tenerife never experience it.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Organised Walking Routes on Tenerife – Walk to the Cave of Hermano Pedro

Admittedly this walk isn’t going to get the lungs going or test those leg muscles, but it involves an interesting little pilgrimage to the cave of the Canary island’s one and only saint, Hermano Pedro. It’s also guaranteed to give an insight into what much of the real Tenerife is about.

The walk begins in El Médano’s plaza at 21.00 and the route to the cave takes about 45 minutes. Many people carry lanterns and bring food and drink so that they can have a nocturnal picnic beside the cave before making the return journey at around 22.45.

Okay, it isn’t really a walk as such, but it is a nice little bit of local tradition to experience.

Date: Friday 18th September

Thursday, 3 September 2009

Walking on Tenerife: Organised Routes – The Almond Walk at Vilaflor

This sounds like a lovely little walk organised by the council in Vilaflor. Juan Antonio, an expert in keeping old island traditions alive, is organising a harvest of the almond crop. The walk begins in Vilaflor’s picturesque square before heading into the area’s alpine-esque countryside for 5 kilometres to a charming finca where the almonds will be harvested and loaded onto mules.

Afterwards there’s a picnic in the pines (bring your own food and drink). It sounds absolutely delightful.

The harvested almonds are due to be sold at the almond fair in Aripe (Guia de Isora) on the 8th November and proceeds sent to a hospital in Guatamala which was founded by Vilaflor’s very own saint, Hermano Pedro – so it’s for a good cause to boot.

Date: Saturday, 26th September.

Anyone wanting more information should call Montse, or María José on 922 709 802 at Vilaflor Town Hall.

Walking on Tenerife – Into the Eastern Anaga Mountains

Yesterday was one of those days where I turned into ‘Mr Bean does Walking Tenerife’.

We were exploring some new routes in the north eastern Anaga Mountains and by the end of the day my hat and sunglasses had blown down a barranco, I’d nearly ended up on my backside three times, I had a grazed foot, a bruised ankle, sunburnt knees and cactus spines embedded in my right leg. Andy escaped completely unscathed.

As we hadn’t been walking for some time we decided to ease back into it with what I thought would be a relatively easy route beyond Igueste.

Route details were typically scarce save for one brief online Spanish description which sort of said there’s a hard bit at the start and a hard bit at the end and that was about it…hmmm.

But surprise, surprise the initial stages of the route were clearly signposted with the walkers’ yellow and white markers.

Did I say we thought it was going to be an easy route? Anyone who knows the Anaga Mountains will know that ‘easy walking in the Anagas’ is an oxymoronic statement. Any route is going to involve lots of ups and downs.

This one was a real thigh tester. The path was good hard volcanic rock, but it snaked directly upwards and walking in the September sunshine made the ascent just that little bit more strenuous. However, numerous stops to catch the breath and glug down plenty of fluids gave us the opportunity to soak up the scenery. There was a bit of a haze, so the vistas weren’t as impressive as they would be on a clear day, but still we could see the outline of Mount Teide dominating the centre of the island and the coast all the way down to Las Galletas.

One of the things which fascinates me about the Anagas is that they are full of sleepy little villages and hamlets stuck in time and yet the island’s bustling capital is only a relatively short drive away. From our position on the hillside we could see the little town of Igueste, with its fruit trees and neat plots, and also in the distance, the ultra modern Auditorio gleaming in the sunshine – complete opposites.

The path seemed to climb upwards for ever before we eventually reached the top and almost immediately began a steep descent – what was that about a hard bit at the beginning and end? Where was the bit in between? Walking markers became scarcer and then petered out altogether along with the path at a curious abandoned lookout point called the Semiforo where there were pretty amazing views along the coast on one side and over a deserted remote bay on the other.

At this point we decided to try another route. The path became less of a path and more of a goat trail and I picked up injury number one as my heel made contact with a pointed rock (not normally a problem, but I was wearing walking sandals, so had no real protection for my foot). The goat trail climbed to an old derelict building (strangely with a brand new door) on the summit of a ridge and just as we arrived the cloud descended and the wind blew up a gale. Andy sensibly decided to stay sheltered beside the derelict building whilst I went to explore an old mirador, which is where my hat was rudely removed from my bonce, taking my sunglasses with it and thrown down a barranco by the wind. I picked up the grazed foot and leg-full of cactus spines while Andy sat blissfully unaware that I was risking life and limb to retrieve a pair of cheap sunglasses and a NYY baseball cap which was probably older than some NYY players.

Unfortunately the low cloud made the views of secret and completely remote valleys less impressive than they should have been and we headed back down to Igueste along a trail which had seemed solid on the way up, but on the way down became a slithery trail of scree. Cue three ‘cartoon stepping on marbles moments’, which Andy at least found very amusing, before we emerged back at Igueste.

Overall, it was satisfying to give the leg muscles a decent workout and it was interesting to explore a new area, but whether to include it as a walking route when we complete our eastern Anaga routes, we’re unsure. I’m still deciding if ending up with a pin cushion leg was a price worth paying.