Friday, 30 October 2009

Walking in the South of Tenerife

The most enquiries we get from people about walking on Tenerife are:
1) I’m staying in the south and would like some walks within easy distance and
2) do you have any walks that aren’t too long?

Well, if I was a stone, I might just have killed two birds…

This week we’ve published ‘The Old South’ which is a series of five walks set, as the name suggests, in and around the south of Tenerife.
They range from an ancient trading route which takes you through the pretty hamlet of San Miguel before heading out into idyllic rural scenery and spectacular views, to pine forests and cliff-side paths above plunging ravines with magnificent vistas over Costa Adeje.
From above barrancos to within barrancos and from village to valley, all the walks in The Old South are less than 3 hours in duration and can easily be done by any reasonably fit person without the aid of breathing apparatus!

You can buy ‘The Old South’ for just €2 or you can buy the whole Island Walks series for just €6. Every purchase gets a free copy of ‘A Captivating Coastline’ which gives you a free bonus of five beautiful Tenerife coastal walks.
Happy hiking!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Fuzzy Walking Directions – A Recipe for Disaster

The term ‘recipe’ seems quite appropriate to use when talking about walking routes, especially when talking about writing walking routes.

Let’s be honest here, most walking routes anywhere have been written out any number of times by any number of people over the years. It’s very rare to find a completely ‘new’ walking route, but that doesn’t mean to say that there’s not something fresh to say, or a different approach to take.

It’s the same with recipes. Most recipes are variations on ones which have been handed down through families or recorded in cook books over aeons. But that doesn’t mean that there’s nothing new about the recipe. A dash of cumin here, a sprinkling of fresh herbs there and you’ve got something which improves on the original.

I bet you’re wondering where I’m going with this…hang on in there, I’ll get there in the end.

The recipe analogy came into my head the other day as I surveyed a bewildering noughts and crosses grid of identical looking paths heading in all sorts of directions. I’m sure from the air it must have looked like one of those ‘landing strip for flying saucers’ images from Erich Von Däniken’s Chariots of the Gods.

I was heading up to the summit of Montaña Guaza beside Los Cristianos and had reached a crossroads of paths which had me scratching my head in confusion.

You might be thinking, ‘surely if you’re heading to the summit of a mountain, it’s pretty obvious which way to go… up’.

And normally I’d agree, but in this situation I was following instructions which very clearly told me, against my better judgement I have to add, to ignore the obvious and then held me tightly by the hand until they deserted me at the crisscross of paths at which point they ran off into the distance feebly shouting ‘I’ll meet you again when the path becomes a bit clearer.’

It was like following a recipe for a curry which, when it got to the stage of adding the exotic seasonings, told you to ‘now add some spices’ but didn’t tell you which ones.

I was pretty peed off, especially as It’s not the first time this has happened with these particular ‘walking instructions’ and decided to do what Andy and I regularly decide to do when trying to work out what we think is the best walking route – follow our instincts. More often than not this ends up being our way of adding those extra tasty spices and handfuls of aromatic fresh herbs.

As it turned out the route we would have followed, had the directions not told us otherwise, was the most direct and was much, much simpler. God knows why we were encouraged to go off on some wild goose chase.

But once again this is exactly one of the reasons we are putting together a series of walking routes for Tenerife which we think are more user friendly than… well anything we’ve come across yet.

We’ve specifically designed them so that they look great and are full of beautiful photographs and interesting snippets of information about the area and what people should look out for.

However, the most important aspect of them for us is this.

Unlike the instructions we were using which basically just ignored the fact that there were paths in all directions, we want to be there holding your hand, saying ‘don’t worry; we’ll stick with you all the way, especially when the path ahead is unclear.’

P.S. Our version of which route to take up Montaña Guaza is now available as part of our new ‘Island Walks – The Old South Routes’.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife - The Medio Ambiente Are Still Trying to Kill Me

I had no idea what to do. I squatted down and peered at the ground in front of me… nothing, not even the slightest suggestion of a path. I was a pine needle’s width away from putting my ear to the ground; not for any particular reason other than it looked good when Hawkeye did it in Last of the Mohicans and Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.

The forest stretched almost from horizon to horizon in front of us (well that’s what it seemed like), every inch of it looking exactly the same. Only Mount Teide dominating the horizon to the right provided an indication that at least the general direction we were going was right.

The Medio Ambiente had done it again. They’d sent us off into the wilderness with shiny new signs which kept us welcome company where the path was clear and which deserted us completely when it wasn’t. And now we were in danger of becoming lost forever… or a few hours anyway.

To be fair I can’t lay all the blame at their door. Although we were on a former official walking route, we had strayed from the new path that, for some strange reason, the Medio Ambiente now wanted us to follow.

We were in the hills above El Tanque with friends Richard, Nikki and Basil of Tenerife Dogs fame. Basil was unperturbed by this turn of events, enjoying his frolic in the forest, whereas the rest of us stared at the expanse of forest in front with expressions which must have matched those of the 300 Spartans facing the Persian army at Thermopylae.

It had started out well enough with an easy stroll along a clear path through the pines from the recreation zone at Arenas Negras. The first alarm bells should have sounded when a signpost, which had pointed the way 18 months ago, didn’t appear where it should have done. Still, there was only one clear path and we followed it although it veered away from the way we were sure we wanted to go.

The signposts along it looked shiny and new; something which would normally be helpful. On Tenerife this isn’t always the case. Eventually we arrived at a path which circled the Chinyero Volcano, not the place we intended to be at all, and decided to retrace our steps and follow another new sign to San José. The route took us back in the right direction; however, within a few minutes the path became almost anonymous and there was a severe shortage of any helpful signposts whatsoever. A strategy of fanning out like a police line looking for a body helped get us back on track and we eventually joined up with a main path beside the impressive looking black and rust coloured cone at Arenas Negras.

We followed the ‘unofficial’, but more interesting, path around the volcano through a strange landscape of scattered pines, with perfect circles of tobacco coloured fallen pine needles at their base, and uneven lava formations. The path was easy to follow and the views of Mount Teide and the peaks of La Palma breaking the sea of clouds were breath stealers.

All was well with the world until we reached the point where the path completely disappeared.

I remembered similar happening the last time we walked this route, but this time I had an ace card. There was a small campsite of wooden chalets which was right above the end of our route and which should have become visible as we walked in a straight line from the end of the clear path… except this time there wasn’t.

We stared and stared at the forest, but there were no hints to the right direction, nothing… apart from the thinnest of straws. A flattish section of the forest up a slope to our right looked vaguely familiar and sort of like the spot where the chalets had been, but even as I climbed I knew that it was more in vain hope than anything else. Sure enough I reached the top and my hopes were dashed; there were no chalets. Unsure of what to do next I wandered a few feet to a ridge to think what I was going to tell the others…and there below me was the recreation zone where we’d started.

The relief was palpable and we were able to enjoy our bocadillo lunch at the comfort of a picnic table before heading to Fleytas Bar for the most welcome of post walk beers to debate what had happened to the chalets.

This experience is exactly the reason we have written walking routes on Tenerife and this particular route will be coming your way sometime in the near future – as soon as we can figure a way out to describe a path through a forest where everything looks exactly the same.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – The Mystery of the Adeje Troll

Something spooky is going on in ‘them thar hills’ above Adeje.

A couple of years ago we spent quite a bit of time walking in the Adeje Mountains as research for the ‘Walkabout’ series we were writing for Living Tenerife Magazine. On one path we came across a particularly strange rock formation which looked like a face; a troll’s face to be exact. I took a couple of photos of it, so here’s the proof that it wasn’t simply a hallucination brought about by sniffing some toxic flora along the way (not that there was any, but the smell of curry plants at one point had been quite intoxicating).

Last weekend we returned to the area to map out some routes in more detail in preparation for our new ‘Walks in the Old South’ addition to the Real Tenerife Island Walks series and as we drew closer to the area where we’d seen troll face we kept a look out for his distinctive features.

However, he’d gone!

At first we assumed we must have missed him, even though he had been right beside the path, and the return journey turned into a mission to find him. But as we passed the spot where I was 99.9% certain he’d been, he simply wasn’t there.

Maybe he really had been a troll and after we’d published his photo decided his cover had been blown, so upped sticks and headed deeper into the forest.

Or maybe his face had simply eroded. Personally, I much prefer the first explanation. The World needs a bit of magic now and again.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Tenerife Lizards

Wherever you walk on Tenerife it’s a fairly safe bet that you’ll be accompanied by lizards scuttling around in the undergrowth and playing ‘chicken’ across the path in front of you.
It never ceases to amaze me how these painfully shy creatures suddenly turn into your best mates the moment you get your butties out of the rucksack. I reckon it’s evolution; lizards have learned that the crinkle of foil or the rustle of plastic equals crumbs.

Yesterday was hike-athon day for us. Three hikes in one day, an arduous feat as my buttocks will now attest. The final hike was from San Miguel de Abona to La Centinela Mirador and as we sat on a bench overlooking the southern landscape I remembered the last time we were here. We’d sat down on the same bench to eat our lunch and within seconds lizards popped up from everywhere grabbing the crumbs we threw and disappearing back into the undergrowth with them.

One time we were hiking through an overgrown barranco in Guimar and we nearly stepped on a lizard that was peeking out from a crevice in the path. We stopped and Jack started photographing it at close range. We were amazed how confident the little fellow was. He didn’t move at all despite the close proximity of the camera lens. We must have been there for 3 or 4 minutes before I sensed that something was wrong. The lizard was actually trapped. He’d got the top half of his body through the crevice and was firmly stuck. Who knows how long the poor thing had been there and more importantly, how long he would still be there had we not come along. This was an abandoned barranco that was extremely difficult to navigate and clearly hadn’t been traversed for a very long time. In all likelihood he would have starved to death there.

Jack carefully dislodged a couple of rocks and the lizard wriggled free. For a moment he just stood there, as if he couldn’t quite believe what had just happened, and then he was off, scuttling into the undergrowth and away, already composing the narrative he would tell his children and grandchildren.

The experience gave us a warm glow, a combination of feeling really good that we’d just saved a life and mortification that we’d spent several minutes photographing the poor thing in the throes of his ordeal.
So next time you’re hiking, keep an eye out and pack some extra crumbs for the lizard life.
And if you're interested in some walking routes in the south of Tenerife, you'll love our selection of the best southern walks in 'The Old South' - only €2 including your FREE copy of our favourite Tenerife coastal walks, 'Captivating Coastline'. Buy online for delivery to your in box.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – The Closure of the Barranco del Infierno

Back in August we told you that the Barranco del Infierno was closed for a bit of a facelift.
It was estimated that the work would take a few weeks to complete.So, working on a formula specifically developed for Tenerife – take the official estimate and double it – we thought that it was time to check with the people at the Barranco del Infierno how things were progressing.

The bad news is that the Barranco is still closed. The good news is that the person we spoke to reckoned that it should be open again by around mid October. The typically Tenerife uncertain news is that he added a ‘mas o menos’ at the end.

Now we’re guessing November, but watch this space.

Sunday, 4 October 2009

If the Cap Fits…

I love hats. All my life I’ve wanted to own and wear hats and have spent countless hours in front of shop mirrors trying berets, caps, trilbys, cowboy hats, top hats and beanies. But the sad fact is I really don’t suit hats. So when I find one that looks okay, I tend to stick to it.
And that’s why the cap I wear when I go hiking which was once velvety black is now faded to grey, scruffy and dirty (despite its intimate knowledge with the inside of the washing machine) and has travelled much of the world with me over the countless years that I’ve owned it.

Last week I was rummaging through the various boxes of goodies in the ‘Todo a Euro’ sale at the local Al Campo supermarket and distractedly pulled a khaki coloured baseball cap from a box and put it on.
“My God,” said Jack. “That actually looks good on you.”
With a grin of delight I threw the cap into the shopping basket and went back to get one in a different colour for Jack.

When I got home I took the old caps off the rucksack handle where they permanently live and replaced them with the clean, shiny new ones.
I felt a twinge of regret as I threw the old ones into the back of the wardrobe and a slight worry that the newness of the cap would only serve to emphasise the age of the rest of the outfit.
Hmm, I fear this could end up costing me a lot more than the Euro I paid for the cap.

Thursday, 1 October 2009

Walking on Tenerife – Simply Stunning Scenery from Off the Beaten Track #2

We have two very contrasting areas which involve heading above the clouds for our ‘Stunning Scenery’ shots this month. The first is still an area which is relatively unexplored by visitors and where it’s possible to walk all day and have the forest all to yourself. The upper Güímar Valley is a bugger to get to from anywhere - even if you live in Güímar. This has an upside as it keeps the forests virgin and any walks feel like real voyages of discovery, but it does mean that a lot of effort to get there is required and if you’re using public transport… well, good luck.
This photo was taken near the start of the Pedro Gil route. The ruddy track leads into the pine forest and around a volcanic cone. The deeper you delve into the forest, the more remote it feels as the rocky valley walls loom overhead and any sound is courtesy of birdsong – it’s a magical and mysterious spot.
Ironically the second photo isn’t that far from one of the most visited spots on Tenerife, Mount Teide, and yet it could be a million miles away. Hundreds of thousands of people might visit the mighty mountain, but only a handful of them stray from the well beaten path where more crater treasures await the intrepid visitor. This shot was taken on the Montaña Guajara trail during winter when the sun was hot on the skin, snow lay on parts of the ground and a sea of cloud added a spectacular backdrop to the barren landscape creating a wonderfully unique scene.