Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Visions in Pink - The Almond Trees of Santiago del Teide, Tenerife

The Santiago del Teide Valley is an uplifting place to walk at any time of the year – old farmers in fedora hats stop their backbreaking work tending fields to wave as you walk by, old women in straw hats gossip on the corners of a small hamlet and the scenery shifts from gentle agricultural lands to pine forest to bizarre volcanic formations – but in January and February it is positively magical.

This is the time when the almond trees blossom and fill parts of the valley with their delicate pink flowers. They are a beautiful if short-lived sight to behold and make exploring the area that little bit more special.

For anyone who’s lucky enough to be on Tenerife during this blooming marvelous time and who wants to discover the charms of the Santiago Valley for themselves our ‘Into the Valley’ walking route traverses much of the valley.

Tenerife Island Walks are always a real joy to put together and the Santiago del Teide Valley route was no exception. The routes which follow former merchant and Guanche shepherd trails have some moments where the scenery is so stunning it could almost knock you on to your backside. Standing overlooking the valley with the road snaking to Masca on the opposite valley wall and La Palma, La Gomera and occasionally El Hierro floating on the horizon comes as a standard 'WOW' moment on this walk.

At this time of year, the flowering almond trees are just an added bonus.

The Santiago del Teide council organizes guided ‘Ruta del Almendro en Flor’ (Almond Trees in Flower Route) each February. This year’s takes place on the 6th, but such is the popularity that it’s already full – however, it does give you an idea of around which date the locals consider it best to view the almonds in flower.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Walking on Tenerife - Teide National Park

When your husband has insisted on buying a turkey large enough to feed a family of six and then cooked it to perfection, there’s only one thing to do the next day and that’s climb the highest peak you can reasonably get to and back before darkness falls.

So it was, with a bellyful of turkey and mince pies, that we drove to the Teide Parador last Saturday and headed off to climb Guajara, the highest section of the remaining crater wall.
We’d tried this walk before and had missed the turn off because some thoughtless hiker had chosen to take a break by leaning against the directional signpost, thus obscuring it from view. We walked all the way to the start of the Vilaflor pine forests before realising our mistake and re-tracing our steps but by then, we were too tired to make it all the way to the summit.

I’d been waiting for a chance to finally get there ever since.

It was a perfect day; the sky was the sort of blue that when you see it in holiday brochures you just know it’s been Photoshop’d, and the crater was wearing its most vivid of winter hues. The air temperature in the National Park was about 11°C and the wind chill factor was bringing it down to about 9°C but the sun was hot and within minutes of walking, I’d shed my fleece and was down to a T shirt and shorts.
I remembered the first ascent of 175 metres as being quite strenuous but then last time we did it, the crater was filled with snow and ice which made the path a bit treacherous in parts. This time, I was pleased that it only took 30 minutes to get to the ridge.

No mistakes this time, despite a couple of hikers once again resting right where the directional sign was, we turned up into the final Guajara ascent. The path was eroded from recent heavy rains and it was hard going. At times the path disappeared completely before re-emerging a few yards further on. By the 50 minute stage I’d lost the feeling in my hands and legs; my hands because the temperature was now down to an icy 2°C and my legs because they were so tired from altitude walking.

Another 10 minutes and we emerged at the summit, 2715 metres above sea level, and the whole crater opened up below us. It was awesome.
We sat on the little stone benches and ate our sandwiches (turkey – naturally) completely hypnotised by the beauty of the mountain cradled in its kaleidoscopic setting dotted with shimmering lakes beneath a blindingly blue sky.

Nowhere else on this planet can you walk in such an astonishing landscape and witness the drama of nature’s explosive past from your vantage point above the clouds. It’s a humbling experience.
But when you do it, please choose your rest spots carefully and don’t inadvertently ruin another hiker’s day…happy trails and Happy 2010!