Friday, 28 May 2010

Walking in the Teide Crater – It's Tajinaste Time

They don't seem as though they belong. In an other-worldly setting they look like visitors from another planet themselves; their tall proud spikes standing out against the ruddy tones of the volcanic landscape like splashes of blood on a canvas.

It's easy to believe that they are extra-terrestrial visitors enjoying their annual couple of weeks in Tenerife's sunshine before heading back to who knows where.

If anyone hasn't seen them up close and personal then, at some point before mid June, it's worth making the trip up to Las Cañadas del Teide see the brief but spectacular blooming of the tajinaste plant.

Yesterday we traveled back from the south of Tenerife to Puerto de la Cruz via the crater, hoping that our timing was right and the fields of this unusual plant would be there to welcome us – we weren't disappointed.

As you drive along the roads from the southern entrances toward Mount Teide, the tajinaste aren't always easy to spot; they can behave like shy creatures, keeping just out of sight below ridges beside the road. But once you know where they are it's impossible to miss them and conveniently they come back to the same spots year after year. They also congregate around the cable car like the human visitors to Tenerife and by the time you're on the road north, they've lost their shyness and huddle around miradors (viewing areas) and stand at the side of the road like flamboyant hitch-hikers.

But it's essential to get in amongst them by foot to really appreciate their uniqueness. We must have timed it perfectly this year as the island's bees were enjoying their annual shopping trip to the tajinaste – the black spots in the picture aren't dust on the camera lens – and the air was alive with excited buzzing as I leaned in close to try to get some intimate shots of the bees on the flowers. I wasn't particularly concerned that bees were buzzing around my head; there was only one thing on their little insect radar and it wasn't me. I was able to take photo after photo without fear of getting zapped by a bee.

Visiting the tajinaste in bloom is one of those unique little experiences that makes walking on Tenerife ultra special and witnessing these amazing plants bloom in such spectacular style in such a dry, violent landscape makes the soul soar. I can't recommend it enough.

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