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Archive for the ‘hiking’ Category

Around 5pm on Sunday afternoon I decided to break free from the keyboard, take advantage of the warm sunshine and head out from home for a walk.

My circuit took me through the banana plantations, along the headland, across a ravine and back along a quiet, palm tree lined road until I reached the junction with the main road. Reluctant to end my idyllic rural walk with a hundred metres of busy tarmac, I opted instead to divert through the tiny hamlet of Los Rechazos which lies hidden behind the main road.

Presumably before they built the ‘new’ road, this would have been the main thoroughfare. Barely wide enough for a single vehicle to drive down, tiny cottages with Hobbit-height front doors donate most of what little pavement lies outside to window boxes and planters filled with tumbling geranuims.

Rounding a bend in the lane, I spotted a gathering ahead. Four small, dilapidated tables teetered single file on the pavement with a chair either end, on which eight elderly people were sitting, marking off numbers on bingo cards. Some were using paper cut-outs to cover the numbers, others were using assorted old buttons, and the ‘cards’ were dirty old paper ones which looked as if they’d been handmade many years ago. On the other side of the street, about two yards away, two women were sitting. One held a cloth bag which she shook continuously while the other reached in, pulled out what looked like a child’s building brick, and shouted the number across the street.

I walked quietly past the intently concentrating faces and smiled to myself. So this is what passes for nightlife in Los Rechazos? Street bingo – I can see it catching on.

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At Al Campo yesterday they had this wonderful stand with all the vegetable ingredients for puchero – a traditional Spanish stew. Incidentally, for all you veggies, the translation of puchero as a vegetable stew is a huge misnomer because it contains beef and pork.

I thought it was brilliant that there was a special display to save you gathering all your own ingredients and it’s very typical of the habits of the masses here – it’s post Christmas, so everyone will be using up their leftover cuts of meat to make puchero.

The stand had all the ingredients except the meat and the chickpeas:  cabbage, corncob, pumpkin, chayote, French beans, sweet potato, pears, marrow or courgette, carrot, leek, garlic, onion and tomato.
To make puchero, chickpeas, beef, pork, saffron and thyme are added to the above and the whole lot are simmered into a warming, fragrant stew which is usually served with fresh crusty bread.

For hikers, there’s nothing quite like a steaming bowl of puchero at the end of a long walk when the sweat is drying and the chill of the mountain air kicks in. And I have it on very good authority that the best puchero on the island is to be found at Casa Lala in Arico Viejo.

I have yet to try Casa Lala myself and will have to try out a new walking route that ties in with finishing there, but we’re planning a walk around the Erjos Pools soon and I might just pop into Bar Las Fleytas to try theirs…watch this space.

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Generally speaking, I prefer circular walks to linear ones; somehow I feel that you get double the scenery for the same energy output.

So last week when we went walking in the hills above the south west coast, we took what was essentially a ‘there and back again’ walk and decided to make it circular by finding a different route back to our starting point.
We were making good, downhill progress on a dusty, unmade road until we reached the point where there should have been an old path cutting off over a barranco (ravine) and back through the abandoned terraces to our starting point. But endless searching for the start of the path proved futile, despite the fact that we could see it quite clearly running up the other side of the barranco.

We were left with no choice but to cover the 1 kilometre distance by following the main road which stretched into endless switchbacks for 3½ kilometres in searing calima heat with no pavement. A completely unacceptable end to what had been a glorious walk. Fed up, tired and disappointed, we arrived just a few hundred metres from our starting point to find a newly-erected Cabildo (Island Government) board showing the start of the very path we had been trying to find from the other side. Frustrated and annoyed, we resolved to return and complete the final section the way we had wanted to.

Yesterday we went back into the hills of the south west to do what we considered to be a linear walk. But we discovered that we could in fact easily turn it into a circular one by returning along quiet country lanes through picturesque hamlets, enhancing what we had initially feared might be a fairly uneventful route. The Cabildo had cleared access and put in signposts and wayside markers, making it easy to navigate the many paths and turn them into a thoroughly enjoyable walk.

When we finished we drove back to last week’s route to do the final section of the path we’d failed to find. We parked up and followed the directions given on the fancy Cabildo sign at the start of the path. Within minutes we’d been followed by barking dogs snapping at our heels; we’d taken several wrong turnings through completely overgrown and confusing terrain with no clear path; and we’d finally ended up in what looked like someone’s driveway where two parked vans completely barred the way.
Frustratingly, we could quite clearly see the path climbing up the other side of the barranco – the side we’d been completely unable to see last week – but we couldn’t see where it emerged as it disappeared into undergrowth.
Re-tracing our steps, Jack tried shimmying down the barranco but ended up on a sheer precipice, speared by spiky seed heads that impregnated his shoes and buried themselves into his feet.
Clearly the Cabildo had put up a nice sign at the start of the path but then had done nothing. Any path that may have been there had long since been reclaimed by nature and by man.

You may find some paths have been usurped for 'other purposes'

A couple of old guys whose back yard we’d practically walked through twice, came out to offer their help, one indicating that the path was where Jack had tried, the other sending us in the opposite direction.
Jack sat on a rock and extracted the spikes from his feet while I explored another possible lead which once again led to a precipice over the barranco.
“Right” I said, eventually. “Let’s drive back to where we couldn’t find the path last week and try doing it that way round”.

Less than convinced, Jack agreed and we set off back down the road we were learning to hate as it zig-zagged its way interminably covering very little real distance. After a kilometre or so, we spotted the house where we’d come unstuck and there appeared to be a path alongside. We parked the car and set off to see if the owners were in fact using a public path as their private garage.
“You’ve got the notebook, haven’t you” I said to Jack. The notebook contained all my scribbled descriptions, directions and timings that would turn our experience into a detailed walking guide.
Jack’s face looked as if I’d just asked if I could use his dog and his Granny for target practice.
“It’s still on a rock on the path where I took the spikes out of my feet” he said.

With not another word, he got into the car, drove back up the road which we’d both decided we’d be happy if we never saw it again in our lives, and retraced the gauntlet of snappy dogs and overgrown barranco to retrieve the book. Meanwhile, I followed the path to be confronted by two large, growling, slavering dogs guarding what appeared to be private land with not a path in sight.

When Jack got back with the car, we called time on the whole fiasco.

Some walks are just not meant to be circular.

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Last week we had a meeting in the south of the island at 10am and not being sure how bad the morning traffic into Santa Cruz would be, we decided to set off by 8am. It’s a journey that would normally take us just over an hour so we were erring on the generous side.
At 7am I leapt out of bed and went into the kitchen to put the coffee on. Through my sleepy haze I could see a dozen or more ants running around the draining board. Raising my eyes I noticed a thin black highway of ants running up and down the wall above the sink and slowly, as I scanned the worktop I saw the thin line running to and from the old plastic container in which we keep peelings and egg shells that are destined for the compost heap.

The night before, I’d taken some eggs out of the fridge to make an omelette and had just slightly knocked one against the other (well you know what they say about making an omelette without breaking eggs). When I looked down, there was a small hole in one but as I couldn’t be absolutely certain that it had only appeared that instant, I didn’t take any chances and put it in with the compost peelings. Clearly, I had inadvertently given the local ant population a midnight feast.

View of Los Cristianos from Montaña Guaza

View of Los Cristianos from Montaña Guaza

Immediate action was called for. The ants were ‘tapped’ back up the wall until we could see where they were coming from and then rounded up from all over the worktops and herded back whence they’d come before spraying the wall with ant spray (sorry environment – short on time). We were planning to hike up Montaña Guaza after the meeting and so had to make up sandwiches, pack clothes to change into, hiking shoes and water into the rucksack. Not to mention, have some breakfast.
By 7.30am we were still in our dressing gowns and hadn’t even drunk our coffee.

Half a headless chicken hour later and feeling like we’d already put a full day in, we were driving at a nifty pace up the motorway until we rounded the corner just shy of Santa Úrsula (about 8 km into the journey) and ground to a halt. For the next 45 minutes we watched the clock race and the speedo’ crawl until we finally reached the Tacoronte turn off and took the exit. We crossed the bridge and headed back on the westbound carriageway.
An hour after we’d set off, we were back at the Puerto turn off and heading towards Icod to take the shorter, but considerable slower route over the mountain to the west coast.

Normally a spectacular Tenerife drive to be enjoyed and savoured, it seemed today like just about every other vehicle had developed a top speed of 15 kilometres an hour, causing much high blood pressure and an inordinate amount of swearing. Eventually we arrived at the southern end of the motorway and picked up speed, only to grind to a halt once more in the rush hour traffic heading into the south from the west side of the island.

We finally arrived in Los Cristianos at 10.50 am, the perfect time to not find a parking spot. A brisk ten minute walk later, we arrived at our meeting, 3 hours after we’d set off.

Meeting over, we drove out to Montaña Guaza and parked up. A quick change of clothes, a swiftly swallowed butty,

A barren landscape

A barren landscape

some slapped on sun cream and off we set. We knew we were in for about a three hour hike so Jack set the pace like a greyhound out of the traps. All was going well until the directions we were following told us to ignore the path straight ahead and detour off into the barren, arid wasteland whose only identifying features were a grid of trails leading in every direction, none of them reflecting the instructions in the book.

After going miles out of our way, we finally tracked back to the path we’d left in the first place but by then the humidity and greyhound pace had sent me into light headed land from which I could not escape. No amount of ‘head between the knees’ would banish my near faint and I had to concede that I wasn’t going any further.

We got back home at around 6.30pm to find several ants on the worktop where they’d presumably spent the day running around, directionless and thwarted at every turn. I knew just how they felt.

Some days the Gods are just not with you.

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We were hiking in the Chinyero Reserve on Tuesday and when we finished

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

Almond blossom in the Santiago del Teide valley in late January

we headed to the Las Fleytas bar and restaurant for our customary post-hike beer. The restaurant has a deservedly good reputation for tasty, plentiful food and is also known for its almond cakes.
With Richard and Nikki (and of course Basil, the Tenerife Dogs spokesman) as hiking companions, I thought introducing them to ‘almendras’ would be the perfect excuse for me to finally get to try one.

We ordered our beers and I hesitantly asked if the barman had ‘almendras’ as I wasn’t sure if that was what they were called.
He shook his head and said he didn’t have any.
Disappointed but now having the ‘taste’ for something sweet in our heads, Jack was despatched inside to see what they had that would serve as an adequate substitute. He re-emerged moments later with a broad grin on his face and a plate containing four large, circular almond cakes.

He later told me that the barman had said that they never have almendras for sale and when Jack had pointed to the cakes in the glass food cabinet under the bar and asked, “So what are these?” the guy had said, “They’re almendras”, before adding, “Oh! You meant you wanted these?”
Jack’s raised eyebrow must have been a recognisable clue because he then realised what he’d said and tagged on “almendras dulces” to the order.

I have to say, looking at the large, flat, biscuits I was very disappointed. I had expected soft, moist sponge with an almond essence and I dunno, maybe even the slightest hint of vanilla icing on top, or desiccated coconut maybe.
As it was, Basil got an unexpected few lumps of biscuit.

For biscuit lovers, it was probably perfectly nice. But for a cake lover, it was definitely a disappointment and a complete misnomer if you ask me.

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Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Ever expanding developments on the coast and abandoned terraces in the hills.

Hiking in the hills above the south coast last weekend, the landscape was dominated by dried up terraces overgrown with brown weeds where only the lethal leaves of giant Agave plants punctuated the arid monotony.
A derelict farmhouse told its own story. Set into a hidden valley with the mountains at its back and the Atlantic Ocean laid out at its feet, its once crop-rich lands were today in ruins, a back-breaking life of toiling terraces long since abandoned in favour of the easier and more lucrative option of providing shelter, food and drink to sun-hungry tourists on the coast below.
You could see the attraction. Up here the earth was baked, the only rainfall coming from dense low cloud and the rarest of winter downpours. Just negotiating its contours on foot brought on a sweat, I could only imagine how hard it must have been to plough, sow, weed and harvest the unyielding earth.

Bordering the ocean on the coastline below, the developments of the last fifty years spread ever further westwards, closing gaps between resorts and swallowing small fishing hamlets into their hungry jaws. Down there the terrain was just as barren as up here but everywhere it was dotted with the green swathes of a golf course here and a banana plantation or a hotel garden there.
Despite the distance, I could hear the amplified instructions of an aqua aerobics instructor and imagined her class in their five star swimming pool, unaware that life even existed in the mountains that provided their holiday backdrop.

Further along the road there was a picnic laid out on long trestle tables and forty or fifty hunters were gathered. In all probability they lived quite locally, spent their working days serving in the hotels, bars, restaurants, shops and banks at the coast below and retreated up here at the weekend to don their hunting clothes and get back in touch with a way of life which seems mostly to have been lost. Apart from one or two notable exceptions, these guys all had huge bellies overhanging the waistband of their camouflage pants and were smoking big, fat cigars as they wandered the two strides distance they had left between their parked 4x4s and the tables containing their generous lunches.

I couldn’t help wondering if anyone had done research into the life expectancy of the Canarios over the last fifty years. I wouldn’t mind betting that, for all its severity and deprivation, the old way of life would have kept their grand parents a whole lot healthier than many of their descendants are today. It would have kept their hills a lot greener too.

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I noticed on the news yesterday that Lufthansa airlines were offering compensation to holidaymakers who got rainy days while they were away.
I reckon it’s a fairly safe bet that the UK won’t be one of the 36 destinations for which the insurance company will pay out, but I guess Tenerife might be. The chances of seeing rain at the coast anywhere between June and October on Tenerife are low enough even for me to consider giving good odds.

We’ve had weeks and weeks of cloudless searing heat here so, for those of us who live on the island, the occasional cloud cover we’re having this week is a merciful relief.
Of course, if this is your two weeks R&R away from the sort of ‘barbecue summer’ that sent Noah heading briskly towards the woodshed, the last thing you want to see is clouds.

But worry not, there are so many excellent things to do on Tenerife that you should really look on cloudy days, not as disappointments, but as opportunities.

So, here is my list of things to do when it’s cloudy in Tenerife; it’s by no means exhaustive
:

Beat the clouds – if you absolutely must have the sun, you can pretty much guarantee finding it in Teide National

Life above the clouds

Life above the clouds

Park and at least you get to see a bit of the island in the process. Simply drive up through the pine forests to emerge above the clouds and into the blue. In this volcanic wonderland you can take a cable to the top of the world (well, nearly); eat lunch in Spain’s highest restaurant; wander amongst incredible rock formations at Roques García or simply soak up the sun. But be warned, the air at this height is thinner and the sun’s rays more intense, slap on the factor 25, wear a hat and drink plenty of water.

Go wild – leave the barren landscape of the south and head to the north’s verdant Puerto de la Cruz and Tenerife’s number one ‘must-see’; Loro Parque.
Dolphin, sea lion, Orca and parrot shows are all great fun and entertainment while the penguins at the incredible artificial iceberg are compulsive watching. You’ll need at least five hours in the park so give yourself plenty of time for this one.

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

In Santa Cruz, just be cool

See summer in the city – the island’s capital city of Santa Cruz has a surprising number of things to see and do and cloudy days afford some respite for wandering the shops (tax free shopping), chilling out in the tranquil Parque García Sanabria, exploring the museums and galleries or just kicking back in one of the pavement cafes and watching the world go by. And if the sun re-emerges (as it usually does in Santa Cruz), you’re just a hop and skip away from the island’s best beach at Las Teresitas and the best seafood lunch at beach-side San Andrés.

Tour mini-Tenerife – at Pueblo Chico in La Orotava. Spend a

Its a small world at Pueblo Chico

It's a small world at Pueblo Chico

couple of hours wandering around beautifully crafted models of the Canaries in miniature with meticulous attention to detail and lots of funny bits.
When you’re done, head up the hill to the full sized La Orotava, the jewel in Tenerife’s crown, and explore the streets of the old quarter. You’ll find parks and gardens, historic houses lining narrow cobbled streets, old monasteries, a Gothic church and some nice little antique shops.

Take a hike – along some of Tenerife’s stunning walking trails. Summer can be murderous for tackling some stamina-sapping parts of the island so take advantage of cloud cover to trek the parts that don’t have wide vistas crying out for sunshine, like Masca Barranco or Hell’s Ravine.

Dive in –to the deep, blue Atlantic at one of the island’s fascinating dive sites around the coast of Las Galletas or take the whole family and head to San Miguel marina for a trip in a Yellow Submarine…all together now; “we all live ” tum ti tum.

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mummified Guanche at Museum of Man & Nature

Mooch – around one of Tenerife’s museums. Now before you yawn and skip to the end…not all museums are dull. Science and Cosmos in La Laguna is an oversized playground of optical illusions; Man and Nature in Santa Cruz has some gruesome mummies and the Anthropological in Valle Guerra is like Tenerife’s version of the set of ‘Upstairs Downstairs’. And on Sundays they’re all free to get in.

So…bring on the clouds, see if we care!

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