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Posts Tagged ‘driving on Tenerife’

The road began to snake its way into the Guama Mountains and as the first sharp bend to the right approached, the car in front ground to a complete standstill, leaving us scrabbling to get into first gear before we stalled. Baffled by the need for the sudden halt as there was no other traffic on the road, we held our breath as the hire car rolled back to within uncomfortable distance of our bumper before the driver finally found the bite and resumed his excruciating journey, stuttering around hairpin bends as if he expected to drive off the cliff at any second and hitting a top speed of 2 kilometres per hour on the straight sections. Behind him, we barely got out of first gear until mercifully, he pulled off at the first viewpoint.

So dangerous and yet so safe.
Tenerife’s second most popular day trip destination it may be, but the vast majority of visitors who make it to the remote hamlet of Masca, do so by letting someone else do the driving. For those intrepid independents who hire a car on Tenerife and take the wheel themselves, the road to Masca is the island’s most notorious white knuckle drive, twisting and turning its way down the sheer side of a mountain in a series of gravity-defying switch backs.

Ironically, the road to Masca is actually one of the safest roads on Tenerife where accidents are a rarity, and that’s because everyone is driving so slowly that even if they make contact, there’s usually no more than a smudge on the bumper to show for it. But that’s not to say a plunge over the edge is beyond the realms of possibility, particularly given how badly some visitors drive this stretch of road.

The art of steering
In much of Europe, peoples’ daily commutes consist of road journeys that require very little in the way of steering wheel manipulation. From motorway lane changes to main road junctions, it’s a simple fact that many of us predominantly drive in straight lines. So, confronted with some of Tenerife’s narrow roads that zigzag their way up and down mountains, coupled with an unfamiliar car, your average driver has no notion of how to steer through the curves.

Having spent some time in the south west of the island yesterday, we had to detour to Buenavista del Norte on the way home to check out some details about one of our Island Walks and the quickest way to do that was via Masca. Unfortunately, we found ourselves behind this very nervous hire car driver. But he wasn’t the only dangerous element on the road yesterday, the way was littered with offending motorists.

Essential tips for driving the road to Masca

  • Don’t use passing bays as car parks – you’re putting other drivers at risk. All the way down the road we saw stopping places used as parking spots with people posing for photos and even eating their sandwiches while their cars occupied the only space where two vehicles could pass.
  • Follow the road markings which take you wide on left hand bends and hug the cliff on right hand bends, leaving space for oncoming vehicles to get past. The man we were stuck behind took every corner in the middle of the road, forcing oncoming traffic into the ditch or dangerously close to the edge.
  • If a viewpoint is full, you can’t stop there. We saw two cars yesterday with their rear ends stuck half way across the road because they’d squeezed into spaces too small for their vehicles.
  • Don’t arrive at 1pm and expect to get a parking spot. Masca is extremely popular, particularly between the hours of 11am and 3pm when the jeep safaris descend. It’s impossible to get a parking space anywhere nearer than El Palmar, and deciding to sit in your car in the middle of the little roundabout on the off chance that someone might be leaving soon is just plain silly – stop it.

Having said all of that, if you’re a confident driver, the road to Masca is a brilliant drive, provided you’re not unlucky enough to be behind the bloke in the hire car who, for all I know, may still be en route.

The road to Masca is part of the Hidden Depths  drive in Real Tenerife Island Drives.

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Memories of idyllic childhood holidays spent slowly driving along Cornish lanes the width of the car with skyscraper hedgerows laced with sweet scented honeysuckle. Dad’s expression in the driver’s mirror betrayed his hope that no other vehicle would be coming towards us while my brothers and me in the back seat excitedly hoped they would so we could scream conflicting directions to Dad as he reversed to the nearest passing point. Mum’s job was to read the cryptic directions from the leaflet she held in her hands; turn left at the Cornish pasty (which turned out to be the name of a cottage that was just crying out to be featured on clotted cream packaging) then take a right at the monkey puzzle…you get the picture.

When we moved to North Tenerife and began traversing forest roads and mountain villages, we wanted other visitors to the island to find this hidden, ‘real’ Tenerife too, and it was then that we had the idea of writing Real Tenerife Island Drives. We didn’t just want to give people directions, they could buy a map for that, we wanted them to enjoy the whole experience of exploring the island. So we designed routes that wove through off the beaten track parts of the island, including snippets of information we’d discovered along the way such as how a place got its name, if it had an unusual fiesta and its place in Tenerife’s short but colourful history. Then we added places to stop for a view or a leg stretch and nice little places to stop for lunch or a picnic along the route.

Never having had any experience of self publishing, we drove, wrote, photographed, designed and did the layout for Island Drives, sharing one desktop pc between us. It was a journey of triumphs and disappointments but it was a labour of love. When we finally despatched it to the printers and arranged its distribution, we had just 3 weeks in which to build and launch a website on which to sell it.

We sat in front of that steam-powered pc and began to build a website without any knowledge, training, prior experience and most importantly without WordPress. All our waking hours were spent grappling with page design and layout, trying to understand Meta data, diagrams, parent and child pages and basic HTML.

The word ‘divorce’ was uttered on many an occasion and we laughed and cried our way to finally hitting that ‘publish’ button. Neither before nor since have I felt such elation and such a sense of achievement. We were delirious with joy and promptly got drunk! Of course, what we didn’t realise at that time was that we launched our site into cyber obscurity…but that’s another story.

Over 2500 worldwide sales later, this month Real Tenerife Island Drives has taken another giant leap forward into the 21st century and has just been published on Kindle. It hasn’t been quite the same torturous experience that its original creation was, but nor has it been without its hair pulling, screaming out loud moments and the mere mention of the term ‘Table of Contents’ can still bring on a sweat.

But at last I can say: Real Tenerife Island Drives – now available on Kindle. YAY!

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Just in case there was the slightest outside chance that we might find ourselves with spare time on our hands, we’re currently converting Real Tenerife Island Drives into Kindle format.

We’ve watched with interest over the past year as Kindle has taken off, and having just bought one as a present for someone and seen it in action, it’s clear why this little gizmo will soon replace paper-bound holiday reading. So, never one to miss an opportunity, I have embarked on making Real Tenerife Island Drives available on Kindle, which gives us an opportunity to ensure that all our directions and references are fully up to date.

As we’re constantly driving the length and breadth of Tenerife to get to meetings, the start of walking trails or to fiestas, it’s quite easy to check most of the routes in the book by simply slotting them into our itinerary. In this way, we’ve ensured that everything’s still hunky dory. But there’s one route that takes a little more effort – Here Be Dragos…[Read more]

The more eagle-eyed amongst you may have noticed that I’ve been conspicuous by my absence on here of late – that’s because I’ve moved. You can find my ramblings now self-contained within the all-singing, all-dancing The Real Tenerife website. Come on over, the kettle’s on 🙂

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Masca looking it's old self again

We don’t have that many stockists of Island Drives on Tenerife so you’d think that getting round them would be a fairly easy affair. But there are some stockists that we struggle to get to even once a year and there are a couple of reasons why that is.
Living in the north of Tenerife, we try to maximise effectiveness of our journeys south and so usually combine trips to stockists with other business. So our usual routine is to leave Puerto de la Cruz early to drive south where we have one or two meetings and then onto the west and back via Icod de los Vinos.

The trouble with this pattern is that we invariably arrive in the west of the island mid-afternoon and so Kiko’s in Alcalá is always closed for the siesta and we don’t want to wait until he re-opens at 4.30pm as it’s just ‘dead’ time and we still have more stops to make.
So spending a night in Pearly Grey last week gave us the perfect opportunity to pop into Kiko’s the next day.

Kiko’s is a great place; it reminds me of Arkwright’s store in ‘Open All Hours’. He sells absolutely everything and it’s all over the place. There appears to be no planning or order whatsoever yet Kiko can go straight to whatever you need without stuttering and he’ll be grinning and joking with you while he does. It’s a really nice store – a part of the Alcalá community.

The second stockist we rarely get to for fairly obvious reasons, is La Fuente in Masca. The first time we went to him with Island Drives he was amazed that we were there and told us distributors won’t deal with him ‘cos he’s just too remote to justify a trip. Again, he’s a really pleasant man and it’s great having our books with him; I love the fact that you can travel to one of the remotest villages on Tenerife and you’ll find Real Tenerife Island Drives on the shelf!

So when we left Kiko’s on Wednesday, we took a detour from Santiago del Teide into Masca. It’s a year since we were last there and we were amazed to see how much the undergrowth has come back in that year after the fires of 2007. The valley is once again looking lush and fertile; the Masca Barranco looked almost irresistibly inviting for a hike to the beach and life in the hamlet seems to be getting back to normal.

Sue's jewellery stall, Masca plaza

Our friend Sue was at her usual jewellery stand in the plaza, weaving leather straps into an intricate wrist band. Sue and Colin are two of only four (I think it’s only four now) Brits living in Masca and their home was destroyed in the fires in 2007. But their new home is now complete – well, there isn’t any electricity yet but hey, it’s only been 3 years – and they’re happily ensconced. Sue sits patiently in the plaza most days creating her beautiful jewellery and loves a chat with visitors.

So if you’re hiring a car and planning a trip to Masca – pop into La Fuente for some of their fabulous cake and their homemade cactus lemonade and then wander over to Sue’s stall, say “hi” from Andy & Jack from Puerto and buy some beautiful, handmade jewellery as souvenirs.

Tenerife – it’s full of gems.

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A new survey conducted in May by Confused.com has come up with some rather surprising statistics for what Brits get up to in their cars. Apparently, of the 2000 motorists surveyed, 47% of Southwest drivers admitted to having sex in their car, hotly pursued by the South East (44%) and Scotland (43%).

It’s not entirely clear from the report in RealTravel.magazine whether the sex is happening at the same time as the driving but a quote from one of the Confused.com people which refers to “the distraction element some drivers are exposing themselves to when multi tasking”, would certainly suggest that this is the case (personally, I would have chosen a different phrase there if I’d been their spokesperson).

Other in-car entertainment options to come out of the survey are eating (75% of respondents) and sleeping (50%), though whether the sleeping comes after the sex is unclear and what exactly is being referred to by ‘eating’ is somewhere I’m not prepared to go.
Apparently 33% of the Welsh have been dumped by their partners whilst behind the wheel, presumably because they fell asleep while having sex and got crumbs all over the seat…the mind boggles!

All I can say is, British drivers must be very bored with the scenery on their doorsteps and really ought to get out more.
I can whole heartedly recommend picking up a copy of Island Drives, renting a car on Tenerife and taking to the Tinerfeño roads where you’ll be far too busy gawping at the scenery to indulge in auto-intimacy, or at least, not whilst the vehicle is actually in motion.

And if you can have sex whilst simultaneously driving down the mountain into Masca, you’re either having bad sex or else you’re a better man than I am, Gunga Din!

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We woke up yesterday to cold, cloud and drizzle, cursing our luck that we’d chosen the week’s worst weather day to show a friend something he’d never seen, despite 30 years of visiting Tenerife.
As we were about to pull the front door, the electricity went off.
“I think a day out will do us good”, I sighed.

Bob’s not like a lot of the Brits who spend their winters on Tenerife, moving from their apartment to the beach and the beach to their favourite bar, the longest journey they undertake being the one from the airport to their resort and then back again when it’s time to return in the spring.
Bob likes to explore Tenerife.

Not being a driver though, his exploration has to confine itself to those places he can easily access by public transport in a day and so, in 30 years of coming to Puerto de la Cruz, Bob had never been to Masca; Tenerife’s Shangri-La and the second most visited place on the island after Mount Teide.
Yesterday, Jack and I decided to rectify that omission and to take Bob on our ‘Hidden Depths’ discovery drive.

Masca never fails to impress even the most hardened of travellers.
From the moment you begin to climb the narrow road that snakes its way up the mountainside out of Santiago del Teide, then crest to reveal the tiny settlement perched at the mouth of its ravine, surrounded by palm groves and towering monoliths, until you reach the end of the path at the bottom of the village, the ‘WOW’ factor never diminishes.

“They have quite a history of witches here, you know.”
“Really?” Bob looked suitably sceptical.
“Yup, shape-changers; women who become crows, or pigs or cats and play tricks on you.”
We were walking back along the narrow road towards the car.
“That’s odd”, said Jack, “the mobile phone won’t switch on.”
“My camera’s just gone blank”, said Bob, “it won’t do anything.”
We stopped in the road and tried pressing buttons and changing batteries but nothing would resurrect the camera or the phone.
Eventually we gave up and continued walking. After a few yards the phone came back on and Bob’s camera miraculously came back to life.
“Told you.” I grinned.

By the time we arrived at the valley, the sun had burned the clouds off and it had turned into a beautiful afternoon. We found a perfect table at the picnic zone, in the dappled shade of the fruit trees and ate our bocadillos while Bob filled the memory stick on his camera, completely seduced by the beauty of his surroundings.

After lunch we continued our trip to the Westerly town of Buenavista where Bob informed us he’d once gone, not known where to go and, disillusioned with the surroundings, had got straight back on the bus to Puerto.
Yesterday we took him to the old quarter with its pretty plaza and church, to the best cake shop on Tenerife and the old little store that sells local produce and handicrafts .

Later, as we sat in the sun by the Art Nouveau bandstand of another picturesque plaza enjoying a coffee, Bob asked if there were toilets in the café, there weren’t, but we knew where there were some and directed him to the courtyard of the old convent.
When he came back Bob said; “I can’t believe how many beautiful places I’ve seen today and all the things I’ve learned about them. You even know where the toilets are everywhere we’ve been!”

It was a great day; relaxing, enjoyable and fun and it was rewarding to share in Bob’s enthusiasm.
Sometimes we forget how few people really know this beautiful island and its hidden depths; it’s a joy to share that knowledge with those who want more from Tenerife than just a suntan.

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