Posts Tagged ‘hiking’

Those blessed with powers of observation will have noticed that there’s been blog silence here for a couple of weeks.

That’s because we’ve had our 19 year old nephew staying with us and he’s 24/7 maintenance. From the moment he drags himself from his pit at the crack of 10 am to his self-imposed curfew at 1 am, the most common phrase to fall from his lips is “What are we doing now?”
In the few short hours that don’t consist of organizing excursions, driving and playing board games there’s the shopping, cooking, cleaning up, washing, and exhausted sleep.

sardines, wine or beer and a bread roll for €3 at Puerto de la Cruz, oh and a live Latino band too

sardines, wine or beer and a bread roll for €3 at Puerto de la Cruz, oh and a live Latino band too

Having spent as much time with us as he has with his parents since he was old enough to toddle next door to our house and ring the doorbell, we were no strangers to the demands of his company and were prepared(ish) with a list of things to do and places to go.

What we were not prepared for was fate giving us the finger by, just a few days into his sojourn, the car’s power steering packing up and leaving us with an astronomical bill and three days without wheels.

Now for someone who loves walking on Tenerife, this shouldn’t be an issue, but for some reason, hiking repeatedly up the hill, along the banana road, along the pavement til it runs out and down past the Botanical Gardens into La Paz and back again in the hot sun very quickly lost its appeal.

Even the little everyday things like running out of drinking water, which is usually cause for no more than a “D’oh” and a short drive to the supermarket, turned into a two hour outing with the nephew moaning about carrying a five litre bottle back.

It’s at times like this that I question the wisdom of living on a golf course in the middle of banana plantations at the foot of the valley.

Having cleaned out every bank account and borrowed to get the car back, the ‘plans’ resumed and Teide National Park was the first place we headed to for a spot of walking in the volcanic crater.

Exploring amazing rock formations in Teide National Park

Exploring amazing rock formations in Teide National Park

The nephew started out with bounce in his step and an eagerness to examine every rock underfoot but the decision to climb a small volcanic cone and then run down into its crater…and back again, allowed the altitude to do what it does best and by lunchtime there were moans of “I can’t do any more uphill”.

That night was the town’s annual Sardinada and several hours on foot walking around town, queuing for sardines and watching the Latino band. The following day was ‘Embarkation Tuesday’; an all day on the feet affair without the car as the consumption of beer is a mandatory (oh alright, preferable) component of the day’s events.

Another hike through Las Cañades, a coastal walk to a former pirate fort and several T shirt shopping trips later and the nephew has been safely dispatched back to Blighty leaving Jack and I exhausted, skint and seriously behind with work deadlines.

Grabbing a flag from a greasy pole suspended over the harbour; one of the watery games at Puertos July Fiestas

Grabbing a flag from a greasy pole suspended over the harbour; one of the watery games at Puerto's July Fiestas on Embarkation Tuesday

Then yesterday, worried that he was late for an appointment (in the Canaries that constitutes an oxymoronic statement) Jack sprinted back to the house for some forgotten paperwork and strained a muscle in his calf. The shock and pain of the incident was however alleviated when, on looking up how best to treat it, he discovered that it’s an injury normally associated with athletes …there’s always a silver lining.

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D’y think we’ve been walking for more than 15 minutes yet?” asks Jack, re-reading the scant directions in his hand.
More like 40 minutes” Sue and I agree.
We’d been hiking steadily uphill through the forest and, according to the ‘map’, should have taken a right turn 25 minutes ago.
Compass!” Jack was like a surgeon calling for a scalpel.
He laid the compass on the map in what, to my mind, was a series of indecipherable, coded movements.
Directions have always been a mystery to me. Maps are a foreign country. I have no in-built compass or sense of direction whatsoever and could, were it not for the landmark of the house, get lost in my own back yard.

We’re on the wrong path” came the diagnosis, “we need to re-trace our steps and take a left turn”, the prescription.

It was Sue’s second day and first hike with us. We’d been enthusing about this walk ever since she arrived; about the beauty of the Anagas, the difficulty of the terrain, the need to be properly prepared with adequate water supplies, good boots, a hat and of course experienced hiking companions who knew the lay of the land and the language of the forest.

This way!” shouts Jack, “there are stairs to the path.”
Sue and I had resolved to stop walking until satisfactory evidence that we were on the right path had been brought to our attention.
Having hiked all the way back down the forest trail and taken the allegedly ‘correct’ path to the left, the trail had petered out and Jack had gone on ahead to see if it re-emerged further on.

Yet another wrong trail in the Anaga MountainsThe ‘stairs’ turned out to be two boulders stepped into the gorse covered slope followed by a series of laddered indents in the sheer rock face of whatever else it was, was not a path.
Ha! A regular staircase!” said Sue, the sarcasm barely masking her fading confidence in her hiking guides.
It’s okay, it gets better up here” says Jack “trust me, it’s the right path.”

I wonder how many times in the history of the universe those words “trust me” have come back to haunt whoever uttered them.

We climb the non-existent path for 15 or so sweaty, scratchy minutes, the views opening up around us to reveal a plunging barranco to our right and Tenerife’s equivalent of the north face of the Eiger to our left.
I really don’t think this is a path” says Sue, the red wheals beginning to raise around her ankles and calves. “Andy, do you think this is a path?” she asks, not unreasonably.
Well no, I don’t” I have to confess. “On the other hand, in my experience, Jack always gets us back to the path eventually, even though it can be by unorthodox routes.”

Er, this isn’t right.” Jack eventually concedes that, without the aid of crampons, ropes and harnesses, there’s no way through.

However difficult the uphill trek was, going back down was worse. Sue and I inch our way over the dry dust and loose stones, grabbing handfuls of sharp gorse to steady us as we puff and grunt our way back down the ancient slope.

Okay, then it has to be this way” Jack’s boots raise a small cloud of dust as he heads off again in the direction of the barranco. Sue and I follow. Ten minutes later, we’re re-tracing our steps again, back up the slope towards what is now becoming a familiar crossroads of goat trails.

A further attempt to reach the far side of the barranco is aborted before finally beginning a desultory return to where the so-called ‘stairs’ had first taken us in what was now indisputably known as the wrong direction and agreement was generally reached that we should have stayed on the original path up through the forest.
Two hours had passed during which we were all pretty much exhausted and we hadn’t moved more than 500 metres away from our starting point of Chamorga.

It now being 1.30 pm and far too late to begin the hike again, we head back to the little church plaza in Chamorga and eat our packed lunch in quiet contemplation; Sue admires the beautiful yellow butterfly that’s flitting through the bamboo…or is it sugar cane? Jack mutters to himself over the map and the words ‘typical’ and ‘mas o menos’ are heard repeatedly; I slip the compass out of the rucksack and into the pocket of my shorts; it seems to me that sometimes a little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.

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El Medano; where the breeze is constant and the views hold some surprisesYesterday I was in the kite-boarders’ and wind-surfers’ paradise resort of El Médano and I’ve never seen so many naked men in one place.

That’s not to say they were wandering around the streets, nor even stretched out on the town’s main beach. No. I had to walk quite some distance to find them.

‘Walking’ and ‘hiking’ would probably not be at the top of most people’s list if you were to ask them what Tenerife means to them. But the island is in fact a kaleidoscopic matrix of trails that take you from tropical coastline, through arid badlands and heavenly scented pinewoods, to a 17 kilometre wide volcanic crater and climbing the World’s third largest volcano – Mount Teide.
There’s enough variety of terrain and spectacular scenery to keep even the most hardened of hikers whistling “Happy Feet”.

I’m currently making a concerted effort to hike as many of Tenerife’s trails as I can, and yesterday I opted for the bohemian, laid back resort of El Médano for a spot of coastal walking.
Leaving the town and heading out towards the red mountain which landmarks El Médano and is imaginatively named “La Montaña Roja”, it wasn’t long before my first naked buttocks came into view, beside the lagoon at the end of the dunes.

Continuing along the beach and following the path up Bocinegro, I diverted onto a lesser trodden path that took me to some amazing wind-sculptured sand and salt rock formations amongst which, I slowly became aware of a large number and variety of more flesh toned scenery. Naked men were wandering along the white pumice giant’s causeway; sunbathing and swimming in the small coves below the rocks, and generally standing around with their hands on their hips and their willies looking out to sea.

I’d clearly breached a favoured naturist, and presumably gay, location. Either that or it was the local ‘tackle-out fiesta’ and I hadn’t spotted it on the calendar.

Feeling oddly out of place and keeping my eyes more or less straight ahead, I continued on my way, skirting the base of Montaña Roja and then scaling its 173 metres just for a change of scenery.

It’s amazing how much variety you can see in one short hike on Tenerife!

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“I’ll mix us a small aperitif” shouts Sarah above the din of the steady disco beat emanating from the speakers and the constant whirr of my hairdryer.
It’s Thursday night, Sarah’s last with us before she returns to Doncaster and makes final preparations before leaving for Sri Lanka and 2 years as a project worker with VSO.

It’s been a busy day; up with the lark at 9am (larks sleep late in Tenerife), fruit for breakfast, make up the bocadillos for lunch, pack the rucksacks, grab the hiking boots and head off into the hills for some crater walking.
Parking the car at the visitor centre in El Portillo, we set off to do the circular Arenas Negras walk.
The north coast of Tenerife is laid out like a jewelled carpet 2000 metres below us as we traverse the crater, climbing steadily until we reach the flat retama scrublands with their myriad of earth tones where the debris of millions of years of volcanic activity has created a landscape where lakes of white pumice sit beside rivers of russet, brown, orange and crimson.Hiking the Arenas Negras trail Into the lunar surface, a vast canyon yawns, its sheer slopes layered in a cross section of volcanic evidence.
We sit on a bed of white pumice and, beneath Teide’s icy stare, tuck into our bocadillos.

The landscape turns black as we skitter and ski our way down the loose descent of the eponymous Arenas Negras before joining the wide pista of Siete Cañadas which will take us back to our starting point.
On the way, Jack teaches us how to ‘get in step’ Marine-style by way of a short stamp with the right foot to the back of the left heel which, almost imperceptibly, changes the lead foot. I’m extremely impressed by this revelation and we practice changing step in perfectly synchronised route-march style for several hundred yards, causing general hilarity and Sarah to drop her sunglasses, undetected, somewhere along the 2½ kilometre stretch.
We begin to re-trace our steps but luckily, I ask a couple of German hikers who are heading towards us if they happen to have seen the escapee ‘fendis’ and they produce them from a top pocket, thus saving us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
Unluckily, they then ask us if we can give them a lift back to their car which they’ve left at the Parador; a 40 minute round trip completely out of our way, thus causing us a great deal of wasted time and effort.
With the compulsory customary beer at the end of a Tenerife walk and the long drive home, there’s little time to relax before we have to head off for the bus and Sarah’s vodka aperitif gives us a much needed boost.

A second aperitif in Plaza Charco and then it’s off to Mil Sabores for a meal that does exactly what it says on the menu; a ‘thousand flavours’ racing around our palettes, the final lap being performed by the best profiteroles and tiramisu ever to grace Canarian crockery.
A couple of mojitos in ‘Elements’ bar round off a perfect evening and it’s near 2am when we arrive home, to find that Sarah left the freezer door open when she mixed the vodkas. The ice bag is now floating and our nightcaps are tepid.
On Friday night, at 10.30pm, a text arrives from Sarah:
“Hi, just got home to find I accidentally switched the freezer off before I left…whoops!”

Is Sri Lanka ready for Sarah, I wonder?

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