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Posts Tagged ‘Shangri-La’

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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A have a vague memory from my student of philosophy days about a theory that puts forward the notion that things only exist as long as you’re looking at them and that the memory of things is nothing more than a spectre of one’s imagination (apologies to Plato, Descartes, Kant or Russell or whoever it was whose life’s work I’ve just reduced to a single, and probably inaccurate, statement). Although at the time I considered the whole idea to be the wrong side of sane even for a philosophical theory, I think I may finally have reached an understanding of where it was coming from…

This week I went to the hamlet of Masca, a place I’ve visited often, in the south west of Tenerife. It’s the second most visited place on the island after the Teide National Park and its attraction lies in its location and its beauty. Sited at the top of an 8 km gorge hewn from the ancient Teno Mountains, the village consists of three small settlements of rural houses and fincas scattered around a valley dense with palm groves, fruit trees, sugar cane and giant agave plants. Only accessible since the 1970s when the road was built, it’s commonly referred to as Tenerife’s Shangri-La.

When I took the steep path down from the upper to the lower valley, I was shocked by what I saw. Where once a valley luxuriant in palm trees stood, now only a handful of black trunks spawned a green crown; where once the valley floor was invisible, now it stood naked in soil and stone; where once the giant agave stood as high as a man, now its serrated limbs lay in charred and twisted heaps. What I was seeing was the dismembered remains of the summer’s holocaust of forest fires that had swept through the valley like an air-borne virus.
fire blackened palm trees in MascaBut from the ashes of the fire a new beauty was emerging. The palm trees that had remained standing now had black trunks which stood out against the valley’s backdrop. Topped by the vivid green of fresh, new growth, the palms had taken on a surreal beauty that threatened to surpass their original design.

In Bar Blanky I chatted to a couple who’d come to Masca on a half day trip from one of the resorts of the south coast and it seems their tour guide had seen fit not to mention the summer’s fires. As far as this couple were concerned, this was Masca, for them it had never existed any other way. And for me, had I not come back to see it now, Masca would still exist in exactly the same way it always had done, a spectre of my imagination, a true Shangri-La.

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