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Posts Tagged ‘Teno Mountains’

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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