I was so looking forward to my holiday. I had been in England looking at areas in Derbyshire where I might move back to in the future, and now I was in my way to Tenerife for a week’s holiday. I have never visited this island, although I have been to La Palma, which I very much enjoyed.
It could have started better. The Canaries are a place for winter holidays and although I didn’t expect really hot weather I didn’t expect as much rain, or mud, or for it to be as cool. I was also expecting it to be prettier, but my first encounter with it was on a very boring motorway in the south on which we travelled for 40 mins. The scenery was not captivating either, but I reassured myself that HF would not offer a holiday in a destination devoid of attractive scenery and good hiking countryside.
I was also somewhat dismayed to discover that La Laguna was a fair sized town, almost adjoined to Santa Cruz. The hotel Nivaria is situated in one of the few tree-lined squares in the town. It is an imposing building with a large entrance hall with comfy seating. The rooms are spacious and the beds comfortable. The food was excellent and always presented with a friendly smile. What about the walks you ask? This was a week of two halves, where after the first few days I could easily have packed my bags and gone home, but from Wednesday onwards the walks did improve.
The first day, the guides (as opposed to HF leaders) changed the planned walk due to bad weather, which is totally understandable. Instead they took us to the Roques de Garcia that are imposing rock formations on the western side of Teide, and the sun shone all day. We could see the mist just a few hundred metres below us, and we could see this was a good decision. However, much as it was a beautiful walk with amazing views, it was extremely short, just 3 miles with, if I remember rightly, less than 300 ft of ascent (less than going up to Bradda Head) and about 1200 feet of descent. The guides were incredibly knowledgeable and we learned a great deal and had an unforgettable experience crawling on our bums through an former underground lava tunnel, which was great fun. But, it was too short, and I must admit I felt short-changed, especially as this was meant to be the harder walk.
I didn’t walk with them Day 2 and instead got my bearings walking around the town, a gentle day in preparation for more extensive and more arduous walking the next day, only this walk too was changed to a most forgettable beach walk. We were not given detailed briefings or shown examples of the terrain or maps which would allow us to judge the suitability of the walk, but I was already worked out this was not going to be a great walk, so I packed my sketching set in anticipation of needing something ‘extra’. Our guide again provided interesting geological and historical facts, but as we neared our destination I decided to stop and do some sketching, even though there was little of interest to sketch. I am glad I did, as the group finished their walk by 12.30pm and had a 90 mins wait for the other group. To make matters worse we then had to wait a further 45 mins as the longer party (who had only done an extra 2 miles of beach walking) had been promised that they could get lunch when they arrived. I was literally hopping mad at this point, as this was meant to be a walking holiday not a sightseeing tour. The photos below make it look nicer than it really was!
The next day was the off day when guests do their own thing. I had asked one of the guides about local walks, so off I went in search of an adventure. The route started from the hotel with a short walk through the town. Crossing over a small river, the ascent on the eastern side of La Laguna began. It is something of a pull-up, but with a few small rests to gets my breath and admire the view I was soon at the true starting point amongst the dramatic hills. My tracker that we had spent some time getting to work, worked, and then didn’t work, so I looked at the hills and decided my route, bearing in mind I was looking for scenic views rather than views of the nearby conglomerations. I was not disappointed. The wide track turned into a narrow track just about where I thought my original route would have gone north. I was enjoying my new route and it took me around the back of one hill and provided distant views into the northern hills and a most delightful valley with a reservoir. I had no poles with me today, so extra care was needed over scrambly bits and muddy bits. I eventually ended up on a small road leading to the north side of this group of hills. Checking my map, I could see that the original route would be largely road walking from here, so I took the alternative path on to the very top of the hill. What a surprise I received up here, with oodles of yellow meadows in the foreground with the purple hills behind. There were masses of flowers throughout this route and it was almost like being in Austria. I dropped down the other side and contoured above my previous track with had surprising variety including some really rocky outcrops. The route was altogether 5 miles with 1300 ft of ascent and descent. Even so, I was back by lunchtime, and then I enjoyed a lazy afternoon reading and writing.
Thursday was a walk in the Teno mountains and by this time the guides had reverted to the original HF walks. Still not sure of my abilities I opted for the glorious easier walk, initially gently ascending through a green valley, then ascending more through a magical laurel forest before reaching the summit and a memorable ridge walk. The weather had improved and we had both distant views, views down the sea several thousand feet below and other views into the neighbouring ravines. I could have stayed up there for hours. The ridge walk was sadly only short and then the walk descended, contouring around hills to a viewpoint and cafe. This was a truly beautiful walk with great variety, 5.6 miles in length, 858 ft of ascent and 1483 ft of descent.
On the final day of walking I opted out for a variety of reasons. The easier walk, although attractive was not compelling as there was only a small amount of ascent and a lot of descent where the views would not change much. I was concerned that I might find the altitude too thin for me on the harder walk and I didn’t want to hold up other walkers. Plus, I wanted to go up Mount Teide. The cablecar doesn’t go all the way to the top, just as far as the cone where it changes colour, but I knew that I would be able to see views towards inside the crater of Pico Vieja, and to go to a volcanic island and not really experience a volcano would have been disappointing. I agreed with the guide that I would do this, followed by a walk to meet them at the end of the day. I am so glad I did this. The cablecar was very expensive at 38 Euros but it was worth it for the experience. I went from one viewpoint on the west to the other on the east. The weather was good but not fantastic, but I was treated to some steam emanating from Mount Teide as I returned to the cable car, reminding everyone that it may not be awake but it is still breathing.
From the cable car I had a 2 hour walk across the semi-barren landscape to the Parador beside the Roques de Garcia. The colours and distorted shapes of the volcanic rocks were interesting and varied as I twisted and turned around corners, and the vegetation looked even smaller against the magnificence of the huge mountains behind. In places, there were dried up areas that become wet with snowfall and form small lakes. It was a very pleasant and easy 5.3 miles of walking, basically flat, although my Garmin watch is telling me porkies and saying I climbed a few hundred feet. I did descend 853 ft, which seems realistic. It is impossible to gauge distances. I walked 2 miles south across the valley which from the road looked about half a mile, and when up on Teide, those summiting looked really tiny on the rocky top, whereas without any perspective it looks just a stones throw to the top.
So ended my holiday. I am back home now and it all seems very strange now, as if I have just woken from a dream, something that never happened but only occurred in my imagination. Perhaps you will get a sense of this from the last photo I took as the plane took off from Tenerife, with Mount Teide hiding in the sunset clouds.