We knew it wouldn’t be easy, the dogs made it worse.
We are now off the official GR131 and trying to cobble together a port to port route which my map shows. At this stage I feel the need to name and shame – Freytag & Berndt 1:50000. From the first day the depicted red line for the 131 has not matched up to what is on the ground but in the middle section we could rely on the official waymarks. We were now on our own at the mercy of said map and Spanish paths. I wonder if there is a better map available.
A bus took us back to last night’s point and we walked along the road for awhile. Turning down the lane of the red line all seemed simple, we were on our way. Every dwelling had some variety of vicious dog barking at us from behind bars, this turned out to be the pattern for the day whenever we passed a dwelling – is the crime rate so high that they need so many barking dogs. The flowers and fruits by the wayside were a distraction until we were stopped dead by a house built across the lane. Back up and then down the next which thankfully gave us a way out onto other lanes which dodged under the motorway.
We found ourselves in a leafy suburb with smart mansions. A footpath at the edge of a barranca was picked up and this took us through cork oak and eucalyptus woodlands on a ridge in the right direction. Then it stopped and perhaps we chose the wrong option down through streets to the very edge of the motorway. We figured we were on a slip road so carried on in dangerous proximity to fast moving traffic. With relief we escaped onto a winding road back into the hills. We relocated ourselves on the map and climbed out of the urban streets, as soon as we saw a hill we set off up it on a scrambly path – probably our next mistake. Emerging through dense under growth onto the top with a trig point, possibly El Pulpito 710m, we reassessed and were nowhere near where we thought. Below us was the runway of Tenerife Airport North which we had at least circumvented. It was fun to watch the planes landing and taking off.
A new course was set with more confidence across wide muddy tracks and up into another range of volcanic hills, Montana de la Atalaya. Ridge walking was a joy and we strode out with more ranges of hills on the horizon. Coming back down to housing we lost the plot. We hoped to reach Ermita de San Diego but never got near it and eventually just took the easiest option into La Laguna. On the outskirts dogs were ever present noisily stalking their premises. It was good to be back in the friendly central streets, we picked up our excess luggage at Hotel Aguere and enjoyed a beer in their spacious atrium. We may have walked 20k.Because we were behind schedule tonight’s accommodation was booked in nearby Santa Cruz so we took the modern tram, again so cheap, down to the coast. Our Hotel Pelinor was only a few hundred metres from the tram stop and again fortunately in the old town. The recommended restaurant, La Hierbita, proved a great success.
Lost in the forests.
We were up there somewhere.
On paper today looked straightforward, a red wriggly line marked on my map. The distance was 30k and the book said 10 hours. Unfortunately the first bus back up through Oratava to La Caldera didn’t leave till nearly nine so we had no chance of an early start. Our plan was to get as far as we could and then get off the mountain somehow. The caldera is now used as a natural amphitheatre and recreational area. When we arrived there were only a few people about and the cafe wasn’t open for coffee. After a couple of kilometers on a good track the GR131 was signed unexpectedly up a narrow path and it continued climbing for another 500m. Obviously not what our map showed but once committed we had no other choice. The scenery was dramatic on the edge of a barranco with views back to Teide. We traversed above Roque de Topo and then spent hours somewhere on Montana de Joco up and down wooden steps, every time we thought we must be at the highest point the path descended and then climbed again. We clocked 1200m in the day and we thought it was going to be level. Some, most, of the barrancas crossed were steep and rocky and the path had been hewn out of the rock faces. The day was as usual hot and sunny and walking on a bed of pine needles was a delight, the warm smell of resin intoxicating.
Smell that pine.
Lunch, the usual tuna roll, was taken on a log which immediately snapped. We discussed our options – the map was of no use at all but the waymarking was good and we just had to follow it as our whereabouts were a mystery. We might have to do the full 30k and calculated finishing in the dark god knows where at about 7.30. I had very little spare clothing with me and we only had one headtorch, this was supposed to be yet another easy day. I spotted a sign to El Rincon marked on the map and thought this may offer us an escape route in the light, I voted for that although I think JD would have continued to the bitter end . We, perhaps recklessly, abandoned the 131 and wound down the forest road to a junction with confusing signs. A shelter and signs at Siete Fuentes was soon reached, amazingly back on the GR131. We thought by now we were on our map’s red wriggly line. Several people were out in the forest collecting firewood but none seemed of any help in directing us off the hillside. We plodded on and asked another couple just finishing loading there truck, the conversation was a bit of a blur but before we knew it we were bouncing down the tracks in the back of their van. They took us to La Esperanza and dropped us off at a lonely stop assuring us there would be a bus along at 5.30. It came, we arrived in La Laguna bus station and next we were on a bus back to Puerto de la Cruz by 7. Sometimes it just happens like that. So instead of walking in the dark, or if tired and lost bivvying unequipped in the forest, we were having a shower and going round the corner for a beer and another superb Canarian meal. Tomorrow would take care of itself.
Our saviours disappearing.
Our route maybe.
A downhill forest trail.
The only bus back up to El Portillo departs the bus station at 9.15 and when we arrive there is quite a queue of walkers and mountain bikers, the Teide National Park is popular. The island’s buses are run by TITSA, an unfortunate name. They proved reliable, comfortable and user friendly with screens updating stops. We never payed more than a few euros for quite long distances, this morning’s journey was an hour long and rapidly ascended hairpins for 2000m. Coffee was soon being enjoyed in the sun at the cafe we had visited yesterday afternoon.
Crossing the road the GR131, still the Anaga-Chasna way, was picked up as a little track heading down rocky ground into the pine forest. The day was warm and sunny and it was a delight to be walking downhill on good tracks. The forest was varied with pines, tree heathers and strawberry trees. Occasional views down to the north coast appeared. We couldn’t find water at the whiteshrine near Barranco Siete Ojos, Cruz del Dornajito. The day drifted on as we followed the ample 131 signs. At times when we were on a good forest road our track seemed to disappear into the trees only to reach the track further on. It felt we were being kept off the easy trail, used by mountain bikers, in favour of smaller tracks. Towards the end we just followed the forest road to avoid unnecessary ups and downs.
We emerged onto the main road next to the entrance to the ‘Caldera’ a tourist hot spot and a few hundred metres of climbing through the trees brought us out at a bus stop for our return to Puerto de la Cruz. Easiest day yet and we would leave the Caldera till tomorrow. Within an hour we were back in the now familiar back streets and enjoying dinner and an early night.
Across the caldera.
Teide Volcano and the Cañadas caldera.
Image courtesy NASA
The above image gives a superb view of the Caldera, our walk was from middle left to lower central [where the trees start] and was an easy 17k with only 350m of ascent.
We took advantage of a good breakfast in the Parador and retraced our steps round to our path from Guaraja from the other day. There now stretched before us a flat track below cliffs to the SE with Mount Teide towering above us to the NW. If all had gone to plan we would have been descending from up there this morning. We walked through several flat Canadas, which apparently hold water after heavy rain or snow. There was evidence of old huts used by goat herders in the past. This area is also a good environment for Tajinastie, an Echium called Mt. Teide Bugloss, its red flowers were fading when we walked past. The other common plant in this barren landscape is White Broom. Onwards in the heat with no shade.
At the end on the road a visitor centre was busy and we had time to look around the ‘volcano exhibition’ including a video explaining how the Canary Island aboriginals (guanches) believed Guayota, the devil, lived inside Teide. Outside was a ‘botanical garden’ which I was looking forward to visiting to identify the volcanic plants we were seeing. What a disappointment, a scruffy lava hillside with few plants and even fewer labels, Our boots were completely covered in volcanic dust by the end of the day. Down the road was a welcome cafe where we passed the time waiting for the only bus of the day to take us down to Puerto de la Cruz, the nearest accommodation. The bus station happened to be a few hundred metres from our good budget hotel, Puerto Azul. Due to a mix up with my booking we were upgraded to a balcony room with clear views up to Teide. I just had a feeling he was mocking us for our failed ascent. Throughout our stay the summit was clear, even at night with the full moon, we got to calling it Mount Tidy. Puerto de la Cruz turned out to be a pleasant place to stay, our humble hotel being right in the middle of the old town with lots of little alley ways and good restaurants. We had to try the local wine but were not impressed – tajinasty.
Ash and lava.
Breakfast was spent with the young English couple, both active fell runners from the Peak District, who were on a tighter more ambitious schedule than us oldies. Good to see their enthusiasm, we were away before them but soon overtaken!
From the village the ancient way climbed steadily on a well defined paved path through terracing of vines and into woods. Steady progress was the order of the day as we had 1400m to climb in the hot sun. There were no fuentes so all liquid had to be carried and frequent refreshment stops made. As it was a Sunday there were more people out walking, running and mountain biking this popular trail.
Distant Guajara mountain.
We were heading for Guajara, 2715m, which we would circle to a col before dropping into the caldera. Highlights today were first all the volcanic ash we walked through and then the amazing lava fields and formations higher on the mountain. The compressed ash was metres thick and all colours, reminders of distant eruptions. Out of interest whilst we were here new low level seismic activity was reported. Mount Teide erupted in 1909 and the previous last reported increase in seismic activity dates back to 2003 when a rift opened on the north-east of the volcano. Needless to say the ground didn’t tremble below our feet. A section of eroded white ash was followed by a whole field of black ash up which climbed an endless avenue of a path. The authorities don’t want people wandering everywhere.From the top of the ash field a tortuous rocky path eventually landed us at Degollada de Guajara, 2373m. Gran Canaria was seen to the east. We stopped for lunch whilst walkers were appearing from all directions, this area around the Parador is easily accessible. Also spotted was a Great Grey Shrike. Dropping into the caldera a wide track was followed past weird lava shapes. I realised that I had previously climbed in this area and I recognised some of the routes, some climbers were busy today enjoying the warmth at this height. Mount Teide loomed above. Arrival at the Parador was a bit of a shock, cars everywhere and the cafe and terrace packed with people. We booked into our room and sat in the hotel lounge to avoid the melee.
Degollada de Guajara.
Climber in lefthand crack.