Archive for February 2016
It couldn’t last. The sound of heavy rain beating a drum on the roof disturbed my night’s sleep. Still, a lie in was welcome and a leisurely breakfast inside for a change gave us a taste of home as the rain continued.
But not for long. The clouds started to break and things looked promising. By lunchtime there was sunshine and we headed to the beach. The nearby beaches are exposed to the Atlantic swell so we headed for the shelter of the large, brash and very well known resort of Playa de las Americas. I was hoping to avoid these heavily built up resorts, really the kind of place I hate but in fact it was rather pleasant. Sure it’s heavily developed and rather “Brits Abroad”- you know, “Ye Olde English Pub”, Full English Breakfast and lager, but it was all relatively tasteful and spotlessly clean and tidy.
It was the beach we’d come for and it really was a good one. PdlA has several beaches adnd we picked, or rather stumbled onto Playa de las Vistas. Water was crystal clear and warm and not excessively crowded. The weather had completely reverted and was now clear blue and sunny again. The rain had washed away the dusty air. It was perfect
We spread our rug and spent a very nice afternoon swimming and chilling out
You can see the collection of large inflatables laughingly referred to as a “Water Park”. We had a play without realising it wasn’t free and were told off by the owners. We had to spend a short penalty period on the naughty sandcastle.
There were even waves for a little body-surfing
Towards the end of the afternoon everyone heads home early so you have an hour when the beach is peaceful. Again it was nice to think that back home we’d more than likely have been sitting watching it get dark through rain-spattered windows
As the sun went down we strolled across the sands and watched the waves
I was really surprised how much I liked the place. There are no roads along the beachfront so it’s all walkways and it was a delight to wander about in nice relaxed family atmosphere. It’s probably a heaving mass in the heat of mid-summer but on a warm winters afternoon it really was stunning. It certainly teaches you not to believe all you read in the press and I was pleased that PdlA had surprised me so much
We were back home for sunset and the obligatory end of day photo. Rain in the morning, glorious again by the end
Back to the title of the post. Masca gorge is one most famous walks on the island. It scythes down through the NW mountains and down to the sea in a twisted gash of lava rock. I thought this would be a good family walk as it’s all downhill and you get a boat ride at the end. Takes a bit of organising. Taxi ride to village of Masca before the boat home. The drive is itself a spectacular one twisting up and then down to the isolated hamlet of Masca at the head of the gorge. It’s a truly breathtaking spot
After pithering around the village for a while and soaking up the stunning views we pitched down into the gorge
Along with most of the population of wester Europe. I said that this is one of Tenerife’s most famous walks and that means busy. Despite the fact that its remote and seriously awkward place to get to, it was heaving. It’s absolutely amazing with the gorge twisting and turning in serpentine fashion like a science experiment cross section through the layers of volcanic rock
Trouble is you share it with several hundred other people. Many of whom are brash, noisy and disrespectful of the majesty of the place. Many of whom are completely ill-equipped or up to the task of 300 foot descent down a narrow rocky gorge. Many of whom are too selfish and rude to stand back and let people past. Basically we had to queue to get down, most unsatisfactory and was well irritated by the time we finally reached the bottom
I should have used this guy’s stick to beat a path (I had no idea what he was using it for)
It really is a special, magical place that should be savoured. I’ve done similar gorge walks Greece and had them to myself and they are marvellous. It was such a shame that the Masca gorge was hard to love. My friends J&A (who were coincidentally on Tenerife at the same time, more on that in a letter post) had the right idea and walked it on Xmas day when it was deserted. It would be well worth making the effort to walk it either at first light or the end of the day to watch the sunset from the beach at the then simply walk back out again. I certainly wouldn’t want to walk it again in the middle of the day
We’d been pinning our hopes on a swim in the sea at the end of the walk. Problem was the “beach” was just huge boulders and crashing waves, far too dangerous for a swim. Possibly could have jumped in from the boat jetty but by the time we realised it was time to go
Still, the bay was magnificent in the afternoon sunshine
Getting on the boat was fun as the gangway rose and fell alarmingly with the waves. Timing your jump on-board was an added excitement
At least the ride along in the speedboat past the immense cliffs was breathtaking and made up for the few disappointments and frustrations of the day
We took a chance for a swim on the tiny beach at Los Gigantes. The waves were huge and the red flag was flying although the life guards seemed oblivious. I was happy to swim but the Funsters were edgy having been battered by waves and dragged across the sands a couple of days before
And yes TJS did get slapped on the back by the wave in the photo below 🙂
A day to class as an experience rather than one quite as fondly remembered as others. I’m glad we did it but I’m not sure I’d want to walk it again.
Back home for winter light on the surrounding mountains and yet another stunning sunset
Back to less crowded walking the next day
Happy Xmas Everyone! Well I know it was a couple of months ago but I can’t be expected to write blog posts the same day can I. This was our Xmas day breakfast and very fine it was to.
The deal I made withe family was that we would go to the sun for Xmas provided we abandoned everything associated with the whole festive period. No presents, card, decorations, trees etc. Surprisingly they agreed. Apart from a couple of calls home to family it could have been any other summer holiday day. I have to admit I find the whole Xmas thing deeply irritating. From its traditional roots its now become an orgy of consumer madness and greed (witness the disturbing scenes over “Black Friday”, “Cyber Monday” and the like”). A good xmas is now seemingly measured by how much money you spend. The only thing that I like about Xmas is the chance to spend a day with the family which is what we got.
We decided Xmas day was ideally spent with a morning by the pool and afternoon by the beach and a swim in the sea. As we were sunning ourselves I idly commented to TBF that the wind was picking up a bit. Within an hour it was blowing a gale, chairs were thrown about the patio and we retreated inside. The sky was still clear but there was a grey dust in the air. Apparently it was the trailing edge of Saharan storm that blows in occasionally and quite common. We did try a swim but were blown off the beach and settled for a paddle in the waves in Los Gigantes. Ironically even though the sun was still out it was the worst day of the holiday weather-wise, made worse by the fact I dropped my iPad on the floor and cracked the screen 😦
Boxing Day and it was time for me and TJS to do what we’d come for and do some walking while the Funsters went shopping in Los Gigantes. We headed for Guajara, Tenerife’s third highest peak and one of the “Three Peaks”. As before once up at 2000m the skies cleared to deep blue but it was still windy and pretty cold
We walked into the wild and rocky volcanic terrain to begin the climb, instantly leaving the crowds at the car park behind
The weather was in fact perfect for walking. The warmth of the sun taking the edge of the cold and chilly air. Very alpine in character contrasting with the desert like terrain underfoot and all around
When we planned the trip we first had Gran Canaria in mind. It’s pretty well known as a good walking destination and I only really looked at Tenerife out of curiosity. It turns out that its a superb island for walking. There are several peaks to climb and endless trails through a variety of terrain. Walk through the cloud forest, trails in the caldera and coastal walks. I reckon we could come back several times and still never see it all.
Back to Guajara. It’s a steep climb up a very well made path to the pass of the Degollada de Ucanca and the views back across to El Teide were sensational. Iconic as ever.
From there the path climbs and the description seemed to indicate it traverses under the towering cliffs of the north face. The obvious ledge visible in this photo
Here’s a close up and it looked a little intimidating from a distance. The guide book didn’t make it sound difficult and so it proved
The path was a little exposed in places but well made and easy to follow with sensational views down to the Parador and Roques de Garcia where we started from.
In the event the terrace was wide and just a walk, spectacularly overhung by the North face in places as here
A scramble over the rocks at the end of the terrace and we were on the summit plateau. The sky above was a deep blue up here at 2,715m but down by the coast it was clearly still masked by the dust from the Sahara.
We found a sheltered perch right on the edge of the cliffs and ate our lunch on our first Tenerife summit. One Three Peak done, two to go!
Yours truly posing for a photo. What you can’t see is the 1,000 foot drop directly behind me. It really was an exposed spot for a pose
The route down introduced us to what was to become a theme on these high peaks. The paths are incredibly dry, dusty and very, very loose. In places it was like walking on marbles and really hard work. The views however, continued to amaze and more than made up for the punishing and slippery descent
The path continued on temptingly beyond the Degollada de Guajara to the next peak, Montana de Pasajiron and beyond. Another day. It was time to head down (via what looked like a shortcut but turned into a very loose and slippery gully!)
At the base of the mountain we had a long 3km hike back along the vehicle track to the Parador. More weird and amazing rock formations
A cracking days walk and a great introduction to the high mountains of Tenerife. No better way to celebrate than a meal out. We found a splendid little restaurant right down the beach in Playa Arena that did a mighty fine Paella, a family favourite. Despite the fact it was December we were able to eat outside to the sound of waves crashing on the beach
Xmas 2015 was turning out to be a good one
I mentioned in my last post that we had to leave our Ingleton weekend in a hurry as we had places to go. After a drive home down the M6 in the rain (in a broken car with no turbo), a madcap 2 hours unpacking and re-packing, squeezing all four of us and 2 weeks luggage (which includes my daughters fifty pairs of shoes) into a 2 door hatchback, a hurried meal in Ross on Wye, another drive to London and an overnight in a stuffy hotel, we were all ready at Terminal 5 Heathrow for a winter sun holiday.
TBF has been badgering me for years to take a winter sun holiday but I’d always ruled it out as too costly. After 3 years of wet and dreary Xmas breaks and stories from friends raving about how good taking a Xmas sun holiday was, I relented. Decision making was spurred by TJS being denied a place on the school skiing trip when it was oversubscribed and he was unlucky to be drawn from the hat. When I mentioned we could go somewhere sunny with mountains and one in particular at nearly 4000m, he was in! Needless to say the Funsters needed little convincing and the plan was set
Now I’m not a superstitious sort but the omens were good. Having negotiated the tedium that is check-in and security at a modern large airport we needed breakfast. The first one we picked was mobbed but we were shown to a table next to the huge windows that overlook the runway so we could watch the planes while we ate. The signs were good
Still it was a long day, two flights via Madrid and it was gone 11pm by the time we’d landed, driven to the villa, shopped and eaten. Exploring our holiday destination would have to wait till morning
By the way, that destination was Tenerife
Our first morning delivered exactly what I’d hoped.
Replacing endless storms, rain and grey skies was a cloudless blue sky and a leisurely breakfast on the terrace in the sunshine. The villa was in the NW corner of the island near Los Gigantes but away from the town amongst the banana plantations. The villa was clean and tidy but the grounds were gorgeous and the views over the sea and the mountains behind were stunning. Best of all we had several fruit trees in the garden so fresh lemons, oranges and grapefruits were readily available. Rather splendid indeed, this winter-sun-thing was going to be hard habit to break.
The first day was spent chilling out in the sunshine, shopping and eating (a day of airport and airline food does that to you). The weather was sensational, warm enough to laze comfortably in the sun without being too hot.
The end of the day confirmed what I’d hoped that the position gave superb sunsets over the nearby island of La Gomera. We were very happy!
The next day we were restless – well I was – and with the weather set fair did a tourist day and headed up to Las Canadas, the Volcanic crater and landscape that holds the summit of El Teide, Tenerife and Spain’s highest point. The road goes up to well over 2000m and once you leave the coast behind and climb, the skies become a deep blue and the air crystal clear and pin-sharp. It reminded me of the air clarity of summer days in the Alps, only with volcanos
The landscape is remarkable. Sparse forests of pines cut through with barren lava flows. Its a reminder that in geological terms, Tenerife is still very much active. It has experienced regular volcanic events for the past few hundred years although nothing since 1909. That was Chinyero and we took our first Tenerife wander around the forests that surround it with our first views of the huge mass of El Teide. The mix of lush forest and lava devastation is amazing and the warm sunshine in the cool mountain air was wonderful.
Onwards with the tour as the road spills over into the Las Canadas crater. El Teide disappears for a moment behind the bulk of Pico Viejo, Tenerife’s second highest peak. As impressive as Teide itself but more on this in later post.
The road through the lava flows is extraordinary. It seems impossible to imagine an engineer looking at the mass of twisted wreckage that is a lava flow and thinking “we could put a road through there”
It was time for lunch and a tactical error. I thought it would be good to picnic in the forest on the northern side of the crater. Doesn’t take a genius to work out that at 2000m in the shade of trees in December is pretty chilly, even in Tenerife. We hurried through lunch and headed back to the sun
The landscape inside the crater is breathtaking. A veritable moonscape of dusty bowls, rocky towers and lava flows. Its very reminiscent of a desert but it’s all volcanic action, and everywhere, El Teide watches over you silently, ever present. It’s an iconic mountain, instantly recognisable and it dominates the whole island. You might see one or two photos of it in the next few posts!
What the photos, desert-like in their impression, don’t convey is just how cold it was. Car thermometer was showing 7C although out of the wind the power of the sun at this altitude kept us warm
Another of Tenerife’s iconic sites are the Roques de Garcia and especially Roque Cincho. I visited Tenerife in my teens on a schools cruise and it was this spot I remember.
The sun was lighting up the rocks to stunning effect. Here, as well as Teide we were watched by Guajara, Tenerife’s third highest peak and part of its very own “Three Peaks”. It really was rather cold here, exposed to the wind so we took advantage of another of the islands advantages.
Despite its height Tenerife is still quite a small island. This means you can explore the base of a volcano at 2000m and 45 minutes later be on the beach. Cool!
We headed to Playa Arena just down the hill from the villa. Lots of lava rock also means black sand beaches and this one is a beauty. It feels wrong to tread on black sand. In the UK you normally associate black sand with dirt and oil but this beach was spotlessly clean. The waves were far too big and powerful for a proper swim but we had fun jumping in the waves and generally messing about.
We took an early evening stroll and stopped to look at the cliffs above Los Gigantes (that give the town its name) bathed in setting sunlight.
Sunset at the villa finished off a grand day
Not a bad way to spend the Xmas Eve don’t you think!
The annual pre-Xmas gathering at Ingleton and a car full of wellies and waterproofs. The past couple of years here whilst great fun have been appallingly wet and pretty miserable. Saturday looked well set to continue the trend. Gloomy skies and the threat of rain ever hanging in the air. We convinced the kids to go out with the promise of caves to explore (we neglected to tell them it was an hour’s walk away – very remiss)
Well some of the kids (and adults) love caves and we had a great couple of hours messing about (although some of the party were bored within 10 minutes and wandered off back). Runscar caves are great for kids, no big pot holes or loose rock and wet enough for the Dangerous Brothers. You can in fact walk through from top to bottom but we weren’t really equipped for that. We made a solemn promise to return in summer, hire some proper gear and have proper explore. An ideal activity for a gloomy Yorkshire day although the long walk back in increasingly heavy rain was wearisome by the end. A hearty chilli cooked by yours truly aided by his sous-chefs more than made up for it. Needless to say a grey and rainy day combined with caves was not camera friendly so no photographs
Rather astonishingly there was actually a small amount of blue sky the next day. Despite this (there was food to eat and carol concerts to attend) only myself and Uncle Fester were keen on a walk. TJS was not feeling too well so again he failed climb the iconic Ingleborough with us.
The further we walked the brighter the weather became. Forecast was for very heavy showers and they were clearly all around but we seemed to be in a sunny spell. The walk through the Limestone slopes was a pleasure and even the boggy swampy morass that is Humphrey Bottom is now easy seeing as they flagged the whole stretch.
The steep section up to the edge is also less of a chore and when we reached the top the low angled sunlight was majestic. It was turning into a mighty fine day
As we crested the summit the wind suddenly found it’s feet and roared its greeting from the edge overlooking Ingleton. Not a day for stopping so we waved at the sun, congratulated ourselves on our grand fortune of a day of sun in this most miserable of winters and headed down.
UF wanted a quick retreat but the day was too good to waste. I went on alone along the path that skirts the edges. Its a superb route, airy with grand views over the valley and across to Whernside and Ribblehead. In my younger days I always followed the broad, boggy path up the middle of the “ridge”. Finding this path has been a real revelation.
I was worried that going off piste to get back to the bunkhouse would be tiresome and boggy but it was easy and dry (well, as dry as Yorkshire can be in the Monsoon season). It was even enlivened by meeting MM and EWO on my way down
More gustatory excellence was in order for the evening courtesy of UF. The following day we left early. We had a places to go! 🙂