Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Tenerife, Spain: Day 1 - Coastal Walk from Puerto de la Cruz

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The hotel we are staying at sits about 100 meters above the coast and a few hundred meters inland. The town mostly spreads out below us though it also sprawls further inland. The grounds are lovely.

I woke up too early for my own good and Mom and Dad probably woke up too late. Pulling all-nighters across an ocean and two continents on 3 airplanes with nearly 10 hours of layovers in uncomfortable airport seating is not conducive to a good night's rest. But we went down to breakfast with brave faces and fairly awake. The clearing skies certainly helped lighten our moods as the morning air was warm and the sun becoming bright. We found others of our group enjoying the buffet style breakfast and we settled in to eat and chat. All meals are going to be buffet style here and while the choices are varied the food so far does seem a bit bland. But I've no doubt it will suffice.

At 09:30 our group of 13 hikers plus the HF leader, Vince, gathered and we struck out across the fine grounds of the hotel to the back entrance. We were leaving the remaining 5 or so (plus Cathy, the other HF leader) to do the easier walk. By now the sun had chased most of the low clouds away though clouds were hanging around the 13,000 foot peak of the high mountain. A fine first day and a surprisingly warm one we soon found out. We strolled through park Taoro which is nicely laid out as it overlooks the Atlantic and lower portions of Puerto de la Cruz which seems to be built into the cliffs around the rocky beaches that sometimes interrupt the sheer cliffs that drop down to the sea. We dropped down towards the ocean ourselves passing through what, to us, seemed to be a prosperous and large town. It seems clean and people were out and about on this early Sunday morning. It was quite pleasant and a notable change from the far smaller town of Plaia de X where we stayed in Portugal last year.

Walking along the top of a well maintained seawall path watching the surf boom against the cliffs and rocky (and Sometimes black sand) beaches we made quick time. Now and then an especially great wave would crash against the shore sending spray billowing up over the sea wall and misting us in the process. It was quite clear why the rock and gravel-like path was damp underfoot. We scampered across a small lava field and continued trending westward either directly above the surf line or winding our way through narrow streets lined with sometimes colorful small buildings and, I suppose, apartments and such like. A very nice feel existed about the whole area.


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Looking back towards the heart of the town. We would eventually reach a coastal path called Rambla de Castro which is best thought of as a nature path along the coast.

In due course we reached the Rambla de Castro, the coast path, leaving behind the side streets of the town. This dirt and stone path is very well maintained and clearly meant to promote walking by tourists and locals alike. In places where drops are precipitous stout 4x4 wood fencing has been erected to add a sense of security to the path. The footing is excellent even on the descents. We wound our way westward along the coast sometimes dipping into small ravines that surely sometimes must have water sluicing down their bottoms but today all seemed dry. Numerous small bushes festooned with flowers that looked like daisy but seem to grow more like heather dotted the sounds of the path especially when it seemed to spend time crawling up hillsides. Some of those steep hills were terraced though I am not sure anyone was growing anything on those terraces of green grass and ground cover. By this time the air temperature had risen to around 70 degrees and the sun beamed down upon us in a fairly cloud free sky. We couldn't see the peak of the big mountain always but we could see the numerous paragliders that were flying off its flanks. They wheeled about up in the clouds looking so peaceful. I cannot imagine ever trying that sport.

We encountered a few people as we walked. We encountered at least as many cats. To be sure their numbers dropped off some as we continued down the Rambla de Castro but they did not vanish. Given the number of birds you could hear I expect the outdoor cats do well enough. I wonder if they use the occasional lava tube caves for rain shelter when the storms come as they surely must.
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Three hours into the hike we reached the point where we would leave the coast path, in a small village whose name I do not know (28.3958N, 16.5941W). We had hiked about 5 miles of the 8 miles planned and ascended all tolled perhaps 1,000 feet of the planned 2,600 we expected to do. In other words we had covered two thirds of the distance and a bit more than one thirds of the elevation gain. We had some serious climbing to do and when the bus we caught near our lunch spot dropped us off (28.3918N, 16.6265W) and we had all taken advantage of the restroom at the playground by the snack bar we were able to then gaze up into the steep sided ravine that sported many paths that climbed inland (south). We began to climb. Once again the trail was superb and sported more of that excellent, and seemingly quite new, wooden fencing along the edge. Our group slowly spread out as people are wont to do when climbing a fairly steep slope. The sound of the surf diminished as we climbed up the switchbacks into the lush greenery of the ravine. The temperature had dropped by this time as clouds had drifted in to cover the sky. We even had a smattering of drizzle though it was nowhere near enough to make me want to put on my rain jacket (Derek did pull out his umbrella). Up and up we went. Though the sound of the surf was decreasing other sounds remained present: a rooster crowed now and then, dogs that must belong to the houses upon the ridge top barked (the couple we encountered, off leash, coming down the path were quiet though perhaps a bit friendlier than some would have liked). Some people carried on conversations as we ascended. Not I. I just climbed at my slow steady pace enjoying the nice afternoon though I did wish for a bit more light so I could snap better photos (I didn't want to fiddle with the Canon so I stuck with the iPhone which while good in many ways is still no true dedicated camera).

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Looking back towards the Atlantic from the ravine we are ascending. The trail is hard packed ground and stone steps. It reminded us a bit of the Vernal Falls trail in Yosemite as far as footing goes though here the scenery is quite a bit different.

It would take us about 45 minutes to reach the top of this first big leg of the last two thirds of the hike. We still had a couple hundred meters (600 feet) of ascent to do with about a quarter of that much descent thrown in for good measure.  The notes for the walk suggested that this final bit would take just under an hour and it would turn out that we would do it a little more quickly than that. I think the last bit was actually considerably easier than the 250-300 meter climb we just did. Sure it was a few tens of meters less climbing but it felt like it was a lot less than that. Perhaps it was because this last stretch wound through rich green forests full of lush low growing plants and ferns along with the tall dense trees that sometimes blocked out the sky almost completely. Perhaps it was because the path didn't always just climb or descend but had more of a mixture. The worst portion of this last section was the final slog up a paved road that would take us the last quarter hour rising some 270 feet as it climbing into a hamlet that probably had little more than a gas station, bar, and a hotel (I think) with a few residential homes thrown in for good measure.  We would have about 40 minutes to kill before the local bus would come and we would ride back to Puerto de la Cruz (about 40 minutes of driving which surprised me).

This was a tough first walk because the bulk of the climbing was done in the last 3 miles of the hike.  But it felt good to do the trek and we got to see a nice slice of what I expect the island has to offer. My only real complaint is that from where the bus dropped us off in town we still had a 20 minute walk along the busy streets to return to our hotel.



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