Thursday, February 10, 2011

Tenerife, Spain: Day 3 - Mount Negras and the Canal

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In 1706 Garachico was a thriving port town. An eruption of a nearby volcano buried much of the town and today it is now the much smaller town that you can see off in the distance. We stopped at this overlook to peer down on the town. If we had time perhaps we would have paid a visit to the cafe that nestled into the cliff but limited time prevented that.

We decided to do the easier walk today. This walk would be about 6.5 miles long, ascend some 1,000 feet, and descend about 1,900 feet. Our reasoning behind this change was that we did not want to feel rushed doing the longer 10 mile walk that would have to be done in six hours. The walks were taking place on the western edge of the island looking out over a peninsula. One walk would climb a volcano while the easier one would just meander around affording views of Mount Negras and the volcano that last erupted in 1706 destroying most of Garachico. To get to this area requires a long bus ride of nearly 90 minutes so we did not start walking until just about 11:00 (the longer walkers started about 10:30). The bus ride was certainly scenic enough as it climbed up away from the coast and the views of lava fields and regular fields were striking. We stopped briefly at an overlook to look out on the peninsula and see the now much smaller town of Garachico. You could see the old lava that had buried the town back in 1706. Fortunately for them not many people died as they had plenty of warning and the lava was slow moving. We dropped the harder walkers off while the skies were still pretty clear and they struck out on their assault of a nearby volcanic peak. We then drove on another 20-25 minutes to a spot by an open air chapel (name unknown) and began our walk form there. By this time the clouds were moving in, a high overcast. We began our gradual ascent along a trail that struck Mom and me as if it could have once been a streamed. It was the most "trail like" trail we had seen so far. The forest here feels more open and perhaps a bit more lush than what we had traversed the day before (the elevation is about the same). We walked amongst Canary Pine (they look a lot like bristlecone pine; with their needles hugging close to the trunk branches. They resemble bottle brushes).  40 minutes into the walk we would get our first look at a major enclosed canal. We were done with the bulk of the climbing by this time too. The canals distribute the water that is gathered from the mist that the trees harvest (4 times as much water as just rainfall) and distribute it around Tenerife. By now the light overcast had grown somewhat heavier and it was spitting rain at us. The air was damp making the low-mid 50s temperature feel much colder than it had any right to feel. Not the nicest weather.

Leaving the forest

After leaving the lush forests we would walk along a barren road. Soon we would leave the majority of trees behind. We could gaze out on lava fields and just see mountains rising in the distance but as the afternoon wore on the overcast turned into a dense mist and mild drizzle.

We soon would leave the forest for more open expanses. Following a black lava road we walked along a ridge that sported lava cliffs nearby and off in the distance gave us mist shrouded views of volcano whose name I'm not sure of and later Mount Negras. Now and then we would spot orange lichen growing on the lava; the first steps to breaking down the lava into the rich fertile soil that volcanic slopes are known for. I suppose it will take a few hundred years more. When you look out across the older lava fields you do feel like you are looking at something you would see on the moon. In the distance you can see greener slopes, no doubt on much older lava gone to soil, but nearby the black rock was still young. It was too bad that most of this was shrouded in cloud and with the wind blowing around no one was really inclined to stop much.

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We had lunch in this spot. There was a dip and some rocks that sheltered us from the breeze. By this time, about 13:20, it was spiting with a  bit more vigor. Sometimes in conditions like this you get a magical sense of the world around you but I don't think anyone felt that ethereal sense on this damp afternoon.

Photo by Jonathan Knight

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The hike today was in the vicinity of Mt. Negras. We would end at a small village with a lovely cafe which was made all the nicer because, as you can see, the weather was rather misty. A large part of the hike was on what we would call forest service road that wound through centuries-old lava fields. You can see one of the volcanos in the video.

We continued down the lava road (barred by barriers at two points and eventually left the open terrain for forests once more as we began to descend the 1,900 feet down to the endpoint of the walk in town X (at a little cafe where we would have wonderful coffee and pastries). The descent was on forest road and easy enough going though relentless. We were surprised at 14:30 to come upon the folks doing the tougher walk. They still must have had 4 or so miles to go. They had experienced much better views than we had as they had been higher than the cloud layer. Lucky them. I figure we still had somewhat less than 2 miles to go to get to our endpoint and we said goodbye to the others and continued on down and out of the woods into fields of grasses dotted with a tree now and then. It must be good habitat as folks saw many birds. One final very steep descent down a cement walk into a valley and we were pretty much at the end of the walk. We reached the cafe at 15:20 and it was a great way to end the walk. especially since we still had a 90 minute bus ride back to the hotel. interestingly the ride from the cafe to where our walk started and the harder walk would end took just ten minutes (leaving us about 20 minutes to wait for them to arrive).

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We would leave the lava road and surrounding fields to drop back into the forests which would, in time, yield to farm fields. The weather never really would improve that much so everyone kept at least some wind and/or rain gear on. A little while after this photo was taken we came upon a crossroads and met the people doing the tougher walk coming up from the village below (probably about 2-2.5km away). They still had quite a ways to go and just a couple of hours to do the walking in (covering much the same route we had just done though they did have some shortcuts to use). We would leave the dirt roads eventually, walk along a paved road for a bit, and finally descend very steeply down a cement walk that would pop us out just below the cafe and bus.

Photo by Jonathan Knight

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The walk down the rather steep cement path. I think this stretch took us 15 minutes and as noted above we popped out just below the bus and cafe. The folks who did the tougher walk had to ascend this steep path: ugh.

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