This post has been in progress for over a week. Apparently, I have a lot to say about our adventure in the Canary Islands. So this is part 1 of ???? Time will tell. It’s time to let this bird fly.
Crashing surf, banana plantations, volcanic rocks, hiking trails, flowing beer, fresh fish – layered over a soundtrack of Spanish, German and English language. This was our experience in Tenerife. We chose this particular Canary island because it is billed as an adventurers paradise and it didn’t disappoint.
If you’re looking for a place where you can hike next to the sea at a temperature around 70 F and then later explore a deserted trail at the foot of a volcano at 30 F – then this is the place for you.
Last October, I waited anxiously in Madrid airport at the gate for our connection to Tenerife. People lined up to board and my husband hadn’t yet arrived. I studied our itinerary and thought maybe the connection time had been too tight… boarding began and I searching the terminal awaiting his arrival. Finally, a fourth of the way through boarding, he ran up – Harley ball-cap on his head, unlaced hiking boots on his feet, wearing an old racing shirt from Louisiana and hiking shorts, a bit out of breathe, and I was so happy! We were together again after about 2 months apart.
We boarded the flight for our island adventure. Our first views of the island were quite impressive as we approached from the north east corner. Tenerife is a Spanish Canary Island which contains the Tiede volcano – the highest elevation in Europe. It also contains miles and miles of hiking trails, rocky beaches and winding mountain roads. We love to hike, snorkel and take road trips which is why we chose this destination.
When I started to plan our vacation I was often reminded of a trip we took to the big island of Hawaii about 8 years ago. In many ways the islands are similar. Tenerife is a bit smaller. Instead of the macadamia plantations, Tenerife has many banana plantations. Both have spactacular volcanoes and lots of rustic places to explore. Both have touristy areas that I deliberately avoided. Hawaii has Kona and Tenerife has Playa de Las Americas. Our trip to Hawaii included stays at many small hotels as we traveled counterclockwise around the island. On this trip we spent the first night in a small town of Tenerife on the north west coast called “San Vicente”. We stayed at the Hotel Rural Bentor, a place I would recommend. The hotel offered a modest modern room with spectacular views of a ravine and the ocean. But, the charm of this place was the old house and courtyard which included a breakfast area. Broad beams and typical Canary island decorations enhanced the charm.
We checked in and then began to explore the town. I was happy that I had recently picked up the habit of spending a half hour on the stairclimber every day as we labored up steeply pitched roads. So steep that many of the sidewalks were steps! We found a cafe in the city center and enjoyed our first Dorada bier in the shadow of a towering church. Dorada quickly became our drink of choice. Fortified by bier, we continued our climb to the top of the city and found a beautiful Drago (dragon) tree. I snapped a few photos and around this time we noticed that the locals began to look at us suspiciously. This is the downside of not being in a tourist town. We didn’t feel particularly welcomed. That was ok, it was nearing sunset and we headed back toward the hotel for the evening. Along the way we stopped at a cafe and had our first, unfortunately disappointing, meal. I have to admit, I was not very impressed with the food, which was a bit sad, but on the other hand I didn’t gain any kilos on my waistline on this vacation!
That night we slept 12 hours! My husband was adjusting to the time change and I do believe I was wiped out from work. After a quick swim and a lovely breakfast on the terrace overlooking the sea we decided to take off for a hike on the coast. We decided to make it spontaneous. A quick check of google maps indicated that if we drove about 10 minutes to a nearby point surrounded by a banana plantation, we could strike out on a path in the sea cliffs. Driving through the banana plantations was very interesting. The design of the plantations was uniform across the island. The plantations were bordered by concrete brick walls or fencing and typically relatively small in size. I can only guess there might have been a threat of theft.
We passed through a tunnel decorated with a crab motif and were greeted by a spectacular view of the ocean.
Fisherman, standing tenuously on the rocks below, cast their lines. One cried with joy as he landed a fish. Another washed an altar with great deliberation and care. I wondered if he had lost a friend on this rough coastline. A small dog scurried about searching for scraps. The fishermens’ base camp was built up around a small cave with a rusty metal door. My curiosity beckoned me to enter the cave, but we respected their space and, after an exchange of friendly greetings, continued along the trail.
As the elevation gently climbed, we re-entered the banana plantation. The plantation walls were made of volcanic rocks and we were delighted to discovery black and green lizards peaking out between the rocks. Later in the day we saw people feeding them bananas!
We continued along the trail and came across a view of an eerie old building, I believe it was called the Hamilton House. A local guy, originally from England, was also nearby snapping photos and he shared with us the story of the building. The building was a water pump built to pull water from the sea, desalinate it, and then pump it to the cities. The cost of desalinization was prohibitive and eventually abandoned. The water on the island is now rainwater collected in tanks, or drawn from underground aquifers filled by rain water and filtered through the volcanic rock. Droughts are a common threat and as we drove around the island we noticed elaborate pipe and covered canals criss-crossing the hillsides running water from aquifers to terraced- fields andwater tanks.
Another turn on the trail brought us on a brief stretch through town. We heard German words pouring out of a small bar and realized we were a bit hungry and thirsty. A bier and a snack, ordered in German, was just the cure to restore our strength for the return hike. This was the first time my German came in handy, and it continued to be for the rest of the trip. The common languages on the island are Spanish and German, and some people spoke English.
The next day we checked out of our hotel and took a drive up into the mountains en route to our home-away apartment rental where we would spend the next week. Along the way, we paused to admire the statue of Bentor, the namesake of our hotel. Bentor was a local native who stood up in one of the last great fights against the Spanish invaders. I imagine that when he fought he wore clothing, but apparently the naked version of him is what people want to remember. His feet were huge! Seemed a bit like a Rodin sculpture style.
We quickly entered the countryside and saw terraced fields, horses, cattle and many people walking alongside the road.
It started to rain and we abandoned our plan to walk out to the Faro lighthouse on the northwest corner of the island. Instead we turned inland toward Masca for what would become a white-kuckled drive along a narrow road, dodging tour buses and occasionally socked in by clouds.
After surviving the road to Masca, we were happy to relax on the balcony of our rental apartment and soak up a spectacular sunset.
More to come in part 2 of our Tenerife island adventure…