Tenerife – Santiago del Teide to Puerto Santiago

I’m a little behind with this one from Tenerife three weeks ago…

We’ve hired a car and raring to go. The plan is to travel to Los Gigantes and take an open launch from there to the beach below Masca. The plan is to walk from the coast to this beautiful little village through the most dramatic gorge strewn with boulders the size of double-decker buses and littered with groves of bamboo along the banks of a stream. The tiny river morphs along its length varying from a raging torrent, spectacular falls, then babbling brook and finally back to a mere stream meandering the base of the gorge like a sleeping serpent but always ready to strike with new cataracts and boulder strewn races. It lies, for the most part, at the bottom of the Barranca de Masca (The Gorge of Masca) and helps, at least part of the way, to guide us.

It’s almost seven and the office closes in the next few minutes so the Pilgrim makes a dash along the side of the harbour and up the steep incline. I’m impressed as we’ve already done a walk at 7,000 feet up the mountain as a bit of an opener. I follow but at a more sedate pace and arrive at the office just as we’re being told that the Masca walk is shut. Apparently, storm ‘Emma’ had left her mark on the island about two weeks ago whilst winding itself up for an attack on the UK where it met the “Beast from The East” and in the resulting battle between high and low the violence haemorrhaged white blood all over the UK.

As the snow and high winds contributed to the South East grinding to a halt with commuters going home and trains being withdrawn at 2100 whilst the people of the South West blamed the fairies with Cornish Knockers and Mine Piskies taking the majority of the blame. The population of the North, on the other hand, had to put their big coat on and the people in Scotland remained stoically optimistic that it would “be a better day th’morra” whilst getting on with their normal life.

We’re both disappointed and ask about being able to walk a tiny part of the way. The answer is a definite ‘no’ and is easy to understand in Spanish or English, it’s the same word! Apparently, several youngsters had ignored advice not to do the walk when the storm was imminent and ended up at the beach after a somewhat violent latter part of their walk and were told that the launch would not and could not be sent to take them off the beach due to the storm so they would have to find shelter and stay where they were. They were fortunate in that a local goatherd was at the bottom of the gorge looking after his animals and took them into the shelter of a cave that he was familiar with, he calmed them down and offered them water and shared his food until morning when the main part of the storm had passed and they could be picked up by the launch. They had considered walking back that night and it was said that it would have been disastrous due to the torrents and violent flooding that had taken place. Their meeting with the goatherd had been a Godsend.

So; what do we do?

The lady giving us this sage advice also advices us to go to Santiago Del Teide and talk to the Oficina Del Touristica and as we’d already decided to go to Masca village then it’s on our way and the following morning now has an objective.

Santiago del Teide is a delightful little village at the base of Teide but at a height of about 2000 feet (900m). It’s got a lovely church and a few shops and more than its fair share of cafes. We chose one that’s on the side of the road with a few tables outside and one or two locals sitting at the tables inside. We order some coffee and a sticky bun and chose to sit in the morning sunshine to discuss what to do. I know that there’s a delightful but extremely short walk over a little bridge that goes over an arid river bed in the dry season and a raging torrent when there’s been some rain and, in fairness, we are in the middle of the Atlantic and only a couple of hundred miles from Africa so there can be some ‘interesting’ weather as witnessed by the boys only a couple of weeks ago.

I tell the Pilgrim about the Stations of the Cross Walk just down the road and we’re both enthusiastic to do it. Following our little sojourn we make our way to the bridge and look up the hillside at the tiny crosses that show the way to the shrine about half way up.

It’s sunny and warm and the beautiful, alpine spring flowers that delimit the way are glorious in their own right but when they’re framed with cactus, succulents and other exotic local flowers they take on even more beauty.

I stop and read the inscription at each of the stations and spend some time either photographing or looking at the gorgeous, natural vegetation that prevails. The Pilgrim is sometimes in front and sometimes behind as we both take in the beauty of what surrounds us, there’s absolutely no hurry and, in fairness, the rake of the land renders it impossible to do this at speed even if you were a fell runner. At the shrine there are candles and various Christian artefacts including an alter that, presumably, is used by the local priest on the occasions of the fiestas and festivals of which there are many in Spain.

I light a candle for no other reason than this is what I do when there’s an opportunity and think of Linda my dear wife and whilst in early years it was painful and desperately void, it’s now more to do with beautiful memories, warm feelings and a sense of communion. I’m good with this and relax in the sunshine and take in the vista.

We make our way back down the mountainside and over the little bridge to the car then head for Masca. The road is ‘interesting’ in as much as there isn’t a lot of space. In the Officina de Touristica  a couple of ladies from Holland had attempted this drive and then turned back. We discuss this and we’re both disappointed that they missed such beauty but we’re not surprised as the road is challenging and very, very high before descending to Masca where we find no parking place even though the gorge and walk is closed and we make our way back up the pass stopping only where it was safe (although a long way up) for a pee.

We get back to Santiago del Teide following a further stop afforded us by a couple pulling out and leaving a vacant space at the top of the pass that gave us the delightful sight of mist and cloud blowing over the mountain as we walk along the ridge. It looks sinister and beautiful in equal measure and as it blows over it reveals a fabulous vista of mountains and gorges to the North and wonderful a wonderful green valley far below to the South. This beautiful sight lasts for a few minutes before the mist and cloud obscure it and we return to the cold murk to remind us who is in charge but allowing occasional glimpses of what we’d seen just to remind us of what lies below.

In Santiago del Teide the lady in the Officina del Touristica is very animated about the walk to Puerto Santiago. “It’s a very old route used by the locals for many hundreds of years”, she enthused.

She was also most definitely of the opinion that no part of Masca was open – not a bit, not slightly, just “NO” and that was enough for us.

We decide to walk to Puerto Santiago along the ancient route but not before another coffee in the sun.

We move the car to a place very nearly opposite the garage, it’s free and leaves it accessible for when we return by bus. The track is like an old cart track with dry stone walls on either side. It follows the Barranco de Santiago (Ravine of Santiago) and is almost due south. The fields on either side are, or have been, cultivated and still contain vines, aloe vera and various citrus trees. They’re a little unkempt now but appear to have some possibilities if an enthusiast wanted to bring them back to life. There are flowers either side, the yellow ones stand out and with a little bit of concentration I can just about make out the red ones although my colour blindness impedes the immediate recognition that other colours stimulate. There are also some vivid blue forget-me-knots that bring memories of childhood and springtime to mind. All this together with the sun makes an idyllic start to the walk.

We’re at about 2000 feet (900 metres) and we’re walking almost to the coast so we need to lose about 1900 feet in just over five miles (8.5 km) and the height loss starts almost immediately. 

We’re heading towards El Molledo and pass this delightful little town to the west and almost immediately enter the Barranco el Molledo and the scenery changes to scrubland as we scramble down the boulder strewn track and I feel justified in following the example of the Pilgrim by donning my walking boots.

There follows a period of mist and low cloud and the temperature drops appreciably but only for fifteen minutes or so then the cloud disappears again and the temperature returns to the mid twenties and I decide against the wooly pullover solution that was looking like the only option in the mist.

We’re down two or three hundred feet now and walking adjacent to Tamaimo which is a bail out option if we spend the whole of this element of the walk in mist and cloud. The bus stops here and could take us back to Santiago; however, the weather has improved and although the scenery isn’t in the same league as Masca it’s still interesting and occasionally beautiful.

We drop down into the ravine and walk across towards the village then turn south again and chose some rocks to sit on whilst we eat our sandwiches. As we relax and enjoy the beautiful vegetation that surrounds the stream we see a couple of real athletes running ‘up’ the ravine. They’re looking pretty sweaty and we stand to attention and salute them as they pass much to their amusement and our own. Within minutes we look up the valley and see them a good kilometre above and across the ravine, they’ve worked hard and are making incredible progress.

Lunch is finished and we begin walking again past a small and very dilapidated house with a wooden plank in place of a concrete ramp that has been damaged beyond repair and appears to be there to enable the use of a disabled person’s chair or similar. The whole thing is looking past its best and looks a little sad. Adjacent is a young lady in her early twenties with a little girl of two or so. We greet them both with a smile and a pat on the head for the little one and receive a smile back from the young girl and a look of puzzlement followed by a smile from the toddler. It’s nice in as much as they’re enjoying special time together but it’s also disturbing when you look at the state of the dwelling.

About a hundred metres on and we make a mistake by following a path that takes us away from the river bed but dwindles into nothing and we double back to find the way markers. It’s easy to spot once you’ve seen it but easy to miss when you’ve got your head down looking for quality foot holds on the rocks. The ‘proper’ route is actually down the river bed over some huge smooth stones that have been weathered and eroded over the years. When the river is in full flow this route would be impossible to negotiate and it brings to mind the predicament of the youngsters that found themselves trapped at the beach at the bottom of the Masca gorge.

Another mile or so and we’re back into a well defined track between drystone walls and olive groves…there’s also a sound, a low buzzing sound. We both need a pee so we’re stopped and it’s at such a volume that it’s both puzzling and worrying. The Pilgrim shouts, “Look at the bees!”  She’s at a crouching position and so at a lower angle to me so she’s looking at the vegetation at only a couple of feet above ground level rendering a view that is through a swarm of bees that are distributed across the grove and doing their pollination work on the ground cover of flowers that are prevalent under the bushes. Their numbers are astonishing but unless you are stupid enough to go into the grove they are safely corralled above the flowers and if there are no flowers then they’re not interested. We’re on the track outside the grove and there are very few flowers so the rule applies and after a brief adjustment to our attire we’re on our way again.

We exit the bee fields and are now near some water reservoirs that have clearly seen better days Fortunately, they’re for irrigation and whilst there is a lot of black plastic to try to reduce the greening effect of photosynthesis the water is green indeed and I’d certainly have reservations about swimming in it and with regard to drinking, well that’s just a none-starter.

Further down the valley and we’re into banana plantations, most of these are under plastic and you can see the effect of this when you compare the fruits of the plants that are not in their artificial environments; they barely have fruits at all where the hands of bananas in the plastic fields are very nearly full size but very, very green. I am told that they’re harvested green and become ripe on their way to the shops. The amount of pre-harvesting is dependent on the distance and length of time to their destination.

We leave the banana plantations and emerge near a roundabout where the route seems to have been obliterated by building. We make our way towards Puerto Santiago and find a police station, a fire-station and a bar near a bus stop and conclude that the bus that we require to return to Santiago del Teide should pass this way in the next half hour and settle ourselves at the bar.

This is indeed the bus route and we spend the final few minutes in the sunshine awaiting said bus for our lift five miles back into the island and 2000 feet back up the mountain to pick up the car.

A beautiful day enhanced by wonderful company. Thanks Cx. Enjoy the snaps…G..x

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