Monday, January 2, 2017

January 1, 2017: It's Allrighty on Mount Teide

From Ed Sheeran's song, Tenerife
Subtitle: New Year in the Old World 

Well we can't think of a better way to begin a New Year than a good long walk preferably in a place with amazing weather and we couldn't have found a better spot for that than Tenerife. Today the temperature was much warmer than yesterday, probably about 68 degrees at the beach of Medano where we started our journey. But it dropped about 20 degrees as we made our way to the highest spot in Spain, Mt. Teide

The highest peak in Spain, Mt Teide at 12,000 feet.

It's a volcanic mountain, estimated to have been formed about 20 million years ago, and after Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, it is the third highest mountain on earth measuring from the ocean floor. It remains active. Its most recent eruption occurred in 1909 from the El Chinyero vent on the northwestern Santiago rift. We didn't see it blowing any smoke and we considered that a good thing.

There's so much to share about this beautiful mountain and our walk, so I will start somewhere, which will be unique plants. We descended from the cable car area which is near the top but was closed for use today due to high winds. There are so many plants in this scrubby Mediterranean climate..

The wealth of flora living in these natural surroundings was a key factor in it being declared a National Park. Out of its 194 listed species, 31 are endemic to the Canary Islands and 32 grow exclusively in Tenerife – that adds up to almost one third being endemic plants.
 I wish we could have seen the flowering ones in season (April or so), but I feel lucky to have seen them at all!
Eschia wildpretii. Has red flowers in season, but is still pretty bare.

Teide is the most visited national park in Spain and is a UNESCO world heritage site. The Teide National Park has a large historical value. This place had an important spiritual significance to aboriginal Guanache people  and important archaeological sites have been discovered in the park. For the Guanches the Teide was a place of worship--- they thought it was the gate of hell .

Paul standing in front of the gate to hell.

Teide National Park is complementary to the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. This is mainly due to being in each of them represented the volcanic structures and forms less evolved magmas of such islands (Hawaii) and more evolved and differentiated (Teide).  We were once again introduced to the terms, pahoehoe and Aa, although the flowing lava in the Canaries is called colada and the pebbly area is called malpais, literally "bad land." 

There is a great walk in the Teide canada (not a caldera, because it isn't the base of the volcano ...although it looked like it---it's an area of the volcano that sunk) called Roques Garcia which is about a 2 or 3 mile loop around amazing huge rock formations. 

Cinchado. This scene was once on a peseta money note.

The biggest attraction of Los Roques de Garcia is the unusual shaped red rock called Cinchado. One of the most popular postcards of Tenerife is Cinchado with Teide behind, as in the photo above. Cinchado doesn’t look very impressive when passing from the road, then it almost seems like just another rock. You have to see it from close up to see its special formation. 

The authorities are trying to allow plants and flowers that are endemic to the area to establish themselves so that less active visitors may see the various species without having to hike for miles. Without this vigilance there is the danger of these fledgling plants being trampled upon by the thousands of tourists that visit here every single day. The area is after all a popular tourist attraction, it suits those who don’t enjoy walking in the mountains, and it’s close to the road and has a huge parking space. The Tenerife Parador hotel is on the opposite side of the road by the little church of Our Lady of the snow. 

A large rock in Roques de Garcia.

A lovely look around the canada from Roques de Garcia. There are large lava field between the near area and the peaks of the distance. The floor is predominantly black.

Paul enjoys his lunch at Roques de Garcia
Christopher Columbus reported seeing "a great fire in the Orotava Valley" as he sailed past Tenerife on his voyage to discover the New World in 1492. This was interpreted as indicating that he had witnessed an eruption there. Radiometric dating of possible lavas indicates that in 1492 no eruption occurred in the Orotava Valley, but one did occur from the Boca Cangrejo vent on Teide
The last summit eruption from Teide occurred about the year 850 CE, and this eruption produced the "Lavas Negras" or "Black Lavas" that cover much of the flanks of the volcano. You can appreciate all the black soil in Roques de Garcia.

Many high rock formations and a lot of black soil

The volcano and its surroundings, including the whole of the Las CaƱadas caldera, are protected in the Teide National Park. Access is by a public road running from northeast to southwest across the caldera. Tenerife bus service  runs a return service to Teide once a day . The park has a parador (historic hotel) and a small chapel. A cable car goes from the roadside at 2,356 m (7,730 ft) most of the way to the summit, reaching 3,555 m (11,663 ft), carrying up to 38 passengers (34 in a high wind) and taking eight minutes to reach the summit. Queues can exceed two hours in peak season. Access to the summit itself is restricted; a free permit is required to climb the last 200 m (660 ft). Numbers are normally restricted to 200 per day. Because of the altitude, the air is significantly thinner than at sea level. This can cause people (especially with heart or lung conditions) to become light-headed or dizzy, to develop altitude sickness, and in extreme cases to lose consciousness. The only treatment is to return to lower altitudes and acclimatize. Several footpaths take hikers to the upper cable car terminal, and then onto the summit (with the permit). The most popular route is via the Refugio de Altavista, however these are demanding hikes requiring at least 4–5 hours of ascent.

We didn't even attempt this, but we did walk down from the cable car area at nearly 8000 feet into the canada and around Roques de Garcia. That was about 8 miles and enough altitude for me. Luckily,no one in our group was immediately affected by altitude.

Sun beginning to set over Teide canada.

It was glorious scenery and a great start to 2017. 

We then headed to the ferry port at Los Cristianos and took the ferry to La Gomera, a much smaller and less trafficked island of the Canaries. I look forward to hiking there. The ferry was about an hour long and unfortunately, in the dark. We all arrived safe and sound and look forward to discovering a new island in the morning.

And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been. ..
                                                                                                   -----Rainer Maria Rilke

Paul's Ponderings:   We did a spectacular walk on Mount Teide and around some adjacent rocks, which added up to about ten miles or so.   I can't imagine a better way to spend a New Year's Day.   The weather was perfect and the scenery was stunning.   Some of the walk was a bit intense, uphill for lengthy stretches.   It's a great group we are walking with and our guide, Max, is easygoing and low key.

We followed this with a transfer to La Gomera by boat that took about an hour, arriving in the dark.   Our hotel is near the port and we dined at a small restaurant across from it.   I had some great sea bass accompanied by vegetables.   But....we were able to start with a fave, pimientos de padron and some local cheese from La Gomera, which was a great way to go.  

By the time we finished eating, everyone was pretty beat, after a late night out on New Year's Eve, a big hiking day, and transport.   Tomorrow we start with an even bigger hike on La Gomera, with some pretty serious ascents and descents.   Our fingers are crossed for good luck!

So far our experiences on the Canaries continue to be all reason to believe that will change.   We are told that La Gomera is more "rural" than Tenerife or Gran Canaria and look forward to seeing if that is accurate.    Keep us in mind for a long walk, with long climbs, tomorrow!

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