Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

Dawn - Sometimes An Ultrarunner

December 23, 2011

Hiking Los Gigantes, Tenerife

Barranco Seco
So far in our visit to Tenerife we had been hiking in every section of the island except for the northwest.  Yet the Teno mountains might just be the steepest, most rugged area of the whole place, and considering what we’d already seen, well…steep is the norm here, that’s for sure.  The narrow roads barely cling to the hillsides and passing a bus is an all-day affair.  Luckily for this hike, we wouldn’t need to drive into the area, as the circular path started in Los Gigantes on the southern end.

Walk #32 from the Tenerife Rother Walking Guide

We parked at the viewpoint overlooking the marina and the cliffs (we’d be getting a VERY close look at those later), and began walking through the banana plantations to start our hike.  At home we love to eat a lot of banana smoothies as part of a whole, fresh, healthy diet, so it was great to walk through the dense forests of banana trees.   The banana clusters were so heavy on each tree that each one had been carefully propped up with sticks, and covered with mesh to keep the birds away.  Now that’s dedication! 
"The light at the end of the tunnel"
After several miles of bananas and cactus trails, we reached the first mine tunnel.  This was the mother of all tunnels.  1.2 kilometers long, with a dilapidated, rusty train track running down it most of the way, the tunnel was wide and high enough I didn’t have to worry about hitting my head or arms.   My standard travel packing list always includes a small headtorch…however, it’s more for emergencies and I hadn’t planned on needing it to guide us through a pitch-black tunnel!   Needless to say the batteries weren’t the freshest and all it really gave out was a dim light, which we used to not trip over the tracks.  After about 15 minutes of steady walking we turned a corner and finally saw the light of day. 

The tunnel brought us out into the Barranco Seco or “Dry Canyon”.   This seems to be a popular and appropriate name for Tenerife canyons, as we had already found one with the same name in the Anaga Mountains in the north.  Immediately the trail was more of a short controlled slide down some loose scree (very glad I wouldn’t have to go back up) until we hit the dry creekbed, and then we could pick our way down the rocks.  The trail was marked by rock cairns and meandered along both sides of the steep valley, selecting what seemed to be the only navigable passage down the canyon.  We passed more evidence of mining and old water channels before arriving at our next tunnel, which would bring us back through the mountains and out onto the cliffs of Los Gigantes. 
But first we took a worthy detour and continued a kilometer or so down the canyon to arrive at our own private beach for the day (we only saw two other people the whole hike).  The surf was crashing on the rocks and the only way out was back up the narrow creek bed.  It was noon and we appropriately stopped for a leisurely lunch and a nap in the sunshine. 
The walk back up the canyon seemed easier, I guess climbing up rocks IS somewhat simpler than picking a way down.  Soon we were back at our second tunnel with a really dim headlamp.  This kilometer-long tunnel was straight as an arrow, and a welcome tiny speck of light marked the other end. However it was lower and narrower than the first one, with the water flowing in the tiny canal right next to us adding a bit of dampness to the air.  We hunched over to keep our heads from getting a nasty rock surprise, and used the faint bit of light from the lamp to check the floor and the walls for jutting rocks.  The total darkness made it hard to keep my balance, and this was a glimpse of how hard it would be to be blind. 
Stumbling our way to the other end, we emerged high above the waves on a steep cliff feeling somewhat like Indiana Jones.  Another dusty trail led steeply downwards, crossing a narrow canyon, and then we were out on the cliffs of Los Gigantes, with nothing but the crashing blue waves beneath us.  What followed was a nervous hour of vertigo-inducing narrow trails, and even I started to get a bit wild-eyed at the poor footing and constant focus we gave to each step.  It didn’t help that we lost the cairned trail for a few steps and came to a sheer cliff where the trail appeared go nowhere.  That was not a pleasant feeling as we had just a few sips of water left and a high desire to be back on solid ground again. 
  It was a relief to finally get off the cliffs, and I wasn’t at all surprised to see a sign at the trailhead warning that the cliff path was dangerous and, more importantly, “closed”!?!?!   I suppose that could be the Spanish version of “hike at your own risk”?   My walking book seemed to grossly understate the sheer dangerous side of this grand-finale across the cliffs from the tunnel.  Although they did use words like airy, exposed, and breath-taking, the cautions were less strong than for the (relatively) much safer path in the Anaga mountains we had done a few days before.

All-in-all, I was happy to make the walk through town to the car on normal sidewalks!


Los Gigantes

Ice plants...my favorite!

1 comment:

  1. I remember a boat trip from Los Gigantes and a stop near the track you have taken photos. The crew gave us the nod to have a swim near the cliff face. When I was floating on my back looking up at the sheer face of the cliff I noticed the mining activity near the top. Another day trip on the way to fire mountain I noticed the banana plantation. Very glad I have seen your hiking photos as I would have loved to have a wonder round your hiking route.