My stomach rumbled and I took a sip of my ice cold beer as we waited for our simple lunch. Bread, Spanish omelette and mojo sauce would see us through our afternoon of exploring. We’d just completed a trek along the Barranco del Infierno, in the south of the Canary Island, Tenerife. The path wound along the ridge of a valley before plunging into the shadows and following a small stream up to a waterfall.
The restaurant we sat in, was at the beginning of the walk and up above the southern town of Adeje. The sun glimmered above in the blue sky, and several other customer; a mix of locals and tourists sat with us.
My husband studied his travel guide with a frown. I could see the cogs of his exploratory brain turning as he planned our next move. Personally I could have spent the rest of the afternoon quite happily on that terrace with a few more beers, followed by perhaps an afternoon siesta. You really couldn’t beat the reality that I sat in over 20 degrees Celsius heat in November, whilst torrents of rain plummeted down in good old England.
“I think we should try to find this,” he said and passed me the book.
The small blurb spoke of an interesting rock formation known as the Paisaje Lunar, situated in the forest above Vilaflor, accompanied by a photograph of the cream and pink rocks rising like smooth stalagmites in the greenery.
I nodded. “Yes, sounds good. But it doesn’t say how long the walk is.” I flicked the book to the back and studied the small map, hunting for the highest mountain village Vilaflor, which I knew was half way up one of the roads that took you to the Mount Teide national park.
“I’ll get the map out,” he said, bending to retrieve the full-scale map from his rucksack.
“Don’t worry. I think I’ve got a vague idea where the path starts,” I said, chewing on my lip.
Our food arrived not long after and we dug in with relish. I slavered my omelette in the red spicy mojo sauce and washed it down with the rest of the beer, whilst we chatted about how we’d spend New Years’ Eve in two nights times. Above our heads paragliders passed by, like serene Terra dactyl’s in luminous pinks and reds.
Twenty minutes later we hit the road and headed for the TF1. It didn’t take us too long to find the turning for the mountain road to Vilaflor. A picturesque drive that took us away from the coast. Glimpses of Teide’s summit waved at us from above the ragged mountains and green forests.
We passed the village where some cloud hung but did not devour the sun and continued the climb. Me sat forward the map clutched in my hand as I looked out for any road signs. We came to a curve and to our right a dirt forest track wound into the trees where two other cars were parked and a wooden map sat.
“Let’s try here,” I suggested and we pulled up behind a hire car, grabbed our bags and water and got out.
A quick study of the map, showed us to be in the right place. If we followed the forest path we should come to a track leading up to a viewpoint of the Paisaje Lunar.
It was gone 2pm as we set off, but we weren’t alone in our late afternoon trek, another family, with picnic bags in hands, trundled along behind us.
We followed the winding track along the curve of the mountain, a hazy thin cloud hung below us, like a strip of fog, but beyond it I could see the miniscule buildings of a town by the sea.
My husband fastened his pace, as the track seemed to go on forever and he was concerned about the late hour. The sun vanished quickly in the winter months, but I thought we ‘d be okay as it shouldn’t set until about 6pm, plus I was too tired by then to keep up. My throat burned with acids, thanks to the rich sauce I’d had with my omelette.
Eventually after an hours trek, a sign pointed up into the trees towards the Paisaje Lunar. The path continued steadily up hill along rocky and uneven ground, and I again fell behind, but eventually after a forty-five minute route march, I found my husband, with his camera out looking across the clearing to a collection of rocks upon the mountain side. Like the photograph they appeared alien in the middle of this forest, milky smooth and curving towards the sky like starved flowers.
“Nice,” I said, panting for breath. “But, now I really need to pee.”
My husband sighed. “Go over there.” He pointed behind a bush beside the path.
We were the only people there due to the late hour and I wasn’t worried about where I peed when I needed to go. I’d even christened a crater in Lanzarote when the need to pee took over.
I crouched behind the bush and looked up the steep hill, where the footpath continued to wind. A wooden sign sat beside the path with mileage showing the path we’d travel and that of the path going up. Strangely the path heading up seemed to go to where we needed to be, but with less kilometres to walk. I then recalled that this walk could be done as a circular.
Bladder relieved I returned to my husband, who was grinning.
“I took a picture of you peeing,” he chortled.
I shook my head and explained my master plan.
He looked at the sign and shrugged. “Makes sense.’
I regretted my idea immediately as we hiked up the steep winding path deeper into the forest. My sweat glands were overloaded, a waterfall of the stuff gushed from every pore in my body. But once we reached the top of the climb the path evened out and wound back through the trees. In the distance, the ancient peeks of craters jutted towards the sky, glowing with reds and blacks and the path began to curve down.
We passed through a gate and headed right, onto another forest path that appeared to be leading up the mountain and away from the direction I’d anticipated.
The sun appeared to be now low in the sky and the shadows were creeping in. Darker now we were back in the forest.
I stopped and studied our surroundings. “Babes, I think we’re lost.”
He halted and turned, hands on hips. “I thought you knew where we’re going.”
“I did- I think. We must have missed a turning.”
My husband cursed and looked up to the waning daylight, then down into the trees and the plateaus of fields peeking below. “It must be down there, we’ll just cut through.”
My heart was pounding now, my heartburn raging like a volcano as I followed him into the darkness of the woods. The ground was slippery with fallen leaves and dried up twigs and difficult to navigate without a path to follow.
“I don’t think this is a good idea. I think we’ll just get more lost!” I said.
He stopped. “Fine, let’s go back to the path and follow that, but it looks like we’re climbing higher. We don’t want to end up stuck on the national park at night.”
He walked at a good clip up the path with me again trailing behind. My heart was pounding and chest tight. Panic had me in a vise like grip, it felt so wrong to be following a path further up the mountain and away from wherever it was we needed to be. My stomach was somersaulting and churning, I didn’t know whether I needed to pee or poop. And tried to do both unsuccessfully, I was paragliders a state of anxiety to function properly. Though another part of my brain, the hidden logical side, whispered that we’d be okay, we had a phone and a book with all the emergency numbers we needed and as long as the cliff face and sea stayed to my left we must be heading in the right direction.
An hour later, it became a real physical effort to keep one foot in front of the other. Low clouds had gathered and the darkness fell fast. I plodded on, my hips and legs aching, my feet cold in their sandals. We both wore long trousers, but only had thin long-sleeved jackets.
We passed a white building which appeared to be some type of water works.
“If we don’t find the road soon, maybe we can sleep in there,” my husband said, studying the building.
I whimpered and nodded. He waited for me to catch up and wrapped me into a hug. True dark had fallen now and I relished the warmth.
“We’ll be okay, darling. Don’t worry.”
I blinked away the tears and we walked side by side for a while, until I couldn’t keep pace with him and he scouted ahead.
By this time I was watching the floor so I didn’t trip over in the gloom. A half-moon glowed above and lit our way.
We turned another corner and the flash of headlights in the distance curving down a nearby road, made my heart lift and sure enough the forest path gave way to the main road. As soon as we hit the tarmac, my fear vanished. I knew exactly where we were, from our earlier tours of the island. We need only follow the road back down and find our hire car.
To this day, I’m still not sure how we got lost. Needless to say, I don’t suggest any detours or circular walks unless I have a decent map, and google earth on my phone.
This experience didn’t ruin our holiday, we were very stiff and sore for a good two days after, but nothing more. And we still love this beautiful island, although we’ve never attempted that walk again.
All photos are my own.