Highs and lows in Tenerife
Tenerife is the 5th island of my Canary trip. After Lanzarote, la Graciosa, Fuerteventura, and Gran Canaria. Could write a story about each individual one since they are so different from each other. But hey, let’s focus a bit. Otherwise this will become a long long story ;) Some will know Tenerife from the famous long climb to the Volcano of El Teide. Used by many cyclists to train their climbing skills.
When I arrived by ferry from Gran Canaria, I didn’t know anything else either. When you're on the road all the time, you need days off to research where to go next. It was raining and windy. And my birthday was the next day (hurray!) so the perfect time to eat cake, drink beers and spend time on Google. In good company too, as my boyfriend had come over to cycle with me!
"What we discovered quite fast was how hard it was to find wild camping spots here
There was a lot of ‘calima’; the winds from the southeast bringing a lot of Sahara sand and dust into the air. So it was better to be on the other side where the volcanoes protect us from the wind. Therefore, the plan was to go to the green northwest coastline first. From there we could go around the valley of Masca and the area of Teno. Before starting the climb on the warmer south side to El Teide and cycle back to the north via the range of volcanoes.
What we discovered quite fast was how hard it was to find wild camping spots here. Many grounds are private, have fences and are used for agriculture (hello banana farms). But with google earth view we found a beach that looked perfect. Even though we knew the big descent had to be climbed back again. Through the banana fields we went all the way down on the bumpy road. To arrive at a great beach and… A fence with guards and the sign: ‘closed, peligro’.
"The tent was shaking like crazy and action was needed!
Due to rockfall, the beach was impossible to enter. Would have been nice to have that sign at the beginning of this road. Big bummer since it was already late afternoon. And I was not feeling well. On my last day in Gran Canaria, I had crashed on a descent and hit the road with my head. Helmet saved my brains here! I thought my head was fine, but then it turned out that any heavy effort caused my head to explode. But, back to the beach part: in travels like these, you have to think of solutions, no other choice! That’s what I love about it. On the way down we saw a small church with a flat terrace with some walls around. That was a good plan B. We climbed back a bit and made dinner. The evening was peaceful and El Teide showed her snowy peak. We set up the tent and it was bedtime when the sky grew dark.
Until we were woken up in the middle of the night by strong wind gusts. The tent was shaking like crazy and action was needed! We couldn't fix the tent on the tiles. In a corner and on a non-windy night this would have been ok. But this was not ok. While the heaviest of us two stayed in the tent to make sure it wouldn’t blow away, I looked for a better spot. In front of the church door under a little arch was the best place. In between two gusts of wind we quickly moved the tent and put the bikes in front of it to block as much as possible. After reorganizing the sleeping room it was time to continue the night. The next morning I felt broken. Headache, a bad night of sleep: time for some rest! Luckily we found a hostel in a touristic place nearby. Not the place of my dreams, lots of older grey winter escapees here. ;) But we had a shower, a bed, and wifi: great!
We decided my head needed a bit of calm nature and we figured out how to get there. On those islands, you have these great ‘acampadas’. Free camp zones with picnic tables, water for cooking, and if you are lucky even a toilet or cold shower. Hello covid: officially it was not allowed to use them. Unofficially you could still use them if not seen. ;) The nearest one with a bus stop and some facilities was at 35km and over 1600m of climbing. So I took a bus with all the stuff and the bicycle. And my sporty lover decided to make a fast ride on his gravel bike there.
From the start, we loved the spot in Los Llanos de San Jose. It’s around 1100m altitude, there are beautiful hikes around in the black lava and it’s quiet. Behind the acampada we found a hidden spot (ssst, don’t tell) to stay for some days. Nearby was a cultural center. This ‘association cultural’ is a combination of alternative arts and a youth center with live music and food. On the basis of trust, you put money in a box when you get a refreshment from the fridge, and drink it while playing ping pong in the garden with a view! We met a nice Dutch lady who grew up here. She connected us to some locals who could inform us about nice routes and told us a bit about their lives here. Always good to talk to people! Gives you more information than mister Google. After a few days here in nature with reading, doing a little hike, and chilling, I gained energy for a new ride. Vamos!
"The road leads to 2300m, where you are on the base of the volcano that’s 3718m high
We went into the beautiful valley of Masca. A huge descent with hairpin bends and great views of the natural park Teno. So happy to go downhill here and not up. With gradients of 14% and more... What a ride! With spectaculair views of rough green valleys all the way down to the sea. Where la Gomera glittered on the horizon. We found a beautiful (but closed) acampada at El Palmar for the night. We pitched our tent between the picnic tables because it was getting late and it was the best shelter from the wind. The next day rain was coming. So a last descent to Buenavista to have a real bed and a shower. And to the laundry after a week! After all, you don’t want to be a smelly cyclist :p
My head was doing fine. So time to prepare for the big trip: all the way up to El Teide. The road leads to 2300m, where you are on the base of the volcano which is 3718m high. Impressive! There is not much access to water or food in this area. Oh, and it’s snowing up there (handy to pick the sleeping spots where we don't freeze our asses off at night). While I normally don’t plan a lot, with these kinds of conditions I do like to think a bit ahead.
In three days we cycled 126km: 3530 meters up and 2630 meters down. Starting from Los Silos and finishing in La Laguna. The first day went well and slowly we got to 1100 meters. Although the shortcut in the end of over 20% was a nice bike pushing experience... Thanks, Komoot! On the second day, we needed to do some grocery shopping for the next days. Down in the valley of course. It is always a bit hard to calculate what you really need to bring. And since I had to take everything uphill, it was a struggle between not too much or less. The mini market had the essentials to get us ready for a long climb. This road from the south was not the nicest. Long and straight. With the calima, there were not a lot of views yet, only dusty sky. So let’s say it was a mental challenge. ☺ When we finally came to the acampada, it was closed due to construction work. Oh noo, we really needed this water tap for cooking!
First things first. Find a spot for the night since sunset was almost there. We decided to go a little further, so we could walk through the forest down to the picnic area to see if there would be water. The universe helped us. We found a flat and protected spot from where I saw a little stone building. That turned out the be the main waterhouse for the picnic area and I found a tap on the pipeline. Saved! The night was COLD at 1600m. Felt like my nights in Italy some weeks ago ;)
"We made a little snowman too to take on our bicycles
The clear morning showed us the snowy peak of El Teide. Let’s go! Slowly we came closer and suddenly we were in the middle of the lava fields in the natural park. Stunning with all those colours! Black and seas of lava were all around us. A couscous lunch in the big crater gave us the last push for the highest parts. Hello, the base of El Teide! A great ride on the range of volcanoes followed afterwards. And the funny thing was that we saw cars passing by with snow on their windshields. It turned out that it had snowed on the north side too! Not so common to have snow at 2100m in Tenerife. So the locals were going crazy on their free Sunday. We had a 10km traffic jam because cars were parked everywhere on and next to the road while people were having fun in the snow. We enjoyed this energy of happy people all around! And we made a little snowman too to take on our bicycles (like the people did in their cars). After a super cold descent at the end of the day, we were happy to sleep again at 1100m in the pine forest.
After two days of rest and a visit to the hairdresser (really needed it after 6 months), it was time to explore the northern parc Anaga. Those climbs of 750m felt like heaven after the big El Teide days! This part had many forests, barrancos, and black lava beaches. On the mirador we met an Italian bicycle couple, Francesco and Francesca. Just retired and full of cycling plans. They asked us everything about my beautiful Santos, the trips I had made and didn’t stop talking. After a group picture and exchanging phone numbers it was time to move on.
The second night here we had a nice surprise. While looking for a place for the night, a German couple next to the road asked me: looking for a spot right? We also did a lot of cycling so we know how you feel and can offer you a free room in our apartment if you want? Eeeh: YES! This world is full of amazing people! A great evening followed with Raoul and Ramona sharing travel stories (they cycled in South America for a long time) and food. Always a pleasure to meet like-minded people! The next days where for closing the loop in the north, via some nice villages and a final wildcamp night on the beach and back to Santa Cruz. Where it was time to say goodbye to my company. And time for new adventures. Tenerife, thanks for your highs and lows. It was a pleasure to be around and we will meet again.