Outdoor Discoveries

What originally was a news section for the rest of the website soon became a place for me to write about human-powered wanderings in the countryside. Photography inspires me to get out there, mostly on foot these days, though cycling got me started. Musings on the wider context of outdoor activity complete the picture, so I hope that there is something of interest in all that you find here. Thank you for coming!

It helps to have good maps…

1st March 2024

While writing trip reports for Tenerife, I was reminded of the travails that I encountered with using the maps that I had in my possession. At the time, I found myself cross-referencing data between different providers for working out where I was going. That was not ideal, but I managed to make it work.

Something similar happened in Canada. When the maps from Natural Resources Canada did not have all the detail that I expected, I resorted to using the base map provided by ViewRanger because it showed trails on there. For my various traipsings, that did suffice, even if there are possible risks like those highlighted in an article on the TGO website.

In the UK or Ireland, it may be that the tracks shown cannot be used by the public, so you need to check how things look on the ground. Then, there are possible errors because many trails are crowdsourced. That is another reason for checking on what surrounds you and applies when using user routes found on various apps and websites. The likes of AllTrails and Outdooractive come to mind here.

It helps to have good maps...

In my case, I ran into no problems in Canada because I was following low-level trails and established tracks much of the time. For off-trail use, mapping from National Resources Canada would have proved as necessary as the use of a compass and awareness of wildlife. Hiking in North America takes one into wilder places after all. Finding paper maps takes a bit more work, as I found, but the added effort pays dividends as long as you watch coverage of where you are planning to go.

In a more recent excursion to California, the Gaia GPS app became invaluable as long as I had downloaded the map data before setting off on hiking trips. Topo Maps+ from Glacier Peak Studios may be another option for users of Apple devices, but I stuck with what I had courtesy of a subscription to Outside+. In any case, Gaia GPS did whatever I needed, and I hardly needed to check any paper maps that I had.

That was just as well, since map scales vary widely for U.S. hiking areas anyway. USGS quads may be standardised, but the same cannot be said for other publishers, with National Geographic being a prominent example. Still, any device has a limited battery lifetime so being proficient with a map and compass remains a necessity, especially in remote areas where mobile signal may be too limited.

Exchanging years while on Tenerife

31st December 2022

Like my earlier Galway and Clare trip, I also split up the Tenerife trip report into several sections. This then is an overview piece that collects what I already have written, adding details of urban strolling that accompanied the various escapades.

The first big hike was on New Year’s Eve 2018 that was an incursion into Parque Rural Anaga from the heart of Santa Cruz. That was a tame encounter compared to what followed on New Year’s Day when I found adventure around Igueste de San Andrés and Antequera. Things felt more dramatic in Parque Nacional del Teide after that, though I contained my wanderings due to time and altitude considerations.

All in all, this was a trip that brought a lot more than many visitors to Tenerife might expect here. It is not for nothing that the island is a well known hiking destination. Guidebooks from Cicerone and Rother offer ideas that can be followed faithfully or customised like I did. Mapping is tricky, though, and I found myself switching between different maps while pottering about. Nevertheless, everything worked well without any sense of being lost at any point.

There were urban explorations too, though these were put on hold because of an after-dark arrival into Tenerife Sud. A shuttle coach got me to Santa Cruz, where I remained in the hotel that night without any explorations. When I went to Mallorca in 2016, I did potter about Palma, so this was a different approach.

El Teide from Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

There was a need to go to Puerto de la Cruz the following morning as well. This might have encouraged an early night because I fancied getting going early. The bus interchange was a significant walking distance away too, so I was leaving myself plenty of time to get there. After all, this was my first real introduction to Santa Cruz.

It so happens that Puerto de la Cruz is another of the island’s popular tourist bases, and most on the shuttle from Tenerife Sud airport were going there rather than Santa Cruz (I might have been the only passenger for Tenerife’s island capital). On this trip, I was intent on avoiding tourist fleshpots, but Puerto de la Cruz felt reasonably authentic to me as I wandered about the place in the sunshine aside from doing what I needed to do. When I arrived, I got off the bus a little early to photographically capture my first sighting of El Teide since I missed out on one the day before because of where I was sitting on the plane.

Rocas de Salto, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

Looking west from Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

Rocks between Playa Grande and Playa Chica, Puerto de la Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

There was a lot more distance covered along the island’s northern shoreline than my memory had credited me with doing. The western terminus was Loro Parque, even if I opted not to go into this zoo. They may not have tempted me, but the little yellow street trains were unmissable as I wandered about Puerto de la Cruz. When I returned to the town centre, I opted for an al fresco meal before going back to Santa Cruz.

Once back in Santa Cruz, there was some shopping to do, and I found a good shopping centre where I could get it done. Batteries were acquired for my GPS receiver (which is heavy on them). These days, I might rely solely on a phone app with added backup from paper mapping. Garmin mapping is expensive, when an annual subscription is cheaper and offers more.

Skies went grey overhead for possibly the only time during my stay in Tenerife, though there was some cloudiness around Antequera too. The cloud cover over Santa Cruz meant that I was encouraged to return to the hotel for a quiet night after following a round-the-houses way there. My bearings were being found, and I was not overdoing things at the start. The strange mid-winter mix of restricted hours of daylight and summer temperatures need acclimatisation for someone like me.

There was to be much more wandering in following days, as well as navigation of local New Year celebrations. Buses conveyed me hither and thither in search of hiking opportunities and occasional quieter spots. Everything was unusual in its own way, as befits a subtropical island of volcanic origin.

The last day was devoted to getting to the airport and flying home. Bus connections between Santa Cruz and Tenerife Sud are not clearly timetabled, but all worked well regardless of this. On the plane, I wanted to see El Teide, but the routing and my seating position granted me views of other islands instead. Later on, there were views of Portugal, mainland Spain, France and England in the gloaming as I returned from a satisfying trip.

Fatigue stymied any mid-winter sunshine getaways this year. Until this realisation hit me, the Azores and Madeira were being lined up as possibilities when I spotted the cost of fares and infrequency of flights from Manchester Airport. That was just as well, given the strikes on the railways and in airports over the Christmas and New Year period. Resting at home was what I needed anyway. If I had realised that Tenerife offers more, maybe my mind might have been changed. The place does offer more, and I am not ruling out the chances of a return now.

Travel Arrangements

This section is more than it might be on other posts, since there already is a post on using buses to get around Tenerife elsewhere. Some of the content overlaps with what is here, so I am referring to it instead.

Exercising added restraint within Parque Nacional del Teide on Tenerife

30th December 2022

My impression is that most travellers to Tenerife go for sun, sand and sea while staying in the busier southwest of the island. Nevertheless, I also fancy that the island’s highest point is a lure, especially since there is a cable car that takes you near to the top of it. The volcanic cone of El Teide is an ever present sight from many places around the island. Two hikes in Parque Rural de Anaga had me glimpsing the distinctive top as well as a previous visit to Puerto de la Cruz.

Puerto de la Cruz is another haunt for tourists, as I found on that earlier piece of reconnaissance. The visit also revealed where I would get buses to and from Parque Nacional del Teide because they do not run from Santa Cruz. This then was an excursion with a change of bus.

Those onward connections from Puerto de la Cruz are not as regular as those between there and Santa Cruz, so you need to be careful. Since this was my last full day before flying home the next day, I did not want to get marooned either. The outbound bus was going to take me back again and would constrain the time for walking unless I did a circuit of the island by bus. That was not needed in the event, though.

There was another consideration that was ever present: the altitude. Having experienced some shortness of breadth near Kleine Scheidegg in Switzerland, I also did not want to cause a repeat at a greater height than there. Thus, I was going to take things easier. Because I was out for a walk, catching the cable car was never an ambition anyway. Staying between 2000 and 2500 metres above sea level was enough for me.

My staying on the bus all the way to its terminus at Parador de Cañada del Teide meant that my rambling was going to around Roques de García. The barren nature of the landscape also was impressed upon me by my travelling. This was another of the wilder parts of Tenerife that I would explore while there, and it reminded me of my time around Landmannalaugar in Iceland, albeit with much more sunshine on this occasion.

Sendero Roques de García, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

El Teide, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

The backbone of my amble was the Sendero Roques de García, a circular trail that would take me away from the Parador and back again. Usefully, the line of the path would be marked out by borders of stones for much of its length. There was vegetation, but all looked dusty and dessicated when I was there. At other times, all can look lush and verdant, and this was not one of those. Thus, the path border avoided losing the trail in places where it was difficult to tell between the line of travel and what lay around it.

Montana de Guajara, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

Naturally, there were numerous others around Roques de García when I was there. That may have been part of the motivation for following part of the Sendero Los Regatones Negros. Following that trail all the way would not only get me to the “Black Giants” of the name in Spanish, but it also would get me nearer the summit of El Teide as well. Aside from the time needed, an ascent to an altitude exceeding 3000 meters above sea level was also out of the question.

Thus, I only went part of the way and the trail was to become difficult to follow. In the end, I found myself crossing obsidian boulders that sounded glassy whenever they struck on movement. Climbing as far as around 2400 metres was enough for me and gained wider views of what surrounded me. Then, it was time to get back to the Sendero Roques de García.

Montana de Guajara & Rocques de Garcia, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

Mirador Ruleta, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

El Teide and Rocques de Garcia, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

That followed a “best efforts” approach of not trying to trample vegetation in this arid environment. That was not always manageable though as I returned to the Sendero using more freestyle route finding. Then, it was time to follow the Sendero Roques de García into terrain that felt more remote. In fact, it felt as if I was somewhere entirely different to where I was and had me wondering if I had overdone things, the cause being that all human infrastructure was that well obscured. Maybe there was an element of what I had felt in the isolation around Landmannalaugar several years previously.

Montana de Guajara from Pozo de los Azulejos, Parque Nacional del Teide, Tenerife, Spain

There was no need to fear, for the car park at Mirador Ruleta came upon me all of a sudden; there was none of the slow progress of the Icelandic adventure that made me catch a later bus back to Reykjavík. Then, the Parador was in view on the other side of the TF21 with plenty of time to spare. All that was needed was a little tarmac tramping; it is all too easy to unnecessarily lose faith and become fearful. In the end, there was time to get some food and drink for the journey to Puerto de la Cruz and Santa Cruz. Cautious adventuring had paid off for me.

A New Year’s Day adventure in Parque Rural de Anaga on Tenerife

29th December 2022

Looking at Cicerone’s guidebook on hiking on Tenerife again, I now realise that it may have been instrumental in prompting ideas for both New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day, although I did add my own variations. After an out and back walk out of Santa Cruz the day before, 2019 was to see me going a little further afield while not straying too far away either.

As I went to the Intercambiador (bus station) by a roundabout route, I saw lots of New Year revellers heading for home in their evening formal wear. It seems that celebrating the arrival of a new year is a very big thing on Tenerife, at least from what I saw. However, it had no effect on the bus timetable being operated, and I travelled to Igueste de San Andrés as planned. Any concern about my being able to return was to be misplaced, thankfully.

Montana Hoya de Los Juncos, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Barranco de Igueste, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

My destination was very quiet when I got there; this was to be a day with lots of quiet hiking and many steep gradients. To start, I went up the Barranco de Igueste as far as the turn-off for the path leading to Las Casillas. That path took me uphill towards Lomo de la Zapata, gaining me ever wider views as I did so. It was reminiscent of some of what I saw on the preceding day.

Cacti in Barranco de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Barranco de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Eventually, I met with a signpost showing the ways to Igueste, Casillas and Antequera. The first had been the way that I had come, while the last became my destination of choice instead of the second. This was to be passage through some wild and empty terrain where cacti abounded. For good reasons, I was reminding myself not to pass too close to them, only to find a thorn had stuck to me when I was back in the U.K. Then, it got removed with a pair of tweezers.

Montana de las Toscas, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Playa de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

On the way downhill, I encountered a German couple coming in the opposite direction. They were the only people that I would meet until near Igueste de San Andrés. This is an isolated part of Tenerife, and I found that I had just missed a possible boat trip when I got to Antequera. What I was going to find is that there may have been some good reasons for having gone with that option, even if it shortened or changed the hike.

Punto de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Roque de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

If I had been expecting a simple shoreside stroll, I was about to be disabused of that notion very forcefully. The beach was stony and not very extensive, at least when I was there, so it was a matter of finding the path across a steep slope with a drop into the sea below. The path took some finding and the resulting traverse a nervous one. If I had been depending on what looked like rock to old me in case of a tumble, I would find myself deceived, for this was soft friable material that came away easily in my hands. The views were ravishing when I could take them in, yet I was more than glad to reach the barranco.

Looking down on Roque de Antequera, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Hoya las Cuevas, Igueste de San Andrés, Tenerife, Spain

Lomo Bermejo, Igueste de San Andrés, Tenerife, Spain

The ascent of the barranco was steep, taking a toll on by now wearying legs. There were hopes for catching a bus before night fell, but these were dashed by the time taken to ascend and descend steep slopes. The more solid ground allowed a chance to survey the surroundings with more confidence. While there may have been a path down to Playa de Zapata and even someone descending to there, my thoughts were set on the course that I was following while it was still daylight.

Semaforo, Igueste de San Andrés, Tenerife, Spain

My target was Atalaya de Igueste and the climb was steep. A family group was seen to pass above me on their way from Lomo Bermejo to Atalaya de Igueste and Igueste de San Andrés. They lingered on Atalaya de Igueste long enough for me to see where they went down. After the earlier rattling of nerves by the sea on the not inappropriately named El Rodeo, any added reassurance was a godsend.

The path down to Igueste de San Andrés was both brutal and unforgiving on my knees and my nerves. The descent was steep, and I took my time not to slip on the worn surface. Thoughts of making my desired bus departure on time were jettisoned in favour of patient downward progress. Light was declining too, and the family group were more nimble than I was, so I left them to their way.

Nevertheless, I still made to the car park in Igueste de San Andrés as they were leaving. In hindsight, I might have saved myself a bit of walking by staying next to the coast to use another bus stop at Lomito del Llano. However, the amount of adventure that had come my way probably meant that it was safer to use the same stop as where I had arrived.

Nervousness about the arrival of the next bus had me thinking all kinds of thoughts. Igueste de San Andrés was a very quiet place, so I was wondering if I could ask for a lift if the bus failed to appear. There was no need in the event, but all kinds of things come to mind in the dark. It had been a day in isolated wild terrain when I used up a lot of water (perhaps most of the four litres that I had been carrying) in mid-twenties temperatures and with some rattling moments too.

When the bus came, all was well, and I could reflect on an experience that few would associate with Tenerife. Most head to the busier southwest of the island, preferring the mix of sun, sand and sea to where I was. In many ways, I gained my own kind of satisfaction and perhaps a more unique story to tell as well.

New Year’s Eve rambling on Tenerife, near to Santa Cruz

28th December 2022

Photos from a trip often remind me of details that I otherwise had failed to recall. In this case, they take my mind back to a trip to Tenerife four years ago. It was a mid-winter getaway that got me among different hills and mountains with a very different feel because of the geology, the aridity and the vegetation.

New Year’s Eve was the second full day of my trip, and I was out and about along Santa Cruz’s own waterfront, taking stock of what was to be found there and around Plaza de España. What also caught my eye were the hills lying to the north. These were not so high, but their steep sides were unmistakable.

Plaza de Europa, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

As I surveyed these and other sights, I also pottered out along one of the piers, noticing the famous visitors commemorated on various plaques. What struck me apart from seeing recognisable faces was how Tenerife was a staging post for global travellers before air travel revolutionised such things. Santa Cruz still caters for cruise passengers and there were several ships docked when I was there. It also is where ferries to other islands arrive and depart.

After a trip to Mallorca when fatigue caught up with me, I made sure that I did not overdo things this time around. It meant that the sighting of those local hills acted as a lure and made me act much like I have been known to do around Macclesfield, head out later in the day to spend an afternoon or evening strolling through nearby hills.

Poinsettias growing in a flower bed, Santa Cruz, Tenerife, Spain

From Parque García Sanabria, I walked along Rambla de Santa Cruz before turning onto Avenida de Anaga. After following the coast a little, I turned onto Avenida José Martí. Shadowing the Barranco de Tahodio was taking me in the direction of Parque Rural de Anaga. One thing that I wonder now is if Pico del Ingles was acting as a lure. If it was, that was not how far I intended to walk, even if I did turn around not so far away from it.

In the meantime, I was happy to continue into more natural surroundings. The landscape felt as dry and dessicated as the barrancos that I saw to be without water around Santa Cruz. Seeing poinsettias growing in flowerbeds was striking enough, but the sight of pavements being hosed down and the watering of public floral areas was just as memorable. This is somewhere that gets a lot of dry weather.

My course took me into Valle Luis, and I am unsure if I was trying to get to Embalse de Tahodio and gave up on seeing how it was taking me to get there, or if I overshot my turn onto a hill path. My guess that the first added a little out and back extension to an otherwise circular course. There was someone else around too, and we were eventually to share a few words as we passed each other.

Pico de la Sabina, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

By then, I was following Camino de Valle Luis and shadowing Barranco de Valle Luis. The site of planted poinsettias was being complemented by seeing many cacti growing wild. This was reminding me of the pot plants that my mother had growing in her house. The same warning about cacti applied as much in Tenerife as they did near her kitchen windowsill. My mid-winter escapade was gaining some odd resonances.

Cacti in Valle Luis, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

Looking West to El Teide from Valle Luis, Tenerife, Spain

El Cardon, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

There was height gain and loss too, something that was consistent with reaching a high point of 664 metres above sea level. Slopes were dry and the ground dry and dusty, so care on foot placing was in order, even with some paving at times. The ascent was sweaty work in the heat, but there was a distant sighting of El Teide that made it worth the effort as much as the sights that I already was gaining.

Looking up to a summit, Parque Rural de Anaga, Tenerife, Spain

As I did so, I was marvelling at where I saw people living and wondering if it was the heat that sent them up to such scarcely accessible heights. Near Galeria los Brezos, I met with walking route PR-TF 2. This took me around by Gollada La Fortaleza, which was my turning point, before dropping me into Valle Seco. This valley was in shadow, so there was not much opportunity for making photos as I shadowed its barranco. Such heights as Roque la Fortaleza and La Muela loomed above me as I navigated a course over uneven ground.

Tarmac was reached soon enough, so the need for concern about foot placement was eliminated. Black plastic pipes carrying water were seen going everywhere as I continued in more populated surroundings. Progress along this part of the walk appeared to be faster than the outbound stretch, and I was on the coast road sooner than I might have expected. After that, it was a matter of retracing my steps to my hotel after what had been an amble in quite different countryside to my normal hinterland.

There was more learning ahead. New Year’s Eve is a big celebration on Tenerife, with many things closed because of the festivities. There was a trip to a shop for some essentials, and I was to wish that I also got something to eat before things got going for the night. In the event, everything worked out and New Year’s Day was to see me go further afield.