Tuesday, 3 February 2009

No pain, no gain

“90 mins” says the sign that shows the start of the route from the troglodyte settlement of Chinamada to the coastal resort of Punta del Hidalgo.

Spread across the northeast tip of Tenerife, the Anaga Mountains are virtually untouched by the tourism development of the last fifty years. They present an unforgiving terrain where for centuries farmers have worked narrow terraces carved into the side of sheer ravines and trodden a myriad of paths to take their produce to market and to export.
Chinamada to Punta del Hidalgo is one such path and last week, we finally got round to hiking it.

With a 620 metre difference between the coast and Chinamada, we opted to do the walk from coast to mountain rather than the other way round, leaving a nice, leisurely down hill to end the day.

The weather was perfect for hiking; intense blue sky, not a cloud to be seen but a fresh, brisk breeze. As we wondered along the coastal path by the lighthouse in Punta del Hidalgo with the ozone and fixed grins on our faces, Jack took photos of the white horses riding atop the fearsome waves.
Through a meandering stream at the bottom of the barranco, over a wooden footbridge – it was idyllic and I mentally compiled a list of all the friends we’d do the walk with when they next visited.

Soon we began climbing and the terrain became more demanding. The path narrowed and looped around overhangs in the barranco wall; it skirted deep caves set into the ancient monoliths and more and more it rose in sheer stairs worn smooth by weather and the years. As we climbed, sweat dripped off the ends of my hair and trickled down my neck and my list of friends to bring with us next time we came diminished rapidly.

500 sheer metres below us, a small stream on the barranco floor glistened in the sun and across the gaping divide the little white houses of Batán clung to their precipitous hold on the cliffside. At eye level kestrels rode the air currents before swooping to the barranco floor, then rising, circling and repeating the manoeuvre.

Each time we reached a new turn in the trail we looked for the landmark mirador to which we’d walked from Chinamada and which we knew heralded our imminent arrival at our destination. But turn after turn, it remained illusive.

After two and a quarter gruelling hours the path began its steepest ascent yet, along a narrow ridge with loose scree and then up sheer steps, each one a thigh crunching, gargantuan effort. A careful inch around a narrow precipice and there it was – the familiar mirador.

Two and a half sweaty, energy sapping hours after we left Punta del Hidalgo we arrived in Chinamada at the sign that says “90 mins”, and which, had it not been very securely fastened to the wall, would now be lying at the bottom of the Batán Barranco.

We ate our lunch at the Mirador Aguaide perched on an outcrop above the northern tip of Tenerife and watched the ant-sized guided walking groups we’d passed on the way up as they negotiated the steep final ridge. I could have stayed there for hours, at the edge of the world, just us and the kestrels.

On the way back down we bitched about the inaccuracy of hiking signposts on the island and how the only way you could do that journey in 90 minutes would be if you had a parachute attached to your back.
In fact, we bitched for the whole hour and three quarters that it took us to get back to Punta del Hidalgo…!


Gary Rosson said...

Hi, I may have passed you on your walk as I have been to Chinamada twice recently, albeit from Cruz del Carmen. The first of these trips was in weather similar to that experienced by yourselves. The second time, we started in heavy rain, wind and fog, although this rapidly improved as we walked. Both times, I was guiding people on their first visit to this part of the island and it was very satisfying to listen to the surprise in their voices as they commented on the beauty of the Anaga. Gary (Cyberhiker)

Real Tenerife said...

It's very possible Gary, we passed two groups of British walkers that day, One on the way up from Punta de Hidalgo, the other at Chinamada. There still aren't that many Brits who venture deep into the Anagas, so there's a good chance.