The next day I had to fly to Tenerife for the final leg of my holiday. For some reason I couldn’t sleep in my La Gomera holiday home, so in the morning I was very tired as I drove to the airport and didn’t really enjoy the short flight. In Tenerife, baggage return and car hire were again very efficient, and I was quickly on my way to my hotel. I soon realised that Tenerife was completely different to La Palma or La Gomera – the area around the airport was heavily developed, and although they even had a motorway, it was jammed solid. My navigator took me around busy back roads to my next destination, the town of La Orotava. I was very relieved when I could park my car directly in front of the hotel. I was even more happy with the hotel itself – called the Alhambra, it was a rich merchant’s house that had been designed by a well-known architect in the 1920s in Arabic style.
The owner of the hotel was very nice, and very enthusiastic about his property. He asked if we had a minute. I just wanted to go to my room and sleep, but it seemed rude to say no, so I listened to his passionate explanation of a large modern mural on one of the walls. I have to admit I didn’t like the painting at all and could only understand half of his explanation in Spanish. I nodded politely occasionally. When our host finally stopped talking, I turned to head upstairs, but he stopped me and asked if I had just one more “momento”. I made a sign that I wanted to sleep, which seemed to disappoint him. The room was really nice with a great view of the town and Mount Teide.
I slept for an hour and then headed out to explore La Orotava – it was a lovely colonial town dating from the 1700s, with many interesting old buildings and churches.
In the centre was a pretty park with a view of Mount Teide
I also found the Casa de los Balcones, an iconic building for the city. On the street side, there were pretty wooden balconies, and inside was a small museum.
I bought ham, cheese and wine from the local supermarket and enjoyed dinner in my room, with a nice sunset view of the town with the volcano overlooking it.
The next day I got up early because I had booked the first cable car up Mount Teide at 9am, meaning I had to leave the hotel at eight. Fresh coffee and a lovely sunrise over the town helped me wake up.
The drive to the cable car station was initially up very steep hills, and then along the plain inside the huge volcano caldera. In the centre of the caldera is the tall cone of the volcano. The cable car takes you nearly to the top, but you have to walk the last 400m. From the upper cable car station I found the path leading up, but was stopped by a park warden who asked to see my permit and ID. I duly handed over a print-out of my emailed permit and my driving licence. He looked at both suspiciously – I don’t suppose many teddy bears visit, and it was probably the first driving licence issued from the darkest Peruvian jungle that he’d ever seen. But eventually the man uttered a grunt of acceptance and allowed me through. I was first onto the path and hurried up to get to the top first and have the views to myself. Mount Teide is 3700m high and people used to think it was the highest mountain in Europe. Mont Blanc and other peaks in the Alps of course are much higher, but since Teide rises up steeply straight from the sea, it looks enormous and it is understandable that people made this mistake. The air was thin and I was soon panting for breath, but I am used to high altitude from the jungles of Peru and made it to the top a few minutes ahead of the two young human climbers who passed the checkpoint after me. At the summit the views were amazing, whichever way you looked:
From the very summit I climbed back down to the cable car station. I passed a few other tourists, some serious hikers with proper boots and warm clothing………and some horribly unfit looking people in t-shirts, who were gasping for breath and shivering in the cold (my phone said it was +3C). From the station I then walked part of a different route that led to the old crater, for a different perspective.
The path was initially easy but soon became very rocky. Although it was possible to walk all the way down the volcano and then back along the road to the car, I was cold and the rest of the path looked like a scramble over volcanic boulders – hard for human, never mind a small teddy. So instead I enjoyed the view and then took the cable car back down. Back at the base station, the car park, which had been deserted at 9am, was now packed, and there was a big queue to take the cable car up.
I drove a bit further into the Teide caldera to visit a formation of strangely shaped volcanic rocks near the visitors’ centre.
The area was swarming with tourists, and parking was difficult. After a short hike around the rocks I headed back home, admiring the lunar landscapes. I got back to my hotel in the early afternoon. I was feeling a bit lazy – the walks were not very long but were steep and at high altitude. So I enjoyed sitting in the hotel’s garden and listening to the happy noise of children playing in the school next door as a I dozed on a sunchair. That night I had more cheese, ham and wine and was treated to another spectacular sunset.