The next day I enjoyed a late breakfast. It was the penultimate day of my holiday and today I was going to drive around the north and west coasts of the island to a different hotel, located near Tenerife South airport. My first port of call was the town of Icod de los Vinos, a pleasant old town mostly famous for its huge and ancient dragon tree. Legends say it is 1000 years old, but botanists put its age as close to 500 years – still not bad for a tree, and much better than any human or bear. The dragon tree is the symbol of the Canary Island and a good example of the exotic flora that grows here.
Icod is firmly on the route of tourist groups touring around the island, although away from the main square and the view of the dragon tree, and into the quite little side roads, the tourist crowds disappear and the town is pleasantly relaxed. From Icod, the road led along the coast to Garachico, another pleasant old town. As usual it had a central square with cafes and an old church.
I carried on around the North-West coast; every town seemed to have its own “centro historico” with a church and a square. Even the ones that weren’t mentioned in my guidebook were very pleasant – maybe better than the popular towns even, since there were no tourists. Eventually the road led inland and up steep hills. This was the very north-west tip of Tenerife and the beautiful but wild countryside combined with the mist rolling in from the sea gave me a sad feeling, like reaching the end of the world. I had been following the news back home over the past days and thought of the thousands of people affected by the coronavirus outbreak, many of whom were confined to their homes. I wondered what lay in store for me on my return to London.
The road carried on up, twisting and turning along the hill side through strange and colourful plantations and past small houses, occasionally offering a spectacular view of the steep slope down to the sea.
At the very top of the ascent was a mirador with a café looking out over the town of Masca, far down in the valley below. It was a great place to sit and recover from the rather difficult driving on the mountain roads, especially since now the sun had appeared from behind the mist and low clouds.
After my break, the road led down into Masca and then relentlessly up. Every 100 metres there was a hairpin bend on a steep slope, and I often had to stop to let other cars past on the narrow track. Once I met a bus, but fortunately the driver was patient and very used to the road; as soon as I had given him enough space, he nimbly squeezed around me, avoiding the side of my car by less than an inch. When I reached the top, I was sweating from anxiety, as is if I had walked all that way up.
The next part of my route was an uninteresting main road that turned into a motorway. After an hour I turned off to drive back into the hills, to my last hotel, Casa Alberto, which was outside a small village far from anywhere. My holiday home turned out to be enormous – with big living room, wood fire and two balconies. The common areas of the hotel were laid out in a garden of orange trees, with a heady sweet scent of orange blossom. I picked a couple of deliciously tasty oranges and flopped down onto a bed to enjoy them. One of the great things about the Canary Islands is the pleasant temperature all year round – 20 to 25C in daytime – ideal for lazing around or sitting on the terrace of a café. I attracted the interest of the hotel’s cat, who, it seemed, had never met a teddy bear before.
The next day I enjoyed the garden and orange blossom in the morning, before heading off to the airport. There, chaos reigned; Spain had just announced the closure of all schools, bars and restaurants in two days’ time, so a lot of people wanted to get back, but some of the flights in- and out- bound were cancelled and most of the rest (including mine) were delayed by several hours. During the wait I wrote my blog and thought about what might await me in London, where the coronavirus outbreak, although less bad than in Spain and Italy, seemed to be taking off. Adding the three-hour delay to a four-hour flight, I eventually arrived home at around 1am, with very happy memories of the Canary Islands and a feeling of foreboding about what was to come.
That’s all – each day’s blog was published a few days after the events it describes. This will be probably be my last blog for a while – I had great plans in spring and summer, but it looks like I will be stuck at home in London. Still, I was lucky – I could have my holiday exactly as planned and got back just in time before everything closed in Spain. Not everyone has been this lucky, and my thoughts are with those who are sick, or have sick loved ones, or who are simply stuck at home under curfew. I hope you all stay safe and healthy, wherever you are, and that my blog can cheer up these difficult times and help you look forward to all the great things life has to offer once things return to normal.