The Beach
The Beach

This has been a volcano vacation.  Volcanic cones sit at either end of El Médano, Montaña Roja on the west, Montaña Pelada to the east.  I’ve climbed both, not long or strenuous hikes, but fascinating.

Roja was formed by a coastal eruption and is connected to the island by a causeway of volcanic debris and sand and what I assume is frozen lava, bands of pocked rock that reach across the beach into the water, holding pools of sea water in the crevices.  According to legend, one band, Peña Maria, is the remains of a woman whose lover was lost at sea returning to Tenerife after sailing to America to make his fortune.  Waiting on the beach for Juan’s return, Maria forgot to go home, lost her voice “and from her throat came only an anguished howl, analogous to the bellow of the waves.  The fishers gave her food out of pity and each time sadder and thinner. . . she ended up disappearing, like Juan, without trace of her body or the rags of her dress.” She was dragged into the sea to join the remains of her lover, and an enchanted goblin turned her into a rock — the Peña Maria. Quite a dramatic story for a placard on the boardwalk of a beach.

On Wednesday I was running on the trails by Roja and thinking it would be nice to run in to David, who was out walking, so we could climb the mountain together.  As I started on the trail back to our apartment, there was David.  We climbed to the 171 metre peak (I’ve been trying to think metric while I’m here and it’s not easy), a scramble in a few spots but mostly an easy hike along a red path, scattered with black and red rocks.  The magnetite in the soil, a naturally occurring iron oxide, gives the mountain and the surrounding landscape its color.  From the top the range of Teide, the large volcano to the north, dominates the horizon, with many smaller peaks — all volcano cones I assume — rising across the landscape.

On Friday we climbed Montaña Pelada, much smaller and pale by comparison, tan basalt sculpted into curved cuts on the ocean side by wind and waves.  Pelada was created by the process of hydrovolcanism (the interaction of magma from a volcano with a body of water), which created a caldera almost a kilometre in diameter.  (I know, I’m getting pretty technical here, but I’ve been surrounded by volcanos for a week and understanding how they got here has taken over my Google activity.  I admit I don’t understand all of what I’ve read about how Tenerife was formed, but at least I know more than I did.)

David and I scrambled to the peak of Pelada, following a crevice in the rock, and found a wide path across the shoulder of the ridge.  I was expecting a big hole at the top, but when David pointed out the wide scoop of land to the east I realized how big a kilometre is and of course, there it was, an expanse of the desert landscape in a depressed ring.  Both mountains have fossil dunes and as we climbed Pelada I found an embedded black rock studded with shells.

Yesterday we tried to drive to the base of the Teide cable car in the national park, but after sitting in stalled traffic near Vilaflor, 4,000 feet up from where we’d started, sharing the very winding road with many bicyclists and a long train of cars, we learned the road in Teide national park was closed ahead due to snow.  We turned around to head back to El Médano, disappointed but still admiring the view and puzzling over the people we’d seen parking their cars and walking uphill, carrying sleds and boogie boards to use as sleds. Did they really think they could walk, some of them in sneakers, the thousands and thousands of feet before they got to the snow line?

Back on Google when we returned to the apartment, I found a page that announced the closure of the road to the base of Teide, with a one way route created by cars ascending on the TF38 and descending on the TF21 (which we’d been on).  Free buses were running between Vilaflor and the base all day.  All those people we’d seen walking up hill, and the crowd we glimpsed further into town, were taking buses.  That made sense.

Today is our last day here and the winds are forecast to be below 20 mph all day — calm for Tenerife.  It’s sure to be sunny, as almost every day here is, and I’ll be soaking it up.

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