Bellies are bulging and thighs are thickening. For a couple of months now both Andy and I have been chained to our PCs typing like demented souls trying to meet a number of deadlines. The only times we’ve broken free is to travel to cover events and carry out research in other parts of Tenerife…this has involved staying at great hotels and eating shed loads of food. It’s been wonderful, but we all know what a lack of exercise coupled with a hike in the food intake will lead to…especially in middle age; a time that when even if you wink flirtatiously at a chip, you have to let your belt out a notch. Jabba the Hut is starting to stare back from the bathroom mirror.
Then two small furry creatures with floppy ears and stubby tails came into our lives. Looking after a friend’s two dogs (Otto and Milo) for a short period (I hope) has meant that come 6.30pm we have had to break free from the PC to take our temporary house guests out for a bit of exercise…or be punished with a night of the worst two cases of hangdog expressions you’ve ever witnessed.
Funnily this has led to a revelation – that it’s really quite enjoyable to walk around where we live. As we live in the middle of a banana plantation that might seem obvious, but we’d grown used to it and barely registered the rows of swaying banana leaves as we drove through them day in and day out.
It’s only a twenty minute walk, but it’s full of interesting snippets of life in semi-rural Tenerife.
From our house we head upwards on a one lane country road past banana plants where kestrels swoop constantly. A water channel runs alongside, attracting neon bright dragonflies. After five minutes of being dragged along by excited dogs we reach a few houses where we turn along a wider road through the plantation. A field on the right is regularly a ‘restaurant’ for the local goat herd – no gate, they just clamber in and out over the wall. Halfway along the road is a small reservoir whose concrete walls are often patrolled by a heron. Next to it is a traditional colonial finca entrada topped by a simple wooden cross. The only life there is a couple of cats whose bowls are kept filled by an unseen benefactor. The cats provide some in-walk entertainment for Milo and Otto. A few feet further on and we pass a taxi parked on the quiet road; its driver and passengers stand almost hidden in amongst the banana plants. Taxis regularly bring people here to show them the bananas. This time the people on the tour are Spanish. It’s easy to forget that Tenerife is as exotic to Spanish mainlanders as it is to Northern Europeans.
The low sun bathes the road ahead with golden rays, their brightness blotting out the shape of Mount Teide in the distance. Beyond the bananas, the sea stretches forever, its dazzling blue surface just starting to turn to shimmering silver.
Just as we reach the end of the road we meet some other dog walkers – it’s a popular route for dog walkers – with an army of poodles. Being stereotypically neurotic they all start yapping and pulling at their leads to get at our two who behave with a ‘know your type – bored now’ nonchalance. The poodles are in such an excited frenzy that they turn on each other.
At this point the banana road meets Carretera del Botânico and we cross from Puerto de la Cruz into La Orotava. It’s a busy, busy road, but a row of plants and pepper trees creates a natural barrier from the traffic. In the mornings, on the other side of the road, a local farmer sells wild mushrooms from the back of his pick-up. We continue upward, passing a small garden centre and a new sign pointing to a guachinche up a path we’ve never explored (it demands investigation in the near future) to Tres Casitas, a lovely ‘secret’ restaurant set around three small agricultural houses and a bougainvillea covered courtyard.
From then on it’s back downhill, passing a few houses. Outside one the owner sits smoking a huge cigar, clearly banned from polluting the inside, with a glass of wine at his side. The road is so narrow that he has to pull his bare feet back when the occasional car passes. He raises a hand and says ‘adios‘. It took us ages to figure out that when you pass someone, it’s customary to say this and not ‘hola‘.
The road rejoins the our original outwards route and we let the dogs off their leads to snuffle about at lizards scuttling around in the weeds lining the road before obediently trotting through the gate that leads to our house.
Walk over, they flop happily to the ground, satisfied that they’ve shown two dumb humans the paradise that exists just outside their door.