We haven’t enjoyed as much walking on Tenerife as we’d have liked of late. When I say walking, I mean countryside walking; far from the madding crowd type of walking. The sort that clears away the fog from the brain, cleanses the soul (or whatever you want to call it) and gives the muscles a much needed wake up call.
We’d traipsed around Santa Cruz to map out our first town and city walking guides and enjoyed the countryside in other locations from the Highlands of Scotland to the Picos de Europa. But there’s nothing quite like Tenerife’s sheer volcanic slopes to challenge the thigh muscles. So, having cleared a space in the diary, yesterday we headed along the north west coast of Tenerife to Garachico for a walk that although not very long is a bit of a lung buster, especially in August temperatures that hover around the 30C mark.
The route runs from Garachico to San Juan del Reparo – more or less straight up the hill. Garachico was looking bright and perky in the summer sun and all spruced up for the Romería de San Roque and a helpful sign post had been erected since we last did this walk. But like so many of the walking routes on Tenerife, after the first kilometre the positioning of some signposts could have confused walkers not familiar with the area.
It was around this point that we encountered an obstacle that halted us in our tracks. A plastic barrier had been placed across the path and a sign had been taped to it which told us that the route was closed because of the risk of rock fall. Sure enough, there were a few rocks scattered across the path just beyond the barrier. Not for the first time the authorities had blocked off a route not at the start but at a point some way along the route. We’d just walked a kilometre straight up from Garachico and were not happy bunnies.
This lack of thought and basic common sense on the part of the authorities on Tenerife sometimes makes my head want to explode. It doesn’t take a great brain to figure out that a sign at the start of the walk would be more helpful…and yet that little nugget appears to be beyond them.
The reason for the path being closed is also frustrating and has its roots in the tragic rockfall on Los Gigantes beach in 2009. Councils on Tenerife are terrified of being held responsible if anyone is injured by rockfall in their municipality and subsequently some beaches and walking routes, like the Barranco del Infierno in Adeje, have been closed…indefinitely.
Experienced walkers know that care should always be exercised anywhere where there are ravines, cliffs etc. Closing off nature to walkers because of the risk of someone being injured is a nonsense, especially when you consider that paragliding, windsurfing, rock climbing and other extreme sports are being promoted by the same people who close walking routes.
I grew up in the country and we didn’t have signs telling us where was and where wasn’t safe. But knowing the countryside I respect nature and am aware of its power.
The upshot is that we ignored the sign and carried on. We did this for a number of reasons. The earth was dry and we knew the path beyond the area of the rockfall was solidly built and had existed for a couple of hundred years – it was an old merchants’ route. Another was that sometimes the authorities put up signs and forget to take them down. We’ve passed signs blocking paths because of men at work when the men at work had long gone. So we tend to treat these sort of things as guidelines and make a judgement based on the evidence in front of us.
We’ve also got a theory that the authorities put up these signs simply to cover their backs. Why they don’t just put up a sign saying walk in the countryside at your own risk I don’t know.
Anyway we continued on, enjoying more spectacular views of Garachico way below with every step and pausing beneath shady pines to escape the heat and catch our breath. On route we were passed by a family of German walkers, from young children to gran and grandpa, and a number of Canarios in sportswear obviously using the old path as a training course…oh, and a dog lazing in the shade of a fig tree (there’s almost always a dog).
What we didn’t encounter was any more evidence of rockfall…apart from the lava stream that ran parallel with the path, but that obviously occurred 300 years ago.
It was a wonderful and invigorating walk and I’m glad we ignored the signs. Non-walkers may consider it foolhardy. But here’s the thing that experienced walkers are only too aware of – nature can be dangerous with or without a sign.
It’s the people who aren’t aware of that who are at most risk.