Walking Above Garachico, Safe or Stupid?

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.

9 Comments

  1. I agree with you that they are just covering their backs. Some of them make no sense at all. There is a permanent signpost for a ‘temporary’? closure on a path from Santiago del Teide up to Pico De Gala that has been there for over two years. There has never been anything to fear on the path and I have continued using it ever since the sign was erected. On another occasion, I led a group of walkers from Montaña Chinyero via Montaña Negra to the village of Los Llanos only to find the path ‘closed’ as the first houses of the village came into view. Needless to say, we ignored it.

  2. The only thing that’s consistent is their inconsistency. We were once told by a forestry worker that we couldn’t proceed. The reason seemed very woolly, so we waited until he disappeared and carried on… to find what looked like a lot ‘unofficial’ forestry workers filling up their Toyota Pick-Ups with logs.
    Tenerife where different rules apply 🙂

  3. So is it possible to walk the Barranco del Infierno? I understand it is officially closed (for quite a long time I believe) but is it barred by something more subsatantial than a plastic barrier and therefore impossible to access? Or perhaps there is an alternative route into the barranco?

  4. Hi Bob,

    It is officially closed with no sign of it re-opening but we keep an eye on presss releases from the local authorities in that area to moniter the situation. As far as we understand it a people regularly ignore the signs (the barrier isn’t going to stop anyone who wants to get past it) and walk the barranco anyway – but clearly at their own risk.

  5. Hiya, I’m so pleased to have come accross this website…and your comments! I’m off to Tenerife in Dec and can hardly wait! It looks so different than Gran Canaria and Fuertoventura. I’m into hiking and think 1 week won’t be enough to see all the beautiful places I want to see. Hope the weather is ok (previously on other islands was 25-35C in Dec, hope it’s the same this year). thanks for your comments, really helps. Cheers, Jasmin

  6. Still closed until further notice following the tragic accident there in October last year. We’re keeping a lookout for any new information coming out from Adeje Council.

  7. It is useful to know there is a danger of rockfalls, although generally you can see the signs. I would concur that we should make our own choices. SHows the need to be weather aware and be concious of where you are on the path realtive ot rock falls. There is often shelter,e.g. right under a cliff face and in my experience you hear the rocks before they arrive: only a few seconds but enough to seek shelter. Looking forward to 10 days in the North East after Christmas
    Les

  8. Good advice, experienced walkers know how to read the land. The biggest problems on Tenerife tend to be in places which attract visitors who don’t usually take to the countryside on foot and view them as just another tourist attraction, i.e. the Barranco del Infierno and Masca where there are ‘rescues’ every week in the walking season.

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