When you live on the island of eternal spring it can sometimes be tricky to spot when the seasons change, particularly when you have a summer like this one where calima after calima keeps the temperatures above the seasonal norms. But anyone visiting Tenerife at the moment will spot a couple of things that are a dead give-away that autumn is upon us and it’s time to think about autumnal walking.
The first thing to look out for are the budding poinsettias which thrive in cultivated hotel gardens, parks and roadside displays all over the island at this time of year and can be seen growing wild by the side of the road and along country paths. In Tenerife’s climate the poinsettia grows like weeds and left to its own devices reaches heights of ten feet with huge double clusters of bright crimson bracts.
Incidentally, if you’re planning to be on Tenerife on December 12th, it’s National Poinsettia Day and tradition dictates that you give a poinsettia as a gift so you’ll find supermarket flower sections stuffed full of these Christmas omens in the run up to the day.
Another thing to watch out for is the unmistakable aroma of roasted chestnuts.
November is the month of the castaña (chestnut) in Tenerife and in many places, particularly in traditional towns like Puerto de la Cruz and the hill towns of the island, you’ll see braziers burning with white hot pots on top of them filled with aromatic roasting chestnuts. Served with a small plastic mug of locally cultivated vino del país (country wine) usually from the chestnut vendor’s own vineyard, they’re addictively delicious.
Of course the other big hint that autumn has arrived is the turning back of the clocks which means fewer daylight hours now and something you need to be aware of if you’re planning a full day’s hiking.
At the moment, darkness is beginning to fall around 6.30pm and by 7pm (ish) daylight has all but disappeared. By the time we reach the December winter solstice, it will be dark between 6pm and 6.20 pm depending on where you are on the island and how much cloud cover there is.
When planning autumnal walking, it’s important not to find yourself on some unlit trail when darkness falls. Even if you think you know a route well, barrancos (ravines) have a way of silently moving when no-one’s looking and although you’re absolutely certain it’s several hundred feet off to your left, getting a closer encounter with a barranco in the darkness is definitely something you want to avoid.
If you’re setting off on a route and you’re not sure you’ll complete in plenty of time to enjoy the sunset with a cocktail in your hand and your walking boots on the mat, my advice would be to pack a small powerful torch into the rucksack, preferably a hands free one to ensure you’re never left in the dark.