Mount Teide has pride of place this week. We are at 2300 metres and the summit is still over 1300 metres above us.

Canary Island Hopping

January 10th to 16th 2007 Granadilla de Abona, Tenerife to Weymouth

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Day 64 January 10th at Granadilla, Tenerife

The management came to Granadilla last some 25 years ago. He did not intend to come here but it was the only place he and the family could find to stay. In those days it was an ethnic flea pit. He had a room over a bar into which four of them crammed. They were only too pleased to find somewhere nicer on the coast.

Since those days much has changed. Small towns like Granadilla have benefited from the wealth generated by tourism. Most have managed to retain a true Spanish feel. Unfortunately the coastal resorts have gone the other way. They are often seedy and and feel a bit like Bush's Florida must be. Best not to go there.

Having been travelling for two days we felt the need to settle in and explore the town. This is the first time we have stayed in a casa rural in a town. It is also the first time we have stayed in a town for more than a couple of days.

Granadilla is on the old main road which runs along the mountain edge parallel to the coast. Our casa is in a small pedestrianised road near to the main road. It is a very convenient and quiet location.

The casa itself has been lovingly restored and then divided into three spacious apartments. Some original features have been kept, ours being a huge outcrop of volcanic rock in the bedroom. The dry stone wall construction is revealed in the living room.

Almost more important in this climate is a private walled garden which both gives shade from the midday sun and retains the warmth when the sun has gone.

Our main purpose in being here is to have a base camp for our attempt at the Pico del Teide. Shopping is interesting. There are still several shops just behind normal front doors. There is not even a medium sized supermarket and to do a shop takes ages visiting several places. Service is of course very leisurely. What's the point of hurrying?

Having got our bearings and our supplies we then needed to pack very carefully for tomorrow. This of course needed to be done before the red wine was opened and dinner underway.

Day 65 January 11th Granadilla to Parador del Teide, Tenerife

Granadilla is situated at about 660 metres in height and our destination is at 2,200 metres. It is by far the biggest climb we have attempted this trip and in fact for several years. On the plus side we are not going with a fully laden tandem and the roads should be well graded.

As we wheeled the tandem out the weather seemed slightly unsettled. We have seldom taken much notice of the weather here. It normally turns out nice again. Often a little cloud can give welcome shade on a long climb.

Many UK cyclists, even regular club riders, have never experienced climbing on a tour. Those who go to training camps often set themselves a challenge and attack a pass. This type of climbing is very different and can be very pleasant. But it does not always work out that way.

We set off up hill out of Granadilla and were immediately into a lowish gear and maintaining a steady pace. For the technically minded, on well graded roads like this one we use between a 35 and 45 inch gear. We know from the map that there will be no downhills until very late in the day and then for only a very short stretch.

Initially we enjoyed the climb as we should. As we wound up the broad hairpins through the pines the sea and coastal plain were spread out below us. The stoker at this stage was even heard to quip about a place call Cruz de Tea. As a person dedicated to the beverage she is justifiably critical of both the quality available here and the very unsatisfactory way it is served.

Everything in the world was fine until we began to climb into the clouds. We were at about 800 metres when the visibility reduced. Even then we thought that the clouds would soon blow through on the strongish wind. Fortunately the road we were on is not the main route to Teide from the resort towns so we had very little traffic to contend with. We did however turn on our lights just in case.

It was lonely in the foggy pine forest and unusually for Tenerife there was little habitation. Eventually the damp in the air began to turn to drizzling showers. The trees here offer no shelter in the rain, just the opposite. They conserve the stuff and drop it beneath them on purpose. It is very unfriendly to passing cyclists.

Just as we were getting downhearted and long after we had put on waterproofs we came into the outskirts of Vilaflor at 1466 metres. We were met with the very unusual site of workers in potato fields in the rain. Even so the sight of other human beings cheered us up. The management was also feeling happier. He was wrong about this in almost every material way as it turned out.

At some stage in these travels he had picked up information about the trade winds. They blow from the north east and the clouds top out at 1400 metres. The wind was certainly from the north east and strongish so he reckoned that we should soon be above the clouds and rain.

Vilaflor is the highest inhabited town in the Canaries and higher than any in Spain. When it is raining it also feels like one of the most miserable. It was not quite lunchtime and we had still only completed about 700 metres of our 1540 metre climb. Not surprisingly the management was not happy to stop for long. 'It was too early, we were not even half way and at any minute we would be above the clouds.' He ignored the fact that we would be unlikely to find any shelter for the rest of the day. Fortunately his brain had not entirely left him and off went the stoker to the local shop to get some chocolate bars.

We now descended into the depths of discomfort and misery. The road of course continued steeply up and every now and again we met ill equipped German walkers coming down. Eventually even the management had to stop. The stoker was desperate for a break. She claimed her legs felt like lead and she could not go any further. Even though we were by now at about 1750 metres there was no sign of the rain letting up or of us emerging above the clouds. Reluctantly, eventually the management stopped under a tree which may have been marginally drier than not being under it.

We ate egg sandwiches and chocolate which cheered us up. The stoker's legs still ached but she is determined and going on was her only option. During the next hour or so the weather began to improve a little. This raised our spirits a little but it began to dawn on us that we were getting very high a long way before we were due to arrive.

We should of course have realised, we had been made aware of it often enough, that the centre of Tenerife is a huge crater. First we had to climb over its edge at 2230 metres before descending into the crater to about 2000 metres and climbing back up 200 metres to the Parador.

We summited exhausted but in the sunshine and enjoyed the gentle descent down to the volcanic floor of the crater. Here euphoria set in and we pedalled along the flattish road on automatic pilot.

Seeing the final climb ahead we stopped for a short rest at a view point. A delightful young Spanish couple came to talk to us. They were full of youthful enthusiasm, like our own kids. They worked in a hotel down in the holiday factory and it was their day off. Could we take a picture of them on the tandem? Had we really cycled all the way up? Would we like a drink? Here's a present of a big bar of chocolate. We ate and drank greedily before the final climb.

Just as we reached our destination at the Parador the management bonked out. It was a good thing we were there as he could not have gone any further. He has seldom been subject to this common cyclists' complaint as in general he is too lazy to push himself hard enough.

Fortunately the bonk is a problem soon cured and a Parador is the ideal place to do it. All it needs is lots of good food and drink. This Parador excelled in that respect and is the first place we have ever come across in Spain with a proper vegetarian menu. The stay here is our Christmas present to each other and no luxury was spared.

 We were so pleased to be near to our goal that we stopped to toast the mountain.

Day 66 January 12th Parador del Teide to Granadilla via the Teleférico, Tenerife

The Parador del Teide is a good hotel but its best point is its location. Our view in the morning sunshine was across the twisted rocks and small mountains of the crater and up to the Pico del Teide. The steep crater walls are its backdrop. We were up early and both last night and this morning we had the privilege of being here almost alone. This is a popular tourist spot during the day.

Our permit to visit the Pico del Teide was obtained several weeks ago in Santa Cruz. Being at the ski type lift to the top at 9am seemed no problem then. It did mean getting up to an alarm and having breakfast at 8am which did not make us very happy today.

By the time we had liberally breakfasted the summit was surrounded by cloud. Hotel reception said the lift was closed but may open later. Nevertheless we cycled the few kms to the lift station. The lift man shrugged and pointed to one of the electricity cables. It was covered in ice and lying between the pylons on the mountainside. The top also looked as if it may have had its first dusting of snow this winter. We were naturally wearing every item of clothing we had brought. The teleférico would be closed all day and we don't think they would be so relaxed if they were running a ski lift.

We recorded our height at 2326 metres which is the highest road on the Canaries. The Pico del Teide at 3715 metres is higher than any mountain in Spain. We were disappointed that we had not got there but pleased that at least the tandem had made it to the road summit.

Deprived of our own summit we joined the tourists and explored the spectacular rocks nearby. We then cycled back down to the foot of the pass over the crater wall. Here we felt the cost of our exertions yesterday. The management's knees were especially creaky in the cold. By the time we started down we had already gone up over 300 metres so maybe our bits had a right to grumble.

At this altitude it is usually cold but today was back to normal pleasantness after yesterday's rain. We descended slowly and carefully wanting to avoid punctures. That also gave us lots of chances to look at the spectacular views. The bike behaved and the stoker enjoyed a stress free low speed descent. We stopped at the now very pleasant town of Vilaflor basking in the sunshine.

We did not shed any of our four layers until we returned to our casa at Granadilla. It was nice to spend the rest of the day there relaxing in the sunshine.

 Lots of rest and relaxation are needed after such a big climb, and before the next tour.

Days 67, 68 and 69 January 13th, 14th and 15th at Granadilla, Tenerife

We enjoyed these three days in the sun. It was unseasonably warm even for here. We came down from the great heights knowing that we would soon be plunged back into the cold and dark of the UK. So we made the most of these days.

Our private courtyard provided sun and shade as required. We do not emulate the Spanish by rising early but in other respects we do as they do. The sun is pleasantly warm by 9.30am for a leisurely breakfast outside. We are then active doing things in the morning including shopping and preparing for packing. Then a late lunch before a quiet read and siesta. It is then ramblas time before dinner.

One of the important jobs which needed doing was to find some packing for the tandem as we had sent home some of the stuff we used on the way out. The Canaries, like the rest of Spain, has a huge number of ferret shops. That is, hardware shops properly called ferreterias. By going to several of them you can get almost anything you can think of, from a mantelpiece ornament to a bicycle and a strimmer to rat poison. The second one we tried gave us a cardboard box which after a little whittling with the Swiss army knife was just the right size.

On Sundays here in the real Canaries most things are shut and the whole town becomes very sleepy. We decided to go for a walk on the mountain slopes to the north. We had been left a useful booklet of walks and this one started almost from our front door.

We walked out of town via an older part which, like our casa, has been restored. The streets we walked through are well kept with shady squares and little traffic. Following the directions we crossed a deep barranca and climbed the donkey track on the opposite side.

For this and much of the rest of the walk we had the sound of running water nearby. During the steep climb high above the town we followed an open culvert of fast flowing water. It was amazingly pleasant to do this having hardly seen running water for ten weeks. The culvert was constructed in the 1940's bringing water for the first time down from the mountains to the parched coastal plains. It had such an effect on farming that land values rose by 20 times their previous values overnight.

The route we followed went past derelict and tumbledown farms. Many of the field terraces have been renovated but just as many are in ruins. Some were as neat as the fields in Holland. The outside walls are planted with vines and the centre of the fields covered in fine, light coloured lava. This serves to trap what little moisture there is in the air and channel it into the soil. We don't know exactly what they grow but the potatoes and the squashes look and taste good.

We came to a tumbledown finca, almost the last before we reached the pine forest. Two elderly men were doing things farmers do. You would not see the like in the UK. One was dressed in peasant clothes but the other was wearing a very bright Hawaiian style shirt and long shorts. At first his gender was indeterminate. It eventually became clear because of his ample moustache appearing under his floppy hat.

They were extremely hospitable as many of the local people have been on this trip. They invited us in and gave us some white wine. At least that's what we think it was. It came from an unlabeled green bottle and it would have been churlish to refuse it. And we are still here and all the better for it. On this occasion as on many others we really regret having so little Spanish. People are always friendly and make huge efforts to communicate.

After leaving them we went up into some pine woods. Having reached the top of the climb we traversed the hillside to Cruz de Tea. It is a pleasant village with a pretty hermitage and renovated kiln which we think was for baking tiles. Much to the stoker's disgust and the management's surprise there was no tea. There was not even one café or bar which is just not normal for this neck of the woods.

The descent back into the town is on narrow, very steep tarmac roads. It may not sound very nice but it was a welcome relief after the donkey tracks. The stoker was especially pleased because her foot had as usual gone numb after the first few kms. We were rewarded with some good views of the town, coast and our casa.

We had time to relax in deeply shaded squares. The laurel trees provided almost impenetrable shade for the peasant ladies who used to do their laundry here. The walk booklet bemoans the passing of the communal laundry which we don't doubt would have been in operation when the management was here 25 years ago. We don't suppose many of the current town people give it a thought when they turn on their automatic washing machines.

Day 70 January 16th Granadilla, Tenerife to Weymouth

Travelling days are a pain. What we need is flue powder or at least a nice comfortable ship. What we get is a virus distribution machine with seats so close together that they induce thrombosis.

We set the alarm but only needed to get up 30 minutes earlier than usual. It should only be about 30 minutes downhill to the airport. Packing for the ride is easy. Much of the stuff we brought with us has already been posted home. Our ever present food bag has been reduced to a picnic lunch. Even the paperwork has been thinned out to a minimum.

We left Granadilla in bright clear sunshine. It had been a very pleasant week, much better than expected considering it was just base camp for the mountain and airport. The tandem had developed a tail. Sticking out behind was the cardboard packing for the plane.

At last, and far too late, the management had managed to correct the tandem brake judder. This of course does nothing to stop the brakes getting too hot. Because of this, and again much to the stoker's satisfaction, we did the long descent very slowly.

Accessing Tenerife Airport from the north is easy. It is highly recommended for cyclists and better than any other airport we have used. Following the bus and taxi direction we found some seats in the sun. There were not too many people about and most of the time the Spanish tour buses which have no off switch were polluting elsewhere.

The repack for the flight is hard work. First the tandem had to be dismantled. As we are not planning to ride out of Bournemouth Airport we removed as many breakable bits as possible. This takes a while but we hope it is worthwhile. Then everything else needed repacking to meet the silly security restrictions. Arrival to checkin was two unhurried hours. The management was still unbearable. It is debatable whether a rapid pack which reduces the aggravation time is preferable.

Checked in and through so called security we ambled around the over hot departure convenience. We had the unusual experience of being the sole occupants of one of those vast buses which take you to the plane at second rate airports. How we managed this is a mystery but it is a level of comfort which needs repeating.

The flight left on time and arrived at Bournemouth early. Our bags came off quickly and our taxi was waiting. We arrived home in time for the Archers delighted to be back. And well wrapped up against the cold to which we are now totally unaccustomed.

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