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On Tenerife with the Campesinos...

One of the great joys of travel is having your prejudices and misconceptions overturned.” In her third and final memoir from her trip to the Canary Islands earlier this year, Simone Kirkup meets the king of Canarian potatoes:

After exploring Gran Canaria, La Gomera and La Palma, from where we kept getting tantalising glimpses of Mount Teide, it was exciting to finally be on Tenerife and looking forward to climbing to its summit. But first we had to visit Inntravel’s two wonderful hotels that feature in our walking holiday in Tenerife.

Walking holidays on TenerifeLa Quinta Roja is a 16th-century mansion in the traditional fishing port of Garachico, located on the main square where the old men of the town gather beneath a few palm trees to while away the afternoon playing draughts. This delightful hotel simply oozes character, with stripped-back floorboards in mellow colours, and is built around a central courtyard where soft, comfortable sun-beds and chairs make it easy to relax. The larger rooms are particularly special, some having window seats or Juliet balconies and original wooden shutters overlooking the square – a perfect place to retreat to in the late afternoon sun with a good book and a cooling drink.

Walking holidays on TenerifeFurther along the north coast, we reached the charming town of La Orotava, with attractive colonial-style buildings and well-kept public gardens (right). There are many intriguing buildings of historic interest to visit but the star attraction has to be our very own Hotel Victoria’s restaurant whose Scottish chef serves magnificent Canarian dishes with flamboyant flair.

I indulged on octopus for dinner, accompanied by the island's famous crushed potatoes and served in octopus ink. It was then carefully decorated with beautiful, delicate, edible flowers. I have to say, the result was simply stunning, as good to look at as it was to taste.

Walking holidays on TenerifeThe next day we finally got to stretch our legs in the company of our Canary Island experts Jack and Andy Montgomery of Buzz Trips, who were keen to share their passion for these islands and to show us authentic Tenerife. It was a beautiful Saturday morning, the air was crisp and the sky was pure blue. Our route took us through shady pine forests from where we got many glimpses of the mighty peak of Teide (left). The National Park is scenically stunning, rich in colour and home to a lot of birdlife. We hardly saw a soul all morning and laughed in disbelief that this was the same island that attracts so many tourists each year, many of whom don’t know that Tenerife even has a National Park or is home to the highest mountain in Spain.

Walking holidays on TenerifeAs we rose above the clouds we finally reached the crater – and what a contrast! The landscape here is a mixture of natural rock formations, sand, grit and brittle vegetation, the result of millennia of volcanic activity on the island. It was silent, isolated and completely mesmerising. We had a pre-booked permit to climb to the summit of El Teide, which was particularly exciting, as this peak had been dominating our views and thoughts all week. Now it was our turn to look down on the other islands from afar. We took the cable car to the top station and then walked the remaining 300 metres.

A little wobbly-legged from the wind and a little short of breath from the altitude, we finally reached the top (right). It was breathtaking, made all the more special by a clear day. We could see all the islands we had visited and felt a great sense of completion, something I will always remember. (So will my dad, as I phoned him to tell him that I was on the highest mountain in Spain!)

Walking holidays on TenerifeAll too soon we returned down the cable-car, and began our descent through the forest. Suddenly, we came across an open field where ten or so people, modern-day campesinos [peasants or farm workers], were drinking red wine at 11 in the morning and picking potatoes in a scene that had probably not changed in hundreds of years! We politely called “Buenos días”, and an old gentleman shouted back that they were having a fiesta to celebrate the end of the potato season, and did we wish to come and join them? He didn’t have to ask us twice! The whole family was there, all ages across several generations, picking their papas chineguas*, some of which (left) were almost the size of my colleague Chris’s head! I’ve never seen potatoes so large!

Walking holidays on TenerifeThe family was just as fascinated with us as we were with them and even though I cannot speak Spanish, we communicated well enough, joining in their laughter and celebration. It had transpired that they also produced their own red wine and this was soon freely flowing.

All the while, the grandparents were watching over a large pot of boiling potatoes (right) and fish, smiling fondly at the youngsters who were bemused by the whole situation. The family then kindly invited us to stay to try their potatoes, a wonderful gesture that made us feel especially welcome.

We knew we had just experienced something very special, almost like going back in time, and Jack and Andy knew they had achieved their objective by showing us real people (below) – engaged in real life – on Tenerife.


Walking holidays on Tenerife



[*When the British introduced the King Edward variety of potato to the islands, the local population had some difficulty pronouncing the name. Over the ensuing years, the name ‘King Edwards’ transmuted to chin eguas – and this is their name today.]
Posted: 18/09/2012 12:08:26 by Peter Williamson, Inntravel | with 1 comments
Filed under: Canary islands, gastronomy, islands, opinions, photography, Spain


Comments
Andy Montgomery
Such wonderful memories, it's not often that we get to quaff 'vino del pais' at 11am! And I love how you've superimposed your photo onto the historic scene - apart from all those linen skirts, little has changed!

I've really enjoyed your tales from the Canaries, Simone, and we hope to see you all back amongst the 'chineguas' soon :)
19/09/2012 15:27:56

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