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May you never go thirsty, Señor Gonzalez...

Walking holidays in TenerifeI love Tenerife. It's a great island for a walking holiday once you head north, away from the crowds, and reach the rugged north coast. I have many fond memories of my two trips there and here's just one that I'd like to share with you:

From a wide plateau, high above the sea, we followed a stony path as it descended into the depths of the barranco, winding our way through giant spiky aloe plants and tall wavering reed beds that lined a crystal-clear stream. Bright-eyed lizards basked in the delicious sunshine that heated the volcanic rocks, almost too hot to touch, before scurrying away into deep, dark cracks.

As we approached the shore, we could hear the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, pierced by the occasional cry of seagulls as they floated almost effortlessly above the pounding surf.

There stood a small fisherman’s hut, a crude building of sea-washed stones taken from the beach and whatever flotsam and jetsom the builder had been able to find. Despite its haphazard construction, it looked right in this setting. It was atmospheric, almost romantic. Vernacular architecture at its most basic. And authentic. Most importantly for us, it had a shady veranda and here we sought shelter from the heat of the midday sun, soaking up our surroundings as we drank lukewarm water from our plastic bottles.  Welcome, but hardly thirst quenching.

Walking holidays in TenerifeAs we watched the mesmeric ebb and flow of the waves, an old man suddenly appeared, a big smile creasing his weather-beaten face as he indicated we were more than welcome to shelter under his roof.

It was his hut. He had built it many years ago and had been adding to it ever since. Nowadays his son looked after it. His son was at sea fishing and would return soon.

Noticing our unappetising drinks, he went into the hut only to reappear with three cans of beer. Ice cold, the condensation trickling down the ‘golden horse’ of Wuld onto his gnarled hands. Heaven sent. 

He proffered them to us shrugging off our feigned attempts to refuse his hospitality. Drink, he said, I have more. So we slugged down this much-appreciated golden nectar, with self-satisfied smiles all round, thanking him profusely. He was Rodrigo Gonzalez, he told us, of the nearby fishing village of Taganana on Tenerife’s rugged Anaga Peninsula. He had lived here all his life, like his father, and his father before him. Now, his son was a fisherman and we should come with him to watch the day’s catch being landed.

Walking holidays in TenerifeWe followed him along the high cliff path (we were going there, anyway) – amazed at the agility of such an old man – soon reaching the dilapidated harbour just as three small boats were tying up at the quay.

He called out to the men on the first boat, and one waved back a greeting – his son, no doubt. They unloaded their catch and quickly began cleaning them on the beach, their knife blades glinting in the bright sunlight.

Was it a good catch? I asked. Señor Gonzalez simply shrugged, things were better when he was young.

My mind wandered back to last night’s dinner in La Orotava – grilled, freshly-caught fish with papas arrugadas (Canarian wrinkly potatoes) and spicy mojo sauce – so simple, yet so delicious.

Walking holidays in TenerifeWe found ourselves being drawn into this idyllic scene of everyday life in what is a joyously remote and unspoiled corner of Tenerife. No crowds here, no high-rise hotels, no English bars or noisy, 'orange' tourists. Coaches find it hard to traverse the steep, narrow roads that wind down to the sea; the roads too much for many visitors to even contemplate.

This is authentic Tenerife, where the local people offer a genuine welcome and are happy to share what they have. They don’t rush, and you shouldn’t either. Some years are good, some are bad, Rodrigo tells me, but we will always be here. It’s where we live.

All too soon we had to bid farewell, leaving Rodrigo and the sea behind, as we continued our walk which now climbed up and over the ridge. We glanced back, lost in reverie, musing on our meeting with the ‘old man of the sea’ – the taste of those cervezas still fresh on our lips. It was a gesture of great generosity, a seemingly insignificant encounter – and yet one of those precious moments that has lived long in my memory. I raise my glass to you, Señor Rodrigo Gonzalez, may you never go thirsty!
Walking holidays in Tenerife

Posted: 04/09/2012 09:24:54 by Peter Williamson, Inntravel | with 2 comments
Filed under: Canary islands, gastronomy, islands, slow, Spain, walking


Comments
Sue Atkinson
Thank you for sharing this. It would never have occurred to me to walk in Tenerife but sounds great.
22/11/2012 14:49:54

Eddie Byatt
Wow, the north coast of Tenerife sounds out of this world. The scenery must be breath-taking and the views look stunning. I would love to visit the great Island very soon for a walking holiday of a lifetime.
13/09/2012 12:42:33

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