My Life as a Traveler

Canary Islands Calamity, Part 1

Today we’re in  Tenerife, one of the larger Canary Islands. These islands are in the Atlantic off the coast of Morocco, so the weather is mild. After a busy day of canyoning, we are ready for a small break. We have a reservation for a car and plan to drive around the island, circling the still active volcano, Mt. Teide. Teide is the highest point in Spain at over 12,000 ft and is the third highest volcano in the world, measured from its base underwater. We are not going to explore it today because there is a more interesting volcano in Lanzarote, our next stop.

Getting to the car rental office at 9am, we find a huge line. It’s 45 minutes before we’re out the door and on our way. Unfortunately, the car has no gas in it. I hate it when they have you start with an empty tank and expect you to return it empty. Really, you know that the renter will always put more gas in than was in there when he picked up the car… but that’s another rant for later. We all have a huge fear of running out of gas in an unknown place, so we stop at the first station on the way out of town.

Like many volcanic islands, there is a dry side and a wet side. They’re called leeward and windward, but I just can’t seem to wrap my brain around which is which. All I know is that when the rainclouds come over the island, they can’t make it to the other side without smashing into the mountains and leaving lots of moisture. After the rain dump, they either dissipate or roll over the other side of the mountain, which stays dry because of the mountainous windbreak. As we drive around the island, we are on the dry side, where there are not too many towns.

Once we turn the corner, though, we see more resorts and attractions. Hang gliders are floating overhead. But we are on our way to the Masca Valley.

Before 1971, the only way the 100 or so inhabitants of Masca could get to civilization was by walking 3 hours down a valley between the jagged volcanic peaks or by burro 3 hours up and over the hill the other way. Many people did not even know this village existed. After the road was built, this hidden village was more accessible. It’s an amazing location, with the old traditional houses built along the crests of the mountain. That 3 hour walk downhill is now trekked by tourists, and I was hoping that we could figure out a way to do it once we got there. Unfortunately, you need to pre-schedule your boat ride to the nearest town and get back to your car somehow, or walk the 3 hours back up. You really need to be staying on the island to do this. Too bad.

We did drive through and up the hill where we found a restaurant with a magnificent view of the town. The sun was shining and we all (even Morgan) ordered beer and lunch. It was one of those perfect moments.

Later today, those perfect moments will be balanced out with moments of terror…..

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