With less than a week before climbing El Teide, that mighty volcano in the middle of the island of Tenerife, I left the picturesque village of Masca having a great feeling, one announcing new adventures and places to explore.
I didn’t know what to expect, as many people were telling me that climbing Teide it’s long and arduous. I knew that they might exaggerate and I also knew that I was better prepared than most of them were.
I spent the last days before Teide in La Orotava, above Puerto de la Cruz, on the north side of the island doing almost nothing. Ok, ok, one evening I went out with other fellow travelers from the hostel at a concert of some local rock band. The concert lasted until 2230, when the streets were empty again. Not that there were more than fifty people at the concert anyway.
Apart from that, there isn’t much else to tell you because I was low on energy and had some weird feelings. I don’t yet know what happened. Maybe that homesickness thing had struck me, or maybe it was anxiety for being surrounded by mostly old people, or depression or a combination of them all. But I can tell you for sure that the ocean soothed my heart every time. And that before leaving for Teide I was already feeling a lot better knowing that I’ll soon be back in the middle of the nature.
The evening before that, it started raining. It was pouring like crazy and water was running down the streets of La Orotava as if I was in some summer storm back home in Romania. I fell asleep on the sound of rain falling on the street outside my window with thoughts of snow up on the volcano.
Through clouds and rainbows to the refuge
In the morning, the sky was cloudy everywhere I looked so I left the hostel eager to confront whatever weather I’d have on my way to the Altavista refuge up on the north side of El Teide. The Altavista Refuge is the only accommodation you can find up there on the volcano and you’re allowed to stay for just one night. Moreover, it gets fully booked quite fast so you have to reserve a bed with at least 2-3 weeks in advance to make sure you have one. And if the weather conditions are severe, oh well, bad luck.
Though I was expecting snow up there, I only found a little bit of ice. On the rocks, on myself and on the other tourists. That because of the strong wind that was shaking the clouds of all the water drops they contained and blowing them all over the place until they would freeze wherever they fell.
That’s how the first day went on. Hiking with my head through clouds and rainbows all the way up to the Altavista refuge at 3260 m. Wait, don’t get all amazed, I only started hiking at around 2000 m, so it was no big deal.
The refuge was nice. What can I say? I felt like in the army again. The door to the main hall opens at 1100, the kitchen and bathrooms at 1700, and dorm assignment starts around 1900. Yes, you read that right. Assignment. After the bookings and the passports are verified, the refuge staff starts calling each tourist by name – or at least they try – and assign them a dorm and a bed. As to why, I didn’t find out.
The only bad side of all this is that if, for example, you meet a cute Ukrainian girl with lovely green eyes, you might end up in different dorms. I’m just saying. Not that it happened. 🙂
The sunrise, the summit…
On the second day, you can imagine the schedule. Waking up as early as 4 am and starting hiking in the cold windy night, headlamp mounted and all, racing to reach the summit before the sun got there – no, no, that wasn’t me. I was the lazy one, almost the last to leave, but still awaken by the other tourists that were getting ready. The staff from the refuge had advised all of us that it will take one and a half to two hours to get to the peak of Teide, so we should leave at 5 am to catch the sunrise.
I calculated that it should take me only one hour so I left the refuge at around 6 am. On my way I still passed some of the other tourists that had left earlier. Up on the peak, which is the highest peak in Spain with its 3718 m, there was nothing else but the cold and the wind. And what wind. I could barely stand. It must have been over 100 kph in gusts. But what I really loved up there in the freezing cold – besides the Ukrainian girl 🙂 – was that in some spots, the volcano was giving off some gases. And in those places it was nice and warm.
And stinky. But that didn’t matter.
Watching the sun rise above the clouds covering the northeast side of the island was magical. And then there was the mesmerizing sight down to the resorts in the south where the weather was clear. Again I was the last to leave. Partly because of that wonderful view and then because of – no, not the Ukrainian girl this time – but those warm stinky gases. After spending around one hour and a half up there, I started hiking down the 1700 m I had for the day, from 3718 m to 2000 m again, passing by the stunning Pico Viejo, an old satellite crater on the southwest side of El Teide and the second highest peak of Tenerife, rising to 3135 m. Afterwards I cheated the last 2000 m with the bus back to Costa Adeje on the sunny side of the island.
…and the sunset
The bus ride was magnificent. The narrow winding road goes down from above the clouds passing through lovely pine forests, picturesque villages and around tiny extinct volcanoes all the way to the ocean. After changing buses, the next one I took left me between the La Tortuga hostel – for my second stay there – and the beach with just 10 minutes before the sunset. Did you think I could help myself? No way! All dusty and geared up for the hike – I still had two pairs of pants on me – I went straight to the beach to catch the sunset. People there were walking around in swimming suits, shorts and flip-flops. Or some light fancy attire, as for a fine restaurant dinner. You can imagine how they were all looking at me.
But knowing that most of them would never venture away from the beaches, hotels and restaurants and have no idea about how wonderful that mighty volcano in their backyard is, which by the way, you can spot even from the beach if you know where to look, I was expecting those reactions. And I couldn’t have cared less.
Because how else could have I finished that amazing day?
P.S.: Well, the day didn’t end there. It continued back at the hostel with the usual Wednesday Barbecue – by far one of the best meals I’ve ever had in my life – and then some fun on flamenco rhythms combined with the local beer at what seemed like a small but popular bar in the area, and ended early the next morning in a disco. But I gracefully skipped the disco part and went straight to bed at some point after midnight.