Thursday 19th March
After all the hard work trying to get the ‘right-stuff’ into our suitcases, it was a relief to get on the train at Kingussie. It’s such a pleasant way to start a holiday, especially if travelling first class. As soon as you sit down you are offered a hot drink and before long breakfast arrives. We sat watching the beautiful Scottish scenery pass as we ate our breakfast on the quiet and peaceful train. Feeling nice & relaxed it was family visits and last minute shopping time whilst staying at our sons’ Leith Walk flat.
Friday 20th March
Tram to Edinburgh Airport, we were impressed with the new Easyjet auto check-in system but not so much with four very boring hours sitting on a plane whilst the chavs behind us got steadily drunker. Very glad I had sound excluding headphones and extra legroom. A smooth transfer to Quinta Hotel near Puerto de la Cruz. It was wet, cool & cloudy on arrival and the first impression of our ‘bungalow’ was disappointing. Our accommodation was a bit tired and kind of sparse, a kitchen without a kettle or a decent sharp knife, for example. However it was clean enough and dinner was satisfactory, no shortage of something to eat on this holiday
Saturday 21st March
Puerto de la Cruz
The day started on a bit of a ‘downer’ as it was still raining & a bit cool and I wondered if we had made a mistake coming here. However a decent breakfast helped & after a dire talk from the rep we took the shuttle into Puerto de la Cruz, and then the SUN CAME OUT. So in lovely warm conditions, we walked around this pleasant town. Watching the tourists (and being ones), taking some pleasant cafe stops and viewing the old buildings, pleasant streets and amazing street art. It was a good day and tired of walking we caught the bus home for showers & dinner. The hols are underway.
Sunday 22nd March
Tiede @ 2200m
An unpromising start, cool and damp again so we got on the bus without great hopes of completing our high-level walk. We climbed through the cloud, rain and then snow which got the Tenerifians really excited, as they don’t see much snow. Onwards we climbed with various stops for coffee and toilets. Then, magically, the cloud cleared at 1800m and we arrived a Tiede Parador in clear sunny conditions. It was a superb walk in amazing volcanic scenery, hard to describe but like nothing we have ever seen before. The lava flows are immense and come in a variety fascinating colours. The altitude affected us a little bit, we both had a slight headache and breathlessness, our guide was excellent. As we left to go back the clouds were rolling in with the threat of rain. It was a long sleepy drive down, down, down the mountain road to sea level, my ears hurting due to the pressure change. A good day, we were very lucky with the weather.
Monday 23rd March
Quinta Park Hotel to Puerto de la Cruz
Heavy rain overnight continued into the morning so we had a nice slow start hanging around the hotel and getting a free Spanish lesson courtesy of Violette the animated animator. The weather improved (it stopped raining mostly) so we then planned a route to PDLC which included a spectacular 1000′ descent to the sea on a very narrow but well-made path. Good views of Tenerife’s Wild West facing cliffs and coast. Quiet roads and paths took us onto the impressive high-level walkway into PDLC meeting numerous puffing jogging Germans keeping fit. After a well-earned beer & cake, we caught the shuttle bus back for more food and the nightly bun fight in the hotel restaurant which masquerades as ‘dinner’. I learned today that the letter H in Spanish is never pronounced despite the fact it is included in spelling so dropped H’s are cool if you’re in Spain.
Tuesday 23 March
Anaga Parque Rural @ 1000m
A shorter bus ride today to the Anaga Rural Park. Unpromising weather, cloudy & misty, gave way to cool & dull. If fact it was very dull in the ‘Laurisilva’ Forest. A forest made up of laurel trees and large heathers. It was dark and nothing much happened or moved. Not unexpected as Tenerife has very few mammals of any sort. Fortunately, we emerged into a lovely area of mixed small farms & spectacular volcanic mountains and ridges. Attractive paths contoured climbed & twisted round the mountain. The group was poorly led and too large but we got there. Lovely area with fantastic walking potential. Evening at the hotel involved the Gala Dinner which was a once only experience for me but good fun. A good day.
Wednesday March 25th
The Cloud Forest, @ approx 1000m
The weather still gradually improving, Tiede came out to play and before we set off we have a wonderful view of the snow covered mountain from out hotel. Free of group obligations we caught the bus to PDLC and after buying a Bono Ticket (good system) we took another bus to La Caldera. Nice hot choc in the cafe and an atmospheric walk in the cloud forest, quiet and still with the mist drifting through the lichen hung trees. We mean serious lichen, huge tendrils of it covering and weighing down the Tenerifian Pine, so much it must occasionally bring trees down. All sustained by the constant mist that that is a feature of this level (approx 1000m+). Passing some huge balanced rocks and a large rockfall blocking the tracks we walked down some very steep roads and, with knees aching, we emerged at a lower level in mixed farmland. Pleasant countryside with spectacular views towards the sea. Caught the bus back to PDLC for beer & cake. Excellent walk (7 miles) without being hampered by guides that talk too much and slow walking geriatrics. We are very impressed with the cheap and efficient bus network.
Thursday March 26th
Teno Parc Rural
The Older and Windier West Tenerife, @ about 1000m
This time, we travelled to the west end of Tenerife along the north facing coast, to the Teno Parc Rural. Pleasant stop in Los Silos en route. Starting at the La Tabiaba viewpoint, the route took us along a spectacular narrow ridge on a good path. It was windy and the cloud was coming and going. Main features of interest were the spectacular vertiginous volcanic mountains with terracing in amazing places, and the interesting varied flora, such as giant sedum and cacti. After the ridge, we passed through a heather forest but it was heather like never seen in Scotland being about 25′ high, felt really strange. Fauna there was none, Tenerife has zilch, nothing is going to jump out of the woods and eat you here. The lunch stop got a little exciting as our guide managed to lose some of the group in the mist. After some agitated phone calls, it turned out four of the group (including guide assistant) had taken the shorter route to our destination. I thought it was a pity they didn’t communicate with each other a little better, as we sat in a windy spot, getting a little cold, waiting for things to be sorted out. No marks for mountain leadership for our so-called ‘guide’. The wind rose to almost gale force as we fought our way along the concrete road to Teno Alto. Our guide one showed little interest in the welfare of the group, I don’t think he looked back once in the last couple of miles. All is well that ends, which it did as the group were reunited for wine & cheese tasting and good coffee. Then followed the most exciting bit of the day as our amazing bus driver drove our huge bus along the little mountain road, descending nearly 3000′. Good job there wasn’t much traffic coming towards us. So ended my last ever? guided walk, I will probably have to be at least 10 years older to walk as slowly as many folk in the group, what with that and a continuous barrage of being talked at (too much info) in future I’ll go and discover it all myself next time even if it is a bit more of a hassle. It’s not that they are in the wrong group or the wrong holiday, it’s just not for me, for a few years anyway.
Friday March 27th
PDLC & La Orotava
Collected my bike am, was a bit of a rush getting into PDLC but all went to plan. Good late morning session in the local bar drinking coffee and using their fast WIFI then after lunch out on my most excellent Radon all carbon, Ultegra equipped bike. It’s light, fast, manoeuvrable and a pleasure to ride. My legs good but despite GPS, I was trapped by ‘Spanish Town One Way Syndrome’ (twice); all one-way streets and perambulating in circles. Climbing a 15% cobbled hill made me feel I was practising for a Belgium cobbled classic. All the towns here are on the side of a mountain, it’s either up or down. Should be an interesting week with a Tiede twist at some point. Traffic is heavy, road surfaces poor, and routes will have to be chosen very carefully. Other cyclists, you cross all wave and say ‘hola’ so that another way it’s different from Mallorca.
Saturday March 28th
Valle de Guerra via coastal!! road (up to 500m)
The usual relaxed start, we were even an hour earlier than we thought we were as we had shifted our watches to summertime a day early. Fought my way along the coastal road through many forgettable towns such as La Victoria and La Matanza. The whole road is one long built up strip and it’s hard to see where one town ends and another begins. Continuous heavy traffic, parked cars or being parked, pedestrians everywhere and poor road surfaces required a lot of concentration. The fumes were also bad, I’m used to the clean highland air, and not traffic-clogged streets. Eventually, I reached El Souzel which was a nice place but after that, the horribleness started again and just after Valle de Guerra I gave up, fed up with traffic and even getting slightly cold. Extra clothes and some food helped but plans for a slightly different return route failed as I went twice round the one-way system in Valle de Guerre before being spat out to return the way I came. After El Souzel, I found a much quicker & quieter way back using the old road that runs parallel to the Autovia almost to Santa Ursula. I only did 33 miles in 3 hours but it did involve 2000m of climbing. The hills I can handle comfortably, the traffic conditions are unpleasant and I’m unsure if I want to complete seven days cycling. However the bike is fantastic, I want one.
Sunday March 29th
I really wanted this one and was not sure if today was the day (weather, my fitness & Sunday traffic). I thought of our friend Neil Mackenzie who died in January whilst climbing in Canada and he would have said, “Go for it Pete, you might not be here tomorrow”, so I did. It was a long climb, probably my longest ever but it went well. Passed from the hazy sun through a layer of mist (cloud) between 750 & 1250m then just beyond La Caldera broke through to a beautiful sunny day. The temperature shot up from about 10c to 25c and the aspect of the road means there was little shade so it was hot work. All the way up the gradient varied from 5% to 10% and I rode on my pulse keeping it below 130 apart from on the 10% sections which were quite short. This worked well until 1750m when to sustain the same level of effort I needed a 140 pulse rate and over 2000m this rose to 150. I felt fine (mostly) but there was just less oxygen in the air. Had a slight energy wobble about 5k before El Portillo (2000m) but this was cured with coffee, boccadillo and a very large cake. Met a Norwegian girl with her Spanish boyfriend who is coming over for the Etape Caledonia in May. Reached the lava fields and took loads of pics, what an amazing place, well worth the effort, turned round at the cable car turn-off and started the equally amazing descent. This needed a fair bit of concentration but with long straight sections, I was able to keep the speed between 25 & 30 mph for miles. Few cars passed me as I was moving at roughly the same speed. I could see the sea of cloud below and this was entered suddenly at 1000m. It was very dense, very damp and cold. The temperature dropped from 25c to below 10c. Stopped to put extra clothes on and then, suddenly, I was alone in a silent world, still descending but at about 15mph. Visibility was down to 20m all vehicles were creeping and I had to frequently clear my glasses of condensation, it was almost raining. Braking was also affected as my bike, wheel rims and I got very wet. This cloud layer persisted until La Orotava at 500m. The road levelled off and I was glad to pedal for the first time on nearly 25 miles. Home (hotel) by 7.30, the round trip had taken 8hrs 30min.
How did I get on? Physically I coped with the climbing well, I had some backache and the soles of my feet were sore due to the length of the climb. I stopped and stretched a couple of times and occasional ‘honking’ (out the saddle) also helped. The bike was great, fast and responsive uphill and quick and controllable on descents, not sure about the saddle, wish I had my own. My hands were sore from braking by the end, especially after the cold foggy section.
Praise must go the Tenerifian drivers, bar one all were great, so patient, and as it was Sunday it was very busy. I loved seeing the Spanish out enjoying themselves in so many different ways. Families having huge picnics at the BBQ sites in the woods, MTB cyclists disappearing down the numerous rough tracks, motorcyclist’s hell bent on an early death and of course, tourists by the hundred. Over 2000m, there was a fair amount of snow next to the road which seemed to get everyone very excited, to the point of collecting it in bags to take home. Surely it would have melted by the time they reached sea level!
I did a lot of ‘training’ over the winter; walking, jogging, gym, swimming, XC skiing and endless cold sessions in the garage on the turbo trainer. I feel it all paid off today with the successful completion of this ride. All in all an outstanding day that will long live in my memory, something to hold on to when I can no longer do these things. Neil Mackenzie would have been proud of me, “seize the day.”
Monday March 30th
The High Road to Los Realejos
I was uncertain how I would feel after such a hard ride yesterday so had a nice relaxed start and didn’t get out on the bike until 1 pm. I was a bit sore at the start but soon settled down and I had a good day. To La Orotava again and onto the Tiede road feeling glad I wasn’t going all the way this time. Turned off onto the TF326 at 800m thinking that was the days climbing done but it hadn’t finished with me and the road continued to climb to 930m. Then I descended to the sea via Los Relajos. The villages in this area, to the west of PDLC all appeared much less run down than those to the east and more affluent. Some bumpy roads higher up then nice & fast until the black beach of PDLC came into sight. Had a lovely cool beer and set off for the hotel. To get there you have to pass through Santa Ursula at 350m, that’s 1000′ of climbing in ‘old money’. Didn’t enjoy this bit as it was hot and the road was busy. The weather seemed to have turned, it was clear, sunny and hot all day with the temperature peaking at over 30c. My pulse rates were surprisingly low, maybe due to fatigue but felt Ok. Another good day, now I have got the hang of the complicated road system and have worked out that this isn’t Mallorca cycling I’m really enjoying my ‘bike week’.
Tuesday March 31st
Tiede Parador by bus
Up and on the bike by 08.15 cycling into PDLC for the 09.15 bus to Tiede Parador. Mostly downhill it didn’t take me long to get to the bus station where I joined a large crowd waiting to ‘go high’ including about 10 bikes, mostly downhillers. The driver took no interest in storing the bikes so it was a bit of a fight to get my bike safely onboard. Travelled up with Matti Lehikionen a nice guy from Finland and a former Finnish and Nordic MTB champion. He was a modest person who neglected to tell me that he was also fourth in the world MTB downhill championships in 2001 and later had been badly injured in a crash that ended his career. By 10.30, I was sitting in the Parador Cafeteria having my second breakfast. It was a beautiful day and I took my time to soak up the views of what is a really special place. The light on the colourful lava flows has made everything look different each time I have been there. It was a bit of a shock to start cycling as it goes from 2200m to the high point of 2350m but after that is a lovely swooping downhill to El Portillo. I tried hard to concentrate on the road and not on the amazing views all around. Stopped at El Portillo for more sustenance and set off north on the TF-24. Whilst enjoying my coffee a tightly knit group of cyclist swept by going very fast all in Saxo-Tinkoff matching team kit. One of them looked remarkably like Alberto Contador. They crossed me on their way back, evidently training at high altitude. Not having looked at the map carefully I had this idea it was downhill from here, I was wrong (again). The road started dead straight for 1k and climbs from 2000m to 2200m at about 10%. It then weaves about and up and down for several miles at around the 2200m mark, great views in all directions and at one point you can see both sides of the Island with Lanzarote in one direction and Grand Canaria in the other. At last, the downhill started and what a ride, it must be one of the best, from 2200m it’s 10 km to La Esperanza, all downhill, mostly well surface, nice gentle curves and no traffic. I really enjoyed it and rank it amongst my best ever descents. I then worked my way via such places as Aqua Garcia and La Matanza back to the hotel, some climbing involved but mostly downhill.
Some streets here are very very steep, at one point I was hanging onto my brakes for dear life down a dead straight 20% grade road. One of the ‘smells of Tenerife’ I will remember is hot brakes from descending cars and buses. Even the ‘strip’ that I really disliked a few days ago seemed quite pleasant on a nice quiet afternoon. Maybe siesta does not really exist anymore but everything closes and slows down between about 13.00 & 17.00. Another fantastic day, best, longest and most enjoyable descent for years, and to think I nearly didn’t go because I felt a bit tired, however, the spirit of Neil Mackenzie was on my shoulder yet again.
Wednesday April 1st
Trapped in Another Spanish One Way System
An easier day needed after yesterday’s long day so set off to La Oritave in order to work my way along the coast. There looked to be some interesting roads that wiggled up into the mountains. Negotiated La Orotava Ok and moved on to Realajo Alto which on the map appeared as a crossroads, then I hit the one-way system which included a 20% street. I suppose the ‘Alto’ bit in the name is a bit of a clue. Despite a good road map and GPS, I failed to find the road I wanted and unable to face the 25% gradient for the second time chose an alternative option and ended up climbing the TF-326 that I had descended a few days ago. It’s a nice area and as I was going up & not down the views were very different. Felt strong on the climbs and heart rates were very low. Sat for a while in the sun taking in the stunning views whilst eating lunch. Came out onto the Tiede road at 950m and enjoyed the descent down to La Orotava which I last did slowly in the thick wet mist a few days ago. The route to PDLC should have been straightforward but wasn’t as every sign pushes everyone towards the auto via, I eventually found an old camino into town. After a beer and still having time to spare I ventured a little along the coast only to find seriously steep hills, traffic and ‘urbanisations’. I gladly returned my bike to the relaxed guys from M-Bikes having had enough of the traffic and fumes. Walked across town in my cycling shoes, treated myself to a cake and caught the hotel bus back to the hotel. So ended another good day, I didn’t quite end up where I wanted but it was a lovely climb and I felt fit and strong all the way up. Totalled over 1000m of climbing with an amazingly low average HR so I must be a little fitter.
Thursday April 2nd
The Toffee Mountain
Spectacular walking from Tiede Parador
We were up early (again) and on the 09.15 bus from PDLC to Tiede. We had a lovely walk amongst primitive, unglaciated scenery, so unlike our old smoothed out Scotland. The toffee in the routes name refers to the colours of the lava flows and it all made for fascinating walking. It was a nice day, almost too hot but saved by a cooling wind. The temp was up to 35 Celsius at one point. The high altitude of the walk resulted in some very low HR readings, for which I have no explanation. We were very tired after nearly 8 hot miles and glad of a drink at the Parador Cafe. The bus down seemed to take forever but eventually, we were back in PDLC having a beer. The shower at the hotel was also very welcome. It’s time to go home, the hotel is getting very crowded with Easter holidaymakers and we have fitted in as much walking, cycling and exploring as we can into the time available. A really good day to end the holiday and for me a pleasant change from cycling.
Notes on cycling in Tenerife (North Island from Puerto de la Cruz)
My perception before travelling to Tenerife was a quiet rural backwater so road cycling came as a shock. It’s heavily populated and busy both with ‘real’ people and tourists. The roads are hectic and the traffic is heavy and because of the steep hills and numerous hill starts some areas are very polluted.
Things to Watch Out For
Dreadful road surfaces, patches on patches. My bike came equipped with 25cc tyres which made for a comfortable ride. Surfaces are better on the mountain roads
Very steep hills especially lower down. 25% gradients are frequent on minor roads. This can be tricky going down as well as up especially when there is a stop sign at the bottom of the hill.
Parked and parking cars. Miles of this with many parked inwards so they back out onto the main road
Pedestrians expect you to stop at one of the many crossings and don’t always check to see what is coming. I understand there is a strict liability rule which makes it your fault if you hit someone on a crossing whatever the circumstances. This does mean as a pedestrian cars ALWAYS stop for you
Traffic fumes in busy areas were very unpleasant.
The one way systems were difficult and I had to admit defeat on a couple of occasions even with a decent road map and Satnav. The best option would be a good street map of each town.
Spanish drivers were really good, very patient waiting for space to overtake with a wide berth when cycling uphill. Only a couple of times in six days did I feel in any danger.
Road markings are very clear and when there is space there is a nice wide cycle lane so even a busy road feels safe. Unfortunately, space is at a premium in Tenerife so there is not always a cycle lane.
The general public seems to understand and encourage cycling, frequent shouts of “bravo” or it could have been, “you idiot”.
Mountain roads are generally better surfaced and less steep. The road up to Tiede was nearly all between 5% and 10%. Just the right gradients for fast descents as well.
Tiede DOWN: Bike Bus to Tiede. Leaves PDLC at 09.15 and gets to Tiede Parador at about 10.30 (2200m) for the bargain price of Euro ϵ6.20. It’s not exactly downhill all the way but particularly the descent from El Portillo towards Santa Cruz is amazing and a must on any road cyclist’s itinerary. It’s an ‘awesome.
Tiede UP: If you like a challenge it’s about 40k all uphill from sea level to 2350m. It took me going very slowly about 4 hours. I managed on the gearing of 34×28 but could really have done with 34×32. El Portillo coffee and cake was a life saver.
Am I glad I road cycled in Tenerife? Yes, absolutely. Would I do it again? No not from PDLC, it’s just too busy and too polluted. If I were here again would stay near the north of the island as the Anaga Hill have wonderful quiet cycling potential. There are also many miles of dirt tracks suitable for XC mountain biking and MTB downhill is also popular using the Tiede bike bus.
My Bike: hired from M-Bikes at PDLC, cost ϵ115 for 7 days although I only completed six. It was a Radon Carbon with Aksuim wheels, 25cc tyres and Ultegra group-set. The bike was excellent, fast and responsive uphill and down. I liked the 25cc tyres but not sure I would find Ultegra worth the money if I was buying my own bike. The M-Bike guys were pretty casual, not taking credit cards “we like cash” they said and just scanned my passport. A slight inconvenience is that they only open for an hour in the mornings and two hours evenings as they like to go out cycling all day, its Ok guys, I understand.
Friday & Saturday April 3rd & 4th
The Journey Home
It’s a long way from Tenerife to Scotland and including visits to family in Edinburgh took almost two days. It was a nice relaxed start as the planned departure wasn’t until the afternoon so we were able to go into PDLC for a last pleasant walkabout and a cafe stop. We have grown to like PDLC over the two weeks, it really is a nice place to visit. Then came a real bit of excitement as our booked taxi failed to show up and our rep wasn’t answering the phone. A call to base in England sorted it and they whistled up a 40 seater coach for four of us and we were at the airport in good time. What followed was all the tedium of air travel, having to show our tickets/passports a ridiculous number of times, waiting in endless queues and eventually four hours of Easyjet torture. We got to our accommodation in Edinburgh at 2 am helped by a lovely Airport Shuttle bus driver who guided us to another bus that took us the right to the door. A good sleep, visiting relatives, some coffee and then it was up to the station for the Virgin East Coast home.
© Peter Main