In December 2014 I cycle counterclockwise on the Canary Island of Tenerife. The hilly road leads along the dry southeast coast, through the beautiful Anaga and along the rugged Gigantes, and I approach the El Teide volcano from two directions. This vacation I don’t take a tent with me. The weather is quite variable: sun, wind, rain and fog, and temperatures vary between 0 and 25 °C. In six days I cover 435 kilometers and climb more than 11,000 meters.
Day 1: San Isidro > Santa Cruz de Tenerife (90 km)
I had almost not been cycling on Tenerife right now. Yesterday at Eindhoven Airport, Ryanair didn’t want to transport my bike. I had packed it in a VK bicycle cover –just like I did when flying before, with KLM– but according to the check-in desk lady the bike really had to be packed in a closed bag or box. I subtly pointed out that the word “closed” does is not mentioned in the baggage conditions. Facing the queue behind me, which was getting longer and longer she allowed me take the bicycle at last.
After having arrived at Tenerife South Airport I leave the bike cover and other packing stuff at the hotel in San Isidro and start cycling on the TF-636 to the northeast. The views are not impressive, but thanks to the meandering road I am not getting bored. The differences in altitude and gradient are little. During the first half of today’s track the landscape is very dry. I don’t see many people, sometimes an old man who works the land.
From Güímar onwards the view towards the northwest is quite nice. On my right side the busy traffic on the highway is clearly visible. From here to Santa Cruz there is a lot of ribbon development. Santa Cruz itself is a fairly large city (over 200,000 inhabitants) and confusing for cyclists, and I’m glad I can use my Garmin to navigate to the hotel. That hotel is located in the middle of the cozy, Christmas atmosphere of the city center.
Day 2: Santa Cruz de Tenerife > Costa de Valle Guerra (70 km)
From the dull, densely populated hills near Santa Cruz I cycle in no time to the sparsely populated, green Anaga Mountains. These green hills form a strong contrast with the harbor, oil storage tanks and the drilling platform on the right hand side. On this beautiful Sunday morning there are many joggers and cyclists around. At San Andrés I continue on the TF-12: a very nicely constructed and not too steep road, which leads to El Bailadero on the main ridge of the mountains.
From there I take the TF-123 to the east, and then turn left to Cabazo del Tejo. I’m now cycling on a well rideable jeep track. The path ends at a place from where I have a truly phenomenal view of the huge cliffs along the coast to the northwest. From this viewpoint I take the shortcut to Chamorga: a 300 meter descent on a steep and sometimes slippery path. I have to carry my rear bags separately. And then I slip, and bump into the saddle with my ribs. Ouch!
The village of Chamorga itself is disappointing. I quickly head for El Bailadero and next Las Mercedes. The road goes mostly along the ridge and offers beautiful views to all directions, including El Teide in the distance. After a long descent I arrive at the Lagarto backpacker hostel: bed and breakfast for 15 euros, and for 9 euros extra I get a barbecue dinner and unlimited drinking…. With (surf)guests from Spain, Italy, Australia, England, France, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands it is very cozy.
Day 3: Costa de Valle Guerra > La Higuerita (90 km)
Damn! Maybe it wasn’t wise to drink alcohol and get to bed at 1.30 am. I lack the energy to cycle to El Teide, but… come on! The day starts sunny –I’m even putting on sun cream– but after half an hour it starts to rain and it stays that way until 5 pm. The track I made at home turns out to be challenging: the ‘white colored roads’ on the map are without exception extremely steep, often 15 to 25%. So I am happy to be able to continue from La Esperanza onto the ‘yellow colored’ road TF-24.
The road goes along and over the ridge to El Teide. It is cold, wet and because of the fog I don’t see anything of the surroundings: it’s really a ride to endure. To my surprise, a few hundred meters below the summit at Montaña de la Negra the sun breaks through, and my effort (more than 2,600 meters of climbing until now) at the highest point (2,300 m) is rewarded with a view of the 3,718 m high Pico del Teide and the observatory in the setting sun. It is cold here and there is even ice on the road. What remains is a long descent in the dark to La Higuerita.
Day 4: La Higuerita > Las Portelas (53 km)
Today I leave early and try to avoid the steep “white roads” on the map. The first part via Los Realejos, La Guancha and Icod de Los Vinos is quite nice. The road from Icod to El Amparo, which starts extremely steeply, is 8% on average all the way up to Montana de las Parras. At Erjos I dive into a ten kilometer long jeep track that leads through the forest to Las Portelas. It is mainly a descent over a reasonable road surface. Unfortunately, the vegetation is too dense to be able to see anything of the surroundings.
In Las Portelas awaits a very steep climb to today’s finish location: Albergue de Bolico. The houses here, painted in Basque red, contrast beautifully with the light green surroundings. I will stay here for two nights. The other three guests are also from the Netherlands. A Spanish biology student will be our host. The albergue has a huge kitchen, however I don’t have any food to cook, and in the village I can’t do any shopping. Luckily there is a restaurant on the main road.
Day 5: Las Portelas (rest day; 30 km)
I don’t have a lot of energy, my (bruised?) ribs start to ache (see day 2) and tomorrow’s stage looks tough. Conclusion: today I take it easy. First I descend to El Palmar. Suddenly a very strong wind starts blowing from the sea; I have to hide behind a wall for 20 minutes. The climb to Teno Alto is tough: going 400 meters up in just four kilometers on a bad road. Because of the low hanging clouds –which are dry by the way, very peculiar– I hardly see anything of the surroundings.
When I arrive at the plateau, the sun finally breaks through. I drive around on the many roads, and photograph chickens, geese and goats. Halfway down the descent back to the albergue I take a narrow, paved and occasionally extremely steep road, which eventually ends somewhere above Las Portelas. I cycle over the TF-436 to the Taibaba pass, but once there it suddenly starts to storm. After a quarter of an hour of hiding I flee downstairs. The rest of the day I hang around in the albergue.
Day 6: Las Portelas > San Isidro (102 km)
I get up early and am on my bicycle at 7.45 a.m. The TF-436 along Los Gigantes is beautiful. It is very quiet early in the morning; the tourists who want to descend into the gorge of Masca are nowhere to be seen. Unfortunately there is not enough (sun)light to make decent pictures of this valley. The four kilometers to Santiago del Teide are quite steep (10% on average), but because the road is so varied, I don’t notice it.
After a quick breakfast in Santiago I take the TF-375 and next TF-38 to El Teide. The road is very boring for a long time: 4 to 5% climb over long straight roads, where I can’t see much of the surroundings due to the low hanging clouds. Only in the last curve, near Cuevas de Somara, the sun breaks through and I stand face to face with El Teide. From here I enjoy the best view of the volcano, if only because of the contract between the light green trees, the brown earth and the blue sky.
At Boca Tauce (2,050 m) I turn left and cycle through a western landscape (the Cañadas) to the east. Where motorists on the rest of the island drive with extreme courtesy, the day-tourists coming from the terrible beaches of the Playa de las Americas sometimes drive in an irresponsible manner. The bizarre rock formations of the Roques de García (2,140 m) look funny, especially the balancing Roque Cinchado. (Although I find the lava formations in Iceland far more interesting.)
I cycle back to Boca Tauce, climb a little bit more, and enjoy the conifers that ghostly stand out against the clouds. What follows is a descent of 33 kilometers and 2,000 meters to San Isidro. There I buy an extra canvas sheet and rope in the hardware store under the hotel, which will minimize risk of Ryanair not accepting the bicycle for the air transport next morning. I have really enjoyed this cycling trip!