19 November 1998
Okey dokey, here ya go, it's the BRAND NEW (trumpet fanfare), NUMBER ONE (choir of angels), episode of FLOSSIE THE FLYING COW (Madre de Dios!!). Nope, actually, sorry to disappoint you but this is really just Shifra's first Lubber's Log -quick mom, get the camera!- and if any cows show up they're going to get REALLY hungry here on the southern slopes of Gomera. Well, following in the brave, stinky footsteps of my dear cousin I'm going to take you for a brief jaunt around the North Atlantic.
Although I haven't gone for three day hikes into Cauldrons of Hell, I think I've come about as close to seeing hell as any human can. While mum was here last week (no, no, no, that wasn't hell) we decided that we'd take a day to go see Tenerife since Da and Joel had already been there (and done that). Well, at six o'clock on Thursday morning I staggered out of bed with bleary eyes and a slight sunburn itch tugging at my fingers from the day before. Well, we got on the ferry over to Tenerife just in time to see the sun rising over Teide. The tallest mountain in Spain, Teide is the crowning glory of Las Canadas del Teide National Park, and probably one of the coolest words ever thought up -at least, it's really cool to say. As the ferry pulled out of the dock the mountain was still silhouetted against a slowly lightening orange sky, which blended to yellow and pink. Then BAM! the first rays of the sun hit the upper slopes, bathing the faint covering of snow in rosy light. As the sun crept higher more of the mountain and the jagged peaks surrounding it were revealed, until finally the sun freed itself entirely and shone down without mercy upon the west coast of Tenerife and our destination, Los Cristianos. Los Cristianos could be kindly described as Miami's soul sister of the eastern Atlantic, or less kindly, as, well, I'm supposed to be a role model for the second graders (hi Ms. Larsen), so I won't repeat the descriptions we thought up while driving through.
After the ferry dropped us off in Los Cristianos we headed toward Teide and the Park. I swear it was some of the most incredible scenery I've ever seen. As we entered the park jagged teeth of rock jutted out all around us. The early morning sun backlit the thin pine trees struggling to thrive in the sandy, volcanic soil. The road wound around a bend and all of a sudden we were in a valley where the trees were stopped abruptly by an ancient flow of lava. Teide dominated the landscape to the right of us while cliffs -ancient caldera walls perhaps?- rose out of the dust to our left. Cascading down from Teide's slopes were rivers of tormented red rock overlapped by one long line of black which emerged about halfway down the mountain and ended a few hundred meters later, as if some twisted God had wanted to play traffic controller and said "Okay, that's enough for today, stop here." Well stop it did and God must have gone on to his coffee break because since that day in the late 17 or 1800's there hasn't been a single eruption. Well, that wasn't the only incredible part of the valley. Where the tortured flows of spiny lava hadn't reached, orange and yellow and red sand formed a base for broom bushes, a plant unique to Las Canadas. The bushes looked like tiny green alien spacecraft resting on the perfectly flat sand plain. Across this barren paradise the road rushed on, hedged in only by the cliffs which rimmed the valley in striations of red, brown, orange and the occasional splash of lime green- proof of iron ore deposits.
Our mad race across the valley floor, sadly, could not last forever. Soon we found ourselves threading our way slowly upwards between bizarre, twisted spires of rock -aptly, but not originally, named "Los Roques"- towards the base of Teide. As we approached the peak we could see the cable car swaying up to the top from it's base station before us. Since we were there for the full touristic experience mom and I parked the car in the immense, but still empty parking lot at the gondola's entrance. It was only ten in the morning, yet somehow a tour bus jam packed full of Germans had managed to arrive before us.
Nonetheless we got our tickets for the ride up and -just barely- got onto the next car. There were just two cable cars and so at any given time there was one going up and one going down. The ride only took about 5 or 10 minutes, but when we bounced our way over the support poles (ahh, memories of ski lifts back home!) it seemed like we would never live to see the top. Well, we got to the end of the line and stepped out onto the snow covered path that led to the very top. We scrambled our way around rocks and signs reminding us to "Keep Teide Tidy!" until we came to a small outlook roughly three quarters of the way up the mountain where, inexplicably, the path stopped. Friendly signposts told us -in 5 equally disappointing languages- that no one was allowed to go to the actual top because they feared erosion and such. It made sense, but I couldn't shake the feeling that we had just been thoroughly shafted. Not only that but we had skipped our chance to get our pictures taken with the traditionally dressed Canarian girl. Oh well. It was nice for me to be cold again though, I guess that little dose of snow will have to last me for a while.
When we came back down from -not quite- the top of Teide it was almost noon and the parking lot and road leading up to it were clogged with frustrated tourists and busses full of people just waiting to get on top of the highest mountain in Spain. It was a perfect day for it. Coming around the side of the island we had been able to see 3 of the other islands floating of in the distance. Even from only part of the way up Teide the view had been incredible, still, the sheer volume of tourism in that area switched all of my mental breakers to "cynical". Nonetheless, we were unwavering in our quest to "see the sights" and proceeded to take on the challenge of .... the Visitor's Center. Actually, we had timed it just right and were able to actually spend some time finding out more about the Guanches while everyone else was eating lunch. The Guanches were the people who had inhabited the Canaries before the Spanish came along. They were a fairly primitive people who, surprisingly, had no nautical interests. As far as I could tell they didn't have boats at all (yet they must have gotten there somehow!) and centered most of their existence around goat herding rather that fishing. Well, personally I'd rather sail than herd goats, but I guess to each his own. Anyway, after we'd conquered the visitor's center we decided that our work in the park was done and it was time to head back towards the water and home.