Today we went over the top..... of the island that is.
35 years ago today, David and I said “I do” in the Town Hall in Oslo (or “I will” even, but that's another story...), but today he was driving me round the bend. In fact I have never seen so many hairpin bends in one day. Taking the same route as we did a couple of days ago (that's the problem with being based in one place for a week, you do tend to have to repeat certain journeys), we thought the journey to the top of the island was winding, but that was nothing compared with the road down the other side.
Today we made our way from the south of the island where we are staying, to the north west, across the middle and the highest road in Tenerife at over 2000 metres. Once we'd passed the base of the teleferico (cable car) to the top of Mount Teide, this was all new ground to us. I loved the different micro climates as we ascended to the higher ground – the tropical vegetation at sea level with swaying palms, then the cacti along the side of the road, many now sporting bright yellow and orange flowers. Higher up the pine trees look almost fluffy when backlit by the morning sun. Ascending above the tree line, the vegetation changes, and huge craggy boulders change place with the pine trees, the scenery becoming more like you would see in the Sahara (apart from the sand, the ground here was more like small shingles, which managed to penetrate every inch of my shoes) – but I suppose we are nearer Africa than Europe here, so that would make sense. At 2100 metres above sea level the temperatures are much cooler, at a comfortable 24C.
Descending through the layers of vegetation, the desert flora changes yet again to pine forests, which again make way for enormous banana plantations as we get nearer to sea level, with the odd Jacaranda – my favourite tree! On the way we stopped at the lovely old village of Orotava to see the La Casa de los Balcones, a beautiful 17th century sprawling town house with romantic courtyards and quaint balconies (hence the name) but completely taken over (and ruined) by tourist shops. Although the 'carpet' made from different coloured volcanic sands was quite impressive.
'Carpet' made from sand.
Quaint but touristy courtyard
So why did we make this epic journey along literally dozens and dozens of dozens of jaw-dropping, heart-stopping, breath-taking, mind-blowing bends? To see a tree of course, why else? Not just any old tree, but a really old tree. 1500 years old (or so, what's a few hundred years between friends...?) in fact. The tree is known as the 'Dragon Tree' because its sap turns red on contact with air – dragon's blood. It was worth the climb of 49 steps in the midday heat, followed by a steep slope to see this amazing tree. It wasn't until we got back home we realised that we had in fact been looking at the wrong tree! Oh well, it was the same species.....
The alternative dragon tree.
From the Dragon Tree it was a short walk to the Butterfly Museum – a lovely enclosed area full of – yes, you guessed it – butterflies (and a resident four foot long iguana). It was a beautiful little 'museum', and I now know how to ask for pensioner's discount in Spanish! I know we are not technically 'pensioners' yet, but in fact we are worse off than retired folk – we have given up work and earnings but are not yet receiving a pension; so I never feel guilty asking for the concession! Despite David predicting that the butterfly place would be crowded as it's a Sunday, we were in fact alone in the place. (as we were by the 'false' dragon tree, but that is perhaps not surprising...)
The wonderful thing about the butterfly house, was that all the inhabitants are bred here, none are caught in the wild, and they are helping to conserve many endangered species. It was, however, hot, hot, hot inside, as well as extremely humid – every few minutes huge fans would spew out a fine mist, and there was a hosepipe on the go at all times spraying the exotic plants. I did find I got used to the heat and humidity fairly quickly though, and once back outside again, the air felt positively cold. According to the thermometer in the car, it was 41C!
The journey back was no less spectacular than the trip there, until we got to Las Americas, that is: my idea of holiday hell! Rows upon rows of almost identical tourist apartments line every spare inch of the ground from the sea to way up the hillside. Give me the quaint old mountain side villages with their rustic colourings, steep cobbled streets and Moorish architecture any day.
Being our wedding anniversary, I was given a break from cooking tonight, and we walked down to a restaurant we'd seen a few nights ago, where the menu looked inviting. I had some lovely octopus 'Gallician style' and the Chateaubriand was to die for, cooked just how we like it (hardly at all!) A very fitting end to a beautiful day.