VOLCANOES There are 411 volcanic mountains on Tenerife, all of which are inactive – for now. Some of them are so small you can climb them in an hour, others would take more than a day, and some you would be wise not to attempt at all. Some have been quarried for massive lumps of hard grey rock that is used for decorative finishes on walls, or the creamy white rock to make building blocks - all kinds of rock right down to the pebble-like white, brown or black picon that decorates gardens,
There are two mountains we see as we drive up through Guaza that have the profiles of a man and a woman, another has one almost VERTICAL face, but the mountain everyone associates with Tenerife is Mount Teide. We drive up there sometimes, to show VISITORS round, or for a barbecue picnic with friends, or just for a change of scenery.
We’re used to the road now, and in recent years they have put metal crash barriers along the steeper edges which give one a greater sense of security. Even so it’s a character-forming drive.
I love the way the cloud lies in the VALLEYS like a pile of candy floss, and you can see the top of it as if you were in an aeroplane – I don’t recall ever seeing the top of a cloud in England. There are strange cloud formations that loom overhead too, in smoothed-off shapes that could be flying saucers. Sometimes we are in the forest when cloud sweeps in, and tendrils of cloud stroke your face with damp fingers – that’s quite eerie, and the temperature drops 10 degrees in as many minutes.
There are designated picnic areas scattered all over the island, and the favourite ones are high up on the mountain. The terrain is a bit rough, but the Cabildos have built stone barbecues where you can light a fire safely, there are piles of logs left by the teams who manage the forest, and a few pine-cones make wonderful fire-lighters. The favoured spots go quickly at weekends, so if we’ve arranged for a large group barbecue, an advance party will drive up to occupy one of the picnic tables and get the fire started.
Canarian families bring saucepans of potatoes and VAST slabs of ribs, but a few chops and sausages are all we need to go with salad, bread and beer. None of us drink much – there’s the long drive down to be considered, and at a mile above sea level the air is thin. A gentle walk to a spot from which I once saw four other islands is the most exercise I want to take up there, and just watching kids kick a football about is exhausting, but I know of at least one couple who joined the “Mile High Club” without leaving the ground.
There’s a thought – the actual peak is over two miles high. Would an adventurous couple get double points?
Our nearest active volcano is on El Hierro, the smallest Canary Island and a mere 150 kilometres away. If you take the ferry past La Gomera you can be there in less than 3 hours.
Last October, after months of small earthquakes, a volcano began erupting under the sea off the south coast. The brown stain on the sea was VISIBLE from La Restinga, a small VILLAGE whose only industry is fishing and dive tourism. The eruption sent huge lumps of fiercely hot lava shooting skywards, all the fish died or fled, and the air was so full of sulphur that La Restinga’s inhabitants were evacuated.
The experts say the eruption has stopped now, and the cone is still fathoms deep. El Hierro is trying to return to normal, but there were two more earthquakes last week.
VENOMOUS creatures. There are no venomous snakes on Tenerife, and the only insects that bite are mosquitoes and small jumping spiders. The lizards won’t harm you and they eat the insects – I’m all in favour of that – and you get used to the sound of the cicadas after a while.
Venomous animals – now that’s a different matter. There are all kinds of predators about, especially in the sleazier tourist bars in the small hours.
And I discovered to my dismay recently that those beautiful strelitzia (Bird of Paradise plants) are poisonous.