This is the story of our trip to the Canary Islands between December 15 2009 and January 2 2010. We chose the Canary Islands because we hadn’t been in the area and wanted something new. The islands were said to be very beautiful and with all the accessible peaks, I was hoping to beat my old record of 101 peaks climbed in a year (set in 2005). Kim also wanted to go somewhere warm and with an ocean as well.
The Canary Islands are off the coast of Africa, and are geographically part of Africa, but culturally and politically they are tied Europe and are territory of Spain. The islands are much more developed than the places we usually go on vacation, so a smooth sailing trip was expected. Unfortunately, many things went wrong and for the first half of the vacation, the common theme and question asked was “Is Spain a Pain?”.
The second half of the vacation went smoother. We did get to climb lots of peaks (but not as many as planned), play on the beaches, and visit some beautiful areas. We also met one of the most well known SP members, but didn't know it until after the fact.
Here is our story.
One of the summits of La Merica as seen from the east. The Atlantic Ocean is in the background.
December 15-16: Getting There
The trip got off to a rough start before we even left home! Because of an airline schedule change, we would miss our connecting flights. The airline could rearrange the schedule for two of us, but we would be stuck in Madrid for two days on the way back.
Two other of us would be out of luck, but they would try and help us get a new airline. This was done, but the other two would have to leave a day early and we would fly separate airlines. Ugh. We hoped that we would even be lucky enough to find each other.
Kim would fly with Kessler and I would fly with Shaylee. We briefly were lucky to bump into each other in Madrid before separating again.
When Shaylee and I disembarked on Gran Canaria, we found that our luggage didn’t make it. We would have to wait for the next flight to come in, but the airline promised to deliver it to the hotel. We declined and said that we would wait for it. Meanwhile, Kim and Kessler flew in and met us at the airport. All together again!
After waiting several hours for our luggage, we headed off to the hotel. After arriving at the hotel we learned that they didn’t allow more than three people (even if two of them were children). We had told the booking agency that we had four people, but apparently it was a problem. After a long “begging session” we were allowed to stay together, for a fee of$80 US. We were starting to feel that this vacation was going to be a tough one. Hopefully everything else would run smoothly.
We had a night on Gran Canaria before leaving for Tenerife the next morning.
December 17: Cuesta de la Cruz (Tenerife)
Once again our flight to Tenerife was delayed. After finally arriving in our destination (after flight and other delays), Shaylee, Kessler and I did some short hikes in the hills above Puerto dl al Cruz on Tenerife in the Canary Islands. Luckily we found our hotel on Tenerife to be much friendlier and more accommodating.
A "flower rock" on the lower slopes of Teide.
December 18: Roques de García (Tenerife)
The original plan was to climb El Teide, but it was very windy (the cable car station was reporting 120 km/75 mph winds!), so we (Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I) decided to try the Roques de García instead. It was a nice and scenic hike with some great rock formations and good views of El Teide. On the way back, Kessler and I found a route up to the top of one of the rocks. It was exposed so I told him to wait for me below, but every time I climbed higher, he would follow. After topping out on the rock we returned and finished the loop hike.
A zoom shot of Kessler and I climbing one of the Roques de García.
Teide and the fantastic Roque Chinchado.
Some of the Roques de Garcia on a nice December day. The summit of El Teide can be seen behind the rocks.
Some of the rock texture at the Roques de García.
In this photograph, you can easily see where the lava has flowed between the Roques de García.
December 19: El Teide, Monte Blanco (Tenerife)
Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I originally planned to walk all the way up Teide and ride the cable car down, but we got a late start and there was no way we could complete the route on time. We actually rode the cable car most of the way up before heading up and back down the trail. It was a very windy and cold day (but not as windy as the day before), but it was clear and with good views. We walked down the trail after taking all the side trips to the various overlooks. The trail down through the pumice was rather slippery and the kids fell a few times.
Kessler and I also took a side trip to Monte Blanco for some more fine views. From the parking lot, Kessler and Kimberly got a ride back to the cable car station with some college girls from England.
Kimberly, Shaylee and Kessler on El Teide.
Summit of Teide.
Descending Teide. Notice the huge caldera below.
Looking down on the Caldera from the slopes of Teide.
Looking down on the Caldera from the slopes of Teide.
December 20-21: Lost Days (Tenerife)
December 20, we were supposed to fly from Tenerife and La Palma. It was windy and the plane took off, but couldn’t land because of the wind. The plane turned right around and headed back to La Palma! After waiting several hours in the airport at Tenerife, no one knew what was going on. All flights were put on delay, but no one seemed to know what was going on. We already had a hotel paid for on La Palma, so were hoping to make it there, but those would become the least of our worries (and everyone else's as well).
We heard that there was a ferry leaving that night, so we took an expensive taxi ride to the ferry station to try and catch the ferry. It was then found out that the ferries on the weekend actually left that morning and that there wasn’t another ferry until the next night. We found a hotel near the ferry station and went to bed.
The next day was spent visiting Jungle Park, a tourist attraction. We then caught the ride on the ferry that night, but the ocean was rough and the boat overcrowded because all the flights were cancelled. Still we didn’t complain since we were finally going to reach La Palma!
It was late at night and only one taxi was found, so we shared it with someone else, arriving at Sol La Palma after 2 am.
December 22-23: Lost days, Heavy Rains and Hurricane! (La Palma)
It was on these days that a monster storm hit La Palma and hit the west coast (where we were staying) especially hard. It was called a hurricane, but I don’t know if it was a real hurricane in the sense that the word is used in the United States. Never the less, it was a violent storm that destroyed trees, roads, vehicles and buildings. Huge ocean waves would crash against the cliff and to the tops of the cliffs where the hotel was. Swimming in the ocean was out of the question and all beaches were closed.
We spent most of the days doing activities indoors and luckily the hotel had plenty of kid’s activities. The power went out several times during the storm.
Big waves pound the west coast of La Palma during a temporary lull in the storm. December 24 2009.
This vehicle was abandoned after falling victim to the big storm.
December 24: Reventón, Cumbre Nueva (La Palma)
After waiting several days for the weather to clear in Puerto Naos on the Island of La Palma, I decided I had had enough of waiting and that I might as well do a climb despite the pouring rain and continuing (but slightly less violent, at least at sea level) storm. I took the bus up to the Centro de Visitantes in the Taburiente National Park before heading north and east to the Ermita de la Virgen to find the trail up Reventón. It was raining very hard and with the thick fog visibility was poor and somehow I got off the main track. I followed a road too far south and then found another track heading up the mountain, but unfortunately, it eventually ended. Not wanting to backtrack that far, I decided to head up the mountain without a trail. In the pouring rain and thick brush this was not easy, but if I headed into the pine trees the brush wasn’t too thick.
The slope was very steep but I continued up the mountain hoping I would intersect the trail eventually. After several hours of struggling in the rain and mud I reached a cliff band. It took a while to find a reasonable route up the cliff band and I began to worry about finding the route back down. I decided that I had just better head up the mountain and intersect the real trail. Less than five minutes above the cliff band, I intersected the real trail.
After intersecting the trail, I followed it up to the summit of Reventón and then south along the crest of the Cumbre Nueva. The wind was howling in the trees and the rain was pouring down, but since the trail stayed mostly in the trees, the worst of the wind was blocked.
I followed the Cumbre Nueva south to the road at El Pilar where I planned to walk down to where I started, but as soon as I reached El Pilar in the pouring rain, someone offered me a ride down to where I could catch the bus back to Puerto Naos.
I hear that the route I did was spectacular, but in the pouring rain I didn’t see anything.
Approaching the summit of Reventón/Cumbre Nueva on December 24 2009. It was raining and with very high winds. I never did see much in the way of views.
December 25: Ruta de los Volcanos (La Palma)
The weather in Puerto Naos was better than it was the day before, so Kessler and I decided to make an attempt of the famous Ruta de los Volcanos. We rode the bus to El Paso and then took a taxi to El Pilar where it was obvious that the weather was very bad. The taxi driver offered us a free ride back to town, but we declined and decided to attempt the route anyway.
The visitor center was closed and roped off so we just walked to the trail and started. The winds were blowing at hurricane force and there were many downed branches of the trees. It was pouring rain and foggy as well. We struggled to make 3 kms/2 miles before finally decided that continuing was futile, pointless and dangerous. The winds would actually knock Kessler off his feet.
We returned to El Pilar and walked the trail down towards El Paso. We passed someone who had parked a car before it started flooding and when the road washed out from under the car, the car tipped sideways. When we intersected the road someone gave us a ride to Los Llanos where we took a bus back to Puerto Naos.
This is Kessler in the very hard rains on December 25 2009. The rain was just pouring down, so we had to give up on this attempt on the Ruta de los Volcanos.
Another shot of Kessler in the very hard rains.
December 26: Pico Nambroque, Montaña del Fraile, Volcán de la Deseada, Volcán Martín (La Palma)
I was originally planning to do some hiking at the Caldera, but Kessler asked if we could have another shot at the Ruta de los Volcanos. Kim and Shaylee would stay to play on the beach, while Kessler and I would try the route.
Like the day before, we again rode the bus to El Paso and took a taxi to El Pilar. This time the weather was beautifully sunny.
The Ruta de los Volcanos has a reputation of being quite difficult, but we didn’t find it to be hard. We completed the 19 km (12 miles) hike, but climbed four extra mountains along the way (Pico Nambroque, Montaña del Fraile, Volcán de la Deseada and Volcán Martín), making it a longer hike. It was slightly breezy most of the time, with some strong winds on occasion, but it was sunny and a great trip.
Later we learned that we met SP member Gangolf Haub
on top of one of the volcanoes and didn't even know it! He wrote of our meeting in his Trip Report
. Only after I started posting photographs onto my trip log did we realize that we met each other!
Unfortunately, when we reached Fuencaliente we found that the road back to Puerto Naos was washed out and closed and thus no buses were running. We would have to take the long route around the island to get back. Another couple who hiked the same route and were very impressed with Kessler asked us to share a cab with them. We would all take a cab to El Pilar and then they would drive us to Los Llanos. We did so and everything worked well, but we arrived back in Puerto Naos very late at night, so Kimberly was slightly worried about us.
Kessler on the Montaña del Fraile on December 26 2009 when we did the Ruta de los Volcanos. The hike has a reputation of being difficult, but Kessler thought it was pretty easy (except for the wind) and we actually climbed four extra volcanoes along the route.
Caldera de Taburiente as seen from the north end of the Ruta de los Volcanos.
Kessler standing next to the impressive Hoyo Negro crater.
Kessler and another climber climbing Montaña del Fraile.
This is the south side of the Montaña del Fraile.
This is the south ridge of the Montaña del Fraile.
Kessler just south of the summit of Volcán de la Deseada.
Volcán Martín as seen from the north.
Kessler approaching the summit of Volcán Martín.
Kessler on the red summit of Volcán Martín.
December 27: Travel Day
Today was a travel day from the island of La Palma to the island of La Gomera. We took two bus rides and two ferry rides in order to reach our hotel at the Valley Gran Rey. Mornings would be spent doing adventurous things and evenings would be spent relaxing and going to the beaches.
La Merica as seen from our hotel in the Valley Gran Rey.
December 28: La Mérica (La Gomera)
Today Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I climbed La Mérica on the island of La Gomera. We walked from Valley Gran Rey to the bus stop and took a taxi to Arure where we started our hike. We visited the big overlook above Taguluche before heading off towards La Mérica. We enjoyed the fine views along the way and climbed a few summits of La Mérica before eating lunch from the top of one of the summits. After that we followed the trail along the ridge south to the Ricos de La Mérica and then the steep trail back down to Valle Gran Rey. It was a fantastic trip and one of our best hikes so far in the Canaries.
Kessler and Shaylee on one of the summits of La Mérica.
Looking north from near the summit of La Merica. The ocean is in the background.
Looking west at the summit of La Merica.
Downclimbing from one of the summits of La Merica.
Looking SE from near the summit of La Merica.
Looking south from the west point of La Merica.
Kessler and Shaylee on the descent of La Merica.
The trail from La Merica drops steeply down to Valley Gran Rey which is directly below.
December 29: Barranco de Arure (La Gomera)
Kessler, Shaylee, Kimberly and I at first decided to try and hike the challenging Barranco de Argaga. It was raining and when we were hiking along the coast someone was warning people of the fresh rockfall and falling rocks in the Barranco. We returned to the Valle Gran Rey and walked up the road to the Barranco de Arure. The Barranco de Arure is a pretty, but challenging canyon that has a nice waterfall at the end. To get all the way to the falls you must climb several boulders and small ledges and cliffs. The kids enjoyed the climbs, but Kessler went ahead and while crossing the creek on slippery rocks he slipped on a rock and got a bruise on his head.
We continued up the canyon and made it all the way to the falls just in time for lunch. After eating lunch we returned back down canyon and back to the Valley Gran Rey. It was a challenging hike, but a good one.
Shaylee and Kessler on the easy part of the route up the Barranco de Arure.
Looking up the Barranco de Arure.
Falls in the the Barranco de Arure.
Slippery creek crossings in the Barranco de Arure.
December 30: Travel and Rest Day
We got up early in the morning in order to catch a ferry to the airport. The ocean was still rough and the ferry was not running, so the ferry workers arranged a ride for us. It was then flying to Gran Canaria and doing tourist stuff such as the Children's Museum.
It was this night, Kessler and Kimberly parted ways with Shaylee and I. They would leave very early in the morning (3:00 AM) to head back to the United States.
Teide from the air as seen from the flight from La Gomera.
December 31: Dunas de Maspalomas (Gran Canaria)
After riding the camels through the dunes, Shaylee and I went on a hike through the dunes from Oasis. We followed several of the trails and made a big loop hike. While the dunes are a thrill for Europeans, and were pretty interesting, but I didn’t think they were as scenic as some desert areas in SE Utah for example. Even so, the beaches are really nice and the wet sand is easy to walk on. It was our last hike of the year.
Shaylee hiking in the Dunas de Maspaloma.
Camel in the Dunas de Maspalomas.
Oh boy; it was a rough night. People were extremely loud and wanted to party, party, party. It was a wild crowd around the hotel. Getting any sleep was impossible.
We took the day pretty easy and just visited some of the parks and tourist attractions.
January 2: Casa de Campo (Spain)
Shaylee and I were in Madrid for a two day lay-over and after seeing all the normal city attractions, we headed over to the Casa de Campo. We rode the Teleférico into the center of the Casa de Campo where Shaylee played on the playground after which we hiked several of the nearby hiking trails, making a loop. It was a cloudy day, but it wasn’t near as cold as it was back home.
Shaylee at the Casa de Campo.
January 3: Homeward Bound
Early morning on January 3 we started our long trip back home. After reaching the airport, we found that we didn't have any seats reserved and that the plane was overbooked. Not this again. Ugh. Shaylee and I would have to sit on opposite sides of the plane, but luckily someone traded us seats. Other than that, the trip home was hectic, but uneventful.
Conclusion: Fun in the Sun or Pain in Spain?
Between the airline cancellations, lost baggage, less than friendly hotel staff at times, spending more than expected, and the weather, we were certainly beginning to think that this trip was more trouble than it was worth and that it was a pain.
The second half of the trip went much smoother and was very enjoyable. We got to see a lot of spectacular scenery and do some fun activities. In retrospect visiting two islands probably would have been a better idea than trying to visit all four we visited, though all had their own attractions.
The trip sort of balanced out somewhere between being a pain and being a lot of fun. One thing for sure is that this trip will never be forgotten.
Montaña del Fraile as seen from the south.