The Treacherous Road to Casa del Vino

It has been a successful morning of exploring Teide National Park. After soaking up the beautiful surroundings, it was now time to wind down with some wine tasting at Casa del Vino which literally translates to ‘The House of Wine’.

Lewis and I loved sampling natural wines in Kefalonia at a vineyard called Sclavos wines. They produced high-quality wines with minimal intervention. We were now keen to try some of Tenerife’s biodynamic wines.

The Canary Islands have been producing wines for over 500 years. Even Shakespeare referred to ‘a cup of Canary’ in his play ‘The Twelfth Night’. Home to some of the oldest vines in Europe, there are over 19,770 acres of vineyards strewn across Tenerife. The Canary islands are one of the few places on earth whose vines never fall prey to the devastating root louse, meaning their ancient 300-year-old braided vines are still standing today.

Many people spend their livelihood growing and tending to vines to produce wines sold all over the island. I was extremely surprised to find that in the local supermarkets, the most expensive bottle of wine I could find was a mere €4! There’s a stark contrast between that price and the £40 bottles you can find on the shelves in the United Kingdom.

During my research of vineyards in Tenerife, I stumbled across a natural winery called Suertes de Marqués. This vineyard is family-owned after being launched in 2006. The winery prides itself in interfering with wine marking as little as possible, working with indigenous yeasts and using only minimal amounts of sulphites in their wines. It sounded perfect! However, the owners were sadly out of town whilst we were visiting the island so a trip to the vineyard was not possible.

Fortunately, as my research continued, I had instead found Casa del Vino which offer sampling of many regional wines, including some wines by Suertes de Marqués. So we would get to try their wines after all! We just had around an hour-long drive from Teide to Casa del Vino which was situated along the north coast of Tenerife.

The first sign of a turbulent drive began as we left our viewing spot at les Roques de Garcia. We were informed that my sister, Scarlett was feeling carsick so the plan was to try and get to our destination as quickly as possible. It was a little stressful because as we drove through the northern section of Las Cañadas caldera, we saw some beautiful spots where we wanted to stop and explore but instead we had to continue our journey. Oh, well. At least we saw ‘The Rock’.

The northern segment of Las Cañadas is a very different terrain to the southern section. The definitive split between north and south is present as a result of the location of past volcanos. This split occurs at Les Roques de Garcia which are part of the old summit of a collapsed volcano. In the north was a carpet of yellow sand, broken up by jagged orange rocks. Making frequent occurrences were the white balls of flora which are known as the Teide white broom plant. They look remarkably similar to blonde wigs.

In the distance was the wall of the caldera which looked like a strong fortress surrounding the national park. I couldn’t help but think of all the sci-fi movies I’d seen and think how curiously similar this landscape looked. In fact, Teide national park has such a likeness to Mars that has turned into a reference point for studies on Mars.

There wasn’t much time to grieve for the beautiful caldera left behind as no sooner had we began our descent, we found ourselves surrounded by thick cloud forests. Mist enveloped us, heavy with rain and distorting my vision. The fast journey to our destination suddenly seemed impossible. I squinted, only able to make out the road a couple of metres ahead of me. Tall pines loomed above us, only visible when they were practically upon us and they charged out of the clouds in a blur.

The sharp bends made driving extremely difficult. I crawled along the wet road, my wheels barely keeping from spinning out. I tried to hug the side of the road as best I could, however, there were many points where the tightness forced me to go more central.

My life nearly flashed before my eyes as we made our way round a bend, sticking as close to the rocky cliff at the side as we could. Out of nowhere a vehicle raced round the bend from the opposite direction, charging straight for us, positioned in the middle of the road. I swerved out the way, narrowly avoiding a head-on collision that he seemed so determined to have. It was a hair-raising moment which made me take things even slower than I had been. Driving through dark clouds is not for the faint-hearted.

We gradually descended from the clouds, leaving them far above us. The spindly Canary pine trees were also left behind and instead we found ourselves in Tenerife’s notorious cloud forests – yes, the real thing. These forests are made-up of evergreen laurel trees and lush ferns. Rocks are coated in vibrant moss and the air is thick with moisture. We weren’t free from the fog yet but at least I could see more than a couple of metres ahead.

I found myself transfixed by the forest around me with a strong yearning to explore it. I felt saddened by the fact that we only had one more day on the island before we had to leave. I was really seeing a beautiful and mysterious side to Tenerife that I felt compelled to discover more of.

By the time we practically reached the edge of the cloud forests, I was forced to pull-over. Too many people needed a toilet-break and it had been such a long time since we had seen any signs of civilisation. Nature seemed like the only toilet. Meanwhile, we were receiving a lot of complaints from the other vehicle. People were keen to know how long it would take to reach Casa del Vino. I gritted my teeth as I stared at the sat-nav. It looked like we’d made hardly any headway.

“Oh, not too long now.” I have no idea why I’m inclined to underexaggerate. Maybe I’m a people-pleaser. Whatever the reason, it normally serves me know favours.

The next part of the journey involved travelling through quaint towns which consisted of narrow roads all gradually sloping down towards the coast as we descended down the crater wall. Driving through towns has never been much of a bother to me so I severely underestimated just how challenging the drive was going to be.

The gradients of the roads were one thing. I was fortunate that brakes on our cars were strong otherwise I could visualise us plunging down the endless roads which were practically vertical. Even more trickier was the width of these roads. They were incredibly narrow. I have absolutely zero special-awareness so this was a terrible struggle for me. I was just grateful that oncoming vehicles were few and far between.

Then we ran into trouble.

I followed the sat-nav as it took us down dark back-roads in the middle of nowhere, framed by ominous black clouds which were thick with the promise of rain. Tall, colourful buildings clasped the sides of the road tightly, lined with parked cars. The sat-nav was taking us in a straight line. We would get to a junction and then cross-over it. We’d already crossed through two junctions and were now faced with the third.

I took in the sign that was at the side of the road we were about to take. It displayed a ‘T’. Something in my brain registered it as I remember thinking, that looks like a ‘no through route’ sign. But my reliance on my sat-nav was evident as I drove straight down the road and a few seconds later, my mind was elsewhere.

There was a phone-call from the car behind us which contained the rest of our group. It was my dad.

“I think it’s a dead-end.”

I looked in my wing-mirror to see that he had stopped the car at the entrance to the road and was refusing to budge.

“No it’s not.” I called into the loud-speaker, putting a disproportionate amount of faith in the sat-nav. I glanced at it to see how adamant it was that the road did continue. It had never been wrong before so I had no reason to doubt it.

I drove steadily forwards, continuing down the near-vertical slope. The Alfra Romeo behind us still refused to move.

“I really think we should turn around. It looks like a dead-end.” He repeated. I looked ahead to see the road come to an abrupt end at a grey metal barrier. But as I strained my eyes, I could just make out a spray-painted red arrow on the barrier pointing left. As I followed the arrow, I saw it was pointing to a very tight bend in the road. It wasn’t a dead-end after all!

Can you see the barrier at the end of the road?

“No it’s not. There is a road down here.” I replied.

It took a lot of backwards and forwards but eventually, he began to drive the Alfra Romeo down behind us.

Now we had to tackle the road. I just hadn’t anticipated how difficult it would be.

A very narrow curve of tarmac stretched down to the main road below, facing us at a 90 degree angle. The barrier which stood before us was only present at the top of the incline and didn’t actually follow it downwards. This meant that there was no barrier protecting the ramp of tarmac and if you made a wrong move and misjudged the turn, you could easily end up tipping the car into the road below which was alive with a stream of fast-moving cars.

I manoeuvred the 7-seater people-carrier into position, the unmaintained asphalt crunching beneath the large black tyres. To our left was a hard stone wall which we had to press up against as much as possible in order to prevent tumbling off the road. My full-lock was on and we began to gradually make our way round the harsh kink.

As the right of the car was forced closer and closer to the perilous drop, I began to question my reasoning. Did I really have to take us this way? We could have so easily have turned around and found an alternate route? It was too late now. Due to our positioning, I had to continue.

Lewis leapt out of the car and began to help direct me. Given his point of view, he was able to steer me as close to the wall or the drop as possible, whereas I wouldn’t have a clue. Oh, and I already talked about my terrible special-awareness didn’t I?

There was little we could do given the fact that I’d already put my full-lock on to turn us round the corner. I just prayed that the car would stop lurching over to the drop and finally straighten up on the road.

Robbie’s face says it all

Slowly, slowly we crawled round. The back of the car was filled with screams and cursing. Meanwhile the speaker phone was still connected and the other car was even more frantic. I had never known such panic.

I felt the right wheel drop slightly on the right and swallowed hard. Shit. We must be perched on the very edge of the drop. If we moved any closer, even a few millimetres, we’d be off, crashing down into the road on our side. The look on Lewis’ panic-stricken face said it all.

“Put full-lock on!” he yelled.

“I already told you, it is on.”

Between the moments of utter alarm, Lewis was taking photos and videos of the incident. I was pleased as at least, if it all went wrong, we would have a video of the moment. Plus I gotta think of my blog! Needless to say, not everyone was pleased.

“What the heck is he doing?” Robbie was mumbling from behind me. “Stop taking photos and help.” He sounds grumpy but his mock-anger was also rather comical. The manoeuvre felt like it took a lifetime but in reality it probably wasn’t more than a few minutes. I was relieved when we finally rolled down the remainder of the slop, unscathed. We were then able to join the main-road and pull-over. It was now time for the second car to attempt the decline.

Lewis stayed to help wave them down. They had as many issued as we had and it was a gradual, pain-staking process.

Through the speaker-phone my mum was having a wobble. “I can’t do it! I can’t do it!” She kept repeating. “Oh my god, Lewis you’re going to get run-over!” He was so intent on helping that he kept forgetting he was standing at the side of a busy road.

The minutes rolled on but eventually they made it out too and we were able to see yet another car approach the dramatic incline. Good luck to them! It was the most crazy road I had ever seen and has made me doubt my sat-nav’s ability to find us the safest route to a destination.

Fortunately, the rest of the journey was more relaxing and we rocked up at Casa del Vino just as the sun began to sink behind the hills.

The day had been long and tiring and so we weren’t able to indulge in the wine tasting right away as we had originally planned. Some members of the group were starving so we resulted to having some snacks at the restaurant before eventually moving on to try some wine.

This image sums up everyone’s fatigue and hunger

Time was getting on and so half the group decided to go back to the villa to make a start on dinner, before it was too late whilst the rest of us tried a wine or two.

The rest of us had planned on undergoing the full wine and cheese tasting experience before we received a phone-call.

“We haven’t got the keys.” It was my mum.

Oh, shit. We had the keys! That bombshell marked the end of our very short wine tasting experience. In order to make the most of our time here, Lewis purchased 6 bottles of wine for us to try, including several from Suertes de Marqués. Then we were off on our hour-long drive back to the villa to rescue the rest of our group who were likely stuck outside the electric gates in the dark. At least we were bringing them lots of wine!

I was just glad to be alive