I awoke suddenly in the middle of the night, the creaking of the faulty radiator that was situated on my side of the room in my ears. My nose was both hopelessly blocked and streaming madly at the same time.
Oh great! I wanted to yell. I can’t have come down with a cold, can I?
I had only been in Tenerife in one day. The last thing I wanted was to get ill.
I’d been pleased that I hadn’t had a cold for over 2 years, a real record for me. Much of my childhood and adolescence seemed to be plagued with colds and I finally felt like I had the reoccurring virus under control.
My persistent sneezing and nose blowing woke Lewis up. It was impossible to fall back to sleep when my nose was as uncomfortable as it was. I was going insane, unable to lay my head down and drift back off.
Our first aid kit had just about everything in it expect for cold remedies. I’m not allowed any nasal spray. I was addicted to the stuff for 2 years, after returning from South Africa with a cold, and had been using it at least once a day to keep my nose clear. I thought I had a constant cold for those 2 years when the reality was likely that it was the nasal spray blocking my nose up. So I went cold turkey and vowed never to use one again.
Finally I was able to get comfortable enough to sleep. I just prayed my nose would be better when I awoke in the morning.
Morning arrived and my nose was still blocked to the high evens. To make things worse I also had a very tender throat. There was no doubt about it, I had a cold.
The likeliest explanation was that I caught it at the airport but I had been so cautious with the whole Coronavirus thing to wash my hands before eating and not to touch my face that I couldn’t understand what went wrong.
Anyway. There was no way I was going to let a cold ruin my week-long trip to Tenerife. I decided we’d just stick to our schedule and try and see as much of the island as possible.
So we purchased a shit-tonne of tissues from the local supermarket and departed for our day’s adventure.
I was incredibly excited about the day that lay ahead of us.
We would be visiting the Anaga Rural Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Biosphere Reserve that is situated in the very north eastern tip of the island. The reserve consists of a large mountain range and is in fact the oldest part of Tenerife, being created around 7 or 9 million years ago by a volcanic eruption.
The park is home to craggy peaks, deep ravines, traditional villages and rare laurel forests. Laurel forests are an ancient forest which date back to the Tertiary Period (the time of the dinosaurs). They covered much of Europe and northern Africa up until 20,000 years ago. Now, they are all but gone. Anaga in Tenerife is one of the few places where you can find them.
Our journey started similarly to the day before, journeying down the forest-coated ridge on which La Esperanza stood, before veering east towards the island’s capital of Santa Cruz, perched upon the island’s coastline.
Above us, ominous grey clouds loomed, thick with the promise of rain. Beyond the tall colourful skyscrapers of Santa Cruz stood the outlines of sharp mountains, barely visible behind a sheet of grey cloud, our first glimpse of Anaga.
Once we entered Santa Cruz, the blanket of cloud dispersed and we were greeted with a clear cyan sky. I was hopeful that we may have left the bad weather back in La Esperanza.
As we exited the bustling capital, glimpses of traditional Tenerife began to appear. To our left were the striking flanks of rocky peaks, the edge of the Anaga Reserve. Nestled against their fringes were colourful villages or hamlets, staggered in layers up the side of the mountains. Cacti and other desert-dwelling shrubs cloaked the sides of the great mountains.
Our route changed course, swerving inland over a parched riverbed bordered by thick tree cover. We then found ourselves in a deep valley, two majestic crags encasing the road.
The road wound steadily upwards, wrapping round the side of a huge mountain, following each natural twist and turn of the range and occasionally hair-pinning to gain some elevation.
I marvelled at the lonely settlements within the valley, often miles from any other sign of life. Some were nestled deep within ravines whilst others were perched on the higher flanks of mountains. Sometimes entire groups of houses would appear together as a hamlet.
The hamlets in Anaga are some of the most traditional on the island, maintaining their original architecture from hundreds of years ago.
I nearly gasped in awe when I witnessed the pale ocean in the distance, so far below us, enveloped by stony crags. I couldn’t believe how high we were! When I squinted I was pretty sure I could just make out the road we had used to climb to this altitude, little more than a fuzzy line on the horizon.
The roughed peaks of the mountains were not much higher than we were now and their unique carvings and rock formations were becoming clear to see.
We journeyed into the gaping black mouth of a tunnel and allowed darkness to encompass us. When we reached the other side, lush forest surrounded the road. Could this dense undergrowth and overhanging branches be a glimpse Tenerife’s elusive laurel forests?
Ahead of us I was certain I could see the ocean, a vast expanse of navy blue.
Suddenly the forest fell away on our left and I was greeted with the most magnificent view of the landscape. Gorgeous mountains stood beside the ocean, their peaks stretching high into the heavens. In the ravine below was a village of white settlements, right by the coastline. The white tips of waves lapped at the grey shingled shores.
I was certain this was our destination.
Within the Anaga Rural Park, we were heading towards a village called Taganana which is situated on the north coastline. This village is renowned for its gorgeous beaches surrounded by the majestic mountain backdrop. The name Taganana literally translates to ‘surrounded by mountains’ in the ancient dialect of the Guanches, Tenerife’s initial inhabitants.
We came upon a viewpoint looking over the northern coastline and couldn’t resist a quick stop to admire the stunning panorama that lay before us.
In the far distance we spied Anaga rocks, huge rocky structures isolated off the coast, surrounded by ocean. In the foreground, within the ravine beneath us were a couple of houses and further down the ravine, bordering the ocean was the tip of a village called Almáciga.
From the viewpoint, we made our way down towards Taganana village, following the road round numerous hairpin bends until we finally arrived beside the majestic ocean.
Along this rugged stretch of coastline lie numerous beaches, each one bursting with character.
The first beach we came to was Playa del Roque de las Bodegas. This beach is surrounded by stunning peaks and its composition is a mixture of soft black sand and large grey pebbles. A small hamlet lay behind it including a number of restaurants.
The road hugged the mountainous coastline and brought the next beach into sight. Playa de Almáciga was more of a sandy beach with fewer rock formations dotting the ocean.
We made our way round another striking headland, the road keeping a great distance above the shoreline. We found ourselves on the outskirts of Almáciga village, the very village we had seen from the stunning viewpoint earlier.
My belly was rumbling. It was approaching 2pm, far past my usual lunchtime and I am notoriously hangry when I do not eat lunch on time.
A quick look on my phone told us that the most popular restaurant was one called Restaurante El Frontón, found in the next village of Benijo.
We miraculously found some parking just outside the restaurant and, with the sun beating down on us, we made our way indoors, hoping a table would be available.
We were in luck!
A friendly waiter allowed us to take the pick of the indoor seating area as the terrace was full. I wasn’t too fussed as windows surrounded us on all sides, yielding fantastic views of the wild coastline.
This restaurant specialised in local seafood and I couldn’t have been more excited to try some.
We opted for the fresh catch of the day that had been purchased from a local market that morning, grilled as per our waiter’s recommendation. We also selected some papas arrugadas (Canarian wrinkly potatoes) as we had thoroughly enjoyed these in Santa Cruz the previous day.
The waiter smiled, delighted with our selection.
I felt proud too. I love trying local cuisines and supporting small, local businesses.
After lunch I was keen to visit one of the coastline’s beautiful beaches. There were a lot of gorgeous spots; each beach has its own unique features.
In the end, I opted to visit Playa del Roque de las Bodegas due to the majestic craggy peaks which bordered the beachfront.
We found ourselves some on-street parking before making our way down to the beach. My feet slipped on the huge round pebbles which carpeted the black-sand beach.
The sun was peeping out from behind the mountaintops, gradually fading. It was at this point that I realised just how late it was. Evening was fast approaching and the last thing I wanted to do was navigate the winding mountain roads of Anaga in darkness. We’d have to make our beach viewing a speedy one.
To increase the pressure even more, I noticed that the rough Atlantic waves were getting progressively closer to us, swallowing up more of the beach. The tide was definitely coming in.
I made the most of the precious moments I had on the pristine beach, marvelling at the deep blue waters and gazing up at the towering peaks. The sound of the waves crashing against the shingle shoreline was magical and my hair blew in the warm breeze.
I felt the shadows of the mountains engulf the beach as the sun lowered itself out of view.
It was time to leave.
So we hopped back into Victor the Volvo and made our way back into the mountainous interior of Anaga Rural Park.
We deviated from our original route. Instead of cutting across to the south coast and passing through Santa Cruz, we decided to journey down through the centre park towards the west and exiting by San Cristóbal de La Laguna city.
I fancied a change of scenery and was eager to see some of the island’s beautiful laurel or ‘cloud’ forests which could be viewed in this part of the park.
The back route was everything as beautiful as the route in.
The road wound near the tops of gorgeous peaks with panoramic views of great valleys, lonely settlements and the ocean in abundance.
Several times we stopped off to get out of our car and admire the breath-taking vista around us.
The road became engulfed by thick forests, their branches twining together as they hung over the road. Could this be the cloud forest? I peeked into the dark tangle of trees, spying various bushes and moss coating the forest floor. It had to be!
I couldn’t wait to return to Anaga on another day and truly immerse myself into this prehistoric and unique landscape.
As the road started to gradually descend from the mountain range, we came upon another viewpoint. We pulled up and I dashed from the car, pressing myself against the railings which overlooked the stunning view before us.
Vivid evening light lit up the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna with some green fields in the foreground. In the far distance I could make out Tenerife North Airport and behind that was the outskirts of the great caldera in the centre of the island.
A thick layer of cloud clung to the distant mountains, concealing what would otherwise be a magical view of Teide volcano herself. Oh, well – I couldn’t really complain. The view that I was treated to was magnificent.
Once my eyes had absorbed the view, I made my way to another corner of the viewing area, staring off into a deep valley between two crags. I could make out the ocean behind them and between them was the outskirts of Santa Cruz. I immediately recognised the segment of land from our journey earlier. We had driven along that coastal road that was peeking out at the far end of the valley earlier that day!
It had been a fantastic day exploring one of Tenerife’s best kept secrets and natural wonderes. It had been such a good day that I almost didn’t mind my cold (except for the 10,000 tissues sitting in the car!).
Yes, my cold was a nuisance but I was determined not to let it ruin my holiday.
I glanced at the view once more, a smiling painted across my face, before jumping back into Victor the Volvo for the last leg of the journey.
The descent lead us into the city of San Cristóbal de La Laguna which I will just refer to as La Laguna from now on. It’s the second largest city on the island after Santa Cruz and the third largest city in the entire Canary Islands.
Our drive through the city may have been short but I was able to catch a glimpse of its vibrant personality.
As we started our ascent up towards La Esperanza I became aware of the thick blanket of cloud covering the sky, just like it had done when we left for our trip this morning.
Could it have been that this part of the island was cloaked in grey all day? Thank goodness we chased the sunshine! I smiled.