Archive | February, 2011

Lessons I’ve Learned Hiking in Tenerife

A friend came to visit me in Tenerife and, to break the touristic routine, I planned to go on an easy hike – maybe 3 hours. After all, Tenerife has beautiful hidden paths with amazing views, and tiny villages that offer fresh fish for half the price as any bigger and more touristic town on the island. Following some basic research, we decided on hiking from Afur to Taganana – A hike that was signalized as being between 3 and 3 and a half hours – spot on with our dreamy idea of a walk in the green. Right.

Hiking from Afur to Taganana in Tenerife (Spain)

The hike trail starts by going down the Barranco de Tamadiste (a ravine). This was relatively easy. We even came across some fellow hikers who apparently did this every week. After approximately 3km descent, we arrived at a small beach – reaching our first waving point. As tempting as the water may seem on a hot day, I don’t recommend going for a swim. This part of Tenerife is known for having very strong currents.

The trail then continues to the right, on a strongly pronounced ascent until you reach 120m above the sea. The path goes along the edge of the coast, providing hikers with rewarding views of Anaga and Los Roques de Anaga. At some times, the trail was very narrow, and we had to literally grab ourselves to the rocks and not look down – the cliffs went straight down from around 140m height. Nothing suitable for anyone afraid of heights! This was also the reason for which I have rather few pictures of this trail (I was too busy not falling into the ocean!). But I did take one picture that may just sum up the whole trail along the coast side:

Hiking from Afur to Taganana in Tenerife (Spain)

Beautiful, isn’t it?

After 7kms walking along the coast and small plantations and gardens, we finally arrived to upper part of Taganana. It was only another 20-30 minutes walk down to arrive at the beach, when a kind local woman came out of her home to greet us. We told her where we came from and our plans for the rest of the day which ended with an optimistic “… and then we get the bus back to Afur“. Turns out – There was no bus back to Afur, not even near Afur. “Well… then we’ll take a cab“, we hesitated. No cabs in Taganana either. Oh dear.

The local woman advised us that the quickest way back to Afur was walking back over the mountains. At this point, I wanted to cry (did I tell you it was way past lunch time?). If things weren’t bad enough already – it was also starting to get cold and suspiciously looking like it was going to start pouring down any minute.

Hiking from Afur to Taganana in Tenerife (Spain)

So… we walked back to Afur over the mountain. For another 2 hours. I was frustrated and desperately hungry, but as we reached the top of the mountain, I started to feel proud and excited about what we had achieved. The views paid back all the breathless, waterless and foodless moments along the way.

Hiking from Afur to Taganana in Tenerife (Spain)

After about 6 hours, we were back at the start – just in time to drive back home, get a shower and work ourselves through the entire menu of one of my favourite restaurants La Rosa di Bari.

Lessons learned during my first real hike experience?

  • You can’t always trust the estimated walking hours you find at the start of a trail (or on the internet). Unless you are an expert hiker, I would recommend to add up to one hour more.
  • Wear the right footwear. This does not include flip-flops and gym trainers. I didn’t wear hiking boots but simple gym trainers and thought this would be enough. However, the sole was too flat, which made it particularly slippery.
  • Take hiking sticks with you. You may think these sticks are unnecessary, but they really come handy when walking along steep paths.
  • Be prepared for anything. We just had 1 L of water with us, to be shared among 3. We managed to refill twice on the way, but it wasn’t enough (specially on the way back). We didn’t have food because we had planned to eat fish at the beach, and consequently spent 6 hours suspiciously eyeing wild life and ground mushrooms.
  • Prepare your return. It would have been wise to research the best way to go back from Taganana to Afur after walking the 4 hours.

Practical Information

Route: From Afur to Taganana (via Playa Tamadite) – circular
Elevation gain uphill: 697m
Elevation gain downhill: 697m
Length: 12 km
Duration: 5.5 – 6.5 hrs
Difficulty: Moderate (steep ascent up to La Cumbrilla)
Wikiloc:From Afur to Taganana.

The Science of Sunsets

During my travels, I’ve seen some outstanding sunsets – each of them was different, special in a way, and has been captured in my memory ever since. Going through my pictures, I started wondering – What makes Phuket have those beautiful sunsets? And why is Africa supposed to have the best ones Worldwide? In fact, what makes the color of a sunset?

Sunset in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Sunlight is composed of a spectrum of colors that range from blue/violet to orange/red. Each of the colors have a different wavelength – I don’t want to get too geeky, it’s probably easier if you picture a rainbow. The inner colours of the rainbow are violet and blue (which have the shortest wavelength); while the outer ones are orange and red, the colours with the longest wavelength.

At noon, the sun appears to be white because all wavelengths of visual light reach our eyes with almost the same intensity (remember that Pink Floyd album cover -The Dark Side of the Moon? That’s what I mean!). However, at sunrise and sunset, sunlight takes a much longer path through the atmosphere. Because air molecules scatter away the shortest wavelengths of light, the light that reaches our eyes is rather orange / red.

Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

All good – But what makes sunsets in some parts of the World more beautiful than in others?

What determines actually the kind of sunset is the size and concentration of atmospheric particles in the path of the incoming sunlight. Very small particles scatter blue and violet light preferentially, leading to a glowing orange and red sunset. A heavy concentration of small particles will create even redder sunsets.

Does that mean that if we’re somewhere with high air pollution, we’ll get to see a better sunset?

No. Pollution particles are too large, so instead of enhancing the colors of the sky, they subdue them. This is also the reason for which sunsets in deserts and the tropics are more dramatic – the air pollution is rather minimal or non-existent!

Sunset in Phuket, Thailand

Taking away pollution, there are many other smaller particles that can be floating in the air to create the perfect glowing reddish sunset, such as salt particles over the ocean, or dust and ash from a volcanic eruption.

Where have you captured your favorite sunset?

Photo Essay: Scuba Diving Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is Brazil’s best kept secret. Still pure and simple, with little touristic influence, this archipelago has been declared UNESCO World Heritage Center back in 2001 and it’s described as the most beautiful marine park in the World. To avoid the masses, the Government limits the number of visitors to 460 at one time, which together with the 3.500 locals living there permanently, makes it really cozy. Additionally, visitors have to pay an Environmental Preservation Tax that increases progressively with the length of the visit – so the average time people stay is 3-5 days.

I visited the archipelago for 5 days about 3 years (although I wish it had stayed longer!). The highlight of the the trip – besides for the breathtaking beaches and colourful sunsets – was its underwater world.

A couple of years ago, we obtained our Scuba Diving license and, since then, attempt to dive in each of our travel destinations. It’s a lovely way to experience the place from a completely different angle!

Diving with sea turtles in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

… Dive with sea turtles in a strong current…

Diving in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

… See colorful fish and exotic rock formations …

Diving with sharks in Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

… And meet a friendly shark! Well, he kind of looked friendly – but I didn’t want to check out. Instead, I swam towards a group of large fish I had spotted from far away until they all turned to me and I realised they were barracudas.

Maybe the shark was a better idea after all.

Which is your favourite place to go scuba diving?