Postcard 4 (Last) from the Canaries

An exciting ride to Masca!!

I’d been out with a couple of dear friends from York a couple of nights ago. Leah and Ross are fun to be with and we’d agreed to have a ‘run out’ on Friday to a little village that sits precariously at about 2000 feet in the middle of the range of volcanic mountains that surround Teide. To get to it is an interesting drive along a narrow, very winding and unforgiving road that rises to about 3000 feet out of Santiago del Teide. It has the added excitement of sometimes meeting a bus or other larger vehicle coming in the opposite direction and, on the odd occasion, we also have the thrill of someone stalling their vehicle in front of us with the additional treat of them failing to apply their handbrake and rolling back… let’s just say, I’ll come back to this!

The day is blue skies and sunshine at the coast and it’s not looking too bad inland. There’s a bit of cloud shrouding the higher cliffs of Teide’s neighbours but that tends to be the usual case and can enhance the drama of the photos that can be created on these trips.

It’s not far up the T1 motorway and the driving as far as Santiago del Teide is easy. Santiago is a slight disappointment but it’s temporary. They’re extending the motorway into the mountains so there are piles of spoil that inhibit our first objective, a walk up a steep hillside that is used by the local Catholic population for their processions and prayer during Lent. I like this particular one as it reminds me of one of the final scenes in Mama Mia where they wend their way up a zigzag track lit by torches for the wedding. I’ve walked this before and offer you a couple of links at the bottom of this blog if you want to read a little more (there are some photos too). Today though, will not happen although it does look like the track will be reconstituted when the new road is finished.

We decide on a direct drive to Masca which is only twenty minutes along the side road, oncoming traffic permitting! We drive over the Degallada de la Cherfé without incident and stop for a few minutes just the other side of it at a wonderful look-out spot that I would urge you to experience. Degallada means to ‘cut the throat of’ and, in this case, it’s not looking good for ‘Cherfé’

The views are heart-stopping from here and we spend fifteen minutes scrambling about on the rocks getting all kinds of wonderful photos looking across and down the gorge. Do stop, it’s well worth it.

The next stage of the journey is down the winding, hairpin-bending, and narrow road. We try to look well ahead for the dreaded appearance of large vehicles all buses so the passing places, which are few and far between, can be utilised without the aid of reverse gear. We are lucky and only meet cars and the odd medium-sized van.

Masca is where I walked with the Pilgrim to the coast. It was without doubt one of the best walks ever but now it has to be done with guides and you need to book well in advance. It’s also plagued with rock falls so they make assessments regularly and only go when it is safe (or as safe as it can be) I’m so glad we did it when we did. Again, I’ve added some links at the bottom if you want to read about the Masca Gorge walk and there are some snaps too.

Masca is a delightful little village. A photographer’s dream and a coffee-drinker’s paradise too. There are several cafes and the one we chose has the dual advantages of great views and outstanding coffee so a constructive thirty minutes is spent sampling both.

Another half hour is spent wandering around the village which has about 200 permanent residents although living there would render you super-fit or dead and I think the locals are all super-fit. If you do decide to walk to the Roque Catano (you can’t miss it) then remember that however far you go down is how and a bit you will have to come back up. We do decide on the walk and it’s well worth it for the views back up towards the village church and beyond.

Back at the car, I check the satnav on the phone for issues on the way back to Santiago and there are none so off we go. About two-thirds of the way up the pass just before one of the hairpin bends the car in front stops to allow several cars to negotiate the bend and as the last one passes us there’s an element of kangaroo petrol followed by a stall and it begins to roll back towards us and at this angle, it doesn’t take long for it to gain some momentum. Now I ask you to imagine the scene. There’s about 1000 feet drop on one side but we’re protected by some reinforced concrete bollards and on the near side there’s a concrete ditch that wouldn’t do the car or occupants a lot of good if we drop into it so the situation is tense. I can see there is no car behind me so I release the handbrake on my Polo but nothing happens. It’s now that I appreciate that not all automated features are always welcome. On modern cars, there is a feature that puts on the brakes when you stop on a slope and will automatically release them as you release the clutch. This may be good when you’re making a hill start but I just wanted to reverse down the road rather than be hit by an out-of-control car rolling backwards towards me, especially at this height and with a ditch all but inviting me to drop the near side wheels in it. Just as I managed to release this automated feature (and I have no idea how) the car in front regained control and stopped as the bumpers touched in a gentle kiss. I drifted backwards three or four metres to allow a bit of leeway for the hill start that would be necessary. It took a dozen or so attempts, but she managed to get the car to kangaroo around the hairpin and with Leah’s words in my ear, “Let her get ahead”, I did just that.

The rest of the journey up the pass was a repeat of what had just happened minus the near miss and I did feel sorry for the poor lady as I’m not sure that the issue was her driving. I think it was the automatic braking mechanism that was inhibiting her ability to do a normal hill start but either way, we reached the top and are here to tell the tale.

The rest of the day included a round trip to Los Roques which is as busy as I’ve ever seen it and a return journey, without incident, through Vilaflor and onwards to Costa Adeje sitting at a bar overlooking the Atlantic where a few beers had our names on them.

Thanks, Ross and Leah, lovely day with the nicest of friends.

Love G x

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