We had already completed one week in the idyllic north of Tenerife. On Day Seven we left the north for an Airbnb house in a fishing village called Alcala on the South West coast. The house in the south couldn’t be more different than the one we had in the north. It was located on a busy square surrounded by restaurants, cafes, playing areas for children and a small beach a pebble throw away. And to enhance the experience, the central courtyard of the house had no roof! We could hear and smell everything in our environment. From the children playing, people chatting, music throbbing to the food cooking in the kitchens. After the initial shock of such an immersive experience we soon felt the sense of being part of the lives of the people around us.
The house itself had floors decorated with colourful tiles, but the steep cement staircases were a nightmare. Our baby who suddenly developed staircase climbing skills in the previous house we had stayed in which had wooden stairs, now wanted to tackle the new ones. There was no real safe place for her to play in, so we were constantly on our guard for the six days that we stayed there
The best solution I found, was to put her in her stroller and step out the door. It was gorgeous outside every day. The square was bustling full of people, the waves lapped on the shore and the sun greeted us like an old friend. The day we arrived, it was already too late for adventures so we went for a short walk and ordered pizza from the nearby Gastrotapas restaurant. The staff were very friendly and accommodating and over the next few days, we learned that their food would vary from yummy to ‘what is this?’ I would certainly recommend the pizzas though, they were exceptional.
Day eight was market day on the square, which is held every Monday. Lots of tourists turned up, mostly older, calmer folks. Music was played loudly. There were handicrafts which didn’t interest us much. And island produce that did. We bought tropical fruits like papaya, avocado, kaki, tomatillo and banana, all of which were cultivated in the nearby mountains and were just ripe for eating. Sweet, juicy lovely fruit. We then walked around Alcala and discovered that there were natural sea water pools where you could swim protected from harsh waves. We decided to check these out later during our stay.
We ended the day relaxing on the huge roof top terrace where we could people watch, while the baby played with the toys we brought along. We were experiencing a completely different vibe from our first week in Tenerife. As it was for much of our trip, the incredible difference in the environment, climate and plants on the island as you move from one place to another amazed us.
Early on Day nine since it was my turn to manage the baby overnight (hubby and I alternate turns every two days to keep our sanity intact) I put my hyperactive baby in a stroller and headed out the door. It was serene outside with only the sound of waves on the shore and birds chirping away. We watched the sea together, she pointing at the seagulls overhead and me enjoying the breeze on our faces. We watched the sea and sky change colours as the sun rose overhead. There were lots of rides for children to play on and my little one wanted to try every one of them even though she was much too small for them. Then we headed back home for an elaborate breakfast.
I got freshly baked croissants and pain au chocolade from Café Veril located on the square. It was joy to eat them and we had various baked good from them for breakfast almost daily. Afterwards we decided to visit Masca, a little village that the guidebooks claimed was a gem to visit. The ride to Masca we were warned would be very difficult. It is located in the Natural Park of Teno which is reknown for it’s rugged mountainous beauty. I often forget that in the Netherlands we live below sea level. The searing headache brought about by such a ride however does remind me of this interesting fact. The headache could also be because of our ‘no-sleeping-on-car-rides’ baby hollering for attention the whole way. By the end of the drive I had new respect for my husband who had driven mostly in the very flat Netherlands and had now managed to stop on extremely steep slopes to let cars pass and maneuver blind curves on the very edge of the mountains we drove on. All along the way we stopped at beautiful miradors to admire the view.
When we finally reached Masca, we found that there was no place to park. At all. It was after all a tiny village on the side of a mountain. So we drove on to the nearby Mirador de la Cruz de Hilda where we had surprisingly yummy food at a tourist café. Hubby had noticed that there was a walking route to Masca so we decided to hike over to check out the village on foot. After a short paved path the route led to a rocky narrow pathway with breathtaking views of the valley. It was a hot day and the sun shone down on our skin as we made our way through the winding paths. I remember pausing along the way, looking at the scene in front of me and smiling to myself. Words cannot describe the elation of standing there looking at nature thriving all around us. Bees buzzing, lizards sunning themselves, green everywhere.
It was tricky path with a steep downward slope and although I enjoyed finding my way downwards I knew that we would have to use the same path back up. That thought didn’t bring me much joy. After a long hot climb downwards, we reached a tarred road from where we couldn’t find any walking routes to Masca which was visible further down the mountain slope. We realized that the rest of the route to our destination would probably be on the tarred road of the type we had driven on, which had no pavements meaning that we would have to walk alongside passing cars. Having no interest in risking our lives on tarred roads, we decided to head back up the same route to the Mirador. It was very heavy climb. The heat of the sun tore at us, the baby had had enough of mountains and greenery and lizards and was airing her frustration loudly and the two of us were exhausted. We comforted and cheered each other on and finally reached our car park. And then we had the long difficult ride back home where we stopped to gaze down on Masca. At home, we rested our weary bones and thanked ourselves for daring to hike.
On Day Ten we decided to visit Los Gigantes; huge cliffs rising like giants out of the sea, hence the name. As we drove towards the cliffs, the view out of window became increasingly touristy and at some point it was chokingly so. Sam and I took one proper look out of our car windows at the camera toting, hat wearing, awkward beachwear dressed tourists milling about and the endless souvenir shops and cafes they were gazing at. We resolved to turn the car around and drive away as quickly as possible. Further on we got out to look at the cliffs from a distance. It seems that no one is allowed to go to the cliffs themselves so people hang around in the nearby beaches and look at them. Sounded like a perfect waste of time to us so we set off with no real destination in mind.
On our previous drive we had passed by Santiago del Teide which seemed like an interesting place for hiking. So we parked ur car there and decided to look for tourist information or hiking routes. We found one further down the road that looked very interesting. It was apparently an old route used to commute between villages. There were stone walls bordering the rather easy route with cacti bearing edible red fruits and almond trees in blossom. It was pleasant enjoyable walk that lead to a beautiful view of the countryside. We saw that there were several walking paths from this junction one of which was a circular route for El Molledo. We decided to return in a day or two with renewed energy to continue the walk
We headed back to Alcala, and parked near the sea water pools. Got into our swim gear, put the baby in a swimsuit and walked to the pools. Hubby being braver than me, went first while I held on to the baby. The water was very chilly and he giggled for a while which amused his little daughter. Soon he was floating freely in the salty water with not a care in the world. Utterly peaceful as the salt water effortlessly carried him. The water came up to his chest so I knew it was shallow enough for me.
It was my turn next and having recently learned to swim but in a heated shallow swimming pool, I was nervous. The cold hit me as soon as I put my feet in. I thought of paralysis and drowning and other such unpleasant thoughts. Finally warming to the idea of being able to swim in such a beautiful place I immersed myself. It was amazing. The bottom was covered in pebbles which showed through the clear water. It looked beautiful but it hurt to put my feet down. There were rocks in the middle which looked elegant but were not so pleasant to swim or float onto. The steps were also covered in slippery moss. After having assessed the difficulties of my environment I finally proceeded to do what I had come to do. I let go and swam. I did a breaststroke, floated about, put on my goggles and went face first into the water. I could see pebbles of many shapes and colours and there were shoals of small fish as well. It was incredible! We tried to give the baby a feel of the water and although she was excited about the concept she cried because of the shock of the cold water on her little feet.
On Day Ten it dawned on us that we had only two days left on paradise. We also heard from friends and family back in the Netherlands that it was snowing there. We counted our blessings and went for a walk around Alcala exploring streets we hadn’t wandered into during our stay there. On the non-tourist route we discovered a long steep staircase that descended to an isolated rocky outcrop. We took turns descending the stairs since it was impossible to get to the outcrop with the baby in tow. As I walked down the stairs as I could see and hear the waves furiously crashing onto the rocks. Screaming as they pulled away from the many rocks that lined the rocky beach next to where I stood. I recall being filled with an overwhelming sense of the power and the majesty of the sea as my heart beat with a bit of fear and a lot of awe. It was hypnotic almost. And after many videos, selfies and landscape photos that couldn’t capture an ounce of the sensation of standing there we headed back to the natural pools for one last swim.
The tide was high and there was more water in the pool. It was colder than the last time we were in the water. But we had a wonderful time swimming in the pool and ventured to the very edge where we stood up surveying the powerful waves protected by the many rocks that rose up from the sea. Standing there looking at the water rushing towards me, seeing the birds soaring in the sky far above, tasting the salt of the ocean on my lips, I felt absolutely at peace. Calmed and blessed in a way that only Mother Nature can. We relaxed back home with a nice home cooked meal.
On Day 11 the baby and I left the house early for a visit to the larger beach that was a longer walk away. We hadn’t been to the beach till then and it was now or never since we had to pack and leave the next day. It’s a pretty long walk past a huge luxury resort, probably the only one in Alcala. When we got there it was still early so the water was cold but the waves were easy going so we could at least dip our feet in the water. The baby enjoyed the sensation of water rushing towards her and washing over her legs. She squealed in glee and tottered further into the water. I held on to her as tightly as I could as she kicked her legs in the water and dug her feet into the stony black sand of the beach. We explored the rocks along the shore lines, noting the strange formations the water had carved into the stones. Some of them were cave like and I was tempted to crawl into them to explore what the water had left behind. But it was time for a nappy change, warm clothes and a nice breakfast so we headed back.
We had one last trek planned so we drove to El Molledo to find the circular route we knew must originate in that area. We found the information about the path pretty easily but we had a dilemma. The circular route was of medium difficulty and sounded good. But there was another route starting from the same point, also of medium difficulty but the description was much more tempting. There was a water tank on the route that was used by the locals for collecting water over centuries, a cheese factory, a small village and a volcano to boot. The altitude variation was quite difficult but the views could be exceptional. We decided to take the tougher route of course. After a short hike through El Molledo’s street we found the route into the mountains and soon we were at the junction we had arrived at during our last walk in Santiago del Teide. From here it was a rough rocky steep ascent with beautiful paths lined by stones of different colours and textures. The valleys below were smooth, almost chiseled and covered with green vegetation. Cacti of various forms stood alongside evergreen firs. Finally we reached the base of Risco Blanco, a volcanic mountain composed of strangely light coloured rock. Our attempt at observing a moment of silence was ruined by the baby who decided to ‘sing’.
Taking full advantage of the vast emptiness and our solitude we demonstrated the concept of echoes by loudly shouting out her name. She looked more amused by the idea of mommy and daddy shouting than impressed by the echoes. But we persisted of course, echoes are fun. You can never get to shout at top volume in the built up concrete wilderness of the city without attracting neighbours, police and firemen. We quit before the baby could decide that her parents had lost their mind and set out to follow the route we came from back to El Molledo.
The path was more difficult on the return hike, we were getting tired, running low on water, baby was getting cranky and it was getting pretty late. The water tank didn’t look very hygienic. The “village” appeared to be a fenced in house and the cheese factory seemed to be a two room house fallen into ruins. Grumpy and exhausted we trudged back to the starting point, wondering why we over estimated our trekking capacity with a baby. We had to stop often since my hubby’s shoulders were aching painfully and the baby wanted to get out and stretch her legs. I myself had reached the end of my tether even though I had a much lighter load to carry and could stretch my legs. We shared energy bars, our home packed sandwich and a few sips of water and persisted onwards. After what felt like eternity we finally reached the junction of our previous hike. Victorious we hugged each other and the baby and did the short walk through the village to our car.
Back in the house, we made peace with the fact that we had to leave Tenerife the next day by being grateful for the opportunity to be on the island. Of course we had booked the tickets and the houses and made the journey ourselves but the beauty all around us, the taste of the food and the friendliness of the locals had nothing to do with our effort. This was all the island’s very own, and we were lucky to have been able to experience it.
Day 12 was pack and go day. We had to check out at 12pm although our flight was only at 6pm. Early in the morning I made a quick round of the area with the baby in the stroller, and walked to the nearby beach for one last visit. She enjoyed playing in the water as I held on to her little hands. I tried to tell her that we couldn’t come back here tomorrow and that it would be cold in the Netherlands when we got back. I’m not sure she understood me. Babies live in the moment, in the here and now. The pain of goodbye would be my husband’s and mine only.
We packed up, said goodbye to the café staff who had been so kind to us and left Alcala. Since we hadn’t yet seen the highest mountain on Tenerife, the El Teide up close till then we decided to drive over to the area and have a look before we headed to the airport. Strange lunar landscape surrounded us. I was too exhausted to keep my eyes open on the drive. Even our ‘no-sleeping-in-the-car’ baby dropped off for a quick nap. Once we reached as far as the car could get us we had a look at the mountain and decided to drive back to catch our flight. Perhaps if we visit Tenerife again, we could hike in the El Teide area. It was quite unlike anything we had ever seen.
We had an unbelievably long wait at baggage check-in by which time the baby had lost her patience and started wailing. Perhaps because of this, we got a three seater arrangement in the front of the plane so we had more space on the return journey. It was still four and a half hours of torture, trying to get our baby to sleep and keeping her entertained. We got a look of sympathetic looks from passengers and she got a lot of smiles as well. We landed back in Amsterdam airport at midnight, collected our luggage, got to our car (which we conveniently parked at the airport for an exorbitant fee) and drove back home.
It had been a wonderful journey. Completely different from any of the lazy, schedule free, non-responsible trips we had made as child-free adults. Every day was an intense experience, there were few moments where we could truly relax or let our guard down (aka when the baby slept). But having our baby with us made the trip a hundred times more richer than if we had been alone. Watching her smile, play and enjoy her surroundings was priceless. It was also so nice to be able to share the experience of being in the mountains and at the sea side with her. There’s so many small things that babies notice that we miss simply because we’ve forgotten that the little things matter. Her playfulness and curiosity had transferred to us as well and we found ourselves examining pebbles, insects, stones, smelling flowers and watching birds.
I hope I can go back to Tenerife someday. Go to the same beaches and mountains and relive the emotion of having been there years ago. Maybe my baby won't be so little then and we can walk hand in hand over the beautiful land that Nature carved in the midst of the ocean. For now, we have memories of this...