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Bicycling in Tenerife - January 2002

By Peter Wulff Thu, 14 Mar 2002 11:16:53 +000
Riding in Tenerife is fine, and on bicycle unspoilt sites with few or no tourists are within reach. The reasons for going to Tenerife are manifold: 20 C in both air and sea during winter, natural beauty, challenging riding and trekking, it's easy getting there and equally easy staying there, it's affordable, it's cycle-friendly etc. etc. The following is a diary from 14 days, 9 of which I cycled.

January 3rd

Bought the holiday from the Swedish tour operator Fritidsresor. Cost was 2800 SEK (1USD=10.5 SEK) for flight and "unspecified" accommodation. Unspecified means that prior to arrival the traveller doesn't know with whom and where he will be accommodated - only that it will be Tenerife, in this case. Getting the bicycle with me cost an extra 400 SEK. Henrik, my friend and former colleague, had bought a similar package, also from Fritidsresor.

January 7th

Took car to the Sturup airport in southernmost Sweden. Upon arrival I was annoyed when seeing that parking the car for two weeks would set me back 400 SEK, or 800 SEK if I wanted it inside a parking house. Left the airport area and asked a petrol station owner if he knew of any safe and free parking within walking distance from the airport. He knew of free parking but then the car would almost certainly be smashed before I got back from the holiday! It ended with me parking illegally but free and safe. Checked in and reached Tenerife in the afternoon. The bicycle had not suffered a single scratch. From the airport a bus took me to Hotel Oasis in Los Christianos on the southern corner of the island. The accommodation was in a nice flat with kitchen, toilet, bath and so on. The only problem was that I should share it with an old Swede which immediately urinated on the toilet floor. Besides, there was only one bedroom. I asked Fritidsresor if I could have single accommodation. I could - for an additional 500 SEK a day!? I suggested to the old Swede that he could have the bedroom and double-bed if I could have the living room with its extra bed, he agreed. Henrik had flown from Umeaa in north Sweden and arrived early in the morning. His accommodation was in Puerto de la Cruz on the north coast.

January 8th

Prior to our departure from Sweden we had agreed on meeting either in the airport on the 7th, or if that failed, next day at 12 o'clock in Santiago del Teide in Tenerife's NW-corner. I reached Santiago del Teide at about 11.15 and waited until 13 o'clock but there were no signs of Henrik. Rode down to Los Gigantes and swum. Later returned to Los Christianos. As my head lamp for unknown reasons didn't work, the last 30 km was in darkness. 95 km horizontally and 1200 m vertically that day. Due to the dust-laden Scirocco from Sahara, there wasn't much sun that day. Back on hotel Oasis the old Swede had once again urinated on the toilet floor, and once again I got a negative reply when asking for single accommodation. The female guides held up some paragraphs in front of my nose, pertaining to "unspecified accommodation", and basically told me that I had to put up with the old Swedes disgusting habits because I had paid only 2800 SEK for my holiday. I asked the guides if they knew where Henrik was accommodated, but they were useless on this matter as well. Luckily Henrik called in the evening at 22.30. He had been in both the airport and in Santiago del Teide, but too late in both instances. That was due to my plane arriving one hour earlier than anticipated, and due to he had lost his way, respectively. Anyway, we arranged to meet at the column in the Santa Cruz city center next day at 12 o'clock. That was a stupid idea but I was dizzy and unable to foresee that being first-time visitor, Henrik would never find his way to the column, especially as I had not defined what I meant with column.

January 9th

Went by bus (5.3 Euros) to Santa Cruz and waited at the column until 13o'clock. No signs of Henrik but at that time I was not surprised. Then decided to stroll around the pleasant city center where I accidentally ran into Henrik. He had given up waiting at another column (a high-rise building?!) and was on his way to the National Park Office. We went there and got permission to climb Teide - at 3718m Spain's highest peak. We were advised against trying due to much snow and ice on the last 3-400 meters, we would at least need crampons, which we hadn't brought along. Furthermore, the funicular wasn't running so we would have to walk all the way. Had lunch while waiting for a bicycle shop to open. Good shop with a lot of high-end stuff, cheaper than in Scandinavia. Bought a head lamp, batteries included. In the "Parque Garcia Sanabria" we saw green parrots, blackbirds and frogs in beautiful settings. Most of the vegetation in the park is common as indoor plants in Scandinavia, but much bigger. By invaluable help from Henrik's GPS we got safely back to the bus station. Arranged to meet at El Portillo next day at two o'clock. Back in Los Christianos I bought new batteries as the ones included in the head lamp were flat.

January 10th

Left hotel Oasis at 6.30 and rode towards El Portillo through Arona, La Escalonada and Vilaflor. Reached El Retamar at 2100 masl around noon. It was cloudy, cold and sometimes with showers, not the kind of weather I had prepared for. Down in the caldera (after a big volcano that is no more) after Boca Tauce it started raining incessantly and I got soaked and cold. The road eastwards to El Portillo goes through a spectacular hydrothermal alteration zone with green, brown, orange and red minerals. Had a long rest in the tourist trap at Los Roques while for a moment considering turning back but as Henrik maybe waited in El Portillo I didn't. We met in a restaurant there half an hour later, after the most unpleasant ride I've had for a long time. I tried warming up in front of a gas oven but couldn't stop trembling. Henrik had started from Puerto de la Cruz at 6.30 and had reached El Portillo six hours later, the last hour in rain and head wind. Henrik bought lunch for both of us. My initial plan had been to cycle north around Teide but as conditions were adverse I instead rode down to Puerto de la Cruz with Henrik. The ride down wore several mm's off the brake blocks which wear faster when wet. After negotiations with the receptionist I got installed in Henrik's flat. It cost 15 Euro. Contrary to me, Henrik did not have to share his flat with anybody else during his two weeks in Tenerife. Ascended about 2500 m during the 96 km ride but didn't see much of the landscape due to the bad weather.

January 11th

Got up at 5.30 but we first left the hotel at 7 o'clock because it took Henrik a long time to dress up for the worst imaginable conditions - that included arctic outfit such as gloves, anorak, heavy boots and so on... When I commented on it he replied "who was freezing the most yesterday?". Anyway, through urban areas we rode to Los Realejos after which riding got scenic. In La Guancha we turned south and lost our way somewhere around Las Rosas - despite considerable effort we had no success in finding reliable maps, still the erroneous ones we finally had to accept were unreasonably expensive. The road upwards from La Guancha is as steep as we could overcome, maybe 20% in certain short stretches, but after we turned west towards El Lagar riding became easier. The coniferous forest on this side of Teide is simply very beautiful, about the best I've seen. Continued westwards on the sinusoidal dirt road for 3-4 hours without seeing any blubber-engine-tourists at all, or garbage or other signs of plebeian intrusion. Reached road C-820 just south of Erjos and continued to Santiago del Teide in heavy head wind. Excellent view towards Teide from this road. Had a conversation with an English couple wishing they had brought their bicycles. They showed us a good Tenerife-map they had brought from England. Rested in Santiago del Teide before riding up to a pass west of the village, from where we had a splendid view down to Masca. As it was 15.30 we gave up the ride down there. Returned to Santiago del Teide where we split, I rode to Los Christianos over Guia de Isora and got home at 18.40. 99 km horizontally, 1500 m ascending. Henrik returned to Puerto de la Cruz on the coastal road and got home at 19 p.m.

January 12th

Relaxed and strolled around in Los Christianos. Had a 8 Euros haircut. The old Swede in hotel Oasis didn't close the door to his bedroom when he was sleeping, or when he was in the toilet. Unpleasant, but there was worse to come....

January 13th

Left hotel Oasis at 7 and rode towards Masca. In the central part of Los Christianos an African prostitute tried attracting customers. Had plenty of time as there were 5 hours until I should meet Henrik in Santiago del Teide. Saw rabbit just after Adeje. Had coffee in Tejina and later coffee and cakes in Guia de Isora. In Tejina a dog had been run over by a car, a dreadful sight as its head was crushed. The driver had not bothered dragging the bloody corpse off the road. Arrived in Santiago del Teide at about 11 and walked around in the quiet (it was Sunday) village. Watched cats mating during at least 7 minutes until a Spaniard interrupted them. Henrik arrived by bus at 12. He had no problem getting his bike on board the bus and it was free of charge - why can't we have the same service in Scandinavia? We rode up to the pass and 500 m down the hairpin road to Masca. The descent from the pass resulted in the rims getting worryingly hot from all the braking. Had lunch in the expensive restaurant at the road in Masca - a genuine tourist trap. Very very beautiful valley with dramatic gullies and cliffs. Saw many quite big lizards and several hawks. We had a discussion about the identity of a bird, it later turned out that Henrik was right. I bought a usable "Wanderkarte" of German origin (6 Euros), and we agreed on meeting at Boca Tauce and climb Pico Viejo next day. After a long rest Henrik rode northwards to Buenavista del Norte and I back to Los Christianos the same way I came. The ride from Masca and up to the pass took 40 minutes. Ate in the restaurant "El Galeon" at the motorway south of Adeje, spaghetti Bolognese and some kind of beef with fries and vegetables. Including wine and coffee it ended on 12 Euros. Definitely my first good meal in Tenerife. Just before hotel Oasis I saw a rabbit and a big bird, perhaps a heron. Best weather so far, got slightly burnt in the neck. Back on hotel Oasis there was a letter from Fritidsresor; next day the old Swede and I should move to a bigger flat where we would be joined by two more travellers. As usual the old Swede had urinated on the floor, and as he had stood in this urine there were foot-prints of dried up urine several places. No more walking bare-footed for me. There was one good thing about him - as he only washed in the hotel pools I had the shower in the flat for myself.

January 14th

Started in darkness from the hotel at 6 a.m. Rode for the third time to Guia de Isora on the heavily trafficked road. Had coffee and cakes in the bakery there. From there to Chio where road C-823 to Teide starts. There is a road directly from Guia de Isora to the first big bend on road C-823 but it is not shown on my inadequate Spanish map, so I rode the longer and more tedious road to Chio. At about 1000 masl riding got very scenic. Saw a small woodpecker. On the next big bend on road C-823 I accidentally and rather unlikely met Henrik. He came out from a dirt road from Erjos, from where he had started at 7.30. Anyway, in this area there is basalt from the most recent eruption on Tenerife, it is from 1909 and looks as had it been deposited yesterday. Shortly after we passed 3-4 mufflons, they vanished before we had time to photograph them. A few km from Boca Tauce we rested on a parking area where coaches let off passengers so that they can photograph Teide. At that time I had less than half a litre of water left, and worried about how unpleasant climbing Pico Viejo would be if being thirsty all the time. Nearest place to buy water was at Los Roques 10 km to the east, so instead I asked passing tourists if they had some water I could buy. Within a few minutes friendly German and English women had supplied me with nearly a litre. We continued for a while before parking the bicycles and hiding some unnecessary gear. Pico Viejo is the second highest volcano on Tenerife, and being composed of well-sorted cinder it is rather hard work climbing it. Somewhat similar to walking in a dune, besides, the air is thinner at this altitude. The ascent took about 3 hours. Henrik saw a wild dog at about 2500 masl, else there were single lizards here and there. There is a minimum 100 m deep crater in Pico Viejo, and to the east a spectacular view towards Teide - partly hidden in clouds that day. I shocked Henrik when I delighted in smoking a Davidoff on the crater rim, smoking makes stupid and stinking he claimed. Had conditions been better (more time, less ice and better shoes) we could have climbed Teide as well that day. The descent took two hours and we got back to Boca Tauce at about 18.30, and were in a hurry to get as far down as possible before sunset. Upon reaching Vilaflor it was pitch dark and cold. Continued to La Escalonada and had an excellent dinner in "Casa Camilo" costing 11 Euros, including two big coffees. A few minutes after leaving the restaurant I passed an area with hundreds of croaking frogs, as it was dark I only heard them. From Boca Tauce Henrik had cycled to El Portillo and down to Puerto de la Cruz - he hadn't frozen as much the last few decades. I ascended about 3400 m that day, my record by far, horizontally the ride was 95 km. Reached hotel Oasis and got the key to the new flat. The old Swede had installed himself in one of the two bedrooms. As usual he hadn't closed the door - he was lying in one of the beds, half-naked, unshaved and with a depressed look on his face - a sad sight. I installed myself in the other bedroom. The newcomers had not yet arrived. When entering the bathroom it became evident that the old Swede had completely lost control - there was SHIT on the toilet seat! I went ballistic and ran down to the reception and called Fritidsresor. There was nothing they could do about it that late, but they would address the problem next day. Later in the evening the two new guests arrived - Swedes in their early twenties. When realising that they couldn't get a bedroom for themselves, they complained in the reception and got another flat.

January 15th

Took bus to Santa Cruz and strolled around with Henrik. Did nothing serious except getting new brake blocks and batteries for the head lamp. Back on hotel Oasis the two young Swedes had been forced back to my flat. They in turn had forced the old Swede out of his bedroom by telling him that they had been promised a bedroom for themselves. The direful consequence was that he had moved into my room and was lying in my bed! So, for the 117th time I hurried down in the reception and called Fritidsresor. I was told that the old Swede had this day received a complaint, and unless he improved they would evict him from the flat. In agony I returned to the flat and carried the extra bed to the balcony. There the old Swede's stinking towel hung and smelled like puke. He himself had left the bedroom and entered the living room where he watched TV, dressed in shorts only, thus displaying his big belly. The complaint from Fritidsresor was a standard form saying nothing about what was the trouble, and seemingly the old Swede understood nothing. I never complained directly to him - finding it embarrassing to tell this 76 years old Swede to stop being such a pig. During my night on the balcony he went to the toilet several times while emitting strange sounds, something like puh-pyhhhh. Basically he terrorised me with strange sounds, excrements, smells and ugly sights. I had rather endured the company of Bin Laden.

January 16th

In the morning I met with the Danish over-guide Anders from Fritidsresor. Contrary to the female Swedish and Finnish guides which insinuated that I was an intolerant nuisance, this Anders understood that I had suffered enough. He promised to move the old Swede to another hotel, to a flat with other troublesome Swedes. A salomonic solution. The only problem was that it could first happen next day. Left the hotel at 8.30 and rode eastwards parallel with the motorway to Cho and from there to Granadilla. Strolled around in that pleasant town before continuing to Las Vegas - a village at the end of a road, and without tourists. Had a satisfying lunch in Las Vegas' only restaurant while listening to classical music, 8 Euros including wine and coffee. When returning to road C-822 it got cold and sometimes rainy so I started riding back to Los Christianos on the C-822. Saw flattened hedgehog and rat. From the peculiar restaurant at Mirador de la Centinela there's a splendid view to several small volcanoes, some of which are in the process of being digged away. 73 km horizontally and 700 m vertically that day. Back on hotel Oasis the old Swede had received a letter from Fritidsresor, telling him that he should move to another hotel next day. Although he had irritated me for nine days it was Fritidsresor which was mostly to blame. The old Swede should have had single accommodation from day one, or at least have been placed in a flat with fellow countrymen, I'm Danish. Had a long conversation with the two young Swedes in the evening, one studied engineering, the other was a social democrat - as his parents. I made a bet with the social democrat: if they made it to the top of Pico Viejo I would pay him 200 SEK, else he should pay me. I slept on the balcony for yet another night during which I woke up several times because it was cold. I was also exposed to the endless music from hotel Oasis' restaurant - "I just call to say I love you...", "daylight come and I wanna go home..." and so on and so on.

January 17th

Left hotel Oasis at 6.30 and rode for the fourth time towards Santiago del Teide. From there to Masca which I reached at 10.15. Then sat in the sun at the restaurant and tried getting some warmth after having frozen for a couple of hours. Henrik arrived 20 minutes later. We parked the cycles safely and walked down the impressive Masca gully, a trip taking about 2 hours. Passed a dog that made a living out of begging from the steady stream of tourists. Down at the coast 12-14 cats waited for the tourists. We had nothing that cats normally find edible but these ones ate everything - chocolate, bananas, tomato juice. Wish we had brought 2 kilo cat food. The beach is stony with numerous crabs trying to warm up on the boulders closest to the sea, or eating algaes or whatever they do. We later swum in the clear water - indeed a nice place in all respects. Stayed there for an hour during which maybe 15 tourists arrived - none of them blubber types. On our way back to Masca I got ahead of Henrik and for some obscure reason ended on a small path on the wrong side of the gully. After maybe ten minutes somebody shouted hello and maybe hilfe. I thought the person tried if there was any echo. A few minutes later I met a German woman on the verge of panic. Not that there was anything to panic about - we could see Masca and could reach it from where we stood with not too big effort. However, we returned the same way we had come, got back on the official path and reached Masca 20 minutes later. Henrik had followed the right path and was already in Masca when we arrived. The German woman claimed that I had saved her life, an exaggeration. She then bought us refreshments. Henrik and I returned to Santiago del Teide and ate lightly, then split. As it was already cold I rode down to Los Gigantes and then to Los Christianos. Back on hotel Oasis my tormentor, the old Swede, had finally left. What a relief! I was tired from 14 hours of cycling, walking and sitting on cafe's. 105 km ride and 2700 m ascent.

January 18th

Met with Henrik at 11 in Los Christianos, he had taken the bus from Puerto de la Cruz. Walked through the ugliest part of this big tourist magnet before riding through Tenerife's ugliest area to Los Galletas where we had lunch - entrecotes. Later, after having relaxed in the sun at the harbour, I was too tired to do anything interesting that day and we agreed on returning to Los Christianos. Saw big bird, probably a heron. Don Henrik was not tired at all but insisted on cycling the 112 km back to Puerto de la Cruz, and so he did. He reached Puerto de la Cruz at 23.50. I went back to the hotel and slept 3-4 hours. Essentially a wasted day, only 38 km horizontally and 200 m vertically. We passed several cyclists on road bikes that day as the southernmost part of Tenerife is largely flat. I saw no road bikes in the inner and higher parts of Tenerife.

January 19th

Did what the majority of tourists do on Tenerife, strolled aimlessly around, sat in restaurants, shopped, slept and so on. Food stores in Los Christianos charge 50-100% more than the two big "Trebol" supermarkets, one of which is at Centro Comercial, the other at the motorway near Adeje. These two supermarkets have a giant selection of everything edible. Also restaurants and cafe's are unreasonable expensive in Los Christianos. Saw two cattle herons on the rocky part of the coast at Los Christianos. I didn't see much to the two young Swedes, Dennis and Richard. From time to time they appeared from their bedroom, shaved, called mother on their mobile phones, shaved, listened to heavy rock from a ghettoblaster bought their first day on Tenerife, and then they shaved again. Cleaning after themselves in the kitchen and living room was not high on their agenda, but compared to the old Swede their personal hygiene was impeccable, and they posed no threat to my mental balance. They were in fact quite funny. This day Henrik, the most active of us, had taken the bus from Puerto de la Cruz to Los Roques just south of Teide. The descent from El Portillo to his hotel took him 1 hour.

January 20th

Last whole day on Tenerife. Started at 6 a.m. and headed for Vilaflor. Saw rabbit just outside the hotel, later heard some bats over Arona. A young road-hog yelled something in Spanish at me. Vilaflor is a picturesque village, especially so around the central square. Had coffee and a sandwich. In the forest 10 minutes up from Vilaflor I turned east on a rough sinusoidal dirt road that is under EU-financed reconstruction. Most of the following 4-5 hours I rode just above the clouds and with a splendid view to Gran Canaria. Signs along the dirt road showed that bicycles are not allowed on a number of paths in Las Canadas. I wonder what damage a few bicycles can possibly do. Barring bicyclists is absurd in the light of the massive environmental damage caused by cars, buses and millions of tourists. At Barranco del Rio (barranco=gully) there is no bridge and I carried the bike down and up the gully. Contrary to most other gullies on Tenerife, there is water in Barranco del Rio. On lower altitudes the gullies are filled with garbage. The forest on this side of Tenerife is less dense than on the northern side but there is more sun. Saw 5 Barbary partridges. Although not indicated on my maps it is from the dirt road possible to ride down to road C-822 several times, e.g. to Las Vegas. After 2 hours the dirt road split, I continued on the lower one and eventually reached road C-824, at Izana. In this area there are several minor black cinder cones from about 1705. Rode up to the astronomical and meteorological installations at about 2350 masl - as high as I got on bicycle on Tenerife. Excellent view to Teide, it seemed possible to climb it from this side as there were less snow and ice than on the western side. Got back to C-824 and rode downhill to Ortuno and then even more downhill to Arafo where I had a tasty and plentiful meal (5.7 Euros) in "Chapparal". It had been cold riding down through the clouds and I warmed up in the restaurant for an hour. Then down to Guimar and southwestwards on road C-822. From Guimar to Granadilla there is 50 km on the road but actual distance is only 24 km. This is due to the sinusoidal road by and large stays at the same altitude despite crossing hundreds of gullies. Much of the landscape is completely terraced. Passed flattened hedgehog. Riding on road C-822 is nice as there is little traffic, and one passes numerous villages seemingly untouched by the mass tourism elsewhere on Tenerife. I should have done this ride earlier on, and had more time. In Chimiche I turned south to San Ysidro where I saw a heron, and encountered potholes for the first time on Tenerife. From there largely parallel with the motorway to Los Christianos which was reached at 20.45. About 170 km horizontally and 3000 m ascent. Back on hotel Oasis the two young Swedes surprised me. They had hired a car and went up to Boca Tauce and had tried climbing Pico Viejo. Having no water they turned back halfway up. Then they had gone to Masca, Puerto de la Cruz, Santa Cruz and back to Los Christianos. As they had failed reaching the top of Pico Viejo I had won the bet but the social democrat never paid. Henrik had left Tenerife in the early morning and reached Sweden in the afternoon, his precious bike was intact.

January 21st

Last day on Tenerife. Didn't do anything except strolling around and getting ready to go home. Back in Sturup airport in Sweden I was eager to see what had happened with my illegally parked car, luckily it was unharmed, neither was there any fine. Also the bicycle was unscathed.


Two weeks suffice for seeing most of the island from a bicycle. Bring decent maps as they are not available on Tenerife. Roads are very good and the car drivers surprisingly considerate and friendly, more than anywhere else we have been riding. The same goes for the police - it didn't bother despite we rode on the motorway a couple of times. Neither did it bother with me riding without helmet and on certain occasions without head light. Despite riding 968 km I suffered no flat tires, neither did Henrik. Low gears are imperative. Bring warm clothes for riding at higher altitudes where it is colder that one might think, especially when it gets cloudy and after sunset. During winter crampons may be needed on the last 2-400 m of Teide. We hadn't any crampons and so had to desist from cycling and walking from 0 m to 3718 m and back in one day. Going to Tenerife from December to February requires more gear it seems. Don't change money in Spanish banks, not only are their exchange rates lousy, they also charge commission. Surprisingly the bank cashiers don't speak English - in the tourist-dependent Tenerife....? The hotels are no better, although their receptionists manage rudimentary English. On a number of occasions Henrik took his bicycle on board buses - a service free of charge. Bicycles can be hired in e.g. Los Christianos, but they are not suited for serious riding. I saw good bicycle shops in Santa Cruz, Granadilla, Los Christianos and Los Gigantes, but there are no doubt more. Getting accommodated in Puerto de la Cruz is more convenient than in Los Christianos. On the whole Tenerife is a quite cyclist-friendly part of Spain.