Day 7 (February 8, 2011)
Itinerary: Check out of Hotel Rural Victoria, rent car in Puerto de la Cruz, drive to Teide, stay in the park (Parador)
I am a little sad this morning to leave our hotel in La Orotava. The free wifi access has been wonderful and the spacious room leaves little to be desired. But, we must move on with our vacation. Next stop is Parque Nacional del Teide and the Parador hotel located at the base of the mountain.
The park takes up most of the interior of the island and has several roads that climb up to the base of the mountain. El Teide is the tallest mountain in all of Spain at over 3700 meters tall. It is also the volcano that formed the island of Tenerife way back in the day. We’ve been looking at the snow covered peak from down in La Orotava and are curious to see what the park looks like and how much hiking there is.
First step is to rent our car. Thank goodness we were able to secure an automatic car from Cicar yesterday. I don’t think i’ve seen an automatic transmission on the island yet! We left our bags at the hotel and took the bus down to the coast and Puerto de la Cruz. From the bus station it was an easy walk to the rental car office. we were happy to have booked in advance because all the other people in line were turned away because they were out of cars.
We were told to follow someone to our rental car and were surprised to be led to a car that was not the one we rented. No, this was the car that would drive us about 5 minutes to the garage where our car was. We were surprised at the long drive, but happy to actually see the automatic transmission. Of course this meant that we had a Volvo S80 large sedan that seemed enormous compared to all the other cars on the island. We barely fit in parking spaces and I felt almost too wide for the road. Haha.
We drove off to the hotel and hadn’t gone more than about 2 minutes before I got lost. That was fun. International driving is a little challenging especially with all the round-abouts and the fact that the middle line is white instead of yellow. I kept feeling as if I was on a one way road and was worried about going the wrong way on a one-way road. Spain drives on the right side of the road at least, so while I couldn’t read the street signs, at least I could stay to the right.
Finally at our hotel, we picked up the bags, hit up the grocery store for future lunches and headed up, up, up to the park. La Orotava had some roads so steep I don’t think my Prius could have made it up, but this car had no problems.
The miradores or scenic pull offs were indeed picturesque. We could see all the way down to the coast almost all the way up the mountain and in the park. We stopped at one to eat our delicious nutella and peanut butter sandwiches while simultaniously looking down to the coast and up to the snowy peak of El Teide.
The visitor’s center was able to provide us with maps, but they hiking trails didn’t have any description, length, or duration of the hike. The signage was very good at the trail head of each hike, though. We just had to drive up to the trail heads and decide if this was the hike for us.
Most of the information signs taught us about how the landscaped was formed with the volcanic flows and pumice rains. The signs seemed all the same, though even in different areas. We spent some time walking through a pumice rain field taking photos and watching some kids start up a little game of soccer.
Eventually, we passed the base of El Teide where the cable car can take visitors up near the summit and found our hotel, the Parador. The Parador has several hikes leading out from the hotel, so we dropped off our bags in our room and headed off to do the Roques de Garcia hike. We hiked about 3 or 4 miles around several rock formations that reminded me of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. These rock formations were mostly formed because they were one of the eruption points of the volcano. The soft rocks and soils had eroded away to leave just the various cones of harder volcanic rock sticking up in the air.
The weather was chilly enough at the start of the hike for a fleece layer, and by the end was a little too chilly for both a fleece and a rain/wind jacket. We found ourselves mostly alone for most of the hike climbing around the rocks. It was interesting to see all the various kinds of volcanic rocks that showed clearly how the lava flows cooled as they came down the mountain. We could see the darker paths of what was once a slow moving lava flow and the flat areas full of pumice from the pumice rains.
We watched the sunset at the trail head and then found our way back to the hotel for dinner. My favorite part of dinner was the starter pumpkin soup. Unfortunately, though the dessert options didn’t really cover anything chocolately. We were interested to see that the bike team Liquigas was staying at our hotel. We had seen team HTC Columbia out on the road as well. It is neat to see teams training and when we watch the Tour de France this year we can say that we’ve seen them train.
Tomorrow we plan to ride the cable car up El Teide. There is a permit process in place that only allows for 150 people a day to climb/walk to the summit and we were unable to get a permit. The website kept saying it was closed due to snow and ice, so we’ll see the conditions when we get there. There are a couple other hikes from the cable car that we’ll try take.