Day 8 (February 9, 2011)
Itinerary: Cable car to the top of El Teide, drive along the west side of the park, drive to Los Gigantes, attempt to drive to Masca, drive back to the hotel in the snow
Brrrrrr, it is a cold day today up on the mountain. Our room at the Parador just south of the base of El Teide is nice, but mostly it’s great to be able to stay in the park. The included breakfast included a variety of items and we were satisfied with our choices. We drove the 5 minutes up to the base of El Teide to take the cable car to the top.
Unfortunately, we found out that all the trails at the top were closed due to -8C weather and extreme winds. We still went up and nearly got stuck. The winds were indeed extreme. I nearly got blown over and boy was it frigid up here as well. We wore all our layers, but of course we really weren’t prepared for below freezing temps. Soon, though, we were informed that they were closing down the mountain for the day. The winds were just too extreme. We waited for the cable car to take us back down and were surprised to see it coming up the mountain swinging in the wind. They moved very slowly and we could see why they had to close the service down. The car was filled with cans of sand each weighing 30kg to help get the cable car up. We went down the mountain with most of the workers that were up here.
It was cold and windy and the base, too, and we realized we weren’t going to be very happy hiking today or spending much time outside. Luckily we have a rental car and we can do as we please. Time to be spontaneous. We opted to drive down the west side of the park and end up in Los Gigantes which is famous for it’s tall cliffs on the ocean. It was really too bad that on the way down we encountered rain and clouds. So, the views of the cliffs were rather dull. We moved on and decided to drive to the northwest portion of the island and stop in a town called Masca. Pictures of this area reminded me of the Manchu Pichu. We soon found ourselves on a one-lane road up a mountain with cars and tour buses coming down in front of us. We had some exciting turns and eventually found a good pull out to stop and see if the rain would let up a bit. It didn’t. Instead it became incredibly foggy and we decided to wait longer.
After the fog lifted some and the rain calmed down, we turned around and started driving back to the park. The drive without all the rain and fog was very pretty due to the flowered trees lining the roads and fields. I can only describe them as cherry blossom trees, but I’m sure they were actually another species.
The sun came out! The day turned into a gorgeous day. We drove through the forested area on the west side of the park with the sun shining and the area looking just amazing. We started seeing the cars coming towards us covered in snow. We stopped at a scenic pull out to admire a big hunk of snow that must have fallen of a car and to check out the sound of the rain water dripping through the layers of pumice and other volcanic rocks. Soon, we started to see snow on the side of the road, and then on the road.
All of a sudden I’ve hit another first on this trip. Today is the first time I’ve ever driven in snow. Drive very very slowly. The rental car actually handled it quite well and we were able to inch up the mountain. We stopped at one of the places we had stopped on the way down to take before and after pictures of the landscape. Brown before and white after. As the day got late and we inched our way back to our hotel we passed many police and other emergency vehicles coming down. one did stop us to ask where we were headed and make sure we drove slowly. I guess the closed the road to the north, but we were able to make it all the way back to the hotel with no problem.
It was impressive to see the area covered in white. Just earlier today Mark was wondering how snow got to the top of El Teide since it seemed as though the area didn’t get much precipitation. Well, just for that, Mark, here’s the snow. The snow on the volcanic rocks reminded me of cookies and cream ice cream spread over the whole landscape.
We didn’t have much choice about dinner and ate at the hotel again. They have a great pumpkin soup and the entrees aren’t so bad either. We did try use the internet at the hotel after dinner, but the computer that accesses the internet was really one of the staff computers and the staff tonight was not so happy to let us use it. so, we were unable to book anything for tomorrow night. Hopefully, tomorrow we can book our ferry and accommodations in La Palma island, or maybe we’ll just stay a night in Los Cristianos. I can’t say that I enjoy being this spontaneous. It is fun, but I do prefer knowing where I’m spending tomorrow night without trying to find some internet access.
We shall see what tomorrow brings and if there is so much snow overnight that we are stuck at the hotel tomorrow anyway.