Bikepacking Tenerife or something along these lines
Memories of slowly rolling through a tiny, but diverse island of Tenerife
There’s a tent attached to my handlebars, a bare minimum of clothing inside the bags and canned food prepared for dinner. We’ve seen snow and rainbows, swam in the ocean, gotten wet in the tropical rain, been cold riding inside a mountain cloud and missed sleep because of stormy winds and flapping tent walls. We’ve ridden through multiple climate zones and covered ourselves in tons of sunscreen. On one small, very beautiful island, we’ve seen it all.
Average temperatures on Tenerife throughout the year are in the 20-29° celcius range. The length of the island is about eighty-five kilometers, the width varies anywhere from six to fifty. Theoretically it can be ridden in one day, but we had a full week and zero rush.
Our first night was spent on inflatable mattresses inside our sleeping bags on a rocky beach with stars overhead, wind whistling inside the bay together with the sound of the ocean. Other nights, we slept in a field, between lush bushes behind the tiny village of Santiago del Teide, in the courtyard of an abandoned school, on the volcanic beach Del Socorro—a landscape which looked more like Iceland than Spain—and next to the majestic cliffs of Punta del Hidalgo.
Throughout the whole territory of Spain, wild camping is strictly prohibited and is only allowed in designated areas. But there is rumored to be a certain vague rule that says if you are caught sleeping away from a campground, if you are tired, have no money or are somehow unable to find shelter, you are allowed to spend one night in a random spot. I’m not sure how real this law is, but that was our planned answer in case we encountered any police or park guards. Fortunately, it ended up not being necessary.
Camping at the bottom of a climb is kind of a silly idea, since in the morning you don’t have enough time to warm up and have to start climbing straight away. Nevertheless, we made this mistake every single day. In our defense, it would have been too cold to sleep at altitude and there are not many flat, tent-appropriate surfaces on the island, except for those next to the water.
Riding on the island is quite pleasant (except for some reaaally steep neighborhood sections.) Most roads are new and there are plenty of villages everywhere to stop in for a coffee or a mid-ride snack. The most famous climbs are La Masca, the road to Anaga National Park and Teide. We climbed the iconic La Masca from the nearby village of Santiago del Teide. The climb was steep and surprisingly short. Descending, though, was even steeper and way longer. After such an amazing start to the day, we decided that it could only get better and took a detour onto an out-and-back road to the Punta del Teno. Luck was definitely on our side since it turned out that this road was closed to motorized vehicles from Thursday till Sunday. And hey, it was Thursday!
The Anaga Mountains are evergreen. The climb takes you through a lush and deep, dark tropical forest. It is quite common for the clouds to get stuck on the peaks, filling the air with humidity and rain. It makes the landscape unimaginably beautiful, like a scene from Avatar or the Narnia movies.
We started our climb to the volcano from Del Socorro Beach on the recommendation of some local friends who suggested that this side of the mountain is the most picturesque and has the least traffic. Little did we know that the fact that there is no traffic meant that there is also no cafes, villages or restaurants during the forty-kilometer climb.
Teide´s 3,718-metre summit is the highest point in Spain and is as breathtaking as you might imagine it to be. On the day of our climb, the mountain was covered in a thick cloud, which made the ascent cold and rainy but also incredibly beautiful. During the final kilometers, the wind blew this curtain away and we saw the peak in all its glory.
On the way up, the usual thoughts filled my tired brain: “Why am I doing this?”, “Why do I even care so much?, “Let’s just make it till this turn, turn back and go down.”, “I want to eat, I really want to eat.”, “I didn’t know I had muscle there and that it could hurt so much.” I kept imagining how I would give up, but for some reason I kept on going.
For a long time, the road went through a pine forest covered in clouds with almost zero visibility. Then it opened up and we saw a snowy, martian-like landscape. I could barely feel my fingers, my back felt like it was made of stone, we ran out of food, and then suddenly, without any warning, there it was—Teide.
When the road turned into a gradual descent, we saw a roadside restaurant and stopped for some much needed vegetable soup, fresh warm bread, chocolate cake and, last but not the least, local banana rum.
When we were descending in complete darkness on the small, pothole covered backroad, occasionally passing cars, somewhere far below we could see the lights of the city, the seaside mountain crests lined in silver from the moon rising behind them. My fingers couldn’t feel the brake levers, my body couldn’t believe what had just happened. I couldn´t believe that I’d managed to climb this mountain, and couldn’t believe that the beauty in front of me was real. I was screaming with emotions overwhelming me from inside and for a moment had a really clear realization of what “life” is.
This is my story but there were two of us and it was our trip. You can do many things on your own, but it’s way better to do them with a friend. Steff, thank you for those last nuts, the candy and bars and for being ahead of me, not only like a trusted compass, leading the way, but also like a real friend.