Needing to get out of a rut, into which I’d inadvertently slipped the last, few, post-Christmas weeks, I take out each of my secret anxieties, and examine them, trying to find one within my budget (zero) and timeframe (a free half day); something which will challenge me even just a little, and get the juices flowing again. Is there one of my vast collection of hidden angsts which fits the bill?
I lie in bed, waiting for the alarm, and mull them over, camping solo in the mountains is out because I have work to finish by the end of the day, and anyway it requires gas, and my budget is zero. That’s the killer for almost every idea I drag out. I could just go down to the beach and swim, swim further out than my comfort zone, but the wind is rattling the shutters, which tells me that wouldn’t be facing a fear, it would plain foolish.
I close my eyes and take an imaginary flight over El Médano, since there is no money for gas meaning further afield not an option, and as I hover at the end of the beach, where the windsurfers play, I spy it – what I’ve thought of as a “hidden valley.”
So many times, curving the coast road home I’ve glanced over to admire raw, volcanic forms. A few weeks back my son, Austin, came back from trail running there, waxing quite poetic about the scenery. I mentioned I’d always meant to go take a look at it, and he replied that there were folk down there, living in caves, and I shouldn’t go without him. We never made it before he went away, and I’d been wary since on account of what he said. Today I would face my fear of wild men jumping out from behind tabaiba bushes, and go see the splendors for myself. I remember that the light there will be best in the early morning, so I jump out of bed quite sharpish and get myself ready.
A quick walk with Trix (who is too old now for the walk ahead), a strong coffee, slip a canister of pepper spray into my pack – you know, just in case my fears are justified – and I sally forth.
I amble, drinking in the way the sun scintillates off the ruffled sea; the virgin-white waves crashing along the harbor wall; the contentment of the folk taking early coffee in the street-bars, and the kind of relaxed bustle of the folk setting up the market, fighting against the stiff breeze to put up their awnings and set out their goods.
It takes me ten to fifteen minutes at that pace to reach that part of the beach which is claimed by the windsurfers and kite boarders. Unlike surfers, these guys aren’t such early risers, and it’s quiet. I hanger right under the bridge which carries the main coast road across the end of a barranco, and pause. The landscape before me is exactly as expected. “A mini Arizona,” had been Austin’s words (he’s been there, I haven’t). It’s that sort of arid, weird-shaped scenery which begs for Apaches to come cantering around the bend, whooping and in full war paint.
Once past the heap of rubbish under the bridge, there is, at first glance, no sign of humans. Of course, even without Austin’s warning I know this can’t be true. As I pad down the trail, other paths open up before me, they criss-cross the area; certainly worn by modern feet, and also used for hundreds of years, if not more. The main trail leads to a cave where the goat-herd/saint Hermano Pedro dwelt (more of him another time), so we know that the trails were in use in the 17th Century, and probably by the aboriginal Guanche before that. Again I get that little shiver I’ve had before walking this island, the palpable connections with the past are everywhere. Ghosts walk the pathways, but this surreal landscape was created millions of years before man ever set eyes on it; layer upon layer of history lies here. Continue reading