There’s no doubt about it, the sight of snow on the mountaintops whilst you’re strolling along a sunny, palm-lined street, or even floating in the ocean is almost surreal, and it still gives me a thrill. I was both born and bred in a flat and damp English landscape, and the vista from my roof terrace yesterday morning was so very different from those lingering winter memories! I just had to get up there!
So I seized the chance to take some time off to take a closer look. A few weeks back when it snowed, I wasn’t able to get up into the mountains for 3 days, and by that time much of the snow had melted away. It was cold too, with a keen windchill factor. Yesterday, however, was different, it was only 24 hours since the last snow had fallen, and it was a morning of halcyon purity, with a sapphire sky straight out of a glossy travel magazine to offset the shimmering white, and bone-warming sunshine.
I was stoked, as my sons would say, to be up in the mountains again. The drive was easy, through the first stirrings of spring; some lingering almond blossoms, a few adventurous California poppies and evident, fresh, green growth on the pines. When you drive up from the Vilaflor road it’s a mellow ride, taking you to another season, through those first glimpses of springtime, into pine forests and snow-lined roads, then into the barren rockery on the outskirts of the crater, until El Teide rises before you, lord of all he surveys, and in his winter coat, more awe-inspiring and imposing than ever. If you live in the north, the omnipresence of Teide is perhaps not so much of a surprise when you arrive, but from the southern coast he rises tall but distant, and arriving you marvel at his domination of the scene.
Traffic was light enough, though it was obvious that locals as well as tourists were heading upwards to admire the winter landscape. It’s not uncommon, it snows up here most years, but it doesn’t last long under the sun’s fierce glow, and there isn’t always chance to come see it, nor mornings like this to see it at its most breathtaking. I overheard people talking about taking their kids out of school for the outing. By weekend when they have no school it will mostly be melted away.
At the first stop I looked back, and could see that mountain mists were following us. We must have been driving just ahead of them as they wound through the trees and rocks, and now they were beginning to finger their way across the crater, but for the meantime we were well ahead, and the road in front was clear and quiet enough.
The thing which struck me about this depth of snow cover was that it highlighted the ebbs and flows of lava, so that you could see how it had inched its way down the mountains, and where and how, at some point, it had halted, sometimes producing lacey effects, like festooned curtains, with the weird shapes and boulders, randomly spewed out from the earth, stark against the white.
Drawing level with the parador, we turned into the viewing area opposite, where the vista is unfailingly jaw-dropping in any kind of weather or time of day, but it was chock-a-block with cars, buses and tourists. I have nothing against them. We need them – just not in my photos! So it was back into the car. I wanted to see what the view was like from where I taken these photos a few weeks back. However, it wasn’t to be. Just past the cable car the road was still closed off. I learned later that roads from La Orotava in the north, and la Esperanza just above La Laguna were still closed. We’d only seen one snow plough on our journey, and though there had been some light rockfalls, the road had seemed quite safe, but as always here, life on the other side of the mountain is a different story, so we turned back, to see the mist now approaching fast, an over-powering, immense wall of dense white, shifting shape as it flowed over hilltops and crater. We took the road down to the west coast and Chio, partly because it’s wider with smoother bends than the Vilaflor road, and partly for the change, Mother Nature and the Enviromental Service having spoiled my plans.
The lava beds through which this road winds are sombre black and rich brown, contrasting with the snow, and resilient to whatever kind of weather Nature hurls at them, be it a temperature of 5ºC or searing heat in August. We’d lost the sun’s warmth to that mist now, and the day was chilling fast.
Stopping to try to capture the diversity of landscape between the snow covered forest floor and the sight of the island of La Gomera seemingly floating on that sub-tropical ocean (It didn’t turn out that well. The camera doesn’t see what the eye does – or is it time to try out HDR I mused – that stain of a darker blue in the top right is La Gomera), I turned around to see, on the other side of the road, a bleak and colorless scene, as the clouds bore down on us. Thank goodness this was a drive and not a hike, though hiking in those conditions wouldn’t have fazed me at one time! But I’d seen the desolate scenes on morning tv the day before, and I hadn’t expected to be able to walk very far, so I wasn’t entirley euqipped, plus lunch was calling too!
There was even less traffic on this road, and as we descended and, as the temperature rose, the road was adorned for springtime again. These bonnie flowers are lotus campylocladus, and were so prolific in places that they carpeted the floor of the forest which was getting sparser as we drove down. By now, however, the light had gone, despite heading west, it was too gloomy to get a decent snap.
And so we returned to the coast, casting aside layers of clothing until the normal jeans and T-shirt remained, and marvelling at how we’d seen at least three out of four seasons in something short of one day. I know I keep saying it, but diversity is what keeps me here. At the end of the day, this is an island, it’s small, there are constrictions which come with that, however beautiful it might be, but it does feed my need for variety very well.