Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

Of Art By the People for the People: Rock Balancing


I don’t make any bones about the fact that I normally try to stay away from the tourist resorts.  They simply aren’t my cup of tea, for one thing, they have no history or sense of community…….or do they?

The other week I was persuaded to go to Playa Beril to snorkel.  I’m not very brave with waves and such, but I adore to have my face in the water (I’d actually prefer to have it under the water, but that’s not in my current budget!), and this beach is really as safe as it gets, with a surprising amount of sea life to see so close to where tourists stir up the bottom.  It’s still all pebbles, sandwiched between the psuedo-sophisticated Playa del Duque and Playa Enramada (probably yet to be “developed”), and just at the end of the beach there is an area which is all pebbles, and where what seems to be spontaneous “street” art has broken out.

The entire area is covered with these rock balances, which, so far as I can make out, is the correct way to describe them.  No-one I’ve spoken to knows how it began, and because it’s an area I don’t know that well, I can’t even tell you how or when or how long it has taken to grow to this stage, but it is now quite remarkable, giving a very mysterious kind of atmosphere to the beach, especially at sunset. I was quite captivated the first time I saw them in broad daylight, but since I was there to snorkel, it was one of the few times I didn’t have a camera with me – not even a phone!  For a couple of weeks now I’ve been itching to get back.  I actually wanted to go at sunrise, but the other day found me in the area just before sunset, so I thought I’d make the most of it.

I was tip toeing between all the works of art.  In some places there are so many it’s actually hard to walk around them.  I do want to go back at sunrise, and I also want to go back and try the infamous HDR, about which I’ve had so many snidey thoughts, but which I know would have taken these photos to a whole different level….

Of course, it also taught me that there is beauty to be found everywhere, and that people, perhaps as a reaction against the swathes of concrete covering the coast, have created their own art.  Even if it was started deliberately by the local authority, it certainly has been claimed by the people now.


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

22 thoughts on “Of Art By the People for the People: Rock Balancing

  1. If you walk the Samaria Gorge here you will find these ‘cairns’ (for want of a better word). You turn a corner on the meandering route and there they are. They increase as the walking season, continues, so many that it looks like a city, and presumably are washed away by the torrent of water when the river flows again in winter. Quite beautiful and fun to add you own as you walk past.

  2. It does seem to be reaching epidemic proportions here on the island and it’s not just confined to the beaches either. I wrote this blog last year

    • I’m assuming that these were put there purely as art because obviously it isn’t a trail of any sort. It’s so bad if people use them the way you described. Of course, education is what is needed. I learned a few months back that even 500+ years ago, just after the Invasion, they knew about soil erosion, but even so allowed deforestation – and the results are evident all along the east coast.

  3. Yep I’ve often come across this kind of ‘rock art’ (as opposed to “Street Art” * 🙂 For instance round the back of Mt Roja there’s a kind of spontaneous Japanese style rock garden going on. Very different from Brits in cagoules making cairns up hills. That’s practical – this is “Art” or perhaps just fun ?

    * last night i watched Banksi’s film “Exit through the Gift Shop” – a kind of doc about Street Art. Apparently it’s very different to graffiti (like for instance it can sell of loads of dosh). I expect to see big piles of rocks in the TEA next time I go there. Ah yes, thinking about it, there were piles of beach debris in there last time.

  4. Oh my gosh I’ve never seen that! So cool… I love the rock beaches of Europe. I went to Gran Canaria many years ago. So awesome that you live in the Canaries!

  5. So pretty! And so fun that everyone does it. I’ve seen this before, but never to such an extent, that’s a lot of little formations!

  6. these obviously are the forerunners to those fancy gardens with a beach theme ‘a la Chelsea’ which is the only sort of place I have seen these arty towers. I would enjoy seeing them ina more natural setting. there is a British artist – Andy Goldsworthy – who does amazing art in the landscape, which you just happen upon, in the same way you did with this rocky forest.
    my eccentric ankle would not take kindly to rocky beack scrambles, so thanks for the photos!!
    just back from two weeks in London and Kent, which were a mixture of discoveries and scares in equal proportion! ’nuff said.

  7. I’ve never seen a display quite like this before. I’ve seen pictures of them as art, as opposed, as Gary said, to being used as pointers on a hiking trail, or just an “I passed by here” sort of marker. Unlike graffiti, I guess you don’t need to be that artistic to produce something pretty/clever to look at, and it doesn’t require a ton of expense on the part of the local authority to clean it up!

    Hope you had a good vacation, and that the weather was kind!

  8. Who would’ve thought that stone piles would make for such a lovely sight and photos! Loved them 🙂 And you have a great blog here. I’ll be back to read more!

  9. Personally, I prefer to make ephemeral rock balances. On the rocky coast I’ll build them close to the high tide line; or on river banks where I know the water level will reach in times of high water, for instance during snow melt spate.

    BTW I think some folks would call the easy-to-build structures like in the bottom photo, a pebble stack and the rock balances are those which actually need several minutes carefully placing each stone to actually balance.

  10. Oh, like mandalas. I really like that thought.

    These were very varied. Remember it’s the middle of a tourist resort ;=) I’d guess that some are made by kids. What child could resist having a go, after seeing all these. I could see that some of them were just random stacking of one rock on another, but that others had needed a lot of thought and searching for just the right rock to place next. How did this all start, Sheila? Was it, as Gary said, from cairns used as signposts or other walkers’ indicators?

    The thing I really like isn’t so much the visual aspect, although they made for some pretty fotos, but the apparent spontaneity of it, the feeling of individual people having contributed to produce something so effective.

  11. check out My videos about the Art of Balancing Rocks –

  12. Hi Linda, I love your photos. I found them when I was trying to find the name of the beach where I also visited and photgraphed the rock formations. Bad news, the development of Playa de La Enramada is in full swing 😦

    • I don’t, actually, see that as bad news. Yes, of course, unchecked, corruption-driven development is a disaster for Tenerife, and for anywhere, But the island lives from tourism, those not directly involved are still affected when figures dip because their clients (be they supermarkets, wine producers, farmers, whoever) are affected too. The thing is the quality tourism needs to be encouraged, and hopefully, that is what will happen there, since “Costa Adeje” brand has has definitely been an upward movement. I do think that there are beaches which should never been touched, but population growth alone will mean an increase in tourism, so correct development is essential. Enramada holds some nostalgia for some of us, but it isn’t that pretty, end of the day.

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