I catch the bus to Teide National Park in La Orotava, a tranquil village located in the northern part of Tenerife, one of the Canary Islands. We slowly snake our way up to our destination, hairpin curve by narrow hairpin curve, swallowed by coniferous forests and then belched out into the clouds. We emerge from the fog at the crater encircling the volcano Teide, Spain’s highest point. Having been distracted by the dramatic scenery, I’m surprised that our ascent took two hours.
TEIDE NATIONAL PARK
I have the option of disembarking at the base of Teide and riding a funicular to the top, or continuing on to the Parador de Canadas del Teide (the Teide National Park Visitor Center). I choose the Visitor Center, the origination point of several hiking trails varying in length and difficulty.
I explain to the helpful woman at the Information Desk that walking distances is not a problem, but I’m not up for tackling inclines today (I hiked most of yesterday and my backside aches something fierce). We decide upon trail four, Siete Canadas, a sixteen-kilometer (twelve-mile?) trek through the Circo de Las Canadas, the flats along the base of Teide.
I strike off with some sensible sandals, a baseball hat, sunblock, a bottle of water and my iPhone.
<Crunch>, <crunch>, <crunch>, <crunch>
I’m alone on the moon.
At least I might as well be, my surroundings are so other-worldly. Jagged black rocks poke my feet, low-lying brush abuzz with bees graze my calves, craggy juts of hill await me in the distance, and an endless aqua sky more vivid than they make it back home surrounds me. The eerie landscape of Teide National Park, I had read, was where parts of Planet of the Apes and Star Wars were filmed.
<Crunch> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>
I am the last person alive.
At least it feels that way. An hour has passed in this bizarre universe and I’ve encountered no other living creature except the pollen seekers. This little hike is more than a hike: it’s an exercise in mind control. If I let myself, I could freak-out over my vulnerability navigating this vast, strange terrain alone. I oscillate between fear and an adrenalin-induced euphoria as the path before me continues into infinity.
<Freak> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>
<Relax> <crunch> <crunch> <crunch>
After awhile the rhythmic crunching of the stones beneath my feet and the endless horizon before me lull me into a trance-like state. I pull out my iPhone. I should probably remain alert so that I can hear whatever would-be attackers (Marvin the Martian, Dothrakis, an angry swarm of hornets) are about to descend upon me with malicious intent, but then again, if any of those events do happen, perhaps oblivious would be the best way to go.
I choose an appropriate song by The Police.
Left foot <crunch>: We could
Right foot <crunch>: walk to-
Left foot <crunch>: -ge
Right foot <crunch>: -ther,
Left foot <crunch>: Walking
Right foot <crunch>: on the
Left foot <crunch> : Moon
I crunch in time to my iTunes as the sun beats down on me, my mind calming, drifting pleasantly into a stream of consciousness, one string of loosely connected thoughts and memories morphing into another.
Two hours pass and I arrive safely (but a little sandy) back at the Teide National Park Visitor Center feeling both relieved and exultant.
That was fun!