Hiking on the GR 131 in Tenerife
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Arona – Villaflor
20 km – rise 1400 meters – 400 meters drop – supplies Arona, bar Ifonche, Villaflor
At the Plaza Cristo in Arona my water supply made my backpack a few kilos heavier. I left the sleepy village to its siesta and was immediately impressed by the beauty of my surroundings.
Winding on dusty trails along old agricultural terraces, I could see the dark blue sea glittering far below while colourful paragliders hovered above my head. Before I knew it I’d lost the winding path, but after an hour crossing jagged rocks and falling into a giant cactus I finally came back to the GR 131: a good start! I began a steep climb through a pine forest blackened by a fierce forest fire. After climbing 1400m in a little more than 20km I arrived at the lovely village of Villaflor, where I re-supplied with water and some nuts for the next day, then walked a few extra kilometres firmly uphill and put up my Trailstar tarp next to the stone footpath.
Villaflor – Montaña de las Arenas Negras
31 km – rise 1260 meters – 625 meters drop – supply Villaflor, El Parador, El Portillo
I woke up with ice on my down sleeping bag, and packed up while hopping around to keep myself warm: but soon the heat returned. The road goes up and winds through beautiful pine forests: then the panorama changes and I found myself suddenly in a lunar landscape of black lava sand. Nothing grows here, and the route is recognisable only by stones on the sides of the path. After a time the strange landscape turns into a scramble through large, yellow rocks. I was happy to reach the top – the highest point of the GR 131 – where I was rewarded with a nice view.
Then I wandered comfortably downhill, when suddenly the volcano El Teide emerged from the fast-moving clouds. I made some couscous with dried vegetables and ate while enjoying the view.
Sleeping in the semi-dessert
After a short but steep descent I had to go for an extra seven kilometres walk to the tourist spot of Parador to fetch water. In this piece, which oddly enough is not very nice, I’m suddenly meet a lot of day trippers. For the rest, I’ve never came across anyone yet.
With my water supply restored I walked on towards El Portillo. A wide path continues sluggishly under the blazing sun. I walked through a stunning volcanic landscape, where higher up mountain goats jumped sharply from rock to rock as the sun began to set behind the tall volcano. I put my tarp up in the soft lava sand.
That night I saw an incredible starry sky, such as I’d only seen in the Atacama Desert in Chile. It was very cold, and my sleeping bag was closer to its limit temperature than its normal temperature. In the morning my water was frozen, and I waited for the sun which was still hiding behind the Montaña de las Arenas Negras.
El Portillo – La Caldera
17 km – rise 300 meters – 1100 meters drop – supply El Portillo, La Caldera
In El Portillo I resupplied with water and drank a coffee to warm me up. I lost the track for a moment, and so started off downhill, glad to have a GPX track and, after a few kilometres, to be back on the trail. There was a magnificent view the lush green forests and fast moving clouds below me. The route was now primarily downhill through woods, where Canary pine trees thrive on the volcanic soil.
After a while I saw the sparkle of the sea, with colourful houses stabbing against the Atlantic coastline in the distance. The going was up and down until finally I arrived in El Caldera, where I drank a cold beer in a very typical Spanish café. There are no houses or villages for the next 30km, so my backpack was again 5kg heavier. After a few kilometres I came across a signpost with E7 indicated on it, and after a steep climb found a beautiful campsite in the green rainforest.