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It’s just a stroll in the park, only longer! 

Keen walker Brian looks ahead to Puerto’s role in the Tenerife Walking Festival.

From 10th until the 15th of March, Puerto de la Cruz plays host to the Tenerife Walking Festival. Six days of up to 15 organised walks, designed to suit all tastes and abilities.

Why have a festival for walking, almost everyone does it, day to day; after all it is simply putting one foot in front of the other, isn’t it? Yes, that’s right, and year on year more people are choosing to spend their leisure time doing just that. It has become a very popular pursuit, a pastime, a social activity and even in extreme cases, a sport.

Walking, rambling, hiking, or to give it its 21st century name, trekking has suddenly become fashionable, even sexy. It has shaken off the cobwebs and banished its dated image of sensible shoes, a stout stick and a canvas rucksack. It is no longer only the preserve of, shall we say, the older generation, out for a bit of a ramble combined with a pub lunch. Now it appeals to the younger generation as well, and with their arrival on the scene there is the need for more challenging routes.

Trekking is a very important part of the tourist industry on Tenerife, particularly in the winter months and Puerto is an ideal base to enjoy the wide variety of walks both on its doorstep and within easy travelling distance. There are coastal paths, forest walks, high altitude walks, challenging climbs, green valley walks; you name it the area provides it. Be it at Anaga, Teno, La Caldera, The Teide National Park, or the market garden of the island at Tegueste . All are just a short car ride away, or if public transport is your thing, a slightly longer, Titsa bus journey. Or simply walk from your hotel; there are excellent coastal walks both to the east and to the west of the town.

So what is the attraction? Firstly, as I have already mentioned, almost everyone can do it, albeit to varying degrees. High on the list, of course, is its exercise value, it is healthy. Recent research has revealed that just 20 minutes of brisk walking each day will extend your life. What do they mean by brisk? I think they mean that you need to get your heart pumping, raise your pulse a bit and dare I say it you need to work up a sweat, or to perspire if you are lady.

Another thing in its favour is you don’t need any special equipment or need to join an expensive club. So, it is inexpensive, but you will need a few things, good footwear is a must, walking boats or shoes, the best you budget will stretch too, if you intend to take on some of the more challenging routes, or good trainers with a rugged sole if you are more

likely to be pounding the pavements, whichever, the correct footwear is important.

A backpack is probably second on the list, of sufficient size to carry all your needs and more importantly one that sits comfortably. Apart from waterproof clothing, yes, it does rain sometimes, what you wear is down to personal choice. Visit any sportswear shop and you will be spoiled for choice, including, as you would expect to find, the dreaded multi-coloured Lycra.

What is my interest in this? I am of course, a keen ‘trekker’, not to be confused with a ‘trekkie’ as I don’t have the big ears, well maybe, but they’re not pointed and besides, I can’t make the V shape with my fingers, at least not the right one. So yes, I like to walk, in fact, if I don’t manage a three to four hour 10km plus walk each week, with a couple of shorter ones in between, I get itchy feet.

For me, the more challenging the walk, the better and to use the old adage, there is no gain without pain. Yes, I walk to maintain fitness, but principally because I enjoy it and my preference of walk, I suppose, is to get off the beaten track, to see parts of the island that cannot be visited by car. Is there any risk? There is always a risk, but you lessen it by going prepared.

You should always plan your route beforehand, research it and make sure you are aware of the terrain and your ability to tackle it. Visit the tourist information centre for the area, most will be able to advise you about local walks. Take extra clothing with you, the vest top, shorts and flip flops may seem like a good idea when you leave the hotel, but the weather changes so quickly on this island, and to experience all four seasons in one day is not uncommon.

Take plenty of water and food, no matter how short the proposed walk. I always take fruit and ‘energy’ bars, you know what I mean, those

muesli bars that are so good for you, yet the cardboard box they come in often looks more appetising and appealing.

Always take a hat to protect your head from the sun. I carry two, a cap and a floppy hat, for whichever mood I’m in. To be honest I am not a lover of wearing a hat, but sometimes there is a need, if only to protect the bald spot. I always carry a map, but it is not essential depending on your route, most of the known walks are now well marked. Remember when you pack your bag you are the one carrying it, don’t overload it, lots of layers of lightweight clothing are more practical than a heavy jumper or overcoat. Don’t laugh, you never know, I recently started a walk with three layers plus a woolly hat, scarf and gloves until I got warmed up, that is.

Always let someone know where you are going, your proposed route, your start time and your expected finish time. Even if you are staying in a hotel, let reception know, or write it down and leave a note in your room.

Confession time, I admit I often commit the cardinal sin with regard to walking, I like to walk alone. It is completely selfish of me I know, but I like to set my own pace, a quicker one than many of my walking partners. Not for me, I cringe at the very thought, the organised walk, but they have their place, and if you are not confident enough to venture forth on your own, there are plenty of operators to choose from.

I did Masca in the summer on a Sunday and had to navigate myself past three such groups, there were even queues in places, not exactly what I had in mind. Do I think I take an unnecessary risk by walking alone? No, not really, someone always knows where I am going and with the aid of modern technology I keep in touch throughout the walk, as indeed I can always be reached, sometimes more often than I would like. Besides, with GPS, someone always knows where you are, big brother is watching you. There is a risk, there always is, but not being hampered or distracted by conversation I am more focused and aware of exactly where I am putting my feet.

There are accidents and emergencies, 2014 saw the busiest year to date for rescues within the Teide National Park, a combination of falls, effects of the elements and people just being unsure of where they are, or to put it less politely, lost. The increase should not be viewed negatively; it is testament to the growth in numbers of visitors to the park who are prepared to leave their cars behind. Don’t be put off by it.

I can’t believe I have got this far without mentioning one piece of seemingly essential walking equipment. How remise of me. I am talking about the ever popular hiking sticks. They are not for me; I will put off using any walking aids until they are absolutely essential. They have their use and indeed their place, over very rugged ground or on a steep descent, but not as you see them more often than not, being put to use on the streets of, the very mountainous, Puerto.

So there you have it, an insight into walking in Tenerife, with, as all my articles have my very own personal slant to it. If you are already a walker you will know how fulfilling it can be, if you are not, go on, put on a pair of boots and give it a try, you might enjoy it. You don’t need to tackle Teide on your first outing, start with short walks, build your stamina up and slowly increase your distance, you’ll benefit from it. But, please I ask you avoid the routes I am likely to take, I can be a very anti-social walker at times, thankfully there are still places on this island where you can enjoy the peace and quiet and not see another living soul for a couple of hours.

More information on the forthcoming Tenerife Walking Festival, with full details and costs of the walks can be found on www.tenerifewalkingfestival.com