Getting to know Teide better (by quad bike)
In some ways Teide is Tenerife, yet for most residents and regulars the peak remains both familiar and distant at the same time.
We have all driven up there, of course, at least once or twice, usually with visiting family or friends. Then, though, you get out of the car, squint about at the strange lunar landscape, and that’s that – then it’s back into your vehicle and back down you go! Perhaps the most intimate experience you have with the peak remains those five minutes on the plane flying into Tenerife, when you dip out the clouds and can practically peer inside the old volcano…
That was how it was for me, anyhow, until my last long island sojourn, when a relative convinced me to take a quad tour going from Chayofa all the way to Tenerife’s epicentre.
I should add here that I had never been near a quad bike in my life, let alone driven one! If I went along with the suggestion, it was mostly because it struck me as such an odd one.
We checked out TripAdvisor and opted for Quadzilla – who have been providing quad tours for three years. The quads sat waiting for us in a line across the street as our guide, Dan, went through the safety stuff. If they looked strangely beast-like, waiting there in the afternoon sun, it would be a relief to realise, when we set off, that they were very obedient beasts, extremely responsive to the press of your thumb.
We proceeded in a convoy – the group a mix of tourists and residents. The first section of the journey passing through Arona and Escalona on a smooth and winding road, gave us all time to become accustomed. It was all very pleasant, with the wind in your face and the Atlantic spread out glistening at your side, as we roared round broad u-bends on the steady smooth road.
Next up, we hit the off-road section – a dirt track through farmland and vinyards everyone grinning so broadly on the bouncing quads that, when we next stopped, there was grit between everyone’s teeth!
The first milestone in the journey was the famous Vilaflor, the highest village in Spain at 1500 metres above sea level. The group disembarked for (non-alcoholic!) refreshments beneath the old church. It was still nice and warm, but Dan was handing out gloves, warning us that our fingertips were likely to become a little numb without them in the near future.
The next part of the journey was the loveliest – up through Corona Forest, surrounded by pine trees and freestanding crags as tall and old as dinosaurs.
Cyclists pumped their pedals as we purred past them, motorbikes (conversely) weaved around us, and every now and then our convoy pulled over allowing us to enjoy the panoramic views and take advantage of photo opportunities. I couldn’t help but feel that we had it better than all the other road travellers. We had none of the cyclists’ aches, for one, and we had much greater time to drink in the surroundings than those in cars and motorbikes. Indeed, it was only by car that I had previously gone through the forest, and it struck me, as I blinked happily up, how much a windscreen separates us from the world, the car a little module that keeps the landscape at arm’s length.
The next stage saw a more arid landscape, and great chasms beneath the road, while La Gomera and La Palma sat immense on the horizon. Next we entered that famous dead zone around Teide, the setting of the first Star Wars movie, Planet of the Apes, Clash of the Titans and more. It was cooler, now, the roads long and straight enough to allow us to pick up a little more speed.
On reaching the zenith of this ancient lunar landscape we pulled into a parking area/viewing point to stretch our legs and soak up the alien atmosphere. We all agreed it had been a lovely ascent. As for the coming descent – the glorious surprise of Corona forest, certainly, was going to be difficult to beat, but there were still a number of highlights to come.
Those deep drops, for instance, felt that much more dramatic when they right over the lip of your lane. Then there was the strange sight of cyclists overtaking us, fixed to the ground by a few centimetres of whistling rubber, yet going twice our speed! Back through the off-road part, we pulled up this time at a charming winery, where there was a thimbleful of sweet wine to taste. Best of all, though, was the final descent to Chayofa: this time Dan led us down twisting, sometimes almost vertical backroads, cruising gently past homes and rural hotels, with the sea darkening beneath the just-setting sun.
What can I say, quads and Tenerife: they go extremely well together. Next up I plan to take the coastal roads tour, for sure…
Thomas McGrath is a writer who spends half his time based in London, the other half in Tenerife.
By Thomas McGrath