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Masca Barranco in May

A narrow gap near the bottom of the barranco

Canary Willow (Salix canariensis) and Canary Palm (Phoenix canariensis) in the base of the barranco

The Masca Barranco (Ravine/Gorge) is a very dramatic landscape with ever-changing views as you walk either up or down. It is also a very special place for plants, many of them rare. In addition it is a popular tourist destination and consequently is sometimes very overcrowded, which detracts from its landscape and ecological attractions. In May when we visited, it was still busy, but not at its busiest.

We decided to take the earliest boat from Los Gigantes and walk up the barranco from the beach. It was pleasantly quiet in the barranco until about half-way, when we started to meet large groups coming down.

 

Dorycnium eriophthalmum, a rare Canary endemic.

We saw many unusual plants and flowers on the way up, the first exciting one was the Dorycnium eriophthalmum, a rare Canary endemic which is not found in many places. I have seen this in flower earlier in the spring so was not expecting flowers in May but was delighted to see just a fewAround this area we also saw Tenerife Samphire (Vieraea laevigata) hanging on many of the damp cliffs.

 

 

 

Tenerife samphire (Vieraea laevigata) hanging on a shady cliff

In the lower part of the barranco we saw the following in flower, though I did not get good pictures to share: Tenerife Lavender (Lavandula buchii), a grey-leaved species common in Teno, Polycarpaea carnosa on the cliff sides, Polycarpaea filifolia in secluded parts of the base of the barranco, Maple-leaved mallow (Lavatera acerifolia), and Palomera (Pericallis lanata) with its lovely purple daisy flowers. We also saw a couple of shrubs of Maytenus canariensis, but not in flower, as well as many other plants.

A flatfish area of rock raised high above the barranco bottom crowned by a Dragon tree (Dracaena drago) surrounded by Euphorbias

Around the middle of the climb up the barranco we met another exciting species in flower, Canary Knapweed (Cheirolophus canariensis). I had never seen this species in flower before so it was a real treat, especially as it appears the only wild population of this species is in Masca barranco. It was good to see that there were specimens over a wide area in this section, including up the cliffs either side.

Canary Knapweed (Cheirolophus canariensis)

 

Queen’s crown (Gonospermum fruticosum)

As the barranco widened the views extended, and included a vista of Canary palms growing naturally on a slope up towards the village. They are the dominant tree in the thermophile (warm-loving) woodland in this area. In this open upper area most of the plants had finished flowering by May, especially in this dry year.

Finally there is a steep slope to climb to reach the village. On a warm day in May, in the full sun, it is a fairly draining experience, and a refreshing drink in one of the bars is very welcome, before we found our taxi we had ordered for our return to Los Gigantes.

 

 

 

A slope covered with Canary Palms (Phoenix canariensis)

The walk took us around 3.5 hours, walking up.

A Ridge walk to Finca Guergues in the Rural Park of Teno, NW Tenerife

Wild aniseed (Bupleurum salicifolium) is a Macronesian endemic. Here is is growing on a cliff out of reach of the goats

Wild aniseed (Bupleurum salicifolium) is a Macronesian endemic. Here is is growing on a cliff out of reach of the goats

This walk in Teno is  a there and back walk along an old path along a rocky ridge which is quite narrow in places. There are quite a lot of ups and downs on the rocky paths with fabulous views either side of the deep ravines, or barrancos, and the ridges beyond.

We met a herd of goats coming the other way on the path at a fairly narrow point of the ridge.

We met a herd of goats coming the other way on the path at a fairly narrow point of the ridge.

 

The narrow ridge ends in a surprising way, the path goes to the left of a rocky pinnacle and comes out at the top of a wide meadow sloping westwards down towards the sea. It is actually a series of terraced fields which in the past were used to grow cereals. There is an old farmhouse and some other small buildings.

A rare Sow-thistle species endemic only to the West of Tenerife - (Sonchus fauces-orci)

A rare Sow-thistle species endemic only to the West of Tenerife – (Sonchus fauces-orci)

The walk starts from the second lay-by on the Masca road as it leaves Santiago del Teide, where we parked. Then we walked down to the point of the hairpin bend, which is where the path starts, to the right of a track leading to the Casas Araza, a farm which can be seen from the road.  Follow the clear path with cairns across to the right and down a slope to join the path onto the ridge. The ridge is grazed by a herd of goats and we met them half-way along going back for milking.

A lovely specimen of Canary tree bindweed (Convolvulus floridus) on a cliff.

A lovely specimen of Canary tree bindweed (Convolvulus floridus) on a cliff. This Canary endemic is used as a street shrub, but it is great to see it in its natural environment

 

Because of the goats the rare Teno vegetation was confined to cliffs which were inaccessible to them. There was also plenty of Retama (Retama raetam) along the route which would have been giving off it gorgeous scent a month ago, but the white flowers were mainly over.

 

When we reached the fields, we just walked down to the farmhouse and the threshing floor and returned to the ridge path. If you want to explore further you can walk down towards the cliffs, but remember you have to walk up again!

 

 

 

The narrowest point of the ridge where the path crosses a traverse and climbs beside this pinnacle to get around the back

The narrowest point of the ridge where the path crosses a traverse and climbs beside this pinnacle to get around the back

Our walk took 3.5 hours and was 6 km long with around 400m cumulative ascent. However, you could lengthen the walk with further exploration at the far end.

The old farmhouse beside the old fields at the end of the ridge. The fields are now dotted with Retama bushes

The old farmhouse beside the old fields at the end of the ridge. The fields are now dotted with Retama bushes

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A view towards Teide from the far end of the ridge

A view towards Teide from the far end of the ridge

A view down to the village of Masca from the rocky ridge

A view down to the village of Masca from the rocky ridge

 

A dramatic ridge walk in Teno

The start of the walk from Los Carrizales

 

Halfway along the ridge – note the path zig-zagging up the rock

I did this walk last Friday with a friend.  It was a lovely sunny clear day so the views were amazing.  The walk starts near Los Carrizales, a little village in Teno.  We drove north through Masca and on past the Mirador de Hilda till we reached the turning left signposted ‘Los Carrizales’.  Turning down this narrow road, with very broken tarmac, we stopped on the first big bend where the road continued to the right.  On the bend there is parking off the road for 2-3 cars.  The path starts from just off the point of the bend, and is track-width with a metal post in the centre.  It is a very clear path, and continues that way even though it gets narrower, until reaching an old farmhouse with a threshing-floor and corral adjacent, after about an hour’s walking

Purple spurge with seedpods (Euphorbia atropurpurea)

As we set out along the path a high rock, called, appropriately, El Roque,  towered over us to the left.  I looked up it and used the binoculars to discover it was covered with Canary houseleek (Aeonium canariensis) and Tenerife samphire (Vieraea laevigata), both of which were in flower.  As the path climbed up to the far side of the rock it divided, the left-hand fork with a rope handrail led up to a ridge with fine views, and nestled down just below the ridge was a little cottage.

 

Continuing with the path along the ridge I noticed we passed plants of Purple Spurge (Euphorbia atropurpurea), which, although they were past flowering, were still colourful with their purple bracts and seedpods.  There were also some compact, erect false sage plants with white felted small leaves.  Few were in flower in the drought conditions, but the few there were enabled me to confirm it was the local endemic Sideritis brevicaulis.

Sideritis brevicaulis a Tenerife endemic false sage found only in the NW and W of the island

The path then approached another rock with a dyke going straight through it (see photo), and climbed up its side in a zig-zag.  This part of the walk could cause problems for those who don’t like heights as there is a drop off to the side, but the path itself is safe provided you watch your step.

Canary houseleek (Aeonium canariense) near the start of the walk

As you round the side of that rock, the path stretches out in front, then another zig-zag takes you up to another open area with fantastic views, looking ahead at another rock to skirt around.  Beyond that another rock is passed by a cobbled path up the side and then the landscape begins to open out.  We made our way off the path up to a cairn on the left which offered views to the south, and to the north we could see the meadows spreading out down the hill towards the cliffs below.

The threshing-floor, with the farmhouse beyond, at the end of the well-defined path

Continuing on the path we soon caught sight of the old farmhouse.  The roof has caved in but the threshing-floor and corral are still in good condition.  They nestle just below the ridge, facing north over the farmland.  This is where the good path ran out.  We spent quite a while trying to find paths continuing but all were ill-defined and involved pushing our way through retama bushes, etc.  It was time and energy consuming.  We finally gave up and made our way back up to the farmhouse on the exposed rocks at the edge of the ridge, this proved easier than our way down, though it did involve a little rock scambling.

Masca daisy (Argyranthemum foeniculaceum)

The only way back is, of course, back along the same narrow ridge.  But the reverse trip gives you different views, including glimpses of Teide, as well as views to Los Carrizales village with its fertile fields, and to the Barranco Juan Lopez on the other side of the ridge, and of the Fortaleza de Masca – the massive fort-like rock on the next ridge to the south.

 

A view past a cairn to ‘La Fortaleza de Masca’ on the next ridge to the south

On the return journey I noticed a diminutive plant of the Masca daisy (Argyranthemum foeniculaceum) flowering by the path – most of the plants I had seen were not in flower.

 

The walk to the farmhouse takes only 1 hour and the return 1 hour.  The gradients are mostly gentle, with several ups and downs but nothing too strenuous.  My GPS did not record the cumulative climb correctly but it was probably around 300m for the both ways path to the farmhouse.  Beyond the farmhouse is only for the adventurous, and remember that the more you go down there, the further you will have to walk up again.