Masca, Los Gigantes, and smooth sailing all in a day’s trek
Our first day on the small but mighty island of Tenerife was ambitious and incredibly productive, which set the tone for the rest of our stay. We set out from our apartment in Igueste de Candelaria at around 10:30 a.m. after a breakfast of toast and tea.
Based on the last minute research I did that morning, all signs pointed to the Masca Gorge Trek. Apparently, most people decide to make a day of this excursion – traveling first to Los Gigantes, parking their car there, and taking a taxi up to the town of Masca. The idea is to then climb down the gorge to the sea shore, catch a ferry at the bottom, and sail back past the Acantilados de Los Gigantes to where their car was originally parked. We, on the other hand, set out straight for Masca placing the taxi portion at the end of our excursion.
The drive to Masca was smooth sailing on the highway for about an hour, but from Santiago del Teide, the last 20 minutes were a bit more of a challenge. To say the roads were perilously narrow and dizzyingly windy is a gross understatement. We slowly made our way around the zigs and zags amongst trepid tourists and expert bus drivers, past breathtaking views of peaks and valleys.
We weren’t sure of the specific coordinates of the beginning of our trek, but we followed the crowds in hopes that they knew where they were going. We finally reached the gorge entrance area indicated by the mass of cars and a bustling restaurant. After a few laps around the area, we found what we thought resembled a parking space, packed our snacks and set off for the gorge. More on our parking choice later…
We walked along the road until we saw a sign for el Museo. Down a stone path lined with kiosks and little shops selling fruits, aloe products, and souvenirs, we made our way toward where we assumed the track started. A quick piecemeal Spanglish conversation with a store keeper let us know we were on the right track to the right track. The path we were looking for was marked by a small map and a much larger warning sign with a cautionary alert of possible landslides translated into Spanish, English and German. It wasn’t the welcome we had been hoping for, but it didn’t hamper our determination in the least.
The trek is not for the underprepared. We noticed very quickly that proper footwear is essential. Fortunately, the path was generally dry for us, but the route has some stretches of smooth rocks and loose gravel, which definitely contributed to sore ankles and bruised egos. A word to the wise: it’s tempting to keep your head down and watch where you’re going as you climb down the gorge, but don’t forget that the scenery along the route grows higher and higher as you descend so look forward and upward as much as possible.
We heard that the trek could take anywhere between two and four hours. For us, it took three and a half. We didn’t have the best foot gear and we also stopped about half way in to have a quick lunch. If you choose to tackle Masca, you’ll be climbing boulders, scaling high and narrow paths, jumping across little streams, and ducking through bamboo tunnels so you will definitely work up an appetite that will need to be addressed along the route. Pack a smart meal or snack – light in weight, but heavy in protein – and don’t forget water.
If you consider yourself an amateur hiker, not to worry. We fall in that category too. And so did many we met on the path including a group of high school students and handful of couples in their 50s and 60s. Don’t go off the beaten path. We learned the hard way that some of the smaller paths actually lead to self-designated bathroom areas.
Plan ahead for enough time and daylight. Maybe bring a hiking stick and dress appropriately. We were comfortable in our coats during some aspects of the hike but towards the end a tank top was just fine. Smart layering is key.
You can hear the end of the trek before you reach it. You’ll know you’re close when the sound of your feet on the rocky “path” – a wide throughway at this point – is interrupted by the sweet sound of waves lapping on the bouldered bay shore. Boy, were we glad to hear it.
We continued on and the coast emerged. Right at the path’s end we purchased tickets (10 Euros per person) at a small kiosk for the next ferry that would sail past the Acantilados de Los Gigantes. Settling down on a low brick wall for a much deserved cool down, we took it in. It was a scene unlike anything we’d ever encountered. From our vantage point, the one word that came to mind is extreme. The towering cliffs at either side of the beach, the large rocks on the shore, the breathtakingly gleaming blue-green waters. Overkill to the best proportions.
Our ferry docked at the end of a catwalk pier. We boarded and sailed southward. Besides the incredible geological formation of the cliffs, the biggest highlight of the voyage was an impromptu show put on by a pod of dolphins, complete with a few babies swimming with their mammas. Dolphins in the wild – just the way we like them.
The ferry docked at the pier by the south end of Los Gigantes. We bought some gelatos and headed for the taxis to take us back to our car in Masca. Our ride was much-appreciated chill time. As the sun set, we listened to oldies but goodies on the radio as our driver (much more equipped for the winding roads) escorted us to our car. The ride took about 30 minutes at 20 Euros. All taxis charge around that much so the more people you have in the car, the cheaper it is per person. Most of our “friends” on the ferry had prior arrangements so no carpooling for us.
We were met with a rude awakening in the form of a soggy parking ticket flapping against our windshield. Evidently, it had rained, but not before a guard wrote a ticket for our unconventional parking job. Apparently, there are no points for creativity when it comes to parking infarctions, so you may need to go up and down the road a few times to find a legitimate spot, but it’s worth the persistence, unless you enjoy parting with 80 Euros.
And so our first day on the island of Tenerife came to a close. Our sore feet were just trophies to remind us of the feat we had accomplished and the sights we had seen. We may have come up with the idea only an hour before we set off, but sometimes all you need is a bit of preparation and the rest will sort itself out. It was an eventful day and one that we advocate to anyone with a voracious appetite for gripping views and a penchant for adventure.