Tenerife, Islas Canarias

Tenerife is beautiful, mysterious, and filled with many different destinations and adventures, but similar to my experience in Madrid, it wasn’t for me. Don’t get me wrong, I shared some really great memories there and I am truly glad I went – but without a car, it’s borderline impossible to get around and without a decent understanding of Spanish, communication is limited. The bus system is completely faulty and like Los Angeles, places aren’t exactly walkable. I arrived at the South Airport around 5pm and not one person spoke English. I dragged my luggage back and forth across the airport and repeatedly asked various employees, “Do you know where La Laguna is?” “Hola, do you speak English?” “La Laguna?!” Finally a woman pointed to a bus and said, “Go Santa Cruz, find bus La Laguna.” Everything had really fallen into place up until this point and I was not used to being that helpless. Around 7pm I arrived in Santa Cruz where thankfully a woman there spoke some English. She informed me that my hostel wasn’t exactly in La Laguna, but that I needed to take a bus to La Laguna, then switch onto another bus, then take that bus to a specific street, then request that the bus driver pull over, and then walk a couple miles to my hostel. A couple hours later, unsure if I was even dropped off at the correct street, I began to walk down a lightless road. It was now around 9pm, I was at my breaking point when suddenly, extremely aggressive dogs started to approach me. Supposedly, the Canary Islands are known for their ferocious wild dogs or “canaria” that inhabit the island. Not knowing what else to do at this point, I embraced my suitcase, and started sprinting while tears streamed down my face. I eventually spotted a small wooden sign laying on the ground with the name of my hostel painted across it and an arrow pointing down a rocky dirt road. At the end of the road was a large shack with a single light on. I stumbled into the unlisted building, unsure if I had just walked into a stranger’s home. I asked with mascara smeared down my face, “Please tell me this is the Lagarto Hostel.” A worried man nodded and immediately handed me a very full glass of wine.

The next morning I was invited to go hiking with some of the hostel volunteers. Before we left, they shyly asked if I was in good shape. I laughed and gave the ol’, “Ya-yeah of course.” Honestly, I hadn’t really worked out since I left America. I ran one time in Paris and I was being cocky. My idea of “in shape” was A LOT different than theirs. I learned this the hard way after 14km (8.7mi) of intensive terrain hiking. Luckily, they were really cool about my lack of conditioning, as I crawled along the path staring at their bulging calves and chiseled quads. Even though I was slowly dying, the hike was completely worth it. We hiked Macizo de Anaga, the oldest part of the island, formed 7 to 9 million years ago by a volcanic eruption. The jagged cliffs and lush vegetation created an unreal landscape, reminiscent of the equally surreal hike I did across the Nā Pali Coast last June. After a long day of hiking, we eventually made it back to the hostel and I melted into the couches refusing to move for the rest of the evening. The next day I was completely wrecked. I crawled out of bed and made my way back to the same couch. A warm rain was passing through, so it was the perfect excuse to have a lazy day.

Throughout the week I continued to explore the northern part of the island. I trekked back to Santa Cruz to see the futuristic spaceship-esque, Auditorio de Tenerife. Unable to find an open cafe on a Sunday, I settled for a slice of carrot cake for lunch. The next day I caught a ride in a van with a few German surfers to a local beach. I briefly swam in the Atlantic Ocean for the first time in my life and watched as the monstrous, ice-cold waves crashed along the black sand beach. The following morning I rented a bike from my hostel. I cruised through small towns, abandoned plantations, and continued until I found a small cafe on the side of a cliff. Once inside, to my left was an old man sipping scotch at the bar and to my right was a display case full of freshly caught fish. There wasn’t a menu, so I just sat down and proceeded to eat whatever the waiter brought me. I’m not even sure what I ate, but at that point, I had hardly eaten since I arrived on the island, and I wasn’t going to turn down a warm meal. Back at the hostel, I relaxed… a lot, which was sort of difficult for me, because without a solid form of transportation I felt really stranded.

After six days in the north, I decided to move down to another hostel in the southern part of the island. The south has a much more desert-like climate with barren vegetation, not as aesthetically pleasing, but much warmer. Upon arrival to the Los Amigos Hostel, I was greeted by some new faces and surprisingly some familiar faces. I ran into one of my roommates from my first night at Lagarto. She was very happy to see that I didn’t have mascara on my chin and requested that I stay for dinner. She had worked out a deal with another guest at the hostel (who just happened to be an Italian chef from Milan) that if she bought the groceries, he would prepare whatever she wanted. He made an unreal seafood pasta with fresh herbs and various spices. I ate more food that night than I had all week. The next day, we all drove down the road to the beach and explored the tidepools. Within an hour, we drove from the beach, through the desert, all the way to the snow-capped volcano, Teide. None of us were prepared for the cold climate, so we snapped our obligatory touristy photos and drove right back to the beach. We sipped mojitos by the seaside and called it a day.

The only attraction that I had researched before my arrival to Tenerife was Siam Park, Europe’s biggest waterpark. Feeling rather adventurous, I dragged a friend with me to relive my childhood. We tubed through the lazy river, slid down aggressively steep slides, and body surfed the wave pool. I got yelled at multiple times for sneaking in my GoPro and played dumb by simply saying, “Lo siento, no hablo español!” repeatedly. Of course, Karma’s a bitch, and I look like a crippled turtle in every single photograph.

After avoiding the bus system like the plague, I took a day to visit the town of Los Cristianos. I discovered that this was the epicenter for tourism. Suddenly, I began to miss my extreme isolation… until I found Zara. Since Zara was founded in Spain, everything is cheaper and the stores are huge. After a mild shopping spree, I enjoyed another mojito by the shore, and returned to the hostel. For my last couple of days in Tenerife I did everything I could to keep myself busy. I slept as much as possible, watched multiple movies on Netflix, and counted down the hours until my flight. Now to some of you (with the exception of my first day) this trip may have sounded pretty good. Laid back, lazy days, just roaming around an island doesn’t seem too bad. Well, I would have loved that for maybe four or five days. After nine days I was calling my airline trying to leave sooner, by my twelfth day I could not be happier to leave the island. One thing I’ve really learned from traveling, is that just because a lot of people like something, doesn’t mean you will too. It’s looked down upon and even seen as ungrateful to explore a new area and not be absolutely excited about it. I didn’t even want to admit that I didn’t care for Tenerife because of these expectations. But I’m just being honest, I gave it a chance and I’m glad I did. I was able to see a new place and I truly appreciate that I have the ability to do that!

4 December 2014 – 16 December 2014

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