I got myself a free night in a hotel and my name (misspelled) in the Tenerife local rag once. It’s not as glamorous as it sounds, in fact, it was a real wake up call.
I’d had enough of the UK, it was mid-winter and I wanted some sunshine. With nothing holding me down except a job that I despised, I packed my rucksack and flew out to Tenerife to find some work with a view to set up and possibly stay. To save some funds I was living in a campsite, it was brilliant, there was a large contingent of people with the same idea as myself, all escaping the cold and looking to find work, or to just relax. Everywhere you go on Tenerife, the volcano Teide looms over you, for such a small island, this is a huge chunk of rock. One night, over a roaring fire, and a barbecue (in January, ha ha), I suggested that we hire a car and go up and climb it. Great idea, off we went a couple of days later.
Being the hippy sort of people we were, we didn’t want anything to do with the tourist route, January is quite busy, so we opted for a lesser known ascent. Actually, I don’t even think it was a recognised path, more a “the only way is up” type thing and “how hard can it be.” This was a poorly executed idea, no thought went into it at all, (except up), I don’t even think we had any water with us. So off we go, and we’re climbing and climbing.
I had been working hard in a pub for a while, drinking and smoking, as you do, but I’d just turned thirty the week before, so no thought went into my ability to do this, “I’m thirty, I can (still) do anything”. Yeah, righto Spike?¿! After about two hours, I was flagging, and the other three were off some way into the distance. Did I mention that we weren’t following a set path, why did we need to, we could see where we were going. After about four hours, and though I was high up, I felt no closer to the top. I was getting dehydrated and was knackered. Also, and don’t laugh, I was getting vertigo. There is something about the climbing the Teide, you look out and there is the sea all around you, and other islands, not just bits of an island, but whole chunks of land. I could see all of La Gomera, Santa Cruz, and Frontera, and that was kinda freaking me out a bit. Anyway, time was getting on, we hadn’t started walking until noon, see, a lot of thought went into this, and the other three were out of sight, gone for more than an hour.** I was in a quandary, carry on, or go back down? I didn’t have the keys to the car (typical) and had barely any money (story of my life). I went back down, at least I would be able to meet up with the rest at the car, (he thinks).
Miraculously, I found my way down and to the hire car quite easily, it’s true what they say about return journeys always being quicker. I waited, and I waited. When the sun started setting, I started to worry, and when the sun set, I started to panic. It was cold and you can guess that I wasn’t wearing suitable clothing for a cold night on the slopes of Mount Teide! Shit!
You know in the movies, when they smash the glass on cars with their bare fist, or a baseball bat with no apparent force, and the glass just shatters into millions of pieces with the barest of glances. Bullshit! I hit that passenger door window as hard as I possibly could, with barely a scratch. (Incidentally, did you know doing that causes sparks, it must be the volcanic rock). In the end, I threw the rock at the car and prayed I only hit the window. Success, but after a good few attempts. Luckily there was a couple of jackets that were left in the car, so I snuggled up as best I could, and thought about the long night ahead.
After a while I heard a car coming, I kept down, stupid I know, but I’d broken into this car and I had none of the hire documents. A Guardia Civil officer knocked on the (unbroken) window and asked me to step out of the car. I won’t bore you with all the Spanglish and the pointing to the top of Teide, but in a nutshell, I couldn’t stay in the car as I would freeze, they would take me to a hotel, I have no money, it’s okay, you cannot stay out here. What about my friends? There is a couple of shelters up there and they would be fine (so long as they find them went unsaid). That first drink of water at the hotel was bliss.
Call me inconsiderate. I should have been awake at the crack of dawn and out looking for my friends, but I slept in, and was awoken by a phone call from the receptionist saying that they are waiting for me by the car. They had found the shelter.
Since that day I have taken more care of myself, I have to say though, it never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t be able to do that “walk”, and was quite literally shocked that I started having trouble. The lack of water was a big problem, but as I said, no thought went into this, we treated it like a walk in the park, the Teide is 3,718-metre (12,198 ft)!! DUH!
**I don’t blame them for this, now I am an experienced hiker, I know that you have to walk at your own pace. If you walk fast like I do (now), you get more breaks waiting for others to catch up 🙂
Edited to add, if my Mum reads this, (Hi Mum:) ) that job I despised was the Old Bull’s Head at Ware.