I have just come back from a holiday in Tenerife. It was not as I expected. I guess there are many versions of a place. The one we saw was wild and remote instead of concrete and packed full of tourists. It is funny how quickly volcanic craters and an endless ocean became familiar: the grey pavements and crammed tubes don’t feel quite right yet.
On the most north western point of the island, there is a place called Punta de Teno that we visited on the first day. You reach it via narrow bendy roads that curl around and through the lower ranks of the mountain: one road in, one road out. I held my breath for most of the journey. At the end, the ocean crashed on black rocks and a lone lighthouse was the only sign of civilisation. The mountains behind blocked the island and cacti grew up along a rocky coastline. It was so quiet that the sound of every breaking wave and scurrying lizard was amplified.
I am a people person. I love living in the city. I like background noise and knowing that there are things around me. It is good to connect with the world on a different level every now and then.
On the third day we drove 2,000 km up to a hotel in a volcanic crater. I’m still not quite sure why I had envisaged a building at sea level but I somehow had and the journey was a surprise. At about 1,700 km, we encountered the grey swirls of cloud that we’d watched rising off the ocean earlier that morning. Later, the landscape changed from thick forestry to desert, rocky crags to pitted moonscape. When you took a cable car up El Teide, you were above everything, including the clouds.
I don’t know whether any films have been shot up there but I spent two days feeling like I was in a set from a Western or Star Wars or something. You could wander for hours without seeing another person and the land shifted dramatically and quickly. Black sand with strange spaceship-shaped plants; red rocks that reminded me of The Waste Land; grey boulders that seemed safe after the sliding gravel; shining granite; crumbling banks of deep terracotta; volcanic crags that hid the landscape. Once, we came across a collection of abandoned stone houses, camouflaged into the landscape: there was an eerie quality to the desolation that made it kind of unreal.
On the last walk, we looped round magma rocks that had been thrown up in a volcanic eruption. Every curve brought a new landscape and the final stretch ascended steeply up a gravelly cliff face.
I am always surprised by how we do the things that we think we can’t do. About how possible it is to extend the possibilities of a world by stepping over the limits you lay down. One of my many limits is high things. I’m really glad that in this instance, it didn’t get in the way –
Both sitting above the clouds and knowing that you have done something that felt impossible were pretty amazing experiences that I hope I don’t forget.