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Tenerife's El Tanque and its Canary Islands rural charm
The rural charm of the town of El Tanque
El Tanque is as good example as any of the really rural parts of Tenerife in the Canary Islands. This is not tourist territory but represents a place where the past and present collide because the town has a bank, a garage, and shops selling modern stuff but that is about as far as it goes.
El Tanque is in the Teno area in the northwest of Tenerife and this part of the island is also known as "Isla Baja" which means low island. Much of it is covered in forests and farmland. You can easily see that El Tanque has an agricultural background and is surrounded by very green countryside.
El Tanque in Tenerife
The green woods of El Tanque in Tenerife
El Tanque has long fascinated me because it always seems shrouded in clouds when I have passed through it on the bus. This adds to its mystery and so on a sunny morning I set out to find what lies behind the streets and houses you can see from the road.
As soon as I got off the bus I noticed wild blackberries ripening at the roadside, the golden flowers of gorse and feathery ferns growing in grey rock walls. From this humble beginning I could tell I was going to enjoy El Tanque.
I made a mental note to come back here soon with a carrier bag to collect some blackberries. I love to eat them stewed, in pies, with ice-cream and they make an excellent and potent homemade wine. I even have my own recipe for bread pudding with blackberries and they give it a lovely pinkish-purple colour and a yummy fruity flavour.
I passed a walnut tree covered in the green fruit. Some were splitting open to reveal the brown nut encased inside the outer hull.
Tenerife is a great place for growing nuts it seems and I have found almonds do very well here too. You wouldn't realise this if you were judging by prices in the shops though!
The overwhelming impression I was getting of El Tanque was of greenery and growth. Up in the mountains I saw leafy forests so I took a side road, which soon became a track and led me away from the houses and passed through some farmland on the way.
Grapes and figs grow well in El Tanque as well as blackberries and so do prickly pears. I didn't see that many lizards but the ones I did come upon looked very well fed, which didn't surprise me seeing all the fruit there.
On a plot of rough land I picked a fig to take a photo and found a millipede had beaten me to it and was actually inside where it could gorge on the pink flesh. Then, just ahead from there I saw a rabbit running away but it was far too fast for me to get a picture.
I went back on the track and soon was entering an area of woodland that if it hadn't been for the occasional fig bush, the tree heather and the glossy green leaves of sorrel and Canarian bay trees, I could have been somewhere in Britain. Even the air temperature was cooler than usual on Tenerife.
Both the sorrel and the bay have medicinal properties, as does the tree heather or "brezo" as it is known in Spanish. I saw some Canarian willow trees too and they are another useful source of traditional herbal medicine.
I heard a buzzard's cry and realised that it was probably out hunting rabbits or a well-fed lizard or two. Turning a corner I looked back and there was an incredible view over El Tanque down to the sea and far in the distance I spotted the lighthouse on Punta del Casado.
Canary Pine trees
Carrying on I came into an area of pine forest. The needles were carpeting the ground and strange lichen was encrusting the branches and twigs, whilst on grey volcanic boulders and stones another form was growing.
If lichen can be found it is an indication of the purity of the air and most types will not grow if there is pollution from traffic or industry. So if you want to experience some real fresh air you know where it can be found - up in the pinewoods of El Tanque.
I spotted a baby pine growing amongst some grey rubble and just by it was another older sapling surrounded by little green ferns all around its base. To my mind it looked like a scene from some fairyland or fantasy world.
In places such as this I love to breathe deeply and to enjoy the incredible earthy and indescribable fragrance. I could smell the pine resin from the trees and cones and needles and also the moss and lichens added their delicate perfume to the air.
Then I felt a spot of rain and then another and another and knowing how fast the weather can change here and not wanting to get caught in a storm a long way from any shelter, I thought I had better head back to civilisation and a bus to take me home.
I had had a very enjoyable introduction to El Tanque, so much so that I felt I would like to get an apartment there one day. And that's my problem - every time I visit a new place here on Tenerife I think what a wonderful place it would be to live but you can't live everywhere unless you have a mobile home or a tent.
Footnote: First published in the Tenerife Sun
© 2008 Steve Andrews