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Walking in a Canary Islands Land of Wheat
Land of Wheat photos
Seasonal walking through the Land of Wheat in Tenerife
Unlike in the UK, December in Tenerife in the Canary Islands, is still often sunny and warm by day and ideal for long country walks. I had been thinking of investigating Tierra del Trigo, a village I haven't heard much about but a place that has intrigued me. The signpost for it has often caught my eye when I have been on the bus passing through El Tanque and a rather mysterious looking tower you can see from the road was enough to make we want to find out more.
By the bus stop in El Tanque I saw two specimens of the strikingly unmistakable Norfolk Island Pine (Araucaria excelsa) and was thinking to myself what great Christmas trees they make. This evergreen pine actually comes from an island near Australia not Norfolk in the UK but it seems to do well here on Tenerife.
Land of Wheat
I wondered if I would find any more signs of the festive season in my destination, which the road sign said was just 3km ahead. The grey-walled tower on a green hillside dominates the view as you walk towards Tierra del Trigo, which in Spanish means "Land of the Wheat."
I had seen this tower before from the other side from way down below in Los Silos and apparently it was once used as a lookout point from which pirates could be spotted. There were no pirates landing on Tenerife now and the tower has been abandoned it seems, although a Buzzard (Buteo buteo) seemed to like the place and was circling around it in the blue sky above.
Eventually I reached a pathway towards the tower that took me up through a small wood of Canary Pines (Pinus canariensis) and Blue Gum trees (Eucalyptus globulus). The resin from the trunks and the pine needles on the ground smelled so good and I couldn't help but add to the pleasure by crushing a gum tree leaf and inhaling the invigorating aroma.
Down below the hill the tower stands on is a most amazing view down to the coast and the mountain between Los Silos and Buenavista. And a winding road leads downhill towards Tierra del Trigo but before I carried on walking I stopped to admire some dainty Monanthes brachycaulon succulents growing in the rocks.
Eventually I reached the village but couldn't see any wheat fields anywhere, although I suppose it is the wrong time of year. I couldn't see any signs of Christmas either and concluded I was possibly a bit too early for them to have done any decorations in Tierra del Trigo.
I found the road going down towards the coast and it was a steep one. A sign warned that it was a dangerous road due to falling rocks and it certainly looked a dangerous one for motorists with its hairpin bends. I had actually read on a cycling website that this road is considered as one of the steepest in the world, and I could easily believe it.
There were some beautiful groves of Canary Palms (Phoenix canariensis) towering majestically among the rocky cliffs and green shrubbery, and along the roadside I also spotted plenty of small trees and bushes of Palo de Sangre (Marcetella moquiniana).
This unusual Canary Island endemic plant's name means "Stick of Blood," due to the reddish hairs that coat the upper branches.
This member of the rose family is said to be rare but there was loads of it along the road out of Tierra del Trigo and in some places it was even sprouting from cracks in the edges of the road surface. Not exactly a Christmas tree but at least the red colour was right and it seemed a suitable gift for me to have found it at last after seeing the plant in books.
I carried on down the road and was thinking to myself that I was very glad I was going downhill and not up. The Tierra del Trigo road is on a par with the Masca road for steepness and bends! Eventually I reached the banana plantations and the flatter ground of the Los Silos area and although I had had a most enjoyable walk I was glad to be back where walking was easy.
My luck was in because the bus arrived straight away taking me back to Icod but before I headed for home I stopped to admire some Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima). With their bright red bracts this plant has become known worldwide as a sign of the season of goodwill.
But whereas back in Britain they are grown as pot plants here in Tenerife they form small trees and large bushes and brighten up the roadsides with a real blaze of seasonal colour. Poinsettias must be Mother Nature's way of saying Happy Christmas!
Footnote: Originally published in The Western Sun, December 2007.
© 2008 Steve Andrews