The Saturday started off rather slowly, as I dragged my half-asleep butt down to Puerto Colon to start the PADI course. Me and Faye went in , and were introduced to Jaime, Jose and Rosa. Rosa took us for our first ‘contained dive’ (shallow dive, if you need to surface in an emergency). Rosa had a few problems with the language barrier, but once we’d gone under, and English and Spanish counted for nothing, everything was just fine. Everyone was really friendly, took everything really slow, and apparently me and Faye were really good at all the procedures under the water. I had difficulty controlling my movements underwater – the waves above rolling onto the beach didn’t help much. I also had difficulty breathing through a ‘leaking regulator’ during the simulation – something I’ll need to practice more on the next dive.
Me and Faye were then subjected to a hour written exam (not as bad as it sounds – multiple choice mostly). We were taught how to use dive charts and tables to plan multiple dives. However, it soon became apparent that the place was quite busy by the afternoon, so we booked our second and third dives on wednesday, and decided to pick the course up then – this was apparently the busiest week of the year for Puerto Colon.
It took Faye and myself almost four hours to get back to the house. We walked the length of Las Americas, stopping for ice cream and a McDonalds, before reaching Los Cristianos to catch our bus. The bus arrived twenty minutes late at the wrong stop, and took off quickly, meaning we missed it. It was one hour until the next one, so we walked around a little bit, during which time my mum rang for a catch-up.
We caught the next one which took us to San Isidro, right next to a taxi rank. However, none of the taxis knew where the workshop house was – even where El Desierto was for that matter (just down the road, five minutes away). Eventually it was Sara who came to the rescue again, giving us a lift for those last few miles. I didn’t manage to get any sleep – once we got back, everyone was panicked by the preparations of the imminent pilgrim walk. I packed my largest bag full of food, camera, first aid things and a few spare clothes. After a three hour wait for the cars to take us to the walk, I stopped for a sandwich. Then suddenly we were called to the cars, so I left in a hurry, forgetting my grip gloves and my beach towel. I did, however, retrieve my one red stone from the cave, to leave it in Candelaria here in Tenerife (made sense at the time, since it was here where the whole spiritual experience had happened).
The journey took us ninety minutes to reach the drop-off point, which much like Teide was cold, and subjected to a freezing fog. We journeyed into the pitch black pine forest under the cover of bright full moonlight which silhouetted the trees above us. We met some locals rather quickly, who wanted to take us the scenic route rather quickly up and over the mountain range we had to climb. Half the group were not up the task, which quickly split the group in half – the fast and the not so fast. This annoyed the team leader, Joe, who specifically asked everyone to stay together before the walk began.
The ascent was really difficult. Hard to see, hard to continue. As the slow ones (the group which I was in) were constantly trying to find the people ahead of us, breaks were few and far between. Then, about three hours in, we all saw Mount Teide in the fog next to us, and we realized we were thousands of meters high, with altitude now becoming a problem. The climb we were on was almost equivalent to Teide itself – only we had the added task of crossing the crater rim, descending down to ground level, and then crossing the desert planes to reach Candelaria.
No doubt, this has been one of the toughest physical challenges I’ve ever faced in my life. The ascent took about five hours. It was constant, hardly no breaks at all to speak of. At the top, we were promised a party awaiting with all the local pilgrims. We got a sort-of motorway cabin, just serving water. The slow ones wanted to sleep, and the fast ones who has spent the last thirty minutes waiting for us wanted to start the descent. Tensions got high, and arguments started. Eventually, we decided to sleep for one hour on a nearby sand slope. The slope prevented most people for sleeping at all, although I managed to sleep just fine thanks to my bulky (but comfy) sleeping bag. We actually got an hour and a half asleep, as someone forget to set their alarm properly (I wasn’t complaining). I saw a shooting star before I feel asleep – the biggest and brightest one I’d ever seen. Nobody else noticed it though – clearly it was just for me.
The descent happened much faster, and I suddenly became one of the faster ones. Laura and several others were evidently struggling to get down, so I accompanied for a while, before eventually decided to just get down as fast as possible. Again, the descent took about five hours (we went down more than we went up). We walked through dry pine forests, as the sun rose in front of us, lighting up the surrounding mountains. It was beautiful.
Then, the forests peeled away, revealing a plain of volcanic ash. As we walked through this part, the ash created semi-toxic ash clouds. Pebbles kept falling into my shoes, meaning I had to stop every five minutes to empty them. I was with Marko and Andreea for the most part of this leg of the journey, before eventually descending into more forests, with a much steeper incline. My thoughts drifted to computer games at this point, as I just went to auto-pilot and kept heading down. During this time, I completely overtook everyone and ended up with Rita at the absolute forefront of the trek. We left the forest and found a tarmac road that took us straight down to ground level, and a little town where pilgrims were congregating to enjoy a beer at the local pub. Rita, myself, and the few companions who had made it quickly all enjoyed a thirty minute stop, with beers and food, sitting under the shade of trees. The ones behind us took so long, we thought they may have taken a different route down. Then they appeared after thirty minutes, completely defeated and destroyed, needing a rest. We were fully revitalized, so we offered them our seats under the tree. Then Joe pushed the whole group onward, now we’d all regrouped successfully. The slower ones barely had three minutes before being prompted onwards. I thought that was really unfair on them.
Once again, I was at the front with Rita – at least for a while anyway, until even I started to get tired. Marco, Rita, and a few others pushed on ahead at a brisk pace, whilst I followed behind a few minutes back. It became increasingly apparent that this flat desert plateau dotted with farms that we needed to cross was going take us hours to get through. It was already gone 10:00am – when the ceremony at Candelaria was set to start. Hours passed like minutes – by half twelve, we knew we’d missed it.
I arrived in Candelaria at half past one in the afternoon, with nothing but left overs from the fiesta, and a religious mass taking place. I had successfully carried the little red ‘heart’ stone with me all down the pilgrim walk, and was now supposed to place it somewhere near the church. However, despite it all, I found myself feeling that that was the wrong thing to do. The Teide Challenge had been postponed until Friday – surely the summit of Teide would be a much more relevant place to leave the stone here. I gave myself the benefit of the doubt and went down to a beach of volcanic ash, where Rita and the first arrivals were splashing around in massive waves from an incoming tide. We splashed around, and I dried in the sun (no towel). I then had some chicken and chips with a sprite in a nearby cafe – nothing special, it was a proper ‘greasy diner’ tourist spot. We were too hungry to care about gourmet at this point though. Unfortunately it took us another hour to be picked up due to confusion with the cars (again). Six of us ended up getting the bus back – I wasn’t one of them. No, I had to run down an intersection of the highway (with cars going at 90mph either side) to get to the pick up spot.
I crashed back at the house in El Desierto (which in Spanish apparently means ‘The Desert’, in case you were wondering how barren the place is). Again, I tried to sleep, but couldn’t, so I fought through it, doing a mock shoot with the newly-named ‘React Team’, and finding out some of them were camera shy. I did a half-presentation of my turtle video, which needed a lot of work doing to it. I processed half of it – I’d had four hours sleep in the past three days, whilst undertaking a 20 mile hike and having breathing lessons on the ocean floor. Some things still needed to be arranged – The React Team needed shirts for themselves to wear, but the following day was a bank holiday, so we didn’t know how we could film it it time. Faye and myself have, as aforementioned, booked all day wednesday to continue the PADI course, and as the deadline is Thursday, that means that we have until the end of Tuesday to get our work done. For me, that’s two whole videos, one of which hasn’t been started yet. Not the brightest moment of my life.
This shot was taken early on during the walk, once the fog and upper canopy
had dispersed enough to see the moon above.