volcanoes

Writing is a key way to refine my thoughts and keep a clean record of my experiences. I love composing thoughtful post ideas and choose and work on the photos that best go with the topic. However, sometimes I just want to share my thoughts, goals and the little things that make me smile on a day to day basis.

At the end of each month, I will put together a behind the scenes post in which I’ll give you a peek of my weekends, business travels, goals and favourite links.

Click here to read my previous Behind the Scenes.


On the road

Tenerife from above, Spain

August was shorter than May, June and July all combined. How is that even possible? The past month still feels like one big blur. So much beauty. So much sunshine. So much food. So much wine. Each time I return home for a few days, it becomes harder to leave. As I arrived at the airport to check in for my return and couldn’t find my passport, I felt a guilty relief. I thought that it was just meant to be.

Fortunately or not, life has other plans. We found my passport and I left Tenerife once again – but not without plenty of great memories and adventures, such as watching the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain.


Weekend scenes

The Power of Summer - Outdoor Cinema, London

Whenever I feel grumpy about London, I remind myself of the amazing things you can do on a sunny weekend in the city.

One of my summer favourites has been The Power of Summer – a pop-up food & film festival set at one of London’s coolest landmarks – Battersea Power Station (an old power station south of the Thames). After working our way through the food market, we grabbed a mojito and entered the silent cinema area, filled with colourful bean bags and set with the power station as a trendy industrial back drop.


Mantra

“I am a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it.”

– Thomas Jefferson

July goals

View from Guajara, Tenerife (Spain)

  • GMAT. August has definitely seen me struggle. While some days I thought I could totally beat it, others I felt like giving up. It just felt disheartening to spend so many hours devoted to something, only to see you fail. But there’s one valuable thing I’ve learned from this: making  mistakes is not a bad thing – it’s actually a good thing, it forces me to learn something new! I’m repeating this over and over until I breathe this new mantra.
  • Hiking. My two weeks in Tenerife were adorned with great escapes to the outdoors. Aside from watching the sun rise from the top of an active volcano, I also peaked over lava fields (picture above) and watched the sun set in between lunar landscapes. I just love volcanic landscapes!
  • Photography. I have a confession to make. I forgot to pack my camera! I think I’ve gotten so used to not carrying one that I don’t miss it. And that’s not a good thing. Instagram may do miracles, but I really want to get back to the time in which I had photo memories of my travels that I could print in large size if I wanted to.

September goals

Sunset in Tenerife, Spain

  • More GMAT. I can’t believe I’m half way through my GMAT course already! There’s still plenty of new material and revisions to do before the exam though. I aim to take my first test end of October-Mid November, so I really need to speed up during the next two months!
  • School selection. and am starting to get a better sense of what exactly I’m looking for, so it’s time to dig deeper into my top programs and develop an application strategy to describe my story. This month, I aim to narrow down my selection to 4 programs I truly love and reaching out to at least one current student or alumni.
  • Getting back to the habit of running. Can you imagine what I enjoyed even more than hiking? The lunches and dinners afterwards. Spain, I love you to bits – but these 3-course late lunches that last the entire afternoon have serious side-effects! So I want to make use of the (still) late sunsets and (occasional) rain-free evenings in London to head to the park before it’s too cold. P.S.: No. I don’t run outside in winter. I hibernate.
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Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

One of the many reasons I love to return home to Tenerife is to decompress from the 24-hour buzz of life in London and reconnect with nature. Sure, the city has plenty of beautiful parks I love – but there’s nothing that really compares to a 3-4 hour hike in the mountains or even a 1-hour stroll along a sunny coast.

In the heart of the Tenerife, lies El Teide, which at 3718 M (roughly 12,198 feet) above sea level is the highest point in Spain and also the 3rd highest volcano in the World as measured from its base on the Atlantic floor (right after Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa in Hawaii). You might be surprised to read that El Teide is still active – with its most recent eruption as late as 1909.

After a few months of regular training, I was ready to take on a new challenge: climbing Mount Teide to watch the sunrise from the highest peak in Spain.

First Section – From Montaña Blanca to the Base

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Our path began at roughly 4:00 PM the afternoon before at the car park located on km 40.3 of the TF-21 road. The track is a very easy walk that offers impressive views of the volcano and its surroundings – largely covered with pumice (a light coloured volcanic rock). After about 30 minutes, we reached a set of volcanic bombs known as the Huevos del Teide. These solidified lava balls rolled down the mountain side from the front of advancing lava flows during the volcanic eruptions.

45 minutes later, we arrived at the bottom or base of the volcano itself – where the real adventure began!

Second Section – From the Base to Refugio Altavista

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

The road we had been following throughout the past 5KM turned into a steep, narrow and rocky path (Route 7 – La Rambleta).

The ascent from the base (at roughly 2700 M) to Refugio Altavista (at 3260 M) is short in distance, but quite tough because of its slope (almost 600 M hight in roughly 2 KM). With each step, I noticed the increasing lack of oxygen – What would normally take me 30 minutes to hike, took almost double the time.

Occasionally, we were overtaken by some super-humans who probably spent every one of their holidays racing up and down volcanoes. I wasn’t there to compete though – so I walked my own pace to allow my body to adjust to the height and avoid running out of breath.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Roughly two hours on, we arrived at what would be our accommodation (Refugio Altavista) – right on time to quickly freshen up before watching the sun set over the mountains.

The Refugio Altavista consists of two buildings with a capacity of 54 people. Everybody staying in the refuge had one common goal – to reach the crater before sunrise! For this reason, the maximum stay is one night only and you asked to leave the Refuge before 8:00 AM (who stays until that late anyway?).

I was in bed by 9:45 PM.

Note: The panoramic picture above is the view from the refugio – showing the shadow of the volcano.

Third Section – From Refugio Altavista to the Crater

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

I didn’t sleep much that night. I’m not sure if it was the excitement, the altitude or the snoring (or maybe a combination of all three) – but time flew and it felt like only minutes had passed when I started to hear the first early-risers getting ready for the big climb. At 5:15 AM I slowly climbed down my bunk bed, put on my headlamp and packed my backpack.

At 6:00 AM, after a light breakfast and a strong coffee, it was time to go!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Starting at over 3200 M above sea level and having another 500 M height difference ahead of us, we calculated we’d need one and a half hours to reach the summit. I thought I’d have a tough time getting up early to go out for a challenging hike in the dark, but I was wrong – I felt like a kid on a very important mission.

The wind had picked up a bit, which made the walk in the dark even more interesting. Every now and then I could catch a flickering headlamp and hear low voices drifting from above. Sometimes, I stopped to look back just to confirm that I indeed wasn’t alone up there. 

When the sun began to rise, I was still a short walk away from the summit. I had to stop for a picture, though – the panoramic view was breathtaking.

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

One final push and I reached the summit on time for the grand opening!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

My hands were trembling (it was cold!) and my heart felt like it was going to pack up and leave. While I attempted to recover my breath, I explored the rest of the summit and found the the other side of the sunrise – the shadow of the volcano.

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

The skies began to transcend from pink to yellow. Some hikers (probably those with another long day of adventure ahead of them) began their descend. Others (me included) didn’t really want to leave at all. I could have stayed all day, if it wasn’t for the strong smell of sulphur!

Sunrise from the highest peak in Spain (Teide, Tenerife)

Fourth Section – from the Crater to the Cable car

It was only once we began to descend the crater that I could fully appreciate the lunar landscape. The trip down wasn’t easy as there was plenty of loose rock and gravel – another perfect excuse to stop to take photos.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Many hikers (me included) took the easier way back down the volcano by getting on the cable car. The first one runs at 9:00 AM, which gave me some more extra time to capture the rocky landscape.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Too soon, it was 9:00 AM and we hopped on the cable car together with another 20 glowing hikers – all of us sharing photos and experiences of that crazy time we watched the sun rise from the highest peak in Spain.

Hiking Montaña Blanca - Teide (Tenerife, Spain)

Note: while a number of enthusiastic hikers challenge themselves to reach the crater before sunrise, this is far from being the only way to go. From the Upper Station of the cable car, Route No. 10 (Telesforo Bravo) also leads to the summit. This hike, while still challenging because of the altitude and the loose rocks and gravel, is much shorter! Remember: you will need a permit to access the crater during daytime (you can request the permit here). 

Practical Information

Route: Montaña Blanca – Pico del Teide
Elevation gain uphill: 1450 m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 170 m approx.
Length: around 12 km
Duration: from Montaña Blanca to the Refugio Altavista, around 2.5 to 3.5 hrs // from Refugio Altavista to the summit between 1.5 and 2.5 hrs (depends on how you cope with altitude).
Difficulty: Moderate – Difficult (depends on your shoes and condition)
Wikiloc: Ruta Montaña Blanca-Pico Teide (does not include the descend to the cable car)
Accommodation link: Refugio Altavista

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.


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While others might study the beach possibilities, I researched the best hiking adventure in Lanzarote. And by the best, I mean one that includes lava fields and volcanoes without requiring advanced hiking skills, an excellent condition or two cars on two ends of a trail.

I chose Canldera Blanca because it was short, didn’t require alpine boots but still seemed to offer an authentic volcanic experience. And I don’t regret the choice – it was probably the easiest most rewarding hike on the island!

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

The starting point is a car park close to the tiny town of Mancha Blanca. Following the signs, we spent the first 45min or so walking through a lava field. While this part of the trail doesn’t offer any views, it’s still an interesting walk – we inspected the lava stones and glimpsed into the inside of a smaller crater (Montaña Caldereta) on our way.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Once at the bottom of Caldera Blanca, we faced a gentle diagonal climb and soon reached the top of the crater.

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Hiking Caldera Blanca in Lanzarote, Canary Islands (Spain)

Caldera Blanca, Lanzarote (Canary Islands, Spain)

We turned to the left to walk up to the summit, from which point I believe is a descent back to the bottom of the crater and I also spotted some more adventurous hikers walking round the crater in the distance. Unfortunately it became very windy and decided to return via the same route we had come up (safety comes first!).

Practical Information

Route: Caldera Blanca (round trip)
Elevation gain uphill: 300m approx.
Elevation gain downhill: 300m approx.
Length: around 7km
Duration: 3 hrs (including break)
Difficulty: Easy (closed shoes necessary)
Wikiloc: Caldera Blanca – Lanzarote (This one is the trip around the crater).

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

On a sunny day like this one, the circular route of La Caldera and El Topo in the north side of Tenerife offers some of the most impressive views of the valley and the volcano.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Starting at the Parking of La Caldera (or at the nearby bus stop) at already 1200m altitude, the path is well signalised through a yellow and white mark. There are common sections with a GR route (which you’ll recognise by the white and red mark). PR stands for pequeño recorrido (distances between 10 and 50 km) while GR stands for gran recorrido (distances over 50 km). You might want to leave the latter for a day you’ve packed to stay in a mountain hut somewhere!

Following the wide path at the beginning, you already get a chance to see one of Tenerife’s landmarks – Los Organos (meaning, literally, the organ pipes). As of landmarks, it’s probably one of the most hidden ones – only best to be seen when doing this loop trail. They are massive pillars of rock stretching about 100m – 150m high, resembling a Church’s organ pipes.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

After only about 2km, the forested trail starts to climb evenly, sometimes allowing for a gaze at the impressive volcano: El Teide, which at 3718m height is the highest mountain in Spain.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

The path climbs into a forest of laurisilva and pines. Forests of laurisilva are one of my favourites worldwide – they smell great and look magical, as if taken after a fairytale. This section is a continuous climb of about 550m height difference over around 3km.

At the top of the climb, the trail becomes narrower, with rock formations on your left and a barranco (or gorge) on your right. While most of the trail transcurs through forested paths, it occasionally brings you to these exposed cliffs. But don’t worry – usually fencing, handrails and cables are provided for safety.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Here, you can feel (and touch!) the humidity in the ground. Everything around you is a strong green.

But green landscapes are there for a reason: it rains quite often. In fact, this part of the island is often set in clouds, fog and sometimes, heavy rain (something you’ll need to take into account before starting your day hike!). We were aware of the weather predictions (95% chance of rain), but still ventured into it for two reasons: a) weather forecasts in Tenerife aren’t always right and b) we had rain capes anyway.

This was where the trail became misty.

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

Hiking La Caldera - El Topo PR TF 35 in Tenerife (Spain)

I can hardly see the team leader anymore…

Although the clouds took away some of those great views over the valley, I liked their mysterious effect. I’m also convinced that clouds bring cold colours such as greens and blues alive!

And just as the weather forecast had predicted, after the foggy clouds, there came the rain. I didn’t mind though – most of the time, it was just a refreshing drizzle (although those that started a bit later that day were caught pretty badly by a proper rain storm). Most of the time, the weather in this area is better early in the morning and gets worse around 2pm – 3pm. At that time, we were already having a massive lunch next to the fire. Talk about good timing!

Practical Information

Route: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo (circular / loop trail)
Elevation gain uphill: 777m
Elevation gain downhill: 777m
Length: 14 km
Duration: 4.5 hrs approx.
Difficulty: Moderate (steep climb and occasional narrow paths)
Wikiloc: La Caldera – Ruta del Agua – El Topo Hike

Click here to go to all my hiking adventures.

Growing up on a volcanic island, it’s hard not to be aware of volcanoes – not just when I studied their formation in geology, but every single morning when I stepped into my front garden and saw El Teide (a volcano located in the centre of Tenerife).

El Teide is not only the highest point of elevation in Spain, but also the third highest volcano on Earth. It is currently dormant (that is, inactive) and has been fairly stable since the last eruption in 1909 (with the exception of some seismic activity that was registered about 10 years ago). If it ever awakened, it would be highly dangerous because of its violent history and proximity to cities and towns on the island.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

In many parts of Tenerife, the evidence of these violent volcanic eruptions is clear; forming a surreal landscape that could be (and actually has been!) the scene of many Sci-Fi Movies throughout the years – such as Clash of the Titans and Journey to the centre of the Earth).

During my last trip home, I went to explore the lava fields created from the last eruption on the island – from San José de los Llanos to Chinyero (the site of this last eruption) and back.

We began the trail amongst the shade of pine trees, occasionally allowing us to get a distant view of El Teide.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

About an hour later, we entered the desolate lava fields that surround Chinyero and reach as far as Santiago del Teide, Garachico, Icod and Guia de Isora, through shady pine forests. The ground became a fine black gravel and, around us, a field of surreal red and black tinted rock formations.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

The combination of pine and lava fields is extravagant – the emerald-green, black and red tones against the bright blue sky make a color palette that I immediately associate to Tenerife.

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

Walking on Lava in Tenerife, Spain

To anyone that has only seen volcanoes on the news, these earth’s chimneys may seem daunting, dangerous and violent. And during (as well as shortly before) an eruption, they definitely are. However, the Canary Islands is a living example of the beauty they bring to a landscape.

If you want to read more about volcanic landscapes, I recommend you to read about my trip to Lanzarote.

Practical Information

Route: From San José de los Llanos to El Chinyero (circular)
Elevation gain uphill: 445m
Elevation gain downhill: 445m
Length: l5 km
Duration: 4 – 4.5 hrs
Difficulty: Easy
Wikiloc: San José de los Llanos – Chinyero

Have you ever walked on lava fields?