Day 161 (6.23.17): Masca Gorge(ous)

Friday we went for an extraordinary hike down and through a massive gorge that runs from the small mountain village of Masca down to the ocean.

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We had actually tried to do the hike on Wednesday, but remarkably had been stymied by traffic. Our local guides (Teresa and Diego) assured us that traffic is normally unheard of on the island, but apparently a tourist decided to drive the wrong way down the main highway, causing no small amount of trouble.  (The driver *had* to be British, right?)

As a result, we changed plans on Wednesday and went to Siam Park, reputedly the best water park in the world.

Siam Park

I’m not quite sure what got into Cassie and me, but we all had a great time at the park. The rides were super fun, and one ride took us through a tunnel with  live sharks swimming in a tank above us.

Friday we tried again for Masca Gorge, and this time it was smooth sailing on the highway.  Our plan was to hike down the gorge, so we started by driving to the coastal town of Los Gigantes, where we dropped off the cars.

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Once again, I’m not sure what was going on with Cassie and me.  I’m starting to sense a trend.  From Los Gigantes, we took a taxi up to Masca village, which can only be reached by a narrow winding road that passes through volcanic peaks, with the views likewise piquing our excitement.  Once in Masca, we began our descent through the gorge.

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The trail descended quickly, through the bizarre vegetation that could survive in the dry, volcanic environment.  We were shocked to see some of the same plants in the gorge that we saw in the microclimate at St. Michael’s Mount in Cornwall.

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Soon, the sides of the gorge grew steeper, and in some places we could see goats high on the cliff side.

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The spectacular scale of the gorge is impossible to convey in photographs.  As we hiked, we were fascinated by the bizarre sharp shapes of the massive rocks, a clear indication of their volcanic origin.

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Soon, the path started following a small stream.  Rather than the stream creating the gorge, it looked like the process went the other way, with the steep sides of the gorge collecting enough water to make a small stream.

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In some places, the path plunged straight through the rock, much to the delight of the kids.  (By my count, by this point we have been to caves in Switzerland, Germany, the UK (quite a few).  It’s good to add Spain to the list!)

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The kids climbed the rocks a bit here and there.  I think they may be part mountain goat.

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Around noon, we stopped for a picnic lunch.  We were all hungry, and in need of an energy boost.  Although we were hiking down, it was still hard work given the steep slope and the treacherous rocks.  We were also starting to feel the heat.  With sun baking down, it was easy to imagine the gorge’s volcanic roots.

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Recharged, we set off.  In some respects, the gorge grew even more rugged and more beautiful.

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In some places, we could see the remnants of lava tubes, including caves up high in the cliffs and the large archway below.

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We were tempted to climb up the cliffs to explore the formations, but we had to keep moving.  A boat was scheduled to meet us at the bottom of the gorge, where we would get in kayaks and paddle back to Los Gigantes.  There is no road or town at where the gorge meets the sea, so that if we missed our boat, we would be in trouble.  The clock was ticking, so we pressed on.

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Then, disaster struck!  The heat and exertion finally caught up to Julie.  On a loose and uneven patch of rock, she lost her footing and slid onto her leg.  Here’s a PG-13 version of what it looked like a few days later after it had started to heal.  ÂˇPobrecita!

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The good news is that Julie broke her fall with her hands, so that she didn’t break any bones or go tumbling off a cliff.  The bad news is that she broke her fall with her phone, shattering the screen.  We think Julie had a little heat exhaustion and dehydration, leading to her losing her balance.  Between the heat and the shattered phone, our superstar photographer was temporarily out of commission.  Fortunately, we were close to the end of the gorge, and though her leg was hurting her Julie gritted her teeth and trudged on.

Soon, we reached the rocky beach.  We all stripped to our bathing suits and enjoyed cooling off for a few minutes before the boat arrived towing the kayaks.  The kayak trip to Los Gigantes took about an hour, and halfway there we stopped to snorkel in the deep clear water, where we saw lots of small blue fish and dark sea urchins.  It was the first time snorkeling for Lydie and Cassie, and they loved it.  All too soon, we were back at the cars.  We ended the day with local seafood and a bottle of wine from Vilaflor, the village where we had eaten just a few days ago.

Sure, the gorge took more than a little skin from Julie and claimed the life of one iPhone screen.  But Julie will heal, screens can be replaced, and we captured some priceless memories.  It was another great adventure.

-Will

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