In a dead silence, the shift of loose boards beneath my feet echoed sharply. I crunched over the rubble floor of a roofless old concrete structure, long since abandoned. Fascinated by the graffiti and curious about the original purpose of the building, I wandered further inside.
In one room, moss crept up along the pale blue tiles that covered the walls. A wooden back door, broken along the bottom was wedged open to reveal what might have been a garden space.
Tufts of green grass poked up in the middle of a room and well-established weeds were growing along the edges of each room – nature taking back its space. At the far end, two bathroom stalls, pastel-tiled, stood empty but for discarded beer cans, a plastic water jug and toilet water tanks cracked into pieces.
It was so very out of place: at the edge of a rain forest hiking trails and next to a lookout point called Pico de Ingles where trees and mountains and sea stretched out to the horizon. And while Jorge and his family waited in the car, I could have spent an hour there, stumbling over the beauty of the derelict and destroyed because I’m drawn to these places time and again: their history, the stories of the artists who use them as canvases, the contrast of the rough and rundown alongside the postcard perfect scenery.
It was Kings Day, January 6 – the first time I celebrate in Spain. After traditional exchange of presents said to be brought from The Three Kings, the traditional custard-filled Roscón de reyes fruit cake, churros and hot chocolate for breakfast with family and lunch in Bajamar, the four of us (Jorge and I and his parents) went for a little drive. The club where we ate looked over the ocean (as most places seem to do on the island) where clumps of cacti grew along the walls and the sky deep blue as the swimming pool and the sea and the painted walls of the building.
We were simply going back home to where his family lives in La Laguna, but his dad spontaneously took a left turn off that lead to an afternoon of exploring the rainforest that covers the northeast of the island where I discovered this little treasure when we parked on the side of the road to catch a glimpse from the edge of Pico del Ingles. It’s a winding drive through the fresh chilly January air, but a beautiful one and a favorite experience from this trip.
Eventually we came out at the edge of the island again, to a beach called Playa de las Teresitas (with sand imported from the Sahara) that lines the coast below the lego brick hillside houses of the San Andrés – another place to explore on a future visit (of which there will surely be many).
Earlier in the week, we took another long – almost as equally winding – drive all along the top of the island to the lava-coated northwest corner called Teno.
Along the way, we stopped to watch the ocean spray over the top of a break wall, overshadowing the tiny figures below.
From Teno, the impressive staggering cliffs of Los Gigantes a bit further south make for a stunning, mysterious view that brings to mind the setting for stories of pirate ships and mermaids.
The ocean on this side is calm, folding itself slowly inland. Turn around and walk for a minute or two in the other direction and the angry Atlantic lashes at the rocks, spraying white foam in a display of rage.
Again, we stopped for photos on our drive back to La Laguna. The landscape along the north of the island is ever changing, from the volcanic rock to to barren, cacti-covered slopes, to rolling hills and jagged mountains to the lush green rain forests on the other side.
We pass through small towns and villages, by greenhouses and banana plantations, the peak of El Teide – the volcano at the center of the island – often slipping in and out of view.
If it isn’t obvious from the photos, I can assure you that the north is a world removed from the poor reputation of the fish-and-chips tourist hot spots you see in the south.