As the plane slowly circled around Tenerife on its final approach to the runway, the three of us piled up and around the window, discussing the island’s peculiar shape. ─ “It looks like a guitar”, I ventured first, taking a cue from the music coming out of the headphones of a nearby passenger. ─ “It’s obviously a fried egg. By the way, is it lunch time already?”, contributed a hungry Jules. ─ “No no no, everybody knows that’s a croco-chicken!”, added Gabriel, putting the discussion to rest with a weird yet oddly accurate zoomorphism.
Tenerife’s lumpy topography, which quickly leaps from long sandy beaches to Spain’s highest mountain, would be the perfect testing grounds for our developing strategy to deal with our equally uneven preferences. “Sometimes together, sometimes apart, never alone”, we call it.
One: The mountain
─ “Who wants to spend all day hiking up and down mountains?”, I asked. Jules pretended not to hear, but Gabriel was curious. ─ “Will there be croco-chickens?”, he inquired enthusiastically, before quickly losing interest: “No Gabriel, fortunately those only exist inside your head”.
It would be a party of one, then.
My initial plan was to hike up Mount Teide, Spain’s highest peak, but the shorts and running shoes I had managed to cram into the carry-on luggage were no match for the pinnacle’s rough terrain and chilly temperatures. The alternative was to explore the Los Silos hills, a criss-cross of paths atop ravines and underground water canals*.
Some will cringe at the thought of spending a day (or five, or ten) alone in the woods, but there is an argument to be made for the joy of being lost (mostly figuratively, occasionally also literally). With nobody else around, there are only two things left to do: to explore the surroundings, or to explore one’s own thoughts.
These two ventures seem to be exclusive, rather than complementary. Looking back at the pictures from that day, I can remember vividly where I took them, but not what I was thinking when I took them. I can also recall particular thoughts from that day – ideas and doubts, hopes and concerns – but I am not able to place them. Heisenberg (the theoretical physicist, not the meth dealer) would be proud.
Two: The auditorium
─ “Why can’t we stay at the park the whole day?”, asked a crestfallen Gabriel while dragging his feet behind us. We were on our way to visit Tenerife’s auditorium, a plan for which only two thirds of our caucus had voted favourably.
As we approached Tenerife’s auditorium, seemingly a sea creature that has just come out of the Atlantic Ocean and is approaching the city centre with dubious intentions, we could recognise the same familiar characteristics that often turn these grandiose projects into polarising art works.
The scale is striking, yet dwarfs anything around it. The architecture is beautiful to our eyes, however opinions will undoubtfully diverge. And it that has become one the most recognizable landmarks in the Canary Islands, but took over 30 years and 70 million euros to bring to fruition.
The mastermind behind the auditorium is no other than Santiago Calatrava, who we have previously described as holding the debatable honour of being both Spain’s most famous and infamous architect. One of his most well-known creations – the WTC station in New York – was once described as a “kitsch stegosaurus”, a far cry from the author’s intended “bird flying from the hands of a child”. Gabriel, a dinosaur connoisseur, rejected any similarities to a stegosaurus but also expressed concerns of having such a bird flying from his hands.
Three: The beach
After the mountain of dissent and the democratically supported yet contested decision to visit the auditorium, there was finally an activity that enjoyed widespread support from all party members.
As we walked along the shore, on a peppered mix of gold and black sand, we debated whether the beach was nicer in the summer or in the winter. The consensus leaned to the latter, as the absence of crowds outweighed the shortage of heat. Sand in nether regions and the lack of a middle ground between scalding sand and freezing water were also brought forward as arguments against the former.
Sometimes together? Check. Sometimes apart? Check. Alone? Never.
* Some of these canals are notoriously dangerous and made unfortunate international headlines in 2007, after a group of six hikers got lost and died there. Please heed the warnings and never attempt to get inside the tunnels that have been sealed off.