It was around 15 years ago when the excursion company called ‘Rafting Bikes’ first arrived on the island of Tenerife -and my three children and I were among their first customers. After being collected from our hotel at 2pm in the afternoon the four of us boarded a 15-seated mini-bus. Attached to the back of our vehicle was a long, wrought-iron trailer, fully loaded from front to back with about a dozen mountain bikes. After calling into a few more hotels our bus was packed to bursting with fellow riders, and so we sped-off, heading for the west coast of Tenerife, where we climbed high into the hills, our host for the day, a lovely Dutch lady in her mid-twenties, kindly giving us all an insight into the island, along with an extensive history lesson about Mount Teide -the highest volcano-cum-mountain in Spain. After a short stop about halfway up the mountainside, we pushed on upwards, traversing this great cone of solid rock in hypnotic circles, before finally coming to a halt at one of the many vantage points along the way. We were now 2,200 metres (7,400 feet) above sea-level.
A second mini-bus had been following us all the way -its rear trailer likewise adorned with a dozen bikes, and its interior crammed to the brim with happy holiday-makers. At this point the bikes were removed from their respective moorings and each rider was given his own vehicle for the ride down the mountainside -a free-wheeling jaunt which would take us between 2 and 3 hours to complete. Safety helmets were the next order of the day, as each rider was fitted-up with his own personal bash-hat, along with a pair of riding gloves and a lime-green safety vest. Everyone was then asked to line-up along-side one-another, each and every one of us sitting astride our trusty-steeds, for a communal photograph, before having individual and group photos taken, which, according to our budding David Bailey, would be waiting for us by the time we reached the end of the ride at Los Cristianos Beach.
The rules of the ride were quite simple; we could all ride two-abreast if we wished to, but only until a car or bus approached us from behind, at which point the ‘rear’ mini-bus (which would be following our troupe from behind) would duly honk his horn, to whit we would all have to go into single file riding until the vehicle had passed us by -and only then could we resume our ride in pairs. (The second mini-bus driver drove at the head of the pack, in order to make sure that our pathway was clear all the way). According to our host -and lead rider, there would be NO PEDALING whatsoever, and in fact we were instructed to continue pulling-in both sets of hand-brakes every few seconds, in order to keep our speed down, and maintain our places in the pack of riders, as overtaking the lead rider was a definite no-no! And so we began our long journey to the shore-line, the gentle breeze and the fresh mountain air rejuvenating the air in our lungs and revitalizing our soles, as my daughter and I chatted freely at a steady pace, whilst keeping a beady eye on my two sons in front of us, as they zigzagged across each others pathways, the pair of them trying their uttermost to cause the other one to fall-off! At the halfway stage of the trip we reached the sleepy village of Vila Flor -the highest village in Spain, where we stopped for a spot of gentle wine-tasting (adults only)-along with sampling the delights of several types of Canarian cheeses -scrummy.
Our rather large entourage was also enlightened about the little black bugs, called cochineal, that live on cacti, as our host scratched-off a pile of them from a single cactus with a rather lethal-looking pen-knife, into a bottle of water, before shaking the container vigorously for a few seconds. Everyone watched-on in amazement as the water turned a bright pink in colour, and our host announced that this is what the drink, Campari, is made from, along with being used as a dye in strawberry and raspberry yogurts, all kinds of lipsticks and make-up products -and also for dying the colour of clothing.
Gliding through endless villages, the majority of them sitting in the middle of nowhere, and receiving a mass of frantic waves and enigmatic smiles from the many children, as they played happily in the streets, without a care in the world it seemed, made me envious of their innocence -but so happy to be a small part of their world. Throughout the entire journey we only crossed two major roads, and each time both drivers of the mini-buses had driven ahead of us, before cordoning-off both sides of the road, in order to let us glide -through the traffic without stopping. By the time we reached the beach at Los Cristianos everyone agreed what an amazing adventure it had been, as we chinked our complimentary glasses of champagne together and toasted our victory in unison, before purchasing our photos and our individual certificates, confirming our amazing achievement. Right then and there I swore that one day I would do this all over again -and I have done -many, many times.