Cup Of Tea?

Entry by: Alex Fleet

23rd January 2015
Teide, Tea and Theresa

A week ago I had been far below, looking up at the peak where I now stood.

Looking up from the deck of the square-rigged sailing ship at the conical peak rearing clear above the green slopes of Tenerife, it had appeared almost to be some sort of film backdrop, too perfect to be real.

We had slipped through the waves for another few days, blue seas below and acres of white canvas above us, then finally we docked at Santa Cruz de Tenerife at the end of the holiday.

While I was out in the Canary Islands, I had booked another week following the sailing and so I made my way to a small apartment in a back street in a village near Puerto de la Cruz.

A couple of days later found me on a local bus struggling up the hill out of Puerto, rubbing shoulders with the local schoolkids and a bunch of guys with mountain bikes they had stowed beneath us in the hold of the bus.

We hair-pinned slowly up the mountainside, the flats of the town thinning out, then the houses of the suburbs thinning out, then the trees thinning out and then finally everything thinning out until there was nothing but bare, cracked rock in a lunar landscape.

The bus lurched to a stop at a small café in the middle of nowhere and the bikers heaved their steeds out and wandered off, laughing and joking.

The schoolkids had scrambled off the bus long ago, along with now most of the passengers except a dozen or so going to the end of the route: the final stage in my ascent of Mount Teidi, claimed to be the highest mountain in Spain - albeit not on the mainland.

However I was not an intrepid climber with ropes and pitons: in fact I had never climbed a mountain, except for a hike up Snowdon. Mount Teidi has a cable car which takes visitors nearly to the top of the peak. Cheating, really.

Before I went to the ticket office though, I just had to explore this incredible landscape. It was just like something out of a wild-west movie - in fact cowboy films and space-type films had been shot here.

I walked off down the road, the sun high in the sky, blasting down on me, its heat beating off the rocks around me, just like a proper desert.

I was in the bottom of a shallow crater, miles across, its sheer sides shimmering in the heat and the distance. Cicadas cricked their music, but apart from that, there was no noise except for the silent heat. Faintly, I could smell the tarmac from the road, quietly beginning to melt.

I walked for an hour out, then back again and by that time I was roasted.

The cable car was modern, glass and as we rose higher up the mountain the view opened out even more.

I stepped out with the rest of the occupants I had been squeezed up against the glass with: and it was cold. Unbelievable. We had gone from one climate to another in just a few minutes.

I walked along the path and mused that in places it looked strangely smooth: I slipped. It was sheet ice.

After a couple of minutes, on went the windproof jacket I had brought along but didn't think I would need.

The view was worth it.

We were above the clouds. The other islands peeped their distant peaks above the whiteness.

Gran Canaria to the east. La Gomera to the west. Other islands further out.

It was like flying.

Strangely, I felt as if I had been flying: I seemed to be out of breath. This was a little worrying. Was I about to have a heart attack? No, dismiss that thought. Strange though.

Above, just a clear blue sky and the sun, now unfelt in the chillness, the air still, today, even this high up.

Below me I could see the vast crater below our main peak. Diagrams on display boards explained how it was formed.

In sheer awe, I felt a sudden urge. One of my strange characteristics I'm afraid.

Nothing for it.

Out came the kettle and the portable gas cooker together with my bottle of water.

Tea! Always the thing to finish off the perfect day. Or any sort of day in fact.

I sat myself on a cold rock, sitting on my rucksack and chewed on a flapjack.

The water quickly boiled and I tipped it over the teabag in my cup. And had a feeling of being watched.

I looked up: a girl, early twenties, was half smiling at me, watching. I smiled back. Raised my cup to her.

I almost spluttered. Oh. Not so good. The tea's lukewarm. It must be cold up here. I looked at it in disgust. Looked at the girl - she was laughing at me.

"You must be English!" she chuckled. "No-one else would be making a cup of tea on a mountain!"

I couldn't deny it.

We laughed and chatted. And it turned out she, too, had been sailing, on the same ship, the week before I had.

We looked, and through a gap in the clouds we fancied we could see her, tiny white sails forging across the sea, miles away.

Theresa, the girl, was staying with relatives.

After a while, we went back down in the cable car, to get warm again.

Then, later, back to where she was staying.

To have a Proper Cup of Tea, not one that boiled at a bizarrely low temperature just because we were high up. And to get my breath back.