There is a road on this island that strikes fear into the heart of most any cyclist who has faced the beast, and is shrouded in an aura of reverence and apprehension for all those who have yet to answer the call.
The Valley of the Tears. The ‘VOTT’. El Valle de los Lagrimas. Das Tal der Tränen. Death Valley. Its monikers are many, with the inauspicious road designation GC-606, but to the locals, it is simply called Carrizal de Tejeda.
Regardless, our objective today lay in an alluring alternative way through this harrowed valley. Our gravel exploits last year had opened up a new dimension for us on this island, and suddenly poring over maps revealed so much new potential.
It appeared that there was a connection linking Presa de las Niñas to the valley of the Tears, and today we would set out to chart this by gravel bike.
None of our adventures would be complete without a characteristically late start, but by 10:30 we had put rubber to tarmac, making our way from Maspalomas along the coast to El Pajar, and up the popular Soria climb, sweat not long breaking.
Our first gravel sector of the day was to be the connection from the ‘dead end’ of the GC-505, up to the goat farm near Presa de las Niñas. We had known about this route for years, even hearing of people going there on road bikes, so we weren’t too concerned about any challenge this might pose. Besides, the Spring was pulling out aaaaaaalll the stops, colours blooming and popping under the bright sunlight, the replenished Presa de Soria glistening. However, the rains of early 2021 that had filled the reservoir and fuelled the blossom, had also evidently taken some toll on the trail: loose, gullied and quite eroded, we found ourselves walking a lot more than we had anticipated.. !
Already during this sector, given the late start and slow progress, I said to Ewa that we should definitely NOT do the full planned route… Anyhoo, we scoffed some deeeelicious ‘socca’ treats (Ewa’s version of the Nicoise chickpea pancake, this time with fruity & peanut-buttery layering: om nom nom !!!!), and continued over a river crossing at some smooth exposed rock slabs, past a house in the middle of nowhere that actually had a car parked outside (not a beginner driver then.. !), and eventually summited the climb near the goat farm on the GC-605 Presa de las Niñas road.
From here our route would go a little more into the unknown, as we first headed direction Mogan, but then took another gravel turn to the right, leading us up a steep but steady, smooth-surfaced gravel road leading towards the village of El Juncal. We climbed through the sparse forest, thereafter coming onto a swooshy descent into the next barranco (valley), again surprised to see a lone house along the way, a pretty one that we named ‘Teide view’, for its breathtaking perspective on our towering neighbouring peak.
At the foot of this trail, we rolled mere metres on tarmac near El Juncal, before heading towards what was to be the beginning of the ‘GraVoTT’ trail. This seamless transition removed the rational moment of assessing the situation and planning ahead, but we both didn’t really think to go the whole way along the route, just to see the start of it perhaps, until the first obstacle..
Well, proverbial forbidden apples weren’t long coming our way, the babbling of the brook below us drawing us in, as the gorge in front of us started to crack open in the most breathtaking reveal. Our trail was already beginning to narrow, and as it started to teeter on the edge of the ravine, all at once the towering rocks either side of us became the magnificent frame of a panorama centered on the distant snow-capped Mt Teide of Tenerife. Awed, we savoured the spectacle of the moment, and slowly began to take the pause it had given us to think on how to proceed.
It was around 15:30 by now, and, teeth well into that temptuous apple, Ewa convinced me to go on despite the late hour, by reasoning that we could spend the night in La Aldea- there was an Airbnb we knew there and we would sort something out despite not having anything with us except the cycling clothing on our backs.
So we started down the trail, the ‘GraVotT’, or as we came to know, the ‘Taiguy’ trail. We got off our bikes very quickly, and this time not only to admire the views that would not stop blowing our minds to smithereeeens, but also as we had no intention of tumbling down the hillsides of the narrow, overgrown and incredibly steep path.
It was to be a long time before we rode any distance again, but what a journey our mid-bike hike took us through..
From the glorious start high in the gorge, descending (tentatively) down tightly coiled, loose and rocky hairpins, passing waterfalls, over several crossings of the river that carved all this splendour, through marvellously lush and vibrant greens, past a tiny farm and vegetable patch- devoid of its hermetic proprietor, hauling our bikes in an unwieldy bushwack escapade, climbing over rocks and slipping down wet and slimey surfaces that I would never have believed could lie so close to the dry and often scorchingly hot valley of the tears that was our destination.
It was slow going, our bikes quite the hinderance on our tiring arms as we tried to balance on the trail that was barely a footprint wide in places, with sheer drop offs in many parts, and with the distance remaining a constant uncertainty, the light ever lowering.
Here we were, so close to the valley of the tears, yet not recognising aaaanything- a completely new gorge, a completely new adventure, so totally isolated and far from all hints of civilisation. Hours passed, our legs holding up out of necesisty, until eventually, yes.. ! A stony hut.. ! A building of sorts.. ! It was abandoned and uninhabited, but nonetheless, it foretold a greater level of human activity, an easier access, perchance a road..! Sure enough, the trail started to widen, and eventually even became a concreted path: however still at what must have been over 30% gradient downhill .. ! And finally we saw some humans again! Locals who had just collected jugs of water from the river, and were thoroughly bemused when we told them where we had come from.. But yes, it wasn’t too far to the main road they told us.. ! Woohoo !
We could finally sit on our saddles again, crawling down the eeeextremely steep narrow descent at first, before going equally slowly up the steep gravel trail that would allow us to finally join the infamous GC-606. The lowing light was already leaning into a touch of gold as we ascended up through avenues of yellow flowering fields, relishing every second of this glorious day, until all of a sudden, there it was: tarmac. We had made it, the valley of the tears was reached!
When I say made it.. I mean we were still either a 20km descent from La Aldea de San Nicolas and a potential night time stop.. Oorr…. as we had started to discuss.. 80km from home .. ! We had brought a good light with us, but nevertheless set our minds to making use of the last of the daylight, yet not without being struck by the beautiful rich blue hues of the reservoirs in this evening light; yet another spectacle that looks so different in the normal daylight hours when you might pass here on a more sensibly planned ride.. !
We reached La Aldea and found one café was still open, and yes they would make us a delicious bocadillo ‘para llevar’; phew ! Quick pit stop complete and we headed for the long steep climb back towards Maspalomas, the light diminishing with every pedal stroke. This climb is a bit of a slog at the best of times, but even more so with gravel tyres, post-hike tired legs, and coming up to what should be dinner time .. !
The marvellous descent past the Azulejos was in complete darkness, but the light we had was outdoing itself, yet the next concern became whether we would manage 22:00 covid curfew that was in place at the time.. ! It was a wonderful ride along the coast under the tranquility of night, such a bustling place dormant, Amadores beach glowing under artificial lights instead of the usual sun as we pushed on towards home.
We ticked off the familiar coastal beaches one by one, hurrying to finally reach home 15 minutes or so before curfew- whhhaaat aaa daay out ..!!!
Would we recommend this route? Well, to be honest, nothing with wheels has much business on the ‘GraVotT’ trail, but it was quite the adventure…
This bit along our way, from the end of the Soria road (GC-505), up to Presa de las Niñas, is tough on a gravel bike (at least in the eroded condition we found it in Feb 2021..!), but beautiful and very much recommended, some hike-a-bike probably included for most gravel bicyclers. The connection from the GC-605 (Presa de las Niñas) to El Juncal is perfect for a gravel bike 🙂
Insta reels of the day
#gravelgrancanaria #gravelcanarias #gravelride #gravelepic
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