Some days here you set out with one thing in mind and it turns into something quite different, or it leads to another thing quite unexpectedly, so broad is the medley of lifestyles which rub along together in this small space in the Atlantic.
When Maria and I set out to take the photos of the floral crosses I wrote about the other day, I had suggested that we come back by an indirect route, because I wanted to take a look at Barranco Orchilla. I’d seen an amazing photo
of it on the internet recently, and I wanted to see how difficult or even possible it was for walking. To my shame I should explain it’s at the most 15 minutes drive from my home, I’ve driven over it countless times, but not fully absorbed before just how beautiful it is.
The picture I’d seen was an aerial photo of this bridge, which, I can promise you, looked even more stunning than it does in my photo. Right now, like all of the south of the island it’s much drier and browner than late spring would usually find it. We’d gone to Granadilla de Abona early to catch the light (we hoped!) so it was only mid-morning when we set off back, after being side tracked for a while by a pretty cross in the hamlet of Charco del Pino. It’s hard to take in the depth and drama of those craggy ravine walls as you drive over the bridge, so we pulled in at the first chance, which was just over the other side. We’d driven from right to left of this picture. As soon as we spotted a space by the roadside we stopped and yanked out the cameras. It turned out to be an unmade road, so we wandered down to get the best view.
What opened up before us, as we turned a corner, were the views above and below to one side and the other. Utterly spectacular cliffs, even in drought conditions, sporting tree and plant life on their sheer sides. Though we could see traffic crossing the bridge from time to time the silence which enveloped us was broken only by fragmented bird song, and a lazy peace hung in the air, like a lazy summer Sunday afternoon.
To our right the ravine widened and flattened out, as it meandered its way down to the ocean, and we could see agricultural buildings poised on the top of its sides as if ready to tumble down to its depths. Strolling back to the car, we noticed a wooden sign which read Queseria (a place which makes and sells cheese). This seemed way too good to miss, it was turning into one of those days I mentioned, you see. There had been the crosses and the ravine, some unexpected photo ops and clear, blue skies, this was clearly another path we were meant to follow.
Arriving, we realized that the buildings we’d seen, seemingly in imminent danger of tumbling down into the valley floor, had been this finca. Whenever I go to somewhere like this, I time travel straight back to my granddad’s market garden sixty years ago and two thousand miles away. There is the same ramshackle disorder; the piling in the corner of old bits of wood or wire or pipe “just in case” they might be useful; the outside tap for water; the dusty dog, tied up but wagging its dusty tail in greeting. Here a couple of baby goats huddled in a corner too, they weren’t in my granddad’s place, nor was the chugging of a small tractor which entered the farmyard at the same time we did from the other direction. Granddad’s tools certainly weren’t mechanized.
We enquired about buying cheese, and the owner was summoned. He greeted us in that cautious but not unfriendly way that country people often do, perhaps surprised to see a couple of women turn up without warning, perhaps wary of strangers in general, and invited us to follow him as he went to see if any remained, explaining that because it was Saturday it was possible there was none, because their produce is taken to sell at the local farmers’ market in San Miguel de Abona, which happens over weekends. Happily for us he found a tray.
Realizing that we wanted to buy one, and weren’t simply being nosy, he willingly answered our questions about how the cheese was produced, having a nice old rant about the EU regulations, as cheesemakers Europe-wide like to do – and not without justification. He pulled back the cover on this vat to show me the morning’s milk which was sitting and waiting to curdle, and begin the process of becoming cheese.
Goats’ cheese is probably one of the very first dairy products ever made, long before man thought of utilizing cattle, and the Berber-descended Guanches, who first inhabited these islands are known to have kept them, so in Tenerife it has a long history.
Goats, of course, climb to ridiculous heights in search of a choice morsel, and will, famously, eat just about anything if left to it. They are survivors, and the perfect animal to farm in this rugged landscape, where, even in the lusher north, the gradients would be impossible for other animals to scale. There is hardly any pasture land on any of the islands. This flock was penned in, but roaming free, that’s the other nice thing about goat products, they’re not factory farmed.
Clutching our cheese we wound our way back up to the main road, and home, where we divided it in half. I had some for breakfast the next morning, drizzled with just a smidgen of honey, and I can only tell you that it was the freshest taste of just about anything I’ve ever had. At this stage I should admit that I’m not hugely fond of queso blanco, the freshest form of this cheese. I prefer it cured or semi-cured, with a stronger taste and firmer texture, and apparently on this farm they do smoke and cure cheeses too. That said, if it was always like this I would like it this way just as much!
Let’s just backtrack a minute from that Sunday morning breakfast, though, because there is just a wee cheesy tidbit more. This Saturday was the same Saturday as the Supermoon, and after chilling for the afternoon, Maria and Colleen and I spent the evening chasing the moon up and down the Médano coast, and eventually sank onto the terrace of a local bar in need of refreshment and a little sustenance. Maybe it was thinking about the morning’s wee adventure that made me order the goats’ cheese…….this time, grilled and served with a local mojo sauce, perfect way to end an unexpected and fascinating day!
I can’t, hand on heart, say it was a “typical” day, but it certainly wasn’t that unusual by standards here, so perhaps you can understand why, despite downsides (and there ARE downsides!) I just love living here.