Monday, November 27, 2006

Canaries & Caving

Teno Caves

Asking someone whose claustrophobia is so acute that she doesn't even like to close bathroom doors, about caving is probably not going to the best source on the subject, however, since it was suggested that I may be able to help and today, I received another enquiry about caving in the Canaries, I'll do my best to point anyone interested in this activity in the right direction.

It seems logical that there must be a whole world of caves to explore in the Canary Islands, since the aboriginal inhabitants, the Guanches, preferred dwelling in caves. Cave homes still exist in some areas and had remained in use in many other places until the relatively recent past as this photo - Cuevas-vivienda en Tenerife - shows.

The typical situation was to use the caves on the sunny side of a valley for habitation caves and those on the shaded side for burial caves. Often, but not always bodies were mummified. In 1526, a man named Thomas Nichols explored a cave containing approximately four hundred mummies. In 1770, a cave containing 1,000 mummies was located between the towns of Arico and Guimar in Tenerife and, in 1773, a smaller mummy cave was found.

These volcanic isles have no karst caves, but several lava tubes and a huge amount of mostly artificial volcanic caves. Whilst some caves have been turned into tourist theme parks, many others are not accessible to the public, so expert guidance should be sought before rushing here to explore their murky depths.

Caves in Tenerife

There are many caves around the area of Güímar, such as, "The Cueva del Cañizo, an aboriginal cave that was the summer residence of the Menceyes (Chiefs) of Güimar, is in the ravine. It gets its name from the network of tubes inside it."

Once thought to be the largest volcanic cave in the world, is the extraordinary Cueva del Viento (Cave of the Wind), near Icod de los Vinos in Tenerife. There are guided tours available.

One of the most famous caves of Tenerife, writes Jochen Duckeck at ShowCaveBlog, is the Cueva de Bencomo in La Orotava. Although this was once the residence of the Guanche "Mencey" (Chief) Bencomo and has been declared a cultural interest site, he says, "Currently the cave is in use as a goat pen and any content of archeological interest is protected by a 40cm thick layer of packed goat excrement."