Have you ever looked closely at the east coast of Tenerife? Running from the crater wall of Teide National Park, all the way to the sea are a series of craggy ridges that carve the landscape into giant slices, bordered on each side by deep, uneven ravines. Drive the old, Carretera Sur, road above the motorway and your journey will be punctuated by a series of bridges that span these ravines, or barrancos as they’re known.
Before those bridges were built, travel between Santa Cruz and Adeje was a dangerous and tortuous affair involving scaling and descending barrancos on old, Camino Real trails that were prone to erosion and landslide. For the people who inhabit the medianías – the midlands – between north and south, it meant a life of isolation, even from their nearest neighbours.
Prior to 1873 the Carretera Sur road ran from Santa Cruz to the Barranco de Aroba above the coast of Las Caletillas. In order to transport the burgeoning cash crop of cochineal, the Bridge of Barranco de Aroba was constructed in 1873 to join Candelaria to the ‘new’ road and had a 7 metre span across the ravine. Over the next two years, the Carretera Sur was extended to Guimar but could get no further due to the imposing presence of Barranco de Guaza. The Bridge of Barranco de Guaza took four years to complete, its progress badly impaired by damage in the storms of December 1879, but when it was finished it took the road beyond Guimar which became ‘the gateway to the south’.
At the end of the 19th century, the most ambitious and expensive piece of bridge building began, spanning the Herques barranco. Continually dogged by setbacks and proving to be a challenge of design and construction, the Bridge of Barranco de Herques in Fasnia has a 16 metres span and cost a whopping great 93,207.24 pesetas (around €56) to build.
During World War I the Carretera Sur made it as far as the village of Icor, abandoned for many years after the construction of the motorway took traffic and trade away from the medianías but recently seeing a revival in fortunes, ironically, by those looking to escape the traffic. It wasn’t until the late 1920s that the road was able to extend further with the construction of the Bridge of the Barranco de El Río with its three arches.
Conflict once again disrupted the flow of supplies as the Spanish Civil War broke out and the construction of the first bridge to use reinforced concrete, the Bridge of the Barranco de Orchilla which joined the municipalities of Granadilla and San Miguel de Abona, suffered endless delays. But its completion finally allowed the north and south of Tenerife to connect, safely and efficiently, and brought new life and social change to the folks who lived in the middle.
Today the TF1 motorway takes visitors quickly and easily from one end of the island to the other, oblivious to the road and its bridges that span five canyons and took more than half a century to construct. But you can still travel the old Carretera Sur and see the bridges that brought life to the communities whose hamlets and towns straddle its course; we call it The Forgotten Road.
Category : about tenerife
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