Dangling from coils of rope, workmen in hard hats drilled into the cliff face as curious tourists pressed to see through the metal fence sealing off Los Guios beach in Los Gigantes on Tenerife’s west coast. It looked like a military assault course but it is preparation for the planned Easter re-opening of this most beautiful and iconic beach, closed after 2 sun bathers were killed in November 2009 by a rock slide.
Clasped in the palm of the giant cliffs that give Los Gigantes its name, the beach owed much of its popularity to the power and splendour of the imposing cliff face. The black volcanic sand was well populated on the afternoon of All Saints Day, 1 November 2009 when a 40 metre stretch of cliff crumbled sending down a cascade of rocks. Despite the best efforts of emergency services and volunteers (read our eye witness account) local lady Vanesa Arias and holiday maker Marion O’Hara died.
It’s been an emotional 15 months for the tight knit community – inquests, recriminations and a still to be resolved court case against the local mayor and 2 staff, have all kept the wounds raw. Finally after council battles with the coastal authority for permission and funding, it all looks on course to welcome Easter holiday makers back onto the sand.
Santiago del Teide council have a 500,000 euro budget for the work that started a month ago. It’s tricky stuff holding back the forces of nature but a team of experts have swung into action. Parts of the cliff have been sprayed with liquid cement and iron support poles have been driven into the cliff face at points 4 and 9 metres high to further strengthen it. Special meshing shipped in from Santander has been draped over the rocks to contain any small trickles of rock and dust.
The workmen will have been too busy to appreciate the views from their lofty perches but even on the slightly cloudy day of my visit the marina just behind the beach was bobbing with activity and the island of La Gomera loomed large in the distance. A cage lowered from a crane allowed the leverage to power poles into the sturdy rock, the abundant local bird life must have found it all very bizarre but they weren’t staying too far away.
There are plans to extend the beach further along the cliff face once funding is found to ensure that area too is suitably re-enforced. In my days on the west coast Los Guios beach was a regular swimming haunt of mine, it will be good to see it teaming with activity again. There will always be painful memories of the tragic rock fall but hopefully the pleasure given to local families and tourists once again enjoying nature’s bounty will be a fitting memorial.