EL HIERRO 16th-18th Jan 2015


A mercifully short days hike today after what I consider to be the Herculean efforts of yesterday. In fact I could have had a couple of extra hours in bed I overestimated the time needed so much.
Still when I got out to where I had finished last night I was glad I hadn’t camped. It was still in the cloud and cold and wet.
I started off through a kind of forest park and then continued slowly downhill on old cobbled and sandy tracks.


It really was as if I was on a Sunday walk at home with muddy boreens and Friesian cows.

The stone walls were coated in signs of clinging damp.


The way was lined with plants both familiar from home like brambles, bracken willow and lush clover and also more exotic species that differentiated it from Ireland.


There was agave, giant cistus(?),heather trees, avocado, eucalyptus and geranium hedges. A host of other plants I don’t know the name of but am sure I’ve seen them in pots in garden centres with expensive labels attached.
I stayed up In the mist until back down in Valverde.


The path down to the ferry port was the old road where all goods arriving or leaving the island would have been taken by mule.

The end in sight it started to get sunny and by the time I arrived the island looked different.


I spotted a plaque commemorating 400 years of the pilgrimage down the road I had just travelled over the spine of El Hierro.

So now a ferry to Tenerife in order to catch a ferry to Gomera. And just to let you know I have now taken over half a million steps. 500819


Last night the wind settled a bit, the clouds cleared and I lay in my bivvy looking up at an infinite number of twinkling stars above me, and watched them circle slowly through the sky as the night wore on.
Up in the half light, the flashes of the lighthouse intermittently revealing the way ahead, I climbed steeply through the lava fields up to the road I had been left at the night before.

It was a fine clear morning and the clouds seemed to be off the top of the mountains but still a strong wind to struggle against.

Leaving the road I continued to climb on a rocky path up through the lush vegetation, passing a few simple cave houses, to the Ermita de Los Reyes.
New Year’s Eve 1545 a boat is becalmed off the coast where the faro is now. The sailors row ashore and tell the local shepherds they have no food. Food is exchanged for a statue of the Virgin Mary and when the statue leaves the boat the wind picks up and they sail away.
The sheperds are very pleased with the statue, place it in a cave for 20 years then build the capel for it.

In 1614 there is a terrible drought and other folk remedies and deities having failed to sort things out the statue of the Virgin Mary is carried to the capital, Valverde, whereupon the heavens open and disaster is averted.
Even since thousands of pilgrims have re enacted the event every 4 years.

Struggling ever higher the landscape grew greener with real grass and cows sheep and goats that were free to roam. If it wasn’t for the presence of many volcano craters it could have been Galway.

I reached a point where I could see over the northern side of the island and the village of Sabinosa I’d got the bus to.

At this point I was at 980mt, but still had to climb to just over 1500mt.
At about 1200mt as I was huffing and puffing my way up a miraculous vision burst upon me. No, not the Virgin but three beautiful fit young Lycra clad Spanish women running down the track and smiling sweetly as they passed. They were soon gone leaving only their fresh perfume in their wake.

Then things started to get cold as I got up into the cloud passing the Cruz de Los Humilladeros at 1220mt.

Passing heather trees, juniper, pines and laurisilva I walked on high forest tracks.

Untill eventually after working my way up a bare ash slope with the wind howling and the cloud and most swirling I was rewarded by the views from the top of El Hierro, Malpaso.


Ah well at least it was down hill from there. Although not a lot and not very rapidly. The cloud did part from time to time allowing snatches of views to the south.

I finally got to the end of the day’s stage. It had taken me 9 hours and was supposed to take 7. I blame a heavy pack and a very strong wind against me. Trouble was I was still in the cloud and still cold and didn’t facing camping there.
I decided to carry on another 9km to San AndrĂ©s where my phone told me there was a Casa rural and an Air B+B so hopefully I’d find a room.
I couldn’t.
But I had a good meal with a Norwegian couple and a taxi to a cheap room in Valverde for a hot bath and warm bed.



I have made it to the Faro ( lighthouse ) de Orchilla, the start of the GR131 on El Hierro.
It took me 2 plane flights, 2 buses, a walk,a lucky lift and another walk.
It was simpler, quicker and nearly as cheap for me to get a through flight via Tenerife than get a plane and then ferry.
The planes operated by Binter are twin prop and connect all the islands. They also fly to the Portuguese islands and a few cities in Africa. It’s half price for residents as it is on the ferries too.
All very civilised on board with attentive hostesses handing out free papers,water,snackbars,boiled sweets and scented wipes.
The landing strip was a bit tight between the cliffs and the sea but no bother.
I have just walked past a monument to the zero meridian.
Before Columbus set sail from here to America this was the end of the western world.
It seems a very quiet laid back kind of place and very green. I was struck to see trees again. I was also struck by how steep and mountainous the island is, since I have to go from sea level to the top tomorrow.
It has actually got pretty wild here at the moment and I have got my rain coat out for the first time.
I got a bus to the end of the line at Sabinosa and hiked down to the northern coast road hoping for a lift some of the way out here. As I said, it’s quiet here so there were no cars on the road. I hadn’t realised the height of the mountains between me and the starting point and was reluctantly shouldering my pack when a German couple stopped and took me way beyond where they had intended going. And thank god they did, it was a hard enough climb for the hire car.

The view towards the faro.


It’s totally rigged lava flow here. Different again to what I saw on fuerteventura and lanzarote with lots of tubes and bubbles.


But it’s getting even wilder and I need to batten the hatches, get some rest before I walk the Camino of the Virgin tomorrow.