LA PALMA 22nd-26th Jan 2015


LA Palma, Isla Bonita the beautiful island they call it and over the last few days ” Mine eyes have seen the glories”
With 35% of the island a protected area and having just been voted 3rd most beautiful in the world, I’d say it has justification for the name.
I haven’t seen half of it but what I have has been impressive.
They have a fertile abundance and seem connected to the natural and cultural world around them.
They offer up their riches with pride to the visitors with lots of artisan producers selling their honey, from the wealth of wild flowers, jewellery made from the various stones,straw and leather and textile crafts, cigars, and all manner of sauces and pickles, fruit and veg and the world renown wine and liqueurs.
It’s the worlds steepest, as I well know, with its summits seemingly hidden in a shroud of most and cloud a lot of the time. I felt better about not being able to complete my circuit of the highest peaks after talking to an English hiker and ultra marathon runner when he told me he had attempted it 4 times in the last 10 days and given up every time. Mind you I didn’t feel so good when he pointed out the chef in the bar we were in, a man I’m guessing was around my age, had completed the LA Palma ultra which consists of my proposed 3 day route in 7 HOURS! !
The people have been very friendly and helpful especially when I left my wallet on the bus last night and it was organised to be returned to me on a returning bus a couple of hours later. Praise the people.
My Spanish is too bad to have conversations with those who don’t hablar ingles but I’ve met a good few travellers from Holland Germany France and England who all think there is something special about the place and the people I thought I’d come across on Gomera looking for the “good life ” seem to be here.
There were no ferries today so I spent the day in the capital, Santa Cruz, soaking up the culture and buildings.





I went to a fine old town house Casa Salazar” that was housing an exhibition about the “disappeared” and mass graves of the Franco era and civil war on the island with artwork and text I struggled to understand.

I discovered that Fyffes had allowed their huge packing and processing complex to be turned into a concentration camp in existence for a decade.
Then more back street wanderings.




Next up was the museo insular another fine old colonial building containing natural history, ethnographical museum and art gallery. It was also displaying an exhibition of astophotography from the island.


The natural history collection had a room stuffed full of marvellous taxidermy including some oddities.


The ethnographical section had all the usual collection of stuff the rural population used through the ages and I discovered that El Paso, where I had been a couple of days ago is the last place in Spain still doing silk production.
Back to the streets to admire the old buildings.



Finally ending up on Av Maritima where the balcones, much admired by travellers over the centuries, still had,in some cases, boarded up ends that used to contain toilets that dropped their load onto the ground below to be washed out to sea.



So not much walking today but my mind has been worked hard, particularly because I’ve had more hi tec malfunctions ( no wifi connectivity and a host of other problems brought on by me trying to fix it )
My ferry for Tenerife leaves at the convenient time of 4 am so I’m off to the ferry port to make myself at home.


I awoke to the sound of a cock crowing somewhere in the distance. I found out later from Juan, a nice guy from the info centre at the campground, that there was a finca unbelievably out there on the mountain slopes. Everything in and out by mule. Talk about off grid.
The view into the caldera was spectacular and inviting.

I left my pack at the camp and made my way, almost floating without my usual load, down into the river bed for a walk about. What a location the campground is in. You could really get back to nature after a few days out here.

I wandered around for awhile to dumbstruck by the beauty of it all to take many pictures or actually manage any mental process then headed back to the campground before I went wandering off into the wilderness never to be seen again.
The info centre had another model, this one of just the caldera.

I was smack in the middle of it. Juan showed me around. It had been built from river stone and local trees but also involved helicopter drops.


One thing they had on display were the 10ft steel tipped poles the sheperds used for vaulting around the crags and I’d been past by a swarthy looking character brandishing one on the way up yesterday.
Then time to go back down the valley and marvel again at some of the effort gone into path making.

This time on Juans advice I kept to the river bed which made for interesting walking at times.




And right now my bus is going , so must I.


So after about 25km, about 1200 mt descent and 800mt ascent I didn’t end up where expected.
When I got up it was still windy wet and cold.

I knew I had to get out off the cloud but didn’t know wether to go up or down. Down would mean abandoning mission.Up would mean hopefully above the cloud but into wind. And then the thought of the cold last night at 1450mt and thinking about the freezing cold at 2400mt and with the words of P. Dillon going through my thoughts” there’s nowhere to hide up there in bad weather”, I reluctantly turned my back on the GR 131 and embraced the PR LP14. It was a wet embrace but it was leading me down to where I knew the sun shone.
We went through dripping forest

and trees hung with yards of lichen?

We descended through a different kind of lava field to the others I’d seen. These were obviously in the ” wet zone” as they too were sprouting green primitive life.


But after an hour or so the cloud went up as I went down and I felt heat upon my skin again. Hallelujah
Looking back from the valley towards the ridge of the Cumbre Nueve that I should have been on I saw the thick cloud still swooping and swirling in what looked a malevolent fashion. Glad I’m not up there I thought.
I decided that as I wasn’t going to walk around the rim of the Taburiente crater as planned I would walk instead into the very heart of it and camp the night at a site deep and high surrounded by the peaks.
So I first visited the Centro de Visitantes of the National Park which involved following a trail across lumpy rugged lava.

When I got there it wasn’t, as the trail had made me wonder, sculpted out of a lava tube or in some knarley cave but a big modern concrete building on a main road. Inside were impressive displays and info panels and helpful staff handing out details of the park and hiking routes.
They also had weather charts…( wind moderate!! Not where I’ve come from mate!) and a model. This is the bit i climbed.

I had to get a bus from the centre to Los Llanos and start to walk into the caldera from there on the PR LP13, one of La Palmas “top walks”. It didn’t take long to see why after I’d left the town and its suburbs behind.
After a long climb (another) a bend in the road revealed the deep valley reaching in towards the high rim of mountains now in glorious sunshine. Wish I was up there I thought.
On the other side of the valley were fincas with land climbing up from the riverbed.



The trail to the camp ground led up the riverbed with many sections clambering over stretches of mountainside. There were notices warning that with rain the track becomes dangerous and impassible and you could see why.

A fine example of pillow lava I’m sure you’ll agree.

It was beautiful but longer than I thought 13km was supposed to be and steeper than a 600mt climb ought to be. We past miles of painstakingly made acequias or water channels cut through the mountain and carried high over the riverbed on concrete viaducts.

And a long way in was this what I imagine was an old hydro plant complex.

The climb went on higher and higher as the sun sank lower and lower till only the peaks were illuminated.



At last, with not a lot left in me, I passed through this prickly pear to the camp site that had miraculously solar lit service block and soft pine needle pitches.



The weather looked set fair first thing so I headed off up a couple of km of the steepest road I’ve ever encountered. Just to get me to the start. I couldn’t work out how they got the tar to stick without it running off down the hill.
So already sweating I was encouraged by the hiker statue.

And so began a very long ascent up through a pine forest to reach the bare ash slopes of the “volcano route” and hopeful 25 steep kms later the Refugio del Pilar recreation zone where I hoped they wouldn’t turf me out.


As I climbed higher little wisps of mist and cloud would float by every so often but in general I seemed to be getting above the cloud that was massing to the south.
The sky was blue the ash black the trees green.



A good few hikers past me going the other way DOWNHILL.
I was working my way around and over a chain of volcanos that stretched North to South up the spine of the island.
The wind had picked up and I was looking over the clouds to the sea far far below.


Then the mist descended the cloud came down and the rain came in sideways on the strong and now cold wind. The nice thing was that rainbows kept getting formed in front of me.


The area obviously was used to a soaking with more vegetation and greenery. I started to descend but not enough to get out of the cloud and rain.


About 5 o’clock I arrived at the campsite and the thick cloud made it fairly dark already.

So after a good look around for the most sheltered spot and some dried fruit and nuts for dinner I retired to my bed.
With all my clothes on including my down jacket, in my silk liner, in my sleeping bag, in my bivvy bag I was just about warm enough to, fitfully, sleep.


The day started well with me finding a tapaterria ( sewing machine maestro) in the back streets of Santa Cruz de la Palma to mend my broken rucksack shoulder strap.
He fixed me up in minutes for the princely sum of 1€( I tipped).

I got some important information from the tourist office who assured me there was water available at three places on my route for the next few days so hopefully I won’t have to carry too much.
Then to a bus to carry me to the southern end of the island( the Canary Island buses are very cheap and seem to serve pretty isolated communities).
I had decided to treat myself in readiness for the hardships to come by getting a room and this one was a room with a view. Of the sea and the surrounding volcanic landscape.

I arranged to leave whatever I can do without for the next few days there to lighten the load as I have to carry food for 3 or 4 days.
The bus ride revealed another beautiful island, different again from the others. Looking prosperous, productive and fertile with tidy towns and houses painted a variety of pastel and muted shades.
Acres of banana plantations and gardens bursting with fruit and veg of all kinds.
The highest ground was hidden in the clouds but I was hopeful that id be climbing above that layer into clear skies.
To make my life easier tomorrow I tackled the first 6 or 7km of the route by hiking down to the faro below Fuencaliente, passing through an amazing volcanic landscape.





One of these volcanos, Teneguia, went up in 1971. It’s twisted and contorted lava was tinged with many colours and was “hot” until recently.

The old lighthouse has been converted into an Eco interpretive centre for the marine reserve that surrounds it and is full of shocking statistics about the despoliation of the seas by man and uplifting visuals of the natural splendours within it. And wise sayings about an individual’s power to do something. I liked this one.

The lighthouse was between an old fishing village and the salt pans built along the same lines as the ones I’d visited on Lobos island , Fuerteventura.



The shop in the salinas sold a variety of flavoured salts and also great supplies for my trek into the mountains. Dried bananas and mangos, almonds , fig cake and Bollos de Centeno, some kind of serious eye cake. All local bush tucker.
Finally on my way back I stopped at the local bodega ( wine cellar) and bought a bottle of Negramoll, grown right outside my door organically in the 2 my deep lapilli or volcanic ash.

So it’s uphill all the way for the next 2 days followed by a day around the top followed by a day coming down.
I don’t know about communication ability up there so I might not be able to post anything. We will see.
Hasta pronto