gr 131

GRAN CANARIA 4th FEB

After last nights pretty miserable conditions and wet start again this morning I’m treating myself to a stay at El Refugio at the end of the day’s stage, about 18 km and 1000 mt of climbing later.
I’m right at the cusp of cloud and clear here at Cruz de Tejeda, a col or slightly lower gap in the mountains which encourages the mist to spill over through it from the north and east.
My back is turned away from a greyed out mass of nothingness while I face a hazy sun towards the west with vague outlines of fantastical pinnacles or Roques as they are called here.
A hazy start and finish then but the haze has transformed from wet cloud to dryish mist and in between were truly beautiful sunlit vistas.
I’m still at 5000ft so it’s going to be cold later and if I needed another excuse for a night in a soft warm bed my phone is eating batteries and needs to be fed.
And the luxury of electricity means I don’t have to go to bed at 8 o clock.
This morning I abandoned my damp and run down quarters as soon as it was light and headed back into the murky misty forest with its festoons of green lichen.

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As I made my way along the road a taxi van stopped and asked if I needed a ride to Artenara, the next town on route.
It was tempting but already I could sense the cloud thinning as I climbed so proudly explained I was a rambling man and would get there by foot.
My boasts were justified soon enough as I climbed a stairway to heaven

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And the views started to appear.

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Artenara came in sight sitting on the right side of the mountain with the cloud struggling to reach it over the ridge.

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With one more climb the vistas to the west opened up.

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And soon enough I was basking in sunshine in the attractive village having a cafe con leche on the plaza and marvelling at the diverse climates on the islands. They call Gran Canaria a mini continent because of its micro climates and they are a phenomena. You can nearly strand astride two completely different weather worlds, one damp and cold and the other dry and sunny.
So with a weary eye on the bank of cloud I headed off and up, past some of the cave houses which are plentiful.

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Up through lovely verdant terraces almost alpine in looks.

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Reaching ever greater heights and views of the classic pinnacle Roque Nublo.

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With dramatic drops into the caldera 1000’s of mt below I was impressed by the nerve and speed of the mountain biker who came bouncing past.

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I went past the caves, Cuervas de Los Candiles, a sight of pre Hispanic ritual and with a fine collection of cave art.
The ancient Canarians had etched into the Rock with stone picks over 300 symbols of the female pubis and vulva. I thought it fitting that I should discover such a place around St Bridgits day and when a little while later I came to a collection of similar caves one of which was open, I thought about spending the night there overlooking the Tejeda caldera but thought the powers may not approve.

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I have no idea how old this rock carving is outside the caves

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And the maker of this little trail side cairn had put in more effort than usual.

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One more steep climb and a glorious traverse across Degollada de las Palomas with stunning views west to Mt Teide on Tenerife still with me across an ocean of cloud.

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Till finally I was down in the mist again at Cruz de Tejeda, happy to have a room and admire the white out without having to sleep in it.

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EL HIERRO 16th JAN

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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.

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The view towards the faro.

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

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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.

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