walking Canaries

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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GRAN CANARIA 3rd FEB

The day started soft and ended hard. There was a fine drizzle whilst waiting for the ferry and by the time we got to Gran Canaria there was thick cloud on the mountain tops.

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On the hike out of Puerto de las Nieves I overtook a couple of well ladened backpackers and when we all met whilst getting supplies soon after we had a chat. They had been camping and hiking around the island for 10 days and were about to do the same 1400 mt climb as me. The difference was one had a pack weighing 22kg and the other 18kg!!
They said they were very slow and stopped often. They carried 4 or 5 litres of water each and had numerous items they admitted were a luxury. Like books and a mat just for sitting on. But how they struggled up those mountains was beyond me and helped my relationship with the monkey on my back. “He ain’t heavy, he’s my trail brother”
It’s a pity it was so dull because the trail was spectacular. One of the Germans took this of me as we rose up above the indented coastline.

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Then I left them behind as i climbed on a lovely old road/trail/track/path up past an old era and remains of a limekiln and onto the flank of a 800mt mountain.

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Luckily the gusty wind was blowing me against the slope because the path was like a thin line drawn across the mountain with a very big drop to the left and nothing to stop you till you hit the bottom.
After awhile I heard shouts and roars and saw a fella peering over a cliff edge and hurling rocks and abuse to something way down below. Sure enough a shepherd who had an errant flock. I came upon them in a bit grazing by a WATERFALL!

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I hadn’t seen one of them in awhile but was to see plenty more and cross plenty of streams as I was climbing into the cloud again. Up more Tolkeinesque stone steps.

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The track zig zagged up and up towards sheer looking cliffs but eventually found a way through to the high wet forest above dotted with eucalyptus trees and strange round hollow boulders ( a volcanic bomb perhaps).

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And so I returned to the cold and wet I’ve been attempting to escape. All the now familiar signs were there the wet brown pine needles, the moss and the hanging threads of lichen now joined by the ghostly pale trunks of eucalyptus.

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The visibility disappeared along with everything else into thickening cloud and heavier rain and it was with relief that I eventually reached the zona recreativa de Tamadada.
But it was too exposed without the shelters I had been hoping for so I carried on a km or so to the basic forest campsite where there were toilets but nothing else.
Apart from a deserted and crumbling youth camping complex where I found an open room in which to hide from the elements and hope for better conditions tomorrow.

LA PALMA 22nd JAN

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).

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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