The small town of Fuencaliente was threatened, as the fire raged out of control for several days. I remember seeing a satellite photo in an English paper, and from 500 miles out in space you could see the vast plume of smoke from the fire trailing out into the ocean.
The lovely Canary pine forest is an essential addition to the striking palette of primary colours that make this island such a magical place: against the deep blue sky, and indigo ocean, the vivid green hues of the pines clothe the red and black volcanic landscape. The Canary pine is a tall, stately tree, seen at its´ best against a blue Palmero sky, with dense, bushy, vibrant green clusters of needles; and distinctive rough, reddish plates of bark. How badly would the fire have damaged this impressive forest, on one of our favourite walks?
As we set out from Monte de Luna, we begin to see signs of charring amongst the trees, and a light sea-breeze brings us an occasional hint of scorched bark. It looks as though tongues of flame have darted hither and thither, and much greenery has escaped the fire. Often the ground, and the tree-tops, are unaffected, as if a single band of fire has swept through rapidly, on the wind. We are amazed to see bright green tufts of new growth shooting from the trunks of the pines already, so soon after the fire! Then we remember that these trees have lived with the ever-present risk of fire for thousands of years, and have adapted to survive. We pass one wonderful, tall specimen so special it incorporates into its´ trunk a small shrine, dedicated to Our Lady of the Pines. The trunk is superficially blackened, but rises unbowed to such a great height that the crown is still green. As we get closer to Fuencaliente, and nearer the seat of the fire, I start to feel depressed as more burnt browns replace the live green. But even here there are surprises: the low-growing grape-vines that occupy terraces between groves of pines appear to have not been touched by the fire, and bunches of grapes hang heavily on them. We are shocked to see how close to homes the fire came, right up to the gardens on the edge of the small town! Later, Jaime, a taxi-driver, tells us that several thousand people had to leave their homes; many of them at 2am one morning, at the height of the fire. Down at the Bar Parada, when we arrive for refreshments, everything seems to be quite normal…
We left the pine forest, and entered quite different scenery, without trees: the exciting landscape of the southern volcanoes: San Antonio and Teneguia. But here, of course, the theme of fire persisted. This is a much more deep-seated and intense fire: the fire that has created and shaped La Palma, and continues to do so…..Later, at the end of our walk, we do our best to cool ourselves amidst all this heat, with cold drinks; and for some a restorative dip in the ocean.