Walking in the Canaries
The highlight of this holiday has to be the walk along the Ruta de los Volcanoes (GR 131). Twelve miles long, it winds through pine forest and cloud to emerge in sunshine on a cinder track that snakes past black lava lakes, sheer-sided craters and seven volcanoes along the spine of this amazing Canary island. From the highest point we gazed over to three other islands – Mt Teide on Tenerife, La Gomera and El Hierro – the last two with white cloud caps. We were above the clouds and on top of the world. Almost running down the thick volcanic layers at the end, we dug in our heels to gain purchase as you would on sand dunes, and in Los Canarios, our destination, the welcoming Bar Parada provided soothing beers and complimentary macaroons.
As if seven volcanoes were not enough, we completed the GR 131 southwards a couple of days later, taking in a volcano visitor centre and two more volcanoes including Volcan Teneguia, the most recent to erupt in 1971. My Sunflower guide book advises against the scramble up Tengeguia in strong winds and I find it unnerving even in moderate ones (my own fault as we were given the choice). Much more enjoyable is a swim at the end of the walk in the compact, black-sand bay by the lighthouse, while non-swimming members in the group can explore nearby salt pans.
La Palma is an island of two halves – the dry south and west and the wetter east and north. We stayed in the east so didn’t avoid the rain but by taking walks on both sides of the island you can make the best of the weather. On our second walk we zigzagged up the peak of Pico Bejenado in sunny weather and gazed across the massive Caldera de Taburiente – some six miles across at its widest part and over a mile deep. It was created by eruption and erosion. We could just make out white blobs on the other side – the world-famous Observatory. In contrast a few days later we were walking up the Barranco de la Madera – a deep gorge and one of many in the north and east of the island. The vegetation is lush and the air humid, almost tropical. We reached the head of the gorge and turned into a series of tunnels with natural light windows, before a steep zigzag descent to the 17century church of the Santuario de la Virgen de las Nieves (Virgin of the Snows) and, you’ve probably guessed it, another bar!
We loved the walking so much that on the last day, when the Manchester party flew back early and we Gatwick-bound passengers had time to kill, five of us took the bus to Cuba de Galga and walked up the barranco, taking a left path under a stone arch to go up to the Mirador of Somada Alta with it’s views along the coast, and then down through the pretty village of Galga. It’s a walk that Ramblers might think of including to get acclimatised. Just a final word of advice, this is a holiday near the top of D+ so be ready for steep ascents and descents – but well worth the effort.