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La Palma highlights

La Palma highlights

Postby raykilhams » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:11 pm

Date walked: 28/07/2015

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Arlene had always wanted to return to La Palma after visiting the island over 15 years ago , having experienced walking high on the Taburiente Caldera . We were there for a day while cruising .
So having booked the holiday I eagerly sought out information about the walking and settled on Paddy Dillon's Walking on La Palma . We decided ( or I did ) that we would walk the 117 mile circuit of the island known as the GR130 and maybe if we had time get up and around the Caldera de Taburiente at about 8000ft and also take in the Volcano Route. Not forgetting of course to spend some time relaxing by the pool with a cool glass of beer or vino and seeing the local sights. But things didn't quite turn out that way . Let me explain....

Walk 1. Los Canarios ( Fuencaliente ) to Mazo. 19km. GR130

Two days after arriving in La Palma we Took the bus from Santa Cruz to Los Canarios and after a coffee in a local bar we set off taking the GR131 which would join the GR130 after about 1km . The weather was superb , not a cloud to be seen . The sun was high in the sky but we felt reasonably cool , as we walked through the tall pines taking advantage of the shade they provided . At the junction of the GR131 and GR130 we stopped for a guzzle of water . The GR131 would continue to ascend high over the spine of the island climbing to over 8000 ft , passing a number of volcanoes , it looked very inviting . But today it was the GR130 , so off we went following the path as it meadered it's way through the pines . The path began to descend slowly but surely , and as it did so the flora changed . Wild grape vines and various melons and courgettes lay either side of the path , the scent of wild rosemary filled the air . Butterflies of all shapes and sizes danced on the light breeze and lizards scurried across the path in front of us ( so many lizards , striped females and large dark males with blue throats ).
We were really enjoying being out in such a beautiful landscape and then to top it all , as we turned a corner we caught sight of the ocean far beneath us and there on the horizon we saw the distinct shape of Mount Teide on Tenerife raising from the azzure blue ocean and to its right the islands of La Gomera and El Hierro . We paused for a few moments standing where thousands of others had stood over millenia , to take in the glorious panorama , and then continued on our way.
The path continued to gradually descend and and as we left the pines , with their shade behind us we became exposed to the heat of the midday sun and it was hot , very hot , between 30 and 40c . Sun hats were put on and another layer of sunscreen applied .
We walked on passing small farms that seem to grow everything from potatoes to pineapples , blackberries to bananas and avocados to apples. La Palma is known as a great walking destination and we now knew why . But whereas most walkers avoid the summer with its hot conditions , we were here , so we just had to put up with it We continued on to Mazo , stopping to take plenty of water breaks under the shade of one of the many trees along the route and every so often , as the path climbed over a hill , a gentle but cooling breeze would hit us giving us respite from the suns heat. Arriving at Mazo it was straight into the local Spar for ice cream ( very few islanders speak english so we just used our very limited Spanish and wave our arms a lot...they seem to understand ) and then we sat in the shade of the bus shelter to wait for the bus to take us back to Santa Cruz.
I think it must have been while sitting waiting for the bus that we decided that maybe walking the whole of the GR130 in temps of over 35c might be asking a bit much .... even of us super human creatures ( I think not :lol: ). And so we decided to concentrate on walking in the cloud forest ( the laurasilva ) on the island , where although it might be very humid and sticky at least there would be plenty of shade. That evening I got out my my Walking in La Palma book ( cicerone ) and decided to walk up to Los Tilos and through the forest.
Looking back to los Canarios
Islands in distance
Into the sun
Tunnel shade
Heading towards Mazo

Walk 2 Los Sauces to Los Tilos Circuit. 10km PRLP7
A couple days later we set off early and took the bus from Santa Cruz to Los Sauces , The sky was slightly overcast but it was very warm .
Arrived at Los Sauces , had a coffee ( always start with a coffee ) and then looked at the map to see what direction to take ( why is it always more difficult to find your way when in a town than in the countryside ). An old gentleman sitting on a bench , no doubt upon seeing our backpacks and poles , called us over , " Los Tilos , Los Tilos " , he shouted , I replied in my best Spanisn , " Si , Los Tilos ". He then began to give me directions on how to find the start of the walk in , of course , Spanish . This went on for a couple of minutes , and I must admit I had no idea what he was saying but whenever he paused I just said "Si " , and it seem to encourage him to continue his spiel. When he finished I thanked him , " Gracias " , and walked in the general direction of his pointing or waving arm. As we walked away , the Senora who had been sitting next to the old man burst out laughing , and he joined in :lol: . I had been rumbled ..........was I really that easy to see through ( yes :shock: ). As we walked away Arlene asked me what the old man said , I was completely honest with her and told her that I didn't really know ,.. but that he was definately speaking Spanish .......I think :clap:
We crossed a quite remarkable bridge and then for the next 4km we followed the only road which wound its way up through the Barranco ( ravine ) up to Los Tilos. The road was quite interesting as there were bollards up the centre of the road , one side for cars the other ( half of the road ) for walkers , now that's something you don,t see very often. The road continued to climb with cloud forest either side of us with the odd small farm building with their small fruit and veg plots . Flowers grew alongside the road , sharing the verges with mulberry , laurel and sweet chesnut trees . Now normally I'm not too keen on road walking , but this was actually a joy , so much to see. As we got closer to Los Tilos the forest thickened and closed over the road and boy was it humid . The low light cloud kept the heat of the sun away , but the humidity of the forest was something esle . Okay , we were not going to get sunburnt which was a good thing , but we were soaked , it just poured out of us . My shirt was saturated , and to stop the constant flow of sweat from dripping into my eyes I tied my red bandana around my forehead , which in no time at all became heavy with sweat. We carried on , knowing that it wouldn't be long before we were at Los Tilos.
Now there's a visitor centre at Los Tilos and about 300m before you reach it there is a small wooden slatted pathway leading straight into a tunnel . I saw the path , thought it looked interesting and walked towards it Arlene followed close behind . Within seconds the path entered the tunnel which was about 2m high by 1.5m wide . After about 20 paces we lost the light it was black , very black . I felt my way along the side of the tunnel using one hand on the wall of the tunnel while the pole in my other hand tested the ground . In less than 20 secs after negotiating a bend in the tunnel I saw light and walked towards it calling Arlene to follow me . We were out of the tunnel in no time and before us lay the bed of the Barranco del Agua with its steep forested sides raising high above us . We walked over a number of large boulders then rounded a bend in the Barranco ( ravine ) and there in front of us was the truly spectacular waterfall of Los Tilos. It was for us totally unexpected , the highlight of our day , worth every drop of sweat . We walked under and through the falls and after going a short way up the barranco we headed back up to the visitor centre . We sat on one of the benches and had our lunch and then made up way up ( and I mean up ) the steep path to the Topo de las Barandas , hoping to get a view of the cloud forest , but alas because of the low cloud we saw very little. We then made our way back to Los Sauces following a track high on the Barranco.
Although only a relatively short walk at 10km well worth the hot sticky humid conditions.
On our way up to Los Tilos
In the Cloud forest
Falls at Los Tilos
Through the falls
Looking back

Walk 3 . Taburiente Caldera. 6km. 8000ft GR131
I must admit because of logistics we did this walk with a small group , normally its just me and Arlene . You can walk up to the Caldera from the Port of Tazacorte , it's part of the GR131 , but in the summer heat it would have been a killer.
The walk took us past a number of observatories and onto the ridge of the Caldera where we walked to Roque De Los Muchachos ( 8000ft ). Looking down and across the Caldera was amazing with the differing rock formations . Behind us on the higher groud there was a lot of low shrub with bright yellow flowers ( sticky broom I think ). We kept to the ridge ,but if you ever go and you want more excitement there are far more difficult paths you can take ( narrow crumbly paths , chains etc ) .
Today was the hottest by far ,over 40c , with absolutely no shelter , we both wore long trousers and shirts to keep the sun off , but even so Arlene still managed to get sunburnt on her head at the parting of her hair .. The sun was directly overhead so your body cast little shadow. The following day the authorities closed the area to walkers because of the dangers of fire and heat stroke.
This was a great short walk even though it was so hot . If we were to do it again we would come in autumn or spring and then walk right around the Caldera and on to El Pilar ( about 35km ).
High on the Taburiente Caldera
El Pilar in the Distance
Long way down

Walk 4. Ruta De La Volcans . El Pilar to Los Canarios ( Fuencaliente ) . 20km GR131

This was a walk that I was really looking forward to , but because of the high temps we had experienced over the last few days I was a little apprehensive . So you can imagine my relief when we woke up on the day of the walk ( we had booked a transfer that day to take us up to El Pilar to drop us off and leave us to it ) and I stepped out onto the balcony of our hotel room , looked up at the sky and saw a very high cloud cover ( in fact the only day of our holiday when the cloud was so high ). The conditions were , for the time of year almost perfect.
We arrived at El Pilar , high on the spine of the island , at about 9.50 am . After getting our bearings we set off climbing up through the tall pines . The path then began to descend slightly and soon we were out of the pines walking on a slope of ash and rocks which took us up and pass the Hoya Negro Volcano to our right . The views were incredible , to our right looking back we could make out Santa Cruz far below on the coast while to our left we could see Los LLanos and the coast of Tazacote . Looking straight back along the ridge the huge outline of the Taburiente Caldera filled the sky .
We continued on and upward and stopped for lunch at a rocky outcrop looking down at the dark lava flow beneath us known as the Lavas del Duraznero . We were joined for lunch by a number of lizards that seem to enjoy the small pieces of apple we gave them . After lunch we pushed on down towards the lava field and then up towards the crater of the next volcano , Deseada. Funny thing was that there was no sign of anyone else , but hey that's a good thing , making us feel we were alone in this primeval landscape .
It was about this time that the high cloud cover simply disappeared , being replaced with a clear blue sky and a ferocious sun , so it was on with the hats and sunscreen . The climb up to the trig point on the ridge of the crater was the hardest part of the walk due to the fine volcanic sand underfoot . It was like trying to walk up a massive sand dune for about a km . I stopped on several occasions to wait for Arlene to catch me up and each time I did I could feel the heat from the volcanic sand on my feet . Now I know why lizards lift feet off the ground when standing the hot sands. After a few stops to catch our breath we made it to the trig point and had a great view into the caldera of Deseada. From here it was downhill for a while so we virtually raced down on the sands pausing at a stand of pines before climbing again into a forest of pines . It's worth noting that many walkers , in their reports on various sites , state that there is no water to be found on route , but this is not the case . There is a water source , crystal clear cool water . It can be found just 50m off route to the right after decending Deseada and before taking the path up into the pines . We came across it by accident . Arlene wanted a bit of privacy to change her top and a bit of shade , so when we noticed what looked like a stone wall built into the rocky hillside with a number of trees around it , we made a bee line for it . And lo and behold a water tap came out of the wall , it was so cool and refreshing ( although we had to share it with a swarm of bees ) .
It was about this time as we neared the water source that we saw a group of about 12 walkers ( the only other people we saw on the route ) disappearing into the pines on the path above us . A trekking company , called Natour , takes groups out twice a week on this particular route as well as other walks on the island . If you like to go with a group that's fine , but it's not for us . It's easy to do your own thing and it saves you money . I think they charge about 55 euros pp for the volcano route whereas if you do it yourself ( taxi , bus ) it will only cost about 17 euro pp. Sorry to digress ( what a waffler ).
After our water stop we made our way to Volcan Martin , the most impressive of the volcanoes on route , and had a quick look into one of the side craters . It was there that we passed the Natour group sitting in the shade of a tree , out of the intense heat of the sun , all looking tired out . We said , "Ola " and carried on making our way downhill for several kms through a thick forest of pines and arrived at Los Canarios about 3.50 pm, just in time to catch the local bus back to our hotel .
Up through the pines
volcanoes ahead
Onto tne lava slopes
Into a crater
Hard going on the volcanic sands
Volcan Martin

Walk 4. Casa del Monte to Los Sauces. 16km .PRLP6 /7
This was definately the best walk of the holiday , it had everything. We took the bus from Santa Cruz to Los Sauces ( only two rates on the buses , 1.10 euro for short trips , 1.70 euros for anywhere else , cheap or what ?). At Los Sauces we took a taxi up to Los Tilos , and from Los Tilos we hopped into an old 4x4 ( with six other walkers ) and were driven for six miles up a winding bumpy dirt track to Casa del Monte , I can still remember the driver shouting at us , "U ave e lamp" , and me replying in my best Spanish , " Si " . It was like something out of Indiana Jones . Got out of the 4x4 with our bones shaken up a bit and noticed quite a number of other people milling about looking at the trail boards , so decided to get a move on . We didn't want to be stuck behind a group of walkers on the narrow cliff face path. The path about 1-1.5m wide runs alongside a narrow water channel , we kept as close as poss to the water channel as the outside of the path drops away steeply to the bottom of the barranco ( ravine ) . If you fall off the path your chances of surviving are slim , no health and safety here . We walked passed a couple of small groups of walkers and then had the whole walk to ourselves ( never saw another person till about a km from Los Tilos ). For the first couple of km we were in the shade ( about 20 to 25c ) and the scenery was breathtaking , looking both up and down the steep cliff faces covered in cloud forest . We continued on through 13 cramped tunnels , the longest being nearly 400m long . The lamps ( torches ) were a necessity , as the tunnels turned and twisted through the mountainside , some quite low and narrow in places ( bit of a squeeze now and then ) . I bumped my head twice and blood seeped through my hat , but I got no sympathy from Arlene , just a , " What are you like ? " .
Tunnel number 12 went under a water fall , but it doesn't keep the water out . Water gushed along the floor of the tunnel , water fell like heavy rain from the roof just above our heads and in several places water shot out from the sides like hose pipes at full blast. No wonder there was a pile of plastic capes at each end of the tunnel . Once out of the wet tunnel we passed the Nacientes de Marcos ( one of the springs that feeds the water channel ) and then it was a steep climb up ( a chain at the side of the path helps you up ) and through the final tunnel to the Nacientes de Cordero ( the other maior spring that feeds the channel ). We sat there by the spring , which seemed to emerge and pour out of the rock face above us , and had a five minute break taking in the vista.
It's at this point that most people turn back and retrace their steps , but for us it was the zig zaggy , rocky , steep descent into the Barranco. Once at the bed of the barranco , with almost vertical cliff faces rising to meet the sky , it was just a case of following it . Not the easiest thing to do as we clambered over the huge rocks trying to find the best way through . We kept going until we came to a wooden bridge where we stopped for lunch ( olives , cheese , crisps and apples ). From the bridge we strolled along the narrow path and climbed out of the bed of the barranco up to a viewpoint which made us even more aware of the need to keep your wits about you , as some of the drops were almost vertical . To slide off the dusty narrow path would be fatal .
The sun began beat down as the path weaved in and out of the cloud forest , one moment you would feel hot but okay , the next you were roasting . No cloud in the cloud forest today .
We went across another bridge and headed toward Los Tilos . 2km from LTilos we met up with another path much wider than the one we had been on . I noticed a sign pointing the way we had just come , it basically read ,... Dangerous path , dangerous to take , rock fallls and crumbling path.... summed it up nicely.
Walked on through the forest with its many different types of trees ( laurel, sweet chestnut and many more ) passed gaint ferns and an array of flowers. Arrived at L Tilos , went into the restaurant where we decided we would have coffee and cake . Found a seat indoors ( cooler ) and Arlene went to order in her best Spanish . When she came back she had a tray with two coffes and a beer but no cake , something got lost in translation . But the coffee was good and the beer chaser was even better. We then decided to walk into Los Sauces , I think it took about an hour . We just missed the bus so had to wait one and a half hours for the next one , so we just sat in the shade in the park watching lizards . Oh and by the way the ice cream was good , oh ....and the ice cold beer was very good .
Making our way round
Through one of the tunnels
The path is over there somewhere
At the bed of the Barranco
Huge ferns


We did several other walks including La Zarza , very atmospheric but the above walks were the most notable.
La Palma is a great place for walking and although only 50km by 30km it has an amazing variety of landscape , from the dry Volcanic ridge to the Taburiente Caldera, from the lush Cloud forest to the dark sandy beaches . I have always liked variety went it comes to walking , and there are so many great places on our planet to walk ..... sooooo keep walking .
PS We found drinks and food quite cheap in La Palma , for example coffee in local bars 1 euro , ham and cheese toastie 1 euro . Ice cream 1-20 euro for two big scoops. Beer 1-50 euro . Wine in spar 87cents ( 70p ) 1litre ( drinkable).
Buses cheap.
Walks . The island is for walkers with dozens of routes ( SL local paths . PR short distant paths , GR Long distance. )
all can be reached by bus or taxi . Most walks are marked , but the marks often have to be looked for , so keep your wits about you or you may take the wrong path.
Finally get a good hotel with a pool , keeps the family happy if they don't feel like walking .
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Re: La Palma highlights

Postby ChrisW » Tue Aug 11, 2015 10:42 pm

What an absolutely enthralling read Ray, your descriptions of conversations in Spanish had me laughing as much as the old guy on the bench giving directions. I really wasn't aware of the amount of walking in La Palma but it really does look fantastic (for winter that is) I detest the heat, give me cold any day..I'm currently waiting out the week for cooler temps as it's in the low 30's here.....now I feel like a wuss :lol: :lol:

Anyway, thanks for making the effort in those chronic temps so we get to live it vicariously ...fantastic effort by both of you and worth every step by the look of it :clap: :clap:
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Re: La Palma highlights

Postby ilovescotty » Mon Oct 26, 2015 5:11 pm

Amazing to have both pine forests and jungle in the same area!! Looks a really cool place to visit
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