Wow – what a place. La Palma has blown our minds and we have all been lost for words, just pointing and making indecipherable noises to each other at yet another stunning landscape, ravine, plant or creature. We had never planned to come to La Palma; we had planned our last stop off to be in La Gomera, the neighbouring island, but the marina there said they were full, and Marina Lanzarote suggested we try their sister marina here in La Palma. We have been incredibly grateful for the suggestion as we have enjoyed a weekend off from sailing and boat duties, winding our way up roads with hundreds of hairpin-bends one after the other, through multiple habitats, to the top of volcanoes and through primeval forests.
It is hard to find the words to describe the places we have been and sights we have seen, and no photos do this landscape justice, but here are a few attempts.
The water is so clear and full of life
The roads are like rollercoaster rides
This isn’t called the steepest island in the world for nothing. Our hire car rapidly gained height, taking us from sea level to over 2500m over only 10km horizontal distance as the crow flies. This involved hundreds of hairpin bends and awestruck gasps at the drop off to the side of the road.
At one point (actually, on multiple occasions), we took wrong turns and found ourselves on even tinier roads winding their way along the side of steep gorges, through tunnels carved through the rock with seemingly no additional engineering – just bare rock with water dripping through the roof.
We got out of the car to admire the view and birds were singing! I hadn’t realised that the soundscape in Lanzarote had been so empty of birdsong, but of course there are almost no trees and very little songbird habitat.
I have started writing a ‘20 things to do in 2020’ list, inspired by my friend Sam’s ‘35 things to do before turning 35’ list and partly to give my journey a little more direction. A list to be shared in another post, but one of the things is to see and identify 20 endemic birds, and La Palma has got me off to great start!
Back with my beloved trees
After three weeks in volcanic rocky Lanzarote, and in advance of three weeks out on the big blue sea, I was feeling in need of some serious tree time, and La Palma delivered. At sea level, the farms are full of avocado, lemon, orange and papaya trees. As we travelled higher, the steep mountain sides were covered in cacti, and then pine forests, then lush jungle-like vegetation, then sparser pines as we reached the tree line and emerged way above the clouds as we approached the rim of one of the massive volcanoes that created the island.
A majestical landscape …
… As Uncle Hec would say to Ricky Baker (if you haven’t seen it already, watch Hunt for the Wilderpeople and you will get so much more than just that reference).
Sometimes there are just no words. Majestical is as close as it gets.
A high altitude hike into a volcanic crater
La Palma has one of the first Starlight Reserves, and a whole collection of international telescopes, perched on the edge of a volcano. They are worth going to visit, just for their design – mirrors, huge spheres, eggs… but with a crew containing two geologists we were more interested in the volcano.
Exploring up a ravine under a waterfall
After our visit to the highest point, we headed towards a walk to a waterfall recommended by the marina manager. Not content with simply finding a waterfall, we ducked underneath it and explored up the ravine behind. With little evidence of any human activity, it felt like we had been dropped into the Lost World or Jumanji.
A primeval forest
Cubo de la Galga is an ancient forest, pretty much undisturbed by human activity and thousands of years old. A perfect location for some pre-ocean-crossing forest bathing. The rest of the crew indulged me in my wish to explore this primeval forest, and this morning we spent a few hours trekking through ferns, laurel and mahogany forest, up another gorge. Dreamy.
The many colours of Santa Cruz de La Palma
The main town here is still very traditional – there are none of the modern high rises or holiday apartments covering the rest of the Canaries. Many of the streets are cobbled, the houses have traditional balconies full of flowers (and the original privys which emptied straight onto the street below), and are painted every colour combination imaginable. This evening we slept a couple of hours wandering through the streets, enjoying the peace of late Sunday afternoon.
So there we go. Two days and a bunch of photos are not enough to explore or appreciate La Palma – one day, when I have my own boat, I will definitely be sailing back here for much longer.
Tomorrow is final provisioning and preparing day. Gill and I are getting up early to get to the market for 7am, then it’s laundry, baking, filling up with water, fuel, checking lines, stowing everything away, and getting an early night before Tuesday morning’s departure. It is all starting to feel rather real…