During the last two weeks of February, while Britain shivered under yet more snow, my wonderful partner and I were savouring the heady delights of the colourful island of La Palma. We like a bit of excitement but getting there was not without incident and, at times, a little frightening. A violent blast of wind as we descended to land knocked the Boeing 737 a bit off course so we were no longer pointing down at the runway but at the foot of a ruddy great mountain. With all the breakfast paraphernalia crashing around in the galley behind us we managed to ascend and clear the tops before setting a course for Tenerife south. Seven hours later we were herded onto Fred Olsen's capacious boat for a 3½ sail to La Palma. - via La Gomera. We arrived at the tail end of some strange carnival where thousands of lads and lassies, all clad in white clothes with matching white hats, were singing and kicking up a heck of a noise while sprinkling everyone in sight with talcum powder!
It was well after midnight when we reached Las Olas Aparthotel at Los Cancajos where, instead of devoting all her time to us weary wanderers, the receptionist in charge was 'helping police with their enquiries'. A man was lying on the floor amidst splashes of runny red stuff that looked suspiciously like blood while emitting some rather painful noises and being comforted by a woman. Word went round he'd been stabbed. Being true Brits with stiff upper lips and all that, the incident left us totally unmoved. We stood in a quiet, orderly queue contemplating our surroundings, the all-glass doors, polished marble floor, plush leather seating, ornate chandelier, smugly patting ourselves on the back for having chosen such a wonderful place to stay. Soon, the moaning man was stretchered away, the receptionist returned to her duties and life went on, albeit a bit behind schedule!
Things got even more exciting two nights later when some monsoon weather lurking in the Atlantic decided it would be a good idea to pay us a visit. Maybe it was just paying homage to my Rain Goddess partner but the hotel staff were totally unprepared for it. All night long it roared and raged, blowing fuses at the electricity sub station, picking up pool side furniture and smashing it to pieces, tearing tiles from rooftops and scattering them on the road, smashing hotel doors into smithereens of glittering glass, lifting man-hole covers, tearing branches from trees and flooding the stairway down to the bar and restaurant areas. But of course, being true Brits, we picked our way through the wreckage next morning to enjoy a hearty breakfast as though nothing untoward had happened. After all, we were on holiday and we were jolly well going to enjoy ourselvers!
And enjoy ourselves we jolly well did. La Palma easily outshines the three other Canary islands we've visited - Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. It's green and lush with banana plantations encroaching into towns and villages. Lime, laurel, myrrtle and giant ferns form a huge rain forest area at the north end of the island. There are no straight roads. There are no signs proclaiming 'Full English All-day Breakfasts'. Very little English is spoken in bars, shops or on public transport, so a smattering of Spanish can be helpful. If there's any night-life on La Palma we never experienced it, so those who want all night rave-ups must go elsewhere.
Everything is so colourful and the quality of lighting enhances it all. None of your monotonous dull houses, but bright pastel shades bordering streets and dotting the verdant hill sides. All are enveloped in a mass of palm trees, blazing flowers, cacti and tropical shrubs. Lizards are everywhere; there must be millions of them on La Palma. A gentleman by the pool rested his coffee on the wall only to find a lizard in his saucer when he turned to it. They like coffee.
We walked some of the many trails drinking in the incredible views from lofty viewpoints and marvelling at some amazing engineering feats. They have this wonderful ability to bore a ruddy great long hole through a mountain, lay a bit of tarmac and drive buses through it! A 353m long bridge spanning a deep gorge at Los Sauces is one of the most mind-boggling structures I've ever seen. Old Isambard would have been proud of it.
Being a Runningfox, with a running partner, we pretty soon worked out a suitable route to run off the excesses of our exceedingly high calory diet. I'm afraid our pre-planned exercise programme went by the board though it's possible our regular splashes up and down the swimming pool partially compensated for this.
In spite of the weird welcomings at the beginning of our holiday we can't wait to get back. But next time we'll be more prepared, taking a more detailed map and suitable guide book to walk or run some of the hundreds of kilometres of marked trails we failed to find or appreciate on this, our initial visit.