Tuesday 15 February 2011

Back to La Palma

Hotel Playa La Taburiente                                   
It felt so good to escape our chilly British winter and languish in the soothing warmth of La Palma in the beautiful Spanish Canary Islands.  Our Hotel, the Taburiente Playa in the resort of Los Cancajos, boasted four stars and pampered us like Royalty. Neither of us have ever seen such a vast variety of excellent food that catered for every nationality and taste, carnivore or vegetarian. It was awfully tempting to overeat but after the first day of unbridled indulgence I gave my greedy belly a good talking to and disciplined myself to concentrate on healthier choices of fish, salads and fruit, albeit in quite large amounts with just the right measure of wine to aid the digestive processes! 
The temperature in the pool hovered between 25º - 27º so was always warm enough for swimming, even for nesh Yorkshire people who can be a bit reluctant to doff their woolly hats and mufflers! Between walks and runs we spent many hours in or around the pool soaking up the sun, watching the world go by - or in my case unashamedly taking sneaky peeks at topless ladies!
La Palma is reputedly the steepest island in the world, a walker's paradise but a little exhausting for runners, particularly very old runners, like me!  But on eight occasions, to keep ticking over, we ran our breakfasts off with an undulating 4 mile loop around our resort before cooling off and recuperating by the pool. 
On other days we took off into the hills reaching heights of around 6,000ft on a couple of occasions, on Pico Bejenado and Pico Birigoyo, and almost 6,500ft on the day we walked/jogged the 19km chain of seven volcanoes from El Pilar to Fuencaliente in the south of the island. Thankfully, none of the volcanoes on the island have erupted since 1971. The Caldera de Taburiente, six miles across and a mile deep, is said by some to be the largest volcanic crater on earth. It's rim around the 8,000ft contour, almost twice the height of Ben Nevis, was draped in snow and inaccessible for much of the time. We never got there.
Running the Volcano route
Neither did we venture into the lush rain forest area to the north of the island on this occasion, but many of the places we did visit were equally flambuoyant. Laurel, Canary Pine, Prickly Pear, Palm, Orange and Lemon trees, White Broom, Dragon trees and countless acres of Banana plantations covered the landscape. Flowers were everywhere, of every colour, and wherever there were flowers there were butterflies. Frustratingly, we could put names to very few of them but our hearts were always uplifted by the masses of Bougainvillea adorning gaily coloured walls and patios. Kestrels hovered over the bare lava fields, presumably hunting lizards. Chaffinches begged for food on the very summit of Pico Bejenado and in many places shiny black Choughs honoured us with their striking presence.
Almond blossom
To the west of the island Almond trees carpet the slopes with delicate pink blossoms. To celebrate the occasion a festival is held at Puntagorda on the first weekend in February when crowds fill the streets in their thousands for music and dancing, eating and drinking - and in some cases maybe imbibing a little to excess. Perhaps it's an indication of how enthusiastically they tend to celebrate when local police and ambulances were lined up to presumably deal with any emergency that might arise. So too was the local Fire Engine, though I'm not sure why. Maybe they were just intent upon enjoying the festival along with everyone else.
Many of the people holidaying on the island were from the same area of Yorkshire as us, three of them living less than 7 miles away in the village of Meltham where we ran our 10K race only hours before flying south.  One of them, Martin who'd spent four years learning to speak fluent Spanish, was good enough to share a taxi to El Pilar on the day we scorched along the volcano route. Another, along with his charming wife, was a gentleman called Andy Styan who is something of a legend in fell-running circles on account of his longstanding record in the Langdale Horseshoe race. He ran the 14 miles with 4,000ft of rocky ascent in 1:55:03. That record was set way back in 1977 and no-one has yet broken it. It was a privilege to shake his hand and I just hope some of his speed and prowess rubs off on me! I'll soon find out.  My next race is less than two weeks away.


  1. I am so jealous! What a beautiful place!

  2. Looks like a great break - welcome back to the web world!

  3. Glad you enjoyed our little island.

    Actually the geologist's term Caldera comes from the Caldera on La Palma. That was before they found out that our Caledra is an erosion feature, not a volcanic caldera at all! I hope you get to see it next time, because it's truly spectacular. If you haven't found them yet, you can see some photos on my blog.

  4. Nice to enjoy some sunshine and warmth, for sure! I'll be heading down to Fuerteventura soon, I can't wait!!!