|Stormy arrival at Los Cancajos....|
At Taburiente Playa in Los Cancajos we were allotted room number 438 which, we discovered, was
north facing and never got the faintest glimmer of sunlight. We were having none of that and were back down in Reception within minutes demanding a change. After a none too friendly exchange of words we were given room number 413 facing south and overlooking the swimming pools. Next morning we'd thunder and lightning with lashing rain and gale force wind that threatened to tear out surrounding trees by their roots. Our local Tourist Information Office, five minutes walk away, warned of severe weather with strong winds, snow on hills, and consequent closure of all high level footpaths.
|Hotel verandah awash with rain...|
|Waves and white horses...|
PICO BEJENADO. We set off to walk/jog
the classic Volcano Route, regarded by many as the finest day's walk in all the Canary Islands, but we alighted from the bus by the National Park Visitor Centre to see the whole of the Cumbrae Nueva ridge swathed in thick cloud. To the north Pico Bejenado's lofty tree-clad summit basked in glorious sunshine with nary a cloud to be seen. So, instead of making for El Pilar we climbed into a taxi and instructed the driver to head for El Barrial at the end of the tarmac road where a long trail begins its upward journey through a forest of Canary Pines to the 6,082ft summit. Out of the wind it was warm work but we made fast progress in lightweight gear - shorts, T-shirt and trail shoes - so we'd reached the summit cairn before noon.. Patches of snow still lingered on the rocky path whilst over on Tenerife Mount Teide, highest mountain in Spain, rose shining white above a sea of cloud.
|Mount Teide, miles away on Tenerife....|
|Happy couple on summit of Pico Bejenado...note that sky.|
In spite of warm sunshine the local lizard population probably still regarded it as winter and were conspicuous by their absense. In summertime they're foraging for titbits around our feet and even probing into our rucksacks. Last year's friendly raven was missing too. It would perch at arms length and take food from our fingers. All we saw this time were two small brown birds we couldn't identify. We spent half an hour or so on the summit, enjoying the incredible views and breathing the clear air while eating lunch. There's a Visitors book in a metal box at the cairn but some thoughtless person had left the lid off and it had more or less disintegrated. A steady stream of walkers, mostly Germans, joined us at the cairn. Time to depart. It was a long walk back to the Visitor Centre where we'd catch a bus back.
THE VOLCANO ROUTE. Our alarm woke us at 06.30 so we'd breakfasted and quickly on our way
to catch the 08.00 Los Llanos bus as far as the National Park Visitor Centre. From there we climbed straight into a taxi bound for Refugio El Pilar, the start of our day's activities. The Sunflower Guide advises walkers to be well equipped with hiking boots, sun hat, sun glasses, sun cream, rain gear, warm cardigan, anorak, picnic and plenty of water. I was in my usual lightweight trail gear and never drank a drop of water throughout the 12 miles and 1,600ft of ascent, not until I got back to the hotel some six hours later. I'll confess to sucking a couple of Polo mints en route but saved a muesli bar until the finish, before boarding the bus in Fuencaliente back to Cancajos. Having walked/jogged the Volcano Route four times previously it holds no fears for either of us. We've done much harder things on coast to coast jaunts over Scottish mountains.
|Standing by the Hoyo Negra, literally the black hole...|
|Our begging friends, the ravens at Vulcan Deseada...|
The steepest part of the route was a sandy, slippery climb onto Pico Deseada which seemed longer than
on previous occasions. Maybe it's because I'm getting older. We paused at the trig point to take photographs of the crater where, lo and behold, the friendly ravens flew down again and strutted in front of our cameras, determined to get in the picture. Leaving Deseada we could jog down the sandy slope, to where a minor path crosses our main highway, the GR 131. A runner caught up with us and showed us a water tap in a rock wall about 25m to our right that ran icy cold for anyone needing refreshment. That was new to us. Soon we were back into the pines, a low growing wonderfully light green variety dotting the landscape towards brightly coloured Vulcan St Martin.
|The lighter coloured dwarf pines...|
We detoured off the main trail onto the rim of the volcano to peer into its depths and photograph the striking colours before continuing on our way. We were well ahead of schedule for our 2 o'clock bus so had time to linger, revellimg in all the magic and mystery of that incredible ancient landscape. More runners past us, a group of three
who moved sure footedly across the rocky, uneven terrain. Most likely they were familiarising themselves with parts of the 53 mile long Transvulcania race that takes place every May and attracts top sky runners from all over the world. If only I'd my time to come over again! In younger years I'd never heard of such things. The Three Peaks of Yorkshire (24 miles/4,500ft ascent) was the only long distance event I knew of - and I couldn't wait to take part in it when I started running at the tender age of 54. It was an easy jog/walk through mist enshrouded forest to the tarmac streets of Fuencaliente and the end of another little adventure.
|Runners emerging from the misty forest...|
ROQUE DE LOS MUCHACHOS TO MIRADOR EL TIME. There was some slight indecision
before embarking on this route. After an early breakfast we stuck our noses out to sniff the air and gauge the weather. It didn't look good. Thick clag, poor visibility and a stiff wind didn't bode well for a walk starting at almost 8,000ft with the prospect of snow on all high level trails. I disappeared into the loo telling my wonderful partner "I'll meditate on it". Five minutes later I re-appeared and said "Let's go" before shouldering our tiny rucksacks and ordering a taxi for 8am. It arrived, spot on time, though the driver could hardly believe that the couple stood outside dressed in shorts and carrying a minimum of gear were actually going to attempt such a high level route that wasn't even in our guide book.
|Excited in the clear air at 8,000ft, but had to don a fleece.....|
|Snow, cloud and telescopes....|
The driver got out of his car with us to gaze for a wee while at the incredible sights - seeming as
gobsmacked as we were. At 9.10am it was freezing cold and my wonderful partner feared we might suffer discomfort all the way down - a drop of over 6,000ft to the fleshpots of El Time - so was anxious to get under way pretty smartish. Snow lingered on the trail, making it understandable why our driver had questioned us about trekking poles, but there was nothing we ever considered dangerous or difficult to cope with. And as we dropped down the ridge the wind eased and warm sunshine made walking very pleasurable indeed as never ending exciting panoramas unfolded before us.
|Setting off down the snowy trail to Mirador El Time....|
|Pico Bejenado in a sea of cloud across the Caldera Taburiente....|
After terraced vineyards and trees ladened with almond blossom we arrived somewhat wearily at
Mirador El Time after nearly six hours on the trail and deposited ourselves on the kerb to flag down the 4 o'clock bus. It connected with the 4.30 bus in Los Llanos for the journey back to our hotel. For me, this had been the walk that made all else seem anti-climax. It was time to relax by the pool, to swim, soak up the sun and hopefully acquire a semblance of a tan to ward off the winter blues before returning home in search of Spring. Oh, I almost forgot. this being a running blog, we did in fact get out running on nine of our fourteen days over a regular four mile circuit round 'the ridge' with 380ft of ascent to strengthen the old legs. And after eating like kings (and queens) with an abundance of mouth watering dishes, we both managed to lose weight. I reckon we should go to La Palma more often.......
|Down the rocky path where balance is required...|