This was a spectacular day. It started with a long, meandering, climbing, one and a half hour bus journey through the laurel cloud forest, giving wonderful views of Santa Cruz and its defunct volcano; the higher we got, the further north we could see and the laurels gave way to tall, elegant pine trees. At times, I wondered if it were possible to go any higher. Every now and again we would get glimpses of rocky peaks through the trees and then finally we came out into the desertified landscape where the bus stopped temporarily at a viewpoint into the crater of the Caldera de Taburiente. This volcano erupted over 1 million years ago and again 1/4 of a millenium after that. It has a diameter of 8 kilometres, though landslides and erosion have now blocked off one side of the crater so that it resembles something of an icecream cone now.
We continued on the twisting lava road turning left beside some observatories, some which look at the stars and others that look at the sun. Then we stopped and could go no further, and indeed this was true for the bus too, it puts its foot down and the clutch or brakes decided they had had enough of carrrying the HF party, so the bus driver spent the next 30 minutes organising another bus to pick us up later. We had arrived at our starting point – El Roques de Los Muchachos, which strangely translates as Rock of the Boys! We were at 2,426m or 7959ft. We were warned we could be a little light-headed but no-one suffered more than usual.
We were at the highest point of the Caldera and looking across to the left were several observatories, none of which are accessible to the public. They are too busy doing serious stuff. It was at this point that it was discovered that the easier walk could not run as only one person opted for it, the other person having changed his or her mind. This posed a problem as HF cannot lead a walk with 1 person. Fortunately we had a guide with us, who was supposed to tell us about the geology, flora and fauna, and she kindly offered to take the lady on the easier route and leave the two leaders with the harder walk.
It has a nice feeling being on top of the island, if not on top of the world, with sky all around, the cloud forest to the left, blue sea to the right and the other Canary Islands daring to raise their heads above the cloud parapet and make their own claim for our attention. At different times we saw Tenerife, La Gomera, and El Hiero. We were so lucky to have a mostly clear day, certainly along the rim, although inside the crater there was a kind of blue haze. The previous week the walkers had traipsed around the rim in total cloud, with not a view in sight. We obvously picked the right week.
But I am leaping ahead of time. Most of the time we were inside the cauldron, with many short and steep ascents and descents to Pico de la Cruz (2,351m), where we had our lunch. Now that’s what I call a lunch stop, though the wind was blowing a hooley and it was quite chilly.
At this point we became aware that we did not have our easier walker and the guide. What’s more, the leader had no signal on her phone, so many a moment was spent trying to make contact to find out where they were. One of the guests finally succeeded and we were able to continue. Ah, maybe this is what our leader Mary has spotted in the distance?
We carried on up and down the rocky rim, which had amazing colours at times and at other times seemed quite dull but never boring. We crossed two other tops, Piedro Llana 2,321 m and our final point on the rim was Pico de la Nieve, which reminded me of yesterday’s story of the talcum powder as Nieve means ‘snow’ and lends its title to the patron saint of that area and everything to the east towards Santa Cruz. Not that it looks very white, or does it?.
From here, it was all downhill, though perhaps the rocks underfoot were whiter than the rocks we started on. We had passed ancient pillow lavas created undersea when the volcano erupted, now evident at 500 metres showing how the uplift and shifting plates make mountains out of molehills. The whole of the Canaries is moving towards the African plate, so one day there will a mighty upheaval yet again. Even so, this island is unique in that its volcanos go some 4000 metres under the sea and 2500 metres above sea level, making them some of the highest volcanos in the world.
I end this section with a slideshow of some photographs taken on the rim to show you the variety of colour and interest created by the weathering of the rocks. Tomorrow is the last day of walking, and different yet again. Having been in the oldest volcano, I now enter one of the newest and the terrain is certainly different. Look out for the final instalment in my story of La Palma tomorrow.
Distance 7.5 miles
Total ascent 1312 ft
Total descent 2907 ft.
Maximum elevation 7951 ft; minimum elevation 6,283 ft.