GR 130 - Santa Cruz to Puntallana ... and beyond 15 km
From walking along the beautiful cobbled streets of La Palma, lined by impressive mansions, we crossed the road into an area, well, less beautiful. Mercifully, it is a very short road and since we weren't looking for building supplies or broken down buses we were pleased to discover that a left turn at the end took us into a surprisingly pretty little barranco. I don't know how La Palma does it – you can guarantee that on any given walk you will come across something you didn't expect to be there.
We had noticed before, when walking on the road above the barranco, that there is something of a little aloe vera farm down there, hidden behind protective sheeting. An old boy I accosted, well got into conversation with, had given us a potted history of the plant, its culinary uses and medicinal properties. He concluded with a 'it's very good for the stomach.' Palmerans always say that about almost anything – gofio, brandy for breakfast .... it's all good for the estómago.
The path took us onwards and upwards to a very nice cross near the top of stone steps where it meets the road.
Passing the Bar Viveres, we found the next sign on a telegraph pole on a concrete path just beyond it and this led to another little selection of houses. Ooh – never been up here before!! This we discovered took us to the old road – which led to the main road. Ah, the dreaded section of walking along the LP1. However, I have to say that the 1.7km went quite quickly walking on a path at the side of the road, protected from the traffic. And it did provide a good view of the clear sea below us and Santa Cruz a good distance away.
Now for the next bit ... this was a treat we could have done without ... around 300m straight up the side of a 'hill.' There is a lot of the GR130 that might get you puffing and panting a bit but we haven't encountered anything quite like this before in terms of difficulty. The first part wasn't too bad and there were a couple of interesting caves along the way. But then the narrow 'path' got really quite bad and steeper. Some climbing over large boulders or negotiating loose stones was required, often edging by cactus or other bushes at the same time and all at an angle designed to tip us off the side of the hill. Walking down this section would be out of the question, it would be a case of reversing down on hands and knees in many places!
At the top, we found there were some houses with road access from the other side (it felt a bit like climbing Everest only to find that somebody drove up there).
We followed the route down some metal steps to a mirador with an excellent view over Santa Cruz and Los Cancajos. At least now the going was extremely easy, along small tarmac roads and grass-covered paths. Walking along a brief section of the old road (the route doesn't go through the tunnel), we crossed the LP1 again before ascending up some well-made steps taking us high above the road again.
Here we arrived at an 'unfinished project' of a hotel and the pretty little church of Santa Lucia.
Our plan was to walk on past Puntallana and see how far we could comfortably get. We had only been walking three and a quarter hours so we felt ready to 'crack on.' So we followed the route down by the side of church and on increasingly smaller roads, then tracks, then paths. We amused ourselves by trying to spot houses we had seen for sale eight years ago when we were originally house hunting. Well, they were still there but sold or not was another question!
The route crossed the road down to Playa Nogales a couple of times and then, in the middle of nowhere we came to a pretty stone-built path with stone wall at the side and handrail. We could have done with that earlier! Then we were in banana country.
Now the route crossed concrete banana plantation roads a couple of times and at one junction, I tested my new theory on an old boy that was sitting on a wall, that you have to ask for the 'Camino Real' rather than the GR130. 'San Andres,'' he said pointing the way. Oh well, just ask for the town then. Not that we were going as far as San Andres but certainly that way.
Not long after the 'Los Sauces 10.4km' signpost, we briefly lost the route but luckily spotted it down the hill to the right. After that and back on route, we had a great view over Playa Nogales far below us.
After walking two hours onwards from Puntallana, where a sign told us we had covered 5.3km, we had to make a decision whether to carry on or try to get back to the main road in time to catch the bus. Well, we had in fact already walked from Los Sauces to here before and seemed to recall that the next barranco was fairly tough. And it was hot now - enough to swing calling it a day, especially since we were a bit short on sleep after watching the rock group Manifold the previous night, or should I say, that morning. So we set off up the steep road in the direction of El Granel hoping it wasn't as far to the main road as we remembered.
In fact, it was much further - but at least we could enjoy the view from the back of an old Santana Land Rover. We enjoyed the ride but much better to carry on across the barranco to La Galga. Next time!