GR130 - El Tablado to Santo Domingo 13.3 km

  For a change, we decided that we would not walk from the house to El Tablado on the GR130 - that would be too obvious.  No, we would start our walk at Roque Faro, go down the LP 9.1, thereby joining the GR130 at El Tablado.
  An early start was needed to give us at least some time without the sun and at 6.50 a.m. the only signs of  life in Roque Faro apart from us was the bread man and the moon.  Actually, it was still laughably dark (and I did laugh) and it was only with the help of the moon that we were able to pick our way down the path.  As we wound our way down from Roque Faro at 1,000 metres above sea level towards El Tablado at around 360 metres the light gently grew and it was a brilliant experience to walk through the wooded paths with the growing dawn. 
  Arriving in El Tablado via an old stone path that runs down by the side of the restaurant El Moral, the few residents were beginning to start the day, watering the little plots of vegetables being the norm.  It was great to be among all the little houses that we can see from our own house, just 1.34 km away as the crow flies! 
 Passing by the church, the path conveniently deposited us right at the signpost for the GR 130 - unfortunately not one of the newer ones with the distances but none-the-less, a clear indication as to where to go.  And so off we set on the 'walk proper' - now we were on the GR130 and our main quest for the day. Walking along a pretty little cobbled path, we were soon leaving the picturesque El Tablado behind us.
We passed the much-photographed ancient drago tree (see website) and were now truly in the open, overlooking the impressive north coast with its roller-coaster of ravines.  From here, we could see the walking path undulating its way across the north but our final destination was some distance beyond the final hill, out of sight.  There was a long way to go!
We began the zig-zag trek down the Barranco Fagundo which lies between El Tablado and Don Pedro which, according to the Rother Walking Guide, is the finest on the island.  There were certainly more than a few spectacular sights along the way such as looking back over the old port village of La Fajana and spectacular coastline you would never normally see.  And the curious overhangs and fascinating strata made me wish that I knew more about geology so that I could appreciate it even more!  
After an hour of fairly careful walking due to the nature of the dry path, we came to the rock-strewn bottom of the barranco where we left the GR130 route for a detour to the beach.  You can read about it on our finca franceses blog but on reflection, we would have preferred to do it (if at all) as a stand alone exercise rather than as part of a longish walk. 
Continuing up the other side of the barranco, the path was good but steep enough in places and it was a case of a steady climb in the growing heat.  
  Along the way, we were rewarding with a mirador as we got higher and higher and then another with table and bench seating plus an interesting (and intact) information board. Oh, and still another 1.5 kilometres to Don Pedro - how did that happen!
The final path into Don Pedro was pretty, filled with greenery and nothing more than a slope which we attacked with gusto.  Aren't way points great for that boost of energy!  Not of course that we would find anything in Don Pedro apart from the potential of a herd of goats being shepherded through, a couple of resident dogs and a few elderly Santanas which will probably never move again.  So, without pausing, we carried on to the next stage, a length of 8.8 km.  Santo Domingo - here we come!
  At first the going was easy with a few interesting houses to pass by and, in between the bushes, glimpses of the super-barren land of Juan Adalid in the distance - being August, this rather desolate area of La Palma was the colour of a desert rather than lush green of winter.  However, our path took us down into woodland with some short, quite steep parts and a few oddities such as a cave with its own GR130 blaze on the door -  I think the paint person was having some fun!  Perhaps that's what brought on our song of the day, 'The Cherokees are after me .... there's a hidden cave ... two wheels on my wagon ...'  (You had to be there.)
But of course, going down means only one thing and we were soon heading upwards again, this time to the highest part of the whole of the GR130 across the north at nearly 600m. 
After some easier walking, we were pleased to see the wind turbines appear in the distant and then, quite suddenly, the head of one appeared over the bushes.  Five minutes later we were walking right by them. 
  Our next sign revealed that it was 5.8km to go to Santo Domingo and the open trails stretched out in front of us.  A generous sprinkling of GR130 signs kept us informed how we were doing and the occasional house in a supremely remote location kept us puzzled.  Low cloud started to form which looked quite ethereal but more usefully helped keep some of the heat at bay.  
  Unfortunately, it was just after this photo that the camera decided not to work any more.  Oh no!  Because we had just come to 'the best' cave we have ever seen, where you could easily house 50 people.  And then old stone washing basins and a spring where we refilled our water bottles, having already drunk 1.5 litres each.  Ow, ow ... no camera and the phone camera decided not to work either.  It was a conspiracy!   Oh well, a good excuse to come back in winter and do it all again when everything is greener.  (And it transpired I had taken 130 photos already.)
  At one point after this, we realised we had lost the trail as we saw the burgundy/gold sign in a parallel place where we weren't.  We knew where we must have gone wrong but the thought of having to retrace our steps did not fill us with glee.  Luckily however, we managed to find a link to get us back on route - phew!  
  A rough track now took us further and further over the hills with a surprise scattering of houses cunningly located in the middle of nowhere.  But eventually, we were coming back to civilization along a concrete road.  Now we just had that one last little barranco to traverse before arriving in Santo Domingo.  And whilst it is something of an unwanted surprise if you are not expecting it at the end of a long walk, it really is quite small and the goats in their little caves always make it something of a treat.  It really is like going back in time.

We shall return!

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