An old path in Franceses gets a new look

The other day, whilst looking out of the kitchen window, we noticed a group of workers in their high-viz vests clearing the path below us.  The path is about a three minute walk away from our house and our most direct route to the GR130 and the road down to the old port village of La Fajana.
I remember walking it one time, years ago now, and we both took a sickle to clear the overgrown parts.  But eventually, we gave up the unequal struggle as it all grew back by the next time we walked it.  And anyway, the last part where it joins the road wasn't very good being steep with large loose stones so it was a case of hang on to your hat and hope!  It seems that over time, nobody else has walked it and the last time I tried, I couldn't even find the right way and ended up clambering over rocks and bushes before turning back.
However, we couldn't help but notice that this group of workers were cheating.  With four people, a heavy-duty strimmer, plus any other hand tools that we couldn't see from our vantage point and three days to throw at it, impressive results were guaranteed.
So once they seemed to have finished, we picked up our walking poles and set off to explore.
We were thrilled to discover that the path was impressively wide and very well cleared.  Bushes, long grass, encroaching cacti all cut back.  Along the first part, a ridge of solid stone (and a 450 metre drop-off) keeps you 'in' and on the other side, a line of cacti bushes keep you 'out.'  Further down, stones line the sides of the path making it impossible to lose the route. And at the bottom of the path, where it joins the road, a new set of sturdy steps have been made, all in stone.   Looking back inland towards the sun, it looked quite mystical.
Apart from being a short cut and a handy route in the old days for people living on our ridge, it also provides an amazing view.  Because it runs along the most westerly ridge in Franceses, from here you can look right down into the barranco of Los Hombres.  It is hard not to just stand and admire it.
From the path you get a very good look at the GR130 route as it zig-zags up to El Tablado which we can also see from our own house.  But the eagle's eye view as the land swoops almost vertically down into the barranco is simply awesome.  You look at it and think, 'If I had wings ... '


GR 130 - Los Canarios to Santa Cruz 27km

At last!  A chance to complete the GR130.
In eager anticipation of our walk from Los Canarios in the extreme south towards Santa Cruz in the mid-east, we were up and out of bed fifteen minutes before the alarm was even dreaming about ringing.  However, despite being on the road for 6 am, it was 9 am before we started walking.  Having driven to Mazo, left the car there, put our boots and rucksacks on and taken the bus to Los Canarios which waited at an intersection for another smaller bus some of whose occupants got off that bus and on to ours, a coffee seemed obligatory.
We headed up the steep path of the GR131 where we joined the GR130 around 25 minutes later. What a shame to have missed the sunrise - it must be beautiful from here!  Never mind, the view was still excellent and the track reasonably level so we adopted a recently-tried walking style - fast!  Well, it wasn't hot or difficult and we were interested to find out if we could walk all the way to Santa Cruz, so there was nothing to stop us.  Of course, it wasn't very fast, not compared to proper speed walkers, though I am sure we cut an odd couple of figures dashing along the pine-needle covered paths.
The signpost told us that it was 15.7 km to Montana de Las Toscas which, to be honest, we didn't know exactly where it was but didn't relish the thought of any type of 'mountain' anywhere.   In fact, the path was almost boring at the start being wide and used for vehicular access but soon it narrowed and we were really enjoying it. The kilometres quickly dropped away helped by the fact that I wasn't constantly stopping to take photos as our camera was in for repair.  We did however have a new mobile phone but I was going to limit myself to taking ten photos with it, well maybe fifteen or possibly twenty because we wanted to get on if there was to be any hope of getting to Santa Cruz in one go.
For the first hour, there were some sorry sights of burnt pine trees, a reminder of the fire from last summer.  And other signs of damage due to flash flooding but the beautiful scenery was by far the over-riding impression.  And I also discovered that taking photos with the phone was much less time-consuming than with the camera.
After quite a long and steep downhill section along a narrow path with large stones scattered over it, we were deposited at the road, which we crossed and walked along the other side of it for a while before it had us go through a tunnel under the road.  A little further along, this was repeated, ducking under the road and it all felt rather like a fun treasure hunt as we followed the excellent and frequent signs.
Not only were the signs impressively clear, possibly the best markings of the whole GR130 route, but the walking was very easy, certainly in this anti-clockwise direction.  We passed a couple of goat farms and a few crosses here and there, a roof where figs were laid out to dry and a few barrancos which were nothing more than dips.  Although we dodged on and off the road at times, a large bend was cut off where we had the benefit of a lovely stone path.
And the crosses as we started to approach Mazo ... don't even count the crosses!   And all of them managing to be quite different, some quite simple, others ornate.  Singles or a group of three.  One attached to the end of an old house and another with a painted landscape behind.
However, the nagging worry I had was this 'mountian.'  Surely, after we had been so spoilt with flatish walking, the route wouldn't take us up a mountain.  But once we got to a sign that told us that the 'mountain' was only 02 km away and I could actually see it did I feel safe, knowing that we wouldn't be going up it.  And gosh, it was beautiful!  A peak really with a good smattering of bushes growing on it and with bare rock showing through.  I must confess to having forgotten about the existence of such a wonderful piece of nature's architecture!  Unfortunately though, the phone camera was not going to do it any form of justice.
Now we were level with Mazo and a short detour meant that we could finish the walk here for the day and re-join our car, if we wanted.  But, feeling pretty pleased with ourselves at it having taken only four hours so far, we had a quick bite to eat at the park and sped on.  Only 7.1km to San Pedro!
And plenty to see - a 'quiet corner' for resting with a beautiful drago tree, cows at the side of the road, a second small mountain which thankfully we were not required to climb up either, a plaza for parties and pretty lanes to walk along.
Passing along what would normally (or sometimes be) a quiet back road of San Jose, they were in fine form with bunting up and a stage being erected.  And an ancient church. San Jose - we shall be back to inspect you more closely one day!  It was not long after this that we got lost and had to retrace our steps which obviously was back up the hill.  It was only by a process of elimination (which nearly included me being eliminated, courtesy of a speeding lorry) and by close scrutiny that we spotted the GR130 blaze.  Huh! So over a small rubbish tip then, how cunning!  Whilst we did appreciate the inventiveness of it, the lane at the side of it would have been easier. At least though, it brought us out onto a lovely cobbled path which took us into San Pedro.
Here, we knew the route would take us to the end of the small town but the signs were not easy to find, but find them we did and passing below the church we headed out of town on this last section of  4.7km to Santa Cruz.

We had been looking at Santa Cruz in the distance for some time now but for some strange reason, it didn't seem to want to come much closer.  We walked along a short section of new road on the pavement, passed Maroparque Zoo (another place we must visit) and then down, down, down the steep, steep road towards the sea.  Two things happened.  1.  The phone battery died - surely I had charged it .. I know I meant to ... and 2. my little toe was stinging and David's knees were twinging - the usual troublemakers.
But there was no stopping us as we suddenly found ourselves at the Town Hall in Santa Cruz, seven crazy hours from Los Canarios.  We had completed the walk - and the GR130.


GR 130 - El Roque to Tijarafe 10.6 km

Spoilt for choice, we decided to walk from a little place called El Roque which is near Puntagorda in the west and sits rather conveniently at an intersection of the GR 130 where it crosses the main road. Not only was it convenient to park but it also has a beautiful bus stop!
El Roque sits behind the main road, so I feel we could be forgiven for not having noticed it in the past, but we were immediately impressed with its facilities – nothing less than a telecentro with internet connection. But that is not of course what we were there for. It seemed that music classes were also in progress as the lilting notes of a clarinet floated out onto the streets. And nice people nodded and smiled -what a good start!
We followed the little lane along – in fact we guessed that this had probably been the main road at one time – and congratulated ourselves on our good luck. The sun was shining, the lane quickly turned into a miniature cobbled street lined by interesting looking houses and we had all day to do the walk.
Within five minutes we were lost. And five minutes later were were lost again. This was not such a good start after all and we made many mutterings about the lack of a sign just where we needed it. Well, we would just have to guess that the route took us over a pile of sand which formed the building site of somebody's restoration project and sure enough – just where there was no fork in the path and nowhere else to go, there was the trusty red and white blaze confirming that we were in fact still en route.
Now the route seemed more obvious and we could follow wooden railings. Oh no, this wasn't it – this was up the famous dragon tree, we should have followed the unmarked track without railings.
In spite of a less than auspicious first half hour, it was a day for enjoying ourselves and the route provided an ever changing set of landscapes for us to walk in.
At one point, we were up in the pine forest walking high above the road, then we were down in the bottom of a barranco, clambering over rocks and next walking along a sunny flower-lined path. It was all glorious.

Then there were places with an accumulation or even just a scattering of houses. David and I are of course fascinated by all things building and since the GR 130 is lined in parts by houses, there was plenty for us to admire. And otherwise. There are the old stone dwellings, some of them sadly giving way to collapse, flat roofed houses with many extensions of various sorts, grand Canarian houses in the middle of nowhere and all styles in between.
It wasn't until we had been on the route for around three hours and enjoyed a leisurely picnic lunch that we realised we had in fact been dawdling and if we didn't get a move on, we would miss our bus in Tijarafe, the idea being that we would catch the bus back to our start point of El Roque. And being a Saturday, buses are fairly few and far between.
Luckily, the route was now much easier and what could be called almost flat – well, for La Palma anyway! Now we contented ourselves to comment and admire on the move - a sweet kitten, an intricately carved door, potatoes growing in super-neat lines, a tree in an orchard dripping with a hundred lemons, an industrial tank with Koi carp in it, huge (and I mean huge) dandelion clocks growing at the side of the path, terraces filled with lush-looking avocado trees and how the GR 130 signs were now rapidly revealing that we only had 6.3 km, 4.8 km, 2.4 km, 1.1 km to walk to Tijarafe.
At this rate we would even have time for a cold beer before the bus came!
Well, in actual fact, there was just time to get lost again. Our suspicions that we were now 'off route' were confirmed when we passed two more junctions in the track with no indication of where to go. But by now we could see Tijarafe very close by and we just followed our noses, practically leaping up a rough old path, half covered in long grass, incentive firing our boots into action.
Ah, time for a beer after all and be ready for the bus whose expected arrival we noted was 'approximate.' Happily, we were there waiting when it arrived almost ten minutes early.

(This post is imported from our Finca Franceses blogspot so that the Gr's are all together!  It was walked 14th April, 2010. )