This month, I feel we have been a little thwarted with our walks, not for want of ideas and enthusiasm.  Oh well, it can happen!
We had hoped to walk the middle section of the GR131 from Roque de Muchachos to El Pilar, this being the only section we hadn't done.  It's a biggie in that we planned to split it in two, spending overnight at the refuge hut at Punta de Los Roques and we quite shocked ourselves one evening by contemplating doing it the next day.
We started to dig out the sleeping bags, bed rolls, etc. and consider what food we should take ... and could we get water at the refuge hut ...?  We contacted our good friends at http://www.lapalma-oceaanzicht.nl who have stayed there a couple of times and decided to be safe that we would take water.  And since the walk is quite exposed along the rim of the Caldera and the refuge hut where we would spend the night is just over 2000 meters above sea level, we would need to take some warm clothing and waterproofs.
Refugio Punta de Los Roques
The more we realised how much we would need to carry the more our hopes diminished and reality kicked in.  All we have at the moment are two day rucksacks and fitting in and suspending all the gear we would need was starting to look unrealistic.  So we decided two things 1. we need at least one bigger rucksack and 2. we need a practice walk with all our gear. And when we suddenly remembered that we still didn't have the camera back from the shop since it stopped working, that was definitely it.  Phew - that was a close one!

However, the next day by way of compensation we set off partly loaded to see how we did.  The other kind of good things is that the weather was a little rainy - and we had never walked in rain before, we have spent all summer trying out different clothing with a view to keeping cool.  Up at the top, we might expect any type of weather conditions so this would be good preparation.
We started out at the Bailadero bar/restaurant by Hoya Grande on the LP10 in a westerly direction and after a little over an hour arrived at the bar/restaurant Kioso Briesta.  Mm, bit of a theme going on here.  By now any drops of rain had long gone and we had taken off the wet-weather ponchos that usefully cover the rucksacks and remove quite a degree of sensory perception while they are at it.  An ice cream was the reward.
Our return journey took us along the forest trails of the LP20 and, when we reached the road up to the observatory, we left the route and walked down the road to the waiting car.  Well, OK, since the car was parked at the Bailadero, it would be rude not to partake of nourishment there, especially as they do a very good salad and tapas.
The next week, our hope was to walk with our family who were staying with us from Roque de Muchachas for an hour along the ridge and then back.  Unfortunately, the cloud had come in by the time we got to the top and we decided to abort that in favour of the walk from La Mata to the spring of El Capitan which was as interesting as we had remembered it.  And then on the way back home, we decided to burn off some energy by walking through the village back to the house - just 3.2 km but walking quickly, it was fun.

Our last walk of October, again with family, was from La Crucita down into the barranco with the amazing three tiers of caves, the cobbled path back up the other side, a wander around Gallegos village and back again.  Short but I really adore it!

Mm, guess I'll blog that after all.


GR130 - Tijarafe to Los Llanos 14.6 km

This report didn't get published after we walked this section of the GR130 earlier this year (10th April,2010)  - so here we are!
We parked the car at the southern end of Tijarafe, opposite the bus stop where we had last finished walking from Puntagorda.  Having climbed into our walking uniform of boots and rucksacks, we grabbed our poles and set off along the pavement with a spring in our step and hopefully looking like real explorers.  Approximately thirty seconds later where the pavement ended, we were lost.  Did the trail follow the main road or did it go down the side road to our right?  The side road looked the most appealing and on walking down there we quickly found that it ended at a few large houses.  Maybe there was a secret path hidden behind the houses?  An elderly and jolly-looking lady had just come out of the front door of one of the houses and was coming down the path.  She was holding, high in the air, a large fish by its tail and I took the opportunity to ask her if this was the Camino Real, the GR130.  She grinned and nodded her head enthusiastically and said that she had no idea.  She would ask her daughter who was bound to know and so lady and fish returned to the house to find daughter.  When all three emerged again, the daughter kindly explained that we should return to the main road and follow it until we came to the 'grey' house (for which read 'breeze block') and we would see a sign indicating the route.
With such a interesting start, we set off again in great spirits.  And it was true, once we had walked fifty metres along the road, we spotted the sign along with our first cross of the day.
Passing behind the 'grey' house, we started to ascend along a little path which brought us to a narrow road where there were three bench seats named (presumably) after family members.  We crossed the lane with the sun shining above and glinting on the green grass underfoot.  Now we found ourselves above the road, walking along a little path and eventually on a gentle slope down into our first barranco.  Ah - unless things were about to change - this was lovely, easy going.  And surprise, surprise it didn't change.  This was the easiest barranco we have encountered so far and extremely pretty, lined with pine trees and the path covered in pine needles.  I would have liked to stay a little longer.
Climbing up the other side of the barranco, we had a lovely view back to Tijarafe and eventually we popped up at a little plaza.  I could imagine this would be a fun place but today, all was quiet and we disappeared down the far side of the plaza onto a small path.  On surfacing back at the road again a short time later, we were once again confused.  It looked as if there had been a rockfall on to the road and no signs were visible.  However, we took a chance (actually, there was no other option) and crossed the road into a small park to search for the signs.  Great  - we hadn't been here before!  Here we could picnic or bbq.  There were even toilets and - they were open.  Whatever next!
Now we were back on little paths and intriguingly passing right by people's front doors.  It was a wonderful insight in the lives of some Palmeros.  Sweet smelling washing hung out to dry, kids bikes, tree trunks for seats, and one little notice written in German which said (more or less), 'This tap is our tap on our patio.  Don't even think about it.'  Of course, I had walked on the patio to read what the notice said so had to beat a hasty retreat!   Down an even quieter lane, the residents had long gone.
Eventually, we arrived at something like civilization at La Punta.  Here there was a Spar and the sign told us we had walked 8.km from Tijarafe and still had 6.6km to go.  That seemed strange as we felt so near!  Never mind, onward. Over the road and then rising high above it on a steep little path which then flattened out and gave us a great view over the banana plantations and sea.
After 1 km of easy walking, the path came to a junction where it intersected the GR131.  The sign post here was almost comical with such an array of choices.  If we were at all unsure of directions and distances, then we only had to glance at the nearby new-style GR130 and GR131 signs which confirmed that it was 3.5km to Tazacorte and 14.4km to Roque de Muchachos and informed us that it was another 5.6 km to Los Llanos.  In fact, the old GR130 route used to take you into Tazacorte and we wondered for a moment if we should go down to Tazacorte but, no, we would continue to Los Llanos as planned.
Just the other side of this intersection we found the perfect place to eat.  In a delve in the rock there was a wooden bench and we sat down to eat our bocadillos and bananas, which the lizards shared, all with a wonderful view over Los Llanos. What a shame there was cloud cover which meant it was not the best photo (see website and scroll to section 7) - although it was still plenty hot enough, even with the clouds.
 Now began the descent down into the barranco de Las Angustias practically to sea level.  Oh - this was going to feel like a long way down on our little path!
barranco came ever more into sight and we could see that it was flowing with water.  This was extremely exciting as we haven't seen it flowing many times and it looked as if it could be quite deep.  We had to bide our time a little longer though as, just as we were considering if we dare take two bananas that were on the floor of the plantation just near the track, a man appeared.  'Take some bananas,' he called to us, in Spanish.  He must have read our minds.  We said that was very kind of him and how wonderful his plantation was and how much work it must be.  Oh yes, and for no money, or very little we were assured.  He then proceeded to lug half a trunk of bananas over to us.  We hurriedly explained that we didn't have the car with us, we were walking.  He looked at us as if we were mad.  He hadn't asked about a car, what was a car to do with him?  After several exchanges, we still hadn't managed to convince him that not being Palmeran weightlifters, we would need a car to transport around thirty kilos of bananas.  Whimps!  In the end, we managed to talk him down to about twenty bananas although of course he didn't want any money, whatever the case.
It was just after this that we completely lost the route and had to follow the road for about five minutes before we picked the sign up again.  The road is definitely not recommended for walkers as, despite being only just wide enough for two vehicles to pass and with many hairpin bends, it is a veritable mini Monte Carlo rally.  As a consequence, we walked very quickly!
Eventually, the path brought us to the lowest part of the road which ran alongside the barranco and we crossed the little footbridge over the flowing waters to the other side.
Now this was impressive stuff, although I am sure many people have seen the water much higher.  Anyway, we now only had 2.6km to go before Los Llanos.  But what was this - dangerous talk of swimming?  Mm, well there was somebody further up the ravine who was swimming in a natural pool of the flowing water and if I wasn't mistaken, he was starting to look a little alarmed at the thought of us joining him.  In the end we settled for a paddle where we were.
Maybe it was the fact that we stopped for quite a long time or maybe it was because our calf muscles were immersed in cold water or maybe ... well, whatever it was, that final ascent up to Los Llanos was hard going.  And of course the heat ... it felt like sitting right next to a 3 bar electric fire.  Yes, my head was undoubtedly alight and could probably have been seen from space.
Actually, I think it felt tougher than it should have been because the path doesn't zigzag.  This means that the sun zapped just one side of the body, without getting the chance to turn and get char grilled the other side. And there is no place to go for shade so the only alternative is to forge on.
Arriving in Los Llanos and passing along the curious side streets lined by little old low houses, all was forgiven.  Especially when we emerged into the leafy shade of the plaza as heroes.  


Star walkers complete the GR130 route around La Palma

Our huge congratulations to Christine of Star Trex, Jen and Bill, who all completed the GR130 route right around La Palma on Saturday, 2nd October.
Jen, Bill, Christine and Dave
It is a fantastic and impressive achievement - approximately 155 km along forest trails and volcano fields, pretty country paths and coastal ways, cobbled streets and deserted wilderness, ridiculously steep country lanes and not forgetting the numerous deep and rugged ravines to be traversed - completed in just ten days, with two rest days included.  To add to the constantly changing conditions underfoot and the scenery surrounding them, they also had challenges from up above with rain on the first day, then hot sun virtually all of the rest of the route and some thankfully slightly cooler weather towards the end.
Back up was provided by Dave with whom they stayed in phone contact and if the team were not actually walking directly to or from their accommodation, Dave was there to drop them off or pick them up.  Bailey was the fifth member of the team who did nothing but wag his tail, run around looking happy, bark once and sleep.
Very well done team - you are all stars!
Really, it was a privilege to meet them all and be a small part of their great challenge. They stayed with us here in Franceses for four nights and I am glad they had time to enjoy some of the facilities including the 'party port.'  They certainly deserved a sit down!
If you think you would like to walk the GR130 route on La Palma, either self-guided or with Christine, just send me an email or if you would like to walk in Tenerife with Christine, do drop into her website.  Apart from being a qualified mountain leader plus having walked extensively in the UK and spent eight weeks trekking in the Himalayas, she is a great guide and an inspirational person.