GR131 - The Volcano Route

Ever fancied treking over a whole route of volcanoes?  Well, La Palma's your place!  Although it doesn't always seem like 'proper' volcanoes, I mean, where's the gushing black smoke, leaping flames and molten lava?  Mm, probably just as well there were not too many erruptions on the day of our walk.  But there is still penty to see along the way.
The Volcano Route is in fact one of the most famous walking routes on La Palma.  It forms around one third of the GR131 and runs between El Pilar (south of the centre of the island) and Los Canarios in the far south.  The great thing about the walk is that, given a clear day, you can get amazing views of both the east and west sides of the island with just a turn of the head. 
However ... there is some planning required with the logistics as it is a linear route.  We chose to start from El Pilar which sits at 1,500m above sea level thus walking more or less down hill.   And because we wanted an early start, we decided to camp the previous night.  Ouch, it was a little chilly at that height, but fresh and exhilerating and it is nothing that a camp fire at one of the purpose-built bbq cabins can't fix.  And of course I am crazy for camping! 
The next morning, after a breakfast in the gentle sun, we were off.
At the start, we were surrounded by pine trees and it was hard not to scramble to the edge of the route for some early peeks at the view.  Unfortunately, scudding clouds were blocking what would have been a stunning spectacle.  Darn!  Looks like we shall be doing this walk again - so that got me smiling.
Not long after, we felt we were on the way proper as we followed the ridge which is so symbolic of the route and of course we were still hoping for a better view.  At least though there was no wind which is an important consideration as it is extremely high and exposed here. 
Ah, and not a zig or a zag in sight - not at all like the squiggling ascents and descents of the barrancos typical of the north.
As we walked onwards over what is quite frankly a bizarre terrain, the skies started to clear and when we looked back we realised there really was a great view over Los Llanos. 
And now we were facing forward and looking over the south west with its acres of pine trees.  La Palma looked rather a large island from this perspective!
Gradually though we were entering into a landscape that was bereft of the towering pine trees.  These trees were a bright green and young looking.   And yes, it did feel as if we were on the moon - the silence, the lack of birds, trudging through the lunar landscape.
And oh dear, I knew it would happen, it was only a matter of time.  David breaks into song, 'On the trail of the Lonesome Pine ...  '
Just above Los Canarios, the GR130 Camino Real crosses the GR131. The GR130 is an 8-day walk along the coastal path of the island. Perhaps we won't do that today (Editor's note: we walked the GR130 in its entirety in 2010 and many sections again since then).

Walking down into the small town of Los Canarios, we headed to a bar for a coffe.  Perfect timing to get the bus up to Los Llanos, then a bus to El Paso and finally a taxi back up to El Pilar and the waiting tent and Landy.  Yey!  Another night of camping!
We shall definitely be walking this route again!

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