Enjoying the Old Ways

The north of La Palma is the oldest part of the island and its history is quite fascinating.  It therefore takes little encouragement for us to spring out and take a romp around the ancient paths of the area.  We love the walk because, not only is it a chance for us to enjoy the scenery and maybe chat with the locals but there is always a good chance that we will spot something we haven't noticed before.  La Palma holds many surprises for walkers, almost no matter where on the island!  Nowadays, we also get to share the experience with other people as, once a week, we provide a guided tour along with a little bit of historical input and local flavour.

Whilst a part of the walk follows the newly re-routed GR130, other trails spring off it leading to caves, such as this one.  Some caves you can peer inside or walk inside and people are usually quite surprised at how large they are.

It's not hard to spot the many little dwellings though, which came after the caves, even though some of them are shyly nestling in amongst the greenery.  Their emblematic wooden roofs made of tea wood, the heart of the pine trees, really have stood the test of time.
This one is a little more accessable and when you go inside, you will realise that it is actually a rather nifty two-storey dwelling - downstairs for those that moo or bleat and upstairs for those that snore!
The dripping springs of pure mountain water are in many places, some less obvious than others.  Many of them collect water in stone pools and then there is this one, hidden behind a mass of foliage, that collects the precious drops in a carefully carved out wooden trough.
The old ways were undoubtedly hard but we are very appreciative that we can enjoy looking back at them.


PR-LP 9.1 Roque Faro > Franceses > El Tablado > Roque Faro

This past couple of months, things have been pretty hectic here on the finca which has meant that our little walking expeditions are not a happening thing right now.  At least though we have been able to enjoy tales about walking on la Palma as guests walk the GR 130 and other routes around us.
However, the good news is that should we find time for a short excursion then we won't have to travel far - if we take one step off the finca, we will now find ourselves on the PR 9.1 Roque Faro to Franceses/El Tablado route.  Of course the donkey track has always run alongside the house and finca - after all, this was the way people got from one place to another before the advent of roads, cars and buses - but now it has a route number, a cheery white over yellow blaze and an official sign.  Yes, we really are on the walking map as you can see from the photo below. 
Our house - where the green meets the blue
If you start your walk in Roque Faro you will actually find a sprinkling of new signs and re-routings such a newly opened section just after Roque Faro.  Instead of following the road the path ducks down to the left and pops you up again at 'El Cruce' which is the junction where the old Barlovento road joins the main road at a notably enormous pine tree.
 After a two-hour descent from 1000m to 500m you will now arrive not in the centre of Franceses but simply brush by it walking down 'our' ridge of Las Tierras, the most westerly part of Franceses.  From here you have a great view over El Tablado.  (The photo below is of the same sign as the first one but facing west instead of north.) 
The donkey path is looking very green at the moment with quite a few of the 'flor de mayo' - a tall plant with clusters of tiny purple petals - already out and I see this morning that the sweet peas are well on their way with a few colours on show.  In a month's time, there will be great billowing clouds of them, energetic yet intricate bundles of muted green with flowers shaped like butterfly wings of stunning magenta, pink and crimson.  March and April make walking on La Palma a very colourful experience as the routes wend their way through the spring flowers.
 Just below where the first picture is taken from, the PR 9.1 joins the GR130 which has recently been re-routed as per my previous post. And now there is further good news as you descend towards La Fajana, as a better route has been developed which means that you avoid a longish stretch of walking on the road heading pretty much east and then a motor vehicle track bringing you back to the west.  This saves a total of almost 2km of road walking along this section of the GR130 between El Tablado and Franceses.  Now, you just drop off the edge straight down into the ravine.  Sounds scary, huh?
Well, that's excactly what we thought when we walked it.  But that was up, not down which is always easier.  In fairness though, the workmen have cut steps into the ravine-side so it is not as bad as it might seem.  We'll find out when we walk it in the other direction in a month or two's time.
Once in El Tablado you leave the GR130 as it goes on its sweet way to Santo Domingo and you head uphill to Roque Faro. This completes the circuit.
Like most circular routes, there is no beginning and no end but I suggest walking around it once in a day is probably enough.