The Ancient Laurisilva forest of Los Tilos, La Palma

It seems like a very long time since we 'hit the trail' and so, by way of mixing a walk with a little education, we decided upon a visit to the Los Tilos Visitor Centre and a walk through the ancient Laurisilva Forest, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Although it's not so long since we were at the Centre, a quick (or long) visit is a very good reminder as to what this walk is all about because it is not just your average a to b walk with some good views along the way. No, this is the sort of walk that takes you back in history - to something like the Tertiary age millions of years ago. After that, most laurisilva forests disappeared except in Madiera, the Azores and the Canary Islands.  Even then, the laurisilva forest of Los Tilos in La Palma is rather special as it is the best example in the Canary Islands.
So who were we to begrudge a few steps (and there are rather a lot) up through the forest as we headed to the Mirador de las Barandas?  Quite.  And of course there are some flat bits. 
Just as we were beginning to think that the steps went on forever, it was with some surprise that we suddenly reached our first way-point of the Mirador de la Banaderos some 40 minutes from the start.  Here, a selection of rustic picnic tables invited us for a sit down in the shade or a drink at the nearby water fountain.  But no, a look at the view and then onward.
After the ascent to the mirador, the route was much kinder in the form of a pretty forest track, lined with the gigantic ferns that Los Tilos is so famous for. 
In fact, each fern was easily as tall and wide as us so it really was a walk in the land of the giants.  
One thing I love about the walks on La Palma is not just the challenge, the views and the interest value - but also seeing the 'signs through the ages.'  This route, along with many walks on La Palma, has recently been re-signposted and is now designated as the PR-LP 9.1 and it is almost always very easy to follow. Along with the posts, there are still one or two of the rustic old signs and if you peer into the undergrowth at the occasional junction, then you will most likely spot the walking blaze to confirm that you are literally on track or the painted 'X' sign to tell you that this is not the way to go. The new signs for the walks don't look at all out of place and are very clear.
Great though to just wander along the path and enjoy the views, especially on a bright and sunny day.  But also good to see that, if the weather is less kind, there are some man-made caves which did look inviting. 
And then we got to the fun bit - probably what you least expect in a forest - a water gallery, pumping station and a railway train to play with.  OK, the train part isn't there any more apart from the old dolly but the tracks certainly are, along with the wheels which still run up and down. Oh yes ... we did!
After that bit of excitement, it was a short ascent along the forest trail again before reaching open ground and the view of La Laguna - the largest reservoir in the Canaries.  Here it seemed that all manner of different things were growing together, including cactus, apple trees and some wonderful fungi that reminded me of chocolate profiteroles piled up. 
After this, we were into open farmland with the forest behind us and La Laguna growing steadily closer.  Good to know that once at La Laguna we could pause for an ice-cream at the restaurant Las Goteras or if needs get a taxi into Barlovento.  But no, best keep on walking towards the town where we would catch the bus back to our start point.  
* This walk forms part of our luggage-transported, self-guided walking holiday on La Palma.