New and improved walking route - La Palma 9.1

I think we can safely say that we've not been big on long walks this summer. But as usual, there has been plenty else going on including giving a temporary home to two kittens and two small dogs for two months which was sandwiched in between some restoration work and a  'flying visit' to the UK. Never dull anyway!
However, in October with family here for a week's holiday, we thoroughly enjoyed a walk from Roque de Faro at 1000m above sea level down to Franceses at 500m. It's a two hour walk and so the downward gradient is not too steep - great to chat and walk whilst still enjoying the scenery. At Roque Faro, there is the bar/restaurant El Reyes, so if you like you can pop in there for refreshments or a meal - it's a rustic restaurant serving goat and rabbit plus La Palma wines and local goat cheese, so worth a visit.
The easiest way to tackle it is to take the number 100 bus from Franceses to Roque Faro - they run every two hours on the even hour weekdays and every four hours at weekends and fiestas. You can check out the bus timetable here. You might also be interested to know that there are now whizzo timetables in the bus shelters so we've gone from a scrappy bit of paper (if at all) to a highly durable, highly master-minded board with the information displayed in three different formats. It's a quantum leap in the world of La Palma bus information. You've just gotta love it.
The start of the walk however is not easy to find so it was a good job that we already know where it is. So to begin the walk, head uphill from Restaurant Reyes and the path runs alongside the first building on the left before the church. By the way, looking above and behind the church you can see the observatories by the Roque de Muchachos - an awesome sight. And if you were to continue walking uphill to the left of the church, a four hour walk would get you to Mirador Andenes on the GR131 - but that wasn't for us on this particular occasion.
Having followed the path along the side of the building (not the most salubrious part of the walk), you quickly reach woodland. Descending down half a dozen steps of hewn logs we are already surrounded by trees, and with dry leaves underfoot and the smell of rich earth all around, the magic begins. And so do the signs.
 Almost immediately, there's an option for a detour to a spring, a Fuente as they are called in Spanish. We take a quick vote on it and the unanimous decision is that we are feeling generous enough to give it a try. OK, so it was only a 50m detour as it turned out but very well worth it, if not for the actual spring but to see the huge ferns growing by it.
So far the route has only taken us a little further on from Roque Faro but because we are in meandering woodland, you don't get a sense of this at all and feel as if you are covering some distance. A couple of years ago, the route was actually changed to this new and improved way. Before, the LP9.1 followed the road for around half a kilometre which was slightly dull but now that section has been taken out although none of the maps yet show it. The new route takes you into a dell, passes a farm and then into a clearing in the bed of the barranco where there are some sort of rock works going on. Finding the route on the other side of the clearing is not immediately obvious but as usual, if you set off on a path, there is a usually a sign of some type within a few metres. Now it's up hill back up the other side of the ravine again and in the sun, so when we arrive at El Cruce, we're all feeling a bit hot!
El Cruce is where there is a giant pine tree next to the main road, it's huge, I mean really huge. And it's also where the LP109 old road, the first road to cross the north, emerges from Barlovento. By the way, if you ever get the chance, that's an extremely scenic 15km drive complete with single track tunnels at the start - pure magic, except when the cloud is low and then it looks and feels like anywhere else does in the fog.
We only walk on the old road for five minutes before we are signposted off to the left and downhill into woodland again. After walking along a flat woodland path, we come to a gate. It's a La Palma gate. That means it 'had a previous life,' usually as a bed frame or some other random object. Oh yes, still lovin' it! Actually, we know this gate of old, or some derivation of it at least, so we know it's not a gate to keep people out but rather to keep the pig in. On a previous walk, the pig follow us for a ridiculous length of time, until we had to use persuasive methods to deter him from coming home with us. But all that said, it can be an awkward gate to open as the farmer has improved pig-security since the photo below was taken. Luckily, PJ is well versed in opening awkward anti-pig gates and very quickly the obstacle, wasn't.
We then come to our next landmark which is a house completely in the middle of nowhere and with a couple of crosses outside. There is a track which goes straight on and in fact this is where the route used to go. But now we head off at 90 degrees to the left. This is actually a big improvement because the old route was a boring concrete track that seemed to go on forever. But with the new route, we are quickly back in woodland and after walking on further, we come to the main road which we cross and go straight down a set of stone steps back into woodland.
Now it's all downhill, as the saying goes. With farmland at each side, we walk down a narrow track that has been gouged out by heavy winter rains in the past. This is the shortcut I remind myself, the way that in the old days people from Franceses would walk up to the catch the three-times daily bus from the old road. How lucky we are now to have a two-hourly bus come right through the village.
Almost disappointingly, we come to the end of the walk. The lumpy-bumpy path gives way to a smooth grassy path which in turn becomes a short concrete track which joins the Franceses village road. We've arrived. We cross the village road and head down 'our' donkey path to home. And there is home right below us.

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