La Palma

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La Palma

Getting to La Palma from Lanzarote Departure Lounge

After much deliberation the management agreed that the only option open to non flyers was to travel by ship. Unfortunately this particular ship is a rolling rust bucket which the management wanted to avoid, but this was impossible.

It was the only ship that made any sense. It does a round trip from Cadiz. It calls at Lanzarote at midnight then Gran Canaria and Tenerife before arriving at La Palma 30 hours and two nights later. It feels much more like a cargo ship than a ferry, because it is.

We checked out of our apartment at midday and put our panniers in the luggage room. We then did a lazy cycle ride down the coast to Puerto Calero for lunch, returning to Arrecife for dinner.

Soon after 10pm we were cycling on badly lit roads to the port. It was not that far and fortunately for the stoker we knew them well and were able to avoid the pot holes.

The departure building, while on the face of it looks ok, is actually very seedy at midnight. Some of our fellow passengers were more or less normal like us. Others were not and we were predictably the only British travelling this way.

By the time the ship deigned to make an appearance we had had quite enough time to observe a group of, shall we say, unusual people. They may have been drunk, who knows? But they were very noisy and kept revisiting their luggage left on seats while going outside for a fag and a shout in Spanish.

There was an elderly man with a stick and back pack who shuffled round the building. He opened all the doors and windows and constantly moved his shabby bag from one place to another. Other passengers went around behind him trying to close things but it was a lost cause. He was unstoppable.

At around 11pm the check in woman turned up, an attractive smiley 25 year old version of Minny Mouse. She wore skin tight stretchy black trousers and a white blouse. And of course the obligatory super high healed stiletto shoes.

By the time the ship arrived at midnight, its departure time, she had registered all the travellers, fairly efficiently for Spain. She had also ordered pizzas and after eating them with two longshoremen she had a very intimate snogging session with one of them in full view of us “public”. Maybe if she had done it with both it would have been less acceptable to the Spanish in the waiting room.

The management really is a lazy person in these places, leaving the stoker to do everything. She got the boarding cards and negotiated getting the bikes onboard. All he did was what he was told and by 2am, two hours late, we had walked the bikes on board, found our cabin and gone to bed.

Getting there from Lanzarote - At Sea

It was a rolly crossing but by the time we emerged from our cabin at 10am the ship was loading mainly containers in Gran Canaria. There was no sign of the disreputables. Presumably as residents they pay very low fares to doss down on the ship and travel between the islands.

Too late for breakfast we had an early lunch safely tied up to the harbour wall and roll free. Almost on time at 1pm the ship left for the four hour crossing to Tenerife. Without incident we arrived in Tenerife just as it was getting dark.

Another night onboard and we arrived at the island of La Palma at dawn and were off the ship by 8am. The key to travelling by ship is to spend as much time as possible asleep and we achieved this.

La Palma – Santa Cruz

We were staying in the capital Santa Cruz, all the main towns in the Canaries seem to be called Santa Cruz which is confusing for the management. This one is built on a hillside shelving steeply to sea. Our fine apartment was a row back from the main tourist street but way above it.

We had a fine view of the main beach and the port in front and a backdrop of mountains behind us. We were on the second floor and had a flat roof to relax on in the sun which is just what we did after unpacking.

Our friends Liz and John from Portesham were due to arrive on the 10pm ferry from Tenerife and until then we explored the sleepy town and again enjoyed the roof. We would be together for just over two weeks.

From our window we watched the fast ferry come in and then the management rushed to the port to meet them. It was good to have affable company. As stoker and management we enjoy our travelling together but after five weeks a change was good.

Our first trip out was a walk to a place of pilgrimage, Las Nieves, only 3km above the town. We immediately realised that even though we cycled on La Palma eleven years ago it would prove a challenge now.

Walking is the thing here and this presented something of a challenge for the stoker. She is completely mobile on her bike. But what with her bandaged toe and a leg which does not behave properly easier walks were the order of the day.

La Palma could be on another planet let alone in the same archipelago compared with the Lanzarote we had just come from. La Palma is very green and extremely vertically challenging. Lanzarote is less hilly with beautiful volcanic scenery and a million shades of black.

La Palma exploits itself as a destination for walkers and cruise ship passengers. It is a good mix as the paths of the two seldom cross as most seals are challenged even by the shortest of walks.

La Palma is the most recent of the Canary Islands to come to the surface. The last volcanic eruption took place in 1971 on the southern tip of the island. The mountains are huge and the many ravines are deep.

All four of us visited the area to the south of the island where the most recent eruptions took place. We took a route via the volcanos down to the beach and lighthouse, meeting the stoker who came by bus.

John and Liz are strong walkers and so we tended to go separately during the day and meet up for the evening meal. We often took the cheap bus service which gets to most villages on the island.

The road network is amazing. There are tunnels and other engineered constructions to reach places previously the domain of donkeys. It seems as if the money must have come from outwith this island. The prolific banana plantations could not have funded such an expensive road network. Maybe the money came from mass tourism on the other islands.

The whole island is covered by a huge network of signed walking paths John and Liz did a very adventurous walk. This included going into the very large and deep valley in the centre of the island called the Caldera. The management and stoker did more miles but less adventurously by circumnavigating the island by bus. We visited places we cycled to by tandem 11 years ago and with our folding bicycle friends in 2005.

We did do a couple of bike rides which were fairly local to Santa Cruz. One got Liz and the management to Lidl for the best yogurt and bread on the island. The stoker and management also climbed to the view point in the picture at the top of the page. We took that pic in 2006 when we were last here.

These rides, though short in distance, were long in terms of climbs. Some of the gradients were harsh but the views over the town and port were wonderful.

We had a great time on this island of contrasts. It was a little sad that many of the hills are now too big for us on the bikes. But the walking and travelling around the island by bus were nearly as good.

There are still places, particularly to the north of the island, which feel very remote. Villagers get on and off the bus with shopping. When the bus stops they go into tiny houses or up stony paths. We also saw what we think were northern Europeans living a very basic hippy kind of life in these places.

There would appear to be a population of expats living on La Palma. But unlike other islands the local indigenous population of Canarians still dominate.