Boat journey from the peninsula to La Palma
I wanted to go to the Canary Islands for a friend's wedding. I'd left Chile in January and still hadn't settled down anywhere, so with no restrictions on my time I decided to make a journey of it. I flew to Santiago de Compostela to visit my friend Dave there, and then got an overnight bus to Madrid, and a train to Cádiz.
It was a long time since my last trip to La Palma. But back then, after another shit experience with another shit airline, I'd decided that all airlines connecting to the islands were rubbish, and vowed that the next time I came to La Palma, I'd get the boat.
So I headed to Cádiz, for no reason other than that it was a port from where I could leave for La Palma. But it's a beautiful town and it was a beautiful time. The weather was good, I had nothing particular to do except wander around in the sunshine, stopping at cafes when necessary.
The only actual thing I went to in Cádiz was the Torre Tavira, a watchtower and the highest point in the old town. There's a camera obscura inside it, but I skipped that and just went up the top to enjoy the views in the sunshine.
And then I fulfilled a long term travel dream. I headed down to the port on a hot Tuesday afternoon, boarded the Albayzín, and headed out to sea on a three day journey to the Canaries.
It's one of the longest ferry journeys you can do. My ticket cost 150 Euros, which just got me a reclining seat to sleep on, but did include all my meals. An actual bed would have been three times the price, which did not seem like value for money to me. So I found a seat and settled in for the journey.
The first day was pure heaven. I'd watched the sun set with the lights of Cadíz still visible behind me, but when it came up again all I could see was ocean. I spent most of the day out on the deck, getting the occasional espresso from the ship's cafe, listening to music in the hot sun and thinking this was a pretty great way to travel.
The second day was not quite so awesome. During the second night we arrived in the islands, docking for an hour at Lanzarote. Then in the morning we arrived at Gran Canaria and spend a few hours there. And in the evening we got to Tenerife and spend a couple of hours there.
The boat had never been particularly busy but the car deck had been full until Lanzarote. After that, it thinned out at every stop, and by La Palma there were just a handful of cars left. I think I was the only foot passenger who'd gone all the way.
The morning was cool and fresh as we arrived at La Palma. It felt weird to walk on dry land again after 68 hours at sea.
I was here mainly for my friend's wedding, but also to work on some projects with colleagues at the Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, and do a bit of hiking and exploring. Two other friends who I'd known in Chile were living here now - it was awesome to see them again after a long time, and we went for a couple of hiking trips. The first weekend I was there, we drove up to El Pilar and did a little circuit around the hills there.
A week later, we decided to take on the Ruta de los Volcanes, which I'd wanted to hike for a long time. We started at El Pilar again, early on a Saturday morning, and saw one of the awesome phenomena of the island - the giant cloudfall that occurs when clouds form outside the island's massive caldera and flow over the edge into it.
We watched the cloudfall for a bit and then headed uphill. The hike started with a pretty steep climb but it was a nice path and we made good time. We reached the highest point pretty quickly, and then followed the path along past the sites of volcanic eruptions past.
The path carried on downwards. It wasn't particularly difficult but it was a hot day and I hadn't done a lot of hiking since leaving Chile four months earlier, so I was pretty tired by the time we reached Fuencaliente.
Friends from various parts of the world gathered on the island for my friend's wedding. We had a fantastic weekend, and after a day of recovery, some of us who were still on the island took a drive up to the top to have a look around the observatory and enjoy the views over the island. Every time I come here, I like it more, and I hope it won't be too long untl my next visit.
Tajinastes are a freakish weird alien plant that exists only in the mountainous parts of La Palma and Tenerife. A little bit downhill from the observatory there is a field full of them and we went to look around it.
After a fantastic few weeks in the sun, I had to head back to London. The boat journey down here had been so awesome that I decided to do it again, and it was just as good on the way back. The first day and a half was spent slowly making our way through the islands, with stops at Tenerife, Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura. It felt a bit interminable but the views of all the islands were pretty awesome, especially Fuerteventura which looked arid and barely habitable, incredibly different to the forests of La Palma.
And then we had another heavenly day out at sea off the coast of Africa. Relaxing out on deck with a coffee in the hot sunshine, I only wished the journey was a day or two longer. If I come to these islands again, I'll get the boat again for sure.
Three days after we left La Palma, we arrived back on the peninsula at Cádiz. My happy month wandering around Spain was over; I spend a night there, then got up before dawn to get a train to Sevilla. I had breakfast there, then took a short flight to Madrid. I had time to head out into the city and got lunch near the Plaza de España. And then I headed back to London.