Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 8

Today we wake up, slowly enjoy breakfast on our patio overlooking the Atlantic and a huge platano plantation, and decide to take a break from hiking for a day and visiting a few places that we have driven past on our journeys.  It is a nice hot day, with a light cool breeze.  We get in our car and drive down to the tip of the island to the visit Las Salinas.  It is so barren and rocky here.

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We take a self guides tour along the different salt pools and discover a multitude of small sea birds that walk around the pools looking for food.  The salt is so beautiful glittering in the sun, and every once in a while we see sea foam swaying in the wind and clinging on to the black volcanic rocks.

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We walk all the way down to the tip of the island and can see the eastern and western Atlantic currents colliding off the coast.  It is very windy here and the waves breaking on the coast make for a spectacular view.

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Afterwards, we get in our car and make out way back north and spontaneously decided to take a detour to the town of Tazacorte.  It is a really beautiful small town with a lot of Spanish influences.  We take a stroll – which is a nice break from the endless winding roads on the island.

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We then hop back in out car and drive into Los Llanos where our friends live and meet then for dinner at the organic restaurant El Duende del Fuego.  The this an amazingly delicious dining experience.  The setting is very simple, the menu is full of dietary specialties (vegan, vegetarian, gluten free) all made of local products.  I ate a vegan Canary Rice with Artichokes and Garlic.  It was so flavorful.  We were also served potatoes with a guava dipping sauce.  I would never have paired the two, but guava and potato make a great team.  We each enjoyed a glass of a different Canary wine grown in the different volcanic regions of the island.  The flavors that sing through are absolutely amazing: peaches, passion fruit, cherry – all complements of the various minerals in the soil where the grape vines grow.  Simply put, volcanic wine is spectacular!

After a nice evening with our friends, we strolled through the quiet streets of Los Llanos.  In the distance a crow calls goodnight, and we head home to our apartment for a good nights sleep.

 

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Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 6

The first thought I had this morning, after a wonderful 10 hour sleep (!!!), is if the farmer sold his rooster.  I didn’t hear him this morning – just the faint calls of the neighbor roosters.  A few minutes later I was relieved to hear that he was still there…I might just have been too tired from yesterday’s hike to hear him.

It is late in the morning, and we enjoyed our breakfast of fruit and cereal grains with a hot cup of coffee while looking out over the ocean.  For the fourth time in the last few days, I watched a small speed boat head out south/south-west.  Where are they headed? …there is nothing out there.

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After breakfast, we headed out to Los Llanos.  We parked our car and asked an old white-haired lady with a cane if she could point us in the direction of the farmer’s market.  She consulted with two other ladies that just happened to be passing by, and the consensus is that we need to go 2 street over and walk straight down hill for 5 minutes until we run into the market.  The directions are right on, and we meander down yet another town of perfectly clean roads, quaint colorful houses, and gardens full of trees and flowers.

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We find the market at the end of the pedestrian zone, and walk through once before deciding to buy anything.  We return to the stands where we saw things that peaked our curiosity, and walked away with sweet-sour grapes, sweet tomatoes, huge red onions, pimentos del Padron, and a bag full of tangy tree tomatoes – all for a steel: 7,80€!!!

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We walk back to our car, purposely winding through tiny roads with more colorful houses – some just taller than I at the entrance.  We then quickly make our way home and make lunch – a skillet dish of potatoes, carrots, pimentos del Padron, onions, olives, tree tomatoes, and a hint of oregano.  Wow – the tree tomatoes are a tangy explosion of sweetly citrusy tomato softened potatoes in every bite.  Fantastic!

After lunch, we head off to the beach in El Remo – the salty smell in the air calms me and I am flooded with joyful feelings of my childhood.  I have not been on a beach in 8 years.  And, I have never seen a black sanded beach.

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We reach the beach – it is relatively small for a beach, but perfectly nudged in between volcanic rocks – like everything else around here.  The sand is hot – really hot.  We lay down on our mats and our towels, and still feel the burning heat soaked in by the island on our bodies.  The beach is pretty empty at 5:00pm.  The life guards have the red flag hanging high, forbidding everyone from swimming, it is high tide and there are strong rip currents.  An hour later, the yellow flags go up, the tide begins to subside, swimmers enter the lively waters, and the life guards stand directly on the beach to keep a close eye.  It is still not 100% safe, but the beach is starting to fill.  The sun is still high enough in the sky, and it will soon entertain everyone with a spectacular sunset.  As the tide falls, we walk to the water and cool our feet in the cold waves.  Every time a wave subsides back into the ocean, it reveals the end of the island…it just drops off a few meters in front of us.  How beautiful and scary at the same time.

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We make our way back home and rid ourselves of the cakey-feeling of sunscreen under the shower, and make our way off to dinner.  On our way we met our hostess, Karen, a really nice German lady who speaks with her hands like a true Spaniard.  She convinces us to change the restaurant we want to visit because they have a larger vegan selection.

We drive to Franchipani, and are seated in a small room with 3 large tall wooden tables.  The service is spectacular, and our waitress speaks German and Spanish.  We were delighted throughout the night with the service of a 1-star restaurant, but, unfortunately, the food was not as impressive.  The thought behind each dish was creative and well meant, but not well executed, and I left with indigestion from overly oiled food and a yogurt sauce that accidentally ended up on my vegan dish.  Such a shame…it was very promising.  I think I will move here one day and open a vacation rental complex with a restaurant down bellow.  I can definitely do better than this.

A beautiful stone house with red tile roof, reminiscent of the traditional Canary-style architecture of ages ago…with small apartments on either side of the house to rent.  In the middle is a restaurant that spills into a patio in a large garden where we will harvest the ingredients for the dishes we will prepare.  After a day’s work, I will sit out on my patio – all lights turned off on the property – and watch the amazing view of the stars and planets in the night’s sky.  This place is perfect.

Hikers Paradise – La Palma, Canary Islands – Day 1

I recently came across my hiking photos from a few months ago, and decided that I finally had to post them!  Traveling to La Palma was such an eye-opening experience that really touched the deepest parts of my soul.  On this trip, I decided to revive my love of writing, and brought this blog to life shortly after.

Even though I had never been to the Canary Islands, the moment I stepped foot on the island, I felt at home – that is the best way to sum it up.  And, if you will bear with me, I would be honored to share my travel diary with you…

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Monday – Travel Day:

We woke up really early to get on our train to Frankfurt to catch our plane.  After an almost 3 hour train ride, we spent another 6-ish hours on different planes “continent hopping”.  Germany -> Spain, Spain -> Teneriffa, and Teneriffa -> La Palma.  We flew with Iberia, and while the stewards and stewardesses were very nice and helpful, they seemed to be a bit disorganized.  When we booked our flights, we were able to book a vegan meal that we could supposedly purchase on the plane.  Unfortunately, the only vegan items next to 7€ (!!!) ham sandwiches and 2,50€ bottles of water were small packs of olives, potatoes chips, and almonds – not much in the line of a meal for a long day of travel – and we were quickly out of 15€…and starving when we finally landed.  Our connections were very short.  In Madrid we literally walked off one plane and onto the next, and promptly took off.  Two thumbs up for not having to wait around, but it seemed that our luggage was not as quick as we were.  The flight to Teneriffa was uneventful, and the flight to La Palma with Bintner was short and sweet.  We arrived and were quickly on our way out…no customs, no immigration, just a helpful person at one of the luggage desks that helped up “find” our luggage.  It was great to know that no one knew were our luggage was, but apparently this happens on a regular basis and no one seems surprised or stressed out about it.  I would have given (almost) anything for a shower and a toothbrush, but it would have to wait.

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We met up with our friends, and took a roller coaster ride through the island.  If you get carsick easily, I suggest avoiding this island.  We drove through lush green winding roads and passes.  Just out the window of the car, when I reached my hand out, I could grab a banana growing on one of the many trees on the local “platano” farms that are literally right on the side of the road!  And, as we drove further, it was avocados heavily hanging on trees…then mangoes…green oranges basking in the sun taking their time to turn orange…chestnuts…loquats…papayas…my goodness…it’s paradise!climate-zone-change-from-east-to-west-la-palma--canary-islands_30282123944_o

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Then, we made a few million more winding turns and drove through a long tunnel – apparently one of the longest stretches of straight road on the whole island!  We broke through the other side and *snap fingers* we were transported to another world.  Goodbye lush green fruit trees and pleasant humid air…welcome to the hot dry dessert forest full of pine trees and cacti of all shapes and sizes!  Just like that…black & white, day & night, ying & yang – tropical forest next to coniferous dessert.  Amazing!

We headed to the largest town in the vicinity of the apartment we rented – Puerto de Tazacorte – and sat down for a nice meal at the Taberna del Puerto.  It was absolutely delicious!  I let the waiter know (in my rusty Spanish) that I am allergic to quite a lot of foods, and this didn’t seem to faze him or his kitchen crew a bit.  They even offered to wash the cutting boards and utensils before preparing my meal to insure that there was no cross contamination – now that is service!  I had a delicious salad with vegetables and pungently sweet tropical fruits drizzled in an herbal salad dressing laced with guava.

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We then drove off to our apartment (La Primavera Holiday Resort), unpacked the few things from our carry-ons (which luckily included a change of clothes & pjs), and we were so exhausted that we were quickly out!  The apartment was a great tip from our friend who has lived on the island for 8 years now.  We had a comfortable bed, warm running water, and adequate kitchen with all the appliances we needed, comfortable neighbors, privacy, and a calming view of the Atlantic.

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Tuesday – Day 1:


“Unfortunately”, we were woken up (at 6am) to find out that our beautiful apartment, with a full view of the Atlantic, was right smack dab next to one of those amazing platano and avocado farms, and their rooster decided that it was time.  I’m not sure what he thought it was time for, but he had to let everybody know.  It was still pitch black outside.  He kept at it until all the neighboring roosters joined in, and soon it was 7:35am and still pitch black outside.

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We gave in and made breakfast from the spelt oats we brought with us from home with some almond milk and local organic platanos that our friends organized for us before we arrived, as well as coffee we brought from home.  We never travel without our own coffee.  I know it sounds snobby, but that’s what happens when you work in a café for a years…I try to avoid cheaply roasted coffee like the plague.

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We eased through breakfast, enjoyed watching the sun slowly rise over the nearest mountain to the east, and amused ourselves by making fun of our rooster-neighbor.  We hung around the apartment most of the day waiting for that call telling us when and if our luggage would arrive.  We waited and waited…and then we waited some more.  The sun was pounding down so steadily and so beautifully, and the lapping of the pool meters away had me silently cursing Iberia that my swimsuit was somewhere in Spain…that and my beloved toothbrush.

Our friends showed up shortly after noon and let us know that our luggage had been found and that it would arrive in the evening.  Yes!

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We felt hunger sneaking up on us again, and drove off to a local organic grocery store – what a selection!! Organic bananas (platanos) that tasted 500% better than any banana I’ve ever eaten (like they had crossed a banana with a tangy super sweet guava) for only 1,60€/kg!  Among the lovely selection of local produce was a diverse selection of different plant-based milks, dried whole grains, puffed cereals, dried fruits with no added sugars (dried by the store owners to reduce the waste of over ripen produce), nuts, nut butters, tofus, soy-yogurts, seeds, noodles, rices, flours, and beauty products galore.  Even the well known German organic brands for laundry detergents and toothpastes had their place on the selves among local Canary and Spanish products.  Some things are more expensive than their German counterparts, but most products here were an organic bargain.

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We bought what we needed and rolled on down to the local hyper-Dino – a huge grocery store chain which also has a decent selection of organic products and plant based milks.  But, in all reality, we vegans come pretty far in any old grocery store, and here, the selection is grand – beans of all kinds and in jars that can be resealed, couscous, rice, and fruits and vegetables for ridiculously low prices.  Mangoes and potatoes cost about the same per kilo…and the price of papayas left me practically in tears from shear happiness!  We bought a papaya for 1,40€ that we would have paid anywhere from 8€-16€ for in Germany, and it wouldn’t have even tasted half as sweet.  We left feeling happy and headed back home to cook.  Shortly after 6:30pm our suitcases finally arrived.

First order of business: brush teeth.  Second: shower.  Third: *sign* feel like a human again.

The night sky was beautiful – for the first time I could really see the milky way and huge clusters of stars.  We prepared and packed everything we needed for our hike on Wednesday: food, lots of water, and gear.  We set our alarm, and hit bed like being pulled in by a big earth magnet.