Feb 192011

Day 14 (February 15, 2011)

Itinerary: Drive along the western coast of La Palma, visit Roques de los Muchachos and Observatory, Drive along north coast of La Palma, hike in Los Tiles, dinner in Santa Cruz

Before I get started on our day, here are a few stories I’ve been meaning to mention.
1. The orange trees outside our apartment are awesome. We are drinking fresh squeezed orange juice from freshly picked oranges every morning.
2. Today we followed a truck with a dog in back who hysterically could not decide which side of the truck had the best smells. He kept going back and forth faster than you can even think of pacing to smell each side.
3. This is the first vacation destination that we’ve been mistaken for Brits before Americans/Canadians. We are the first Americans to stay at our apartment even.
4. We are amazed to see an Ikea here on the small island of La Palma!

And now on with today’s stories. We had a wonderful breakfast this morning on our porch after we woke up to the most perfect island weather. Sunny, clear skies and a very clear horizon line along the distant ocean.

The drive along the west coast of La Palma was beautiful and felt like spring. The road was lined with greenery and flowers of all colors. I can’t believe we left this drive for the end of our visit. The coast is mostly lined with hundreds of banana farms. We drove past several to get to the Mirador del Time where we could look out for miles. I’m pretty sure we saw the island of El Hierro today as well. The ocean was such a deep blue compared to the sky and there was absolutely no haze in the distance.

The mountain roads along the coast winded along through the flowers until we came to the turn off for Roques de los Muchachos. About 13 observatories are posted up on the mountains here where the weather is almost always clear. Many countries have access to this prime location. The switchbacks up the mountain were full of steep, tight turns that were almost too tight for the turning radius of our SUV. Luckily, traffic was light and we powered up the mountain.

Once again we found ourselves high above the cloud line with that rolling blanket of clouds beneath us. The whole islands was covered in clouds, but we could see El Teide on Tenerife clearly. The hike out to the viewpoint was short and then we found another view point past that one with a fairly short hike as well. Snow covered the area, though for the most part the walkways were clear. I don’t know the last time it snowed up here, but it must have been a while. It was cool and very windy out.

Back at the car, we decided to eat lunch in the back of the SUV with the seats folded down. We faced out the tailgate and it was like we had our own private wind cave. After lunch and some photos, we headed back down the mountain to continue on our journey.

The rest of the drive along the west coast was still beautiful with flowers, landscape, and ocean to look at. We tried to find a picturesque spot described in our tour book outside Bartlovento on the north side of the island, but we didn’t see it. Many of the roads were under construction and I can only guess that January/February is the best time for road construction in the off months. The drive to Los Tiles took quite a while slowing down for all the mountain curves, oncoming traffic, and construction zones. By the time we arrived it was already 5pm and we managed to dash inside the visitors center before they closed.

There was a short hike up to a mirador that turned into a short climb up a mountain. The entire hike was full of steep stairs and ramps, but we made it to the top in about 40 minutes. Phew. After catching our breath, we could see that this must be a popular spot. There was a full blown picnic area with at least 6 picnic benches under a roof and several more outside. We sat and watched the sun drop below the mountain while 3 little birds played a game to see who could come closest to us. I’m sure they thought we had food. I had one come nearly within arms reach.

Finally, the sun dipped below the mountain top and we headed back down, much faster this time. The whole area here in Los Tiles is a very lush rainforest type of area and very different from our other hikes on the islands.

From here we completed our drive around the islands and headed to Santa Cruz de La Palma where our ferry dropped us off a few days ago. This is a more happening town, so we were able to walk along the coast and find a good spot to eat. I had some delicious steak while Mark ate the catch of the day. We didn’t figure out what fish it was in English, but it was red in color and tasted good. The waiter even walked Mark over to the case holding the freshly caught fish to pick his out.

In the past couple days, now we have pretty much driven a full loop around the island. There is only one small section on the southeast coast that we did not drive to. We decided to take the drive back to Los Llanos that cut through the middle of the island and through the mountain. We could get a good time of how long it took to get from the port to our apartment driving at night for the morning our ferry leaves.

We had a beautiful island day today. I could get used to this.

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