Sunday, September 28, 2014

La Palma: Mirador El Time to Puerto de Tazacorte

During our short visit to La Palma, we didn't do much walking - partly because it really was short, partly because our kids are still not that keen on walking any distances at all, especially where going up is involved. And there is an awful lot of ups on La Palma - balanced by the eventual downs, but still. So, when we found ourselves on the top of the extremely steep cliff called El Time, and I saw a pointer to Puerto de Tazacorte, saying "3.2 km", I thought "yeaaah! finally, let's go, it's down and it's really close!".

Yeah, right. "Down" bit was right, and  so was the "really close", but I failed to take into the account how steeply down it was. The height of El Time is over 500 m, so if the angle was constant, it wouldn't be so bad - about 10 degrees, I think? Feel free to correct me. But. While the half of the journey down is reasonably even, you have to go down a near-vertical cliff face the second half. Sure, you don't climb down, there is a path with hairpin turns, but that doesn't make it any better if you are afraid of heights or that your kids accidentally take a wrong step while showing off like they do.

This write-up is just to show some pictures to warn you about the steepness of the walk, and one more problem - the almost complete lack of shade in the afternoon on the same steep bit. The path comes down to the sea level between two cafes on the promenade in Puerto de Tazacorte and I was mighty grateful when we eventually got there. I think it took about one hour and twenty minutes, but it felt a lot longer.

Apart from those two little things, everything is as advertised - great views of the beautiful island. We could see El Hierro outline on the horizon, but I don't think it's visible in the pictures.

One more thing worth noting - if you hate driving the mountain roads same way as I do, you can use the public transport. Look for the bus number 100 "Circunvalacion Norte", bus that goes around the north part of the island from Santa Cruz to Los Llanos de Aridane. Ask the driver for "El Time", the bus stop comes into view unexpectedly, especially if you are coming up from Los Llanos, or keep looking at you navigation device if you have one handy.

If you don't like the public transport, you can tackle those roads yourself. I prefer to trust the professionals. Plus, of course there is no necessity to come back and retrieve your car once you've finished your walk.

The deepest green in the pictures is provided by banana plantations - there is an awful lot of them everywhere. I mean an awful lot. Really.

Lego bricks of Los Llanos de Aridane. It doesn't look like much, but it's a pleasant enough town - and the bus hub for the west of the island.

We didn't see the famous "bajada de los nubes", lowering of the clouds, when clouds start flowing over the mountain range. You can see where it's meant to be happening on the picture above, but it's not really there. Have a look here, it's a beautiful capture.

 Some way down you start seeing Puerto de Tazacorte with its black sand beach below you. I don't know what is the origin of the stain in the ocean, I tend to think it is churned-up lighter colored sand particles.

The dry and wet sand, the umbrellas, the foam and the angle give the beach nicely abstract look.

I honestly don't think there is any need for a route here. Find the pointer down, go down all the way, nice and simple. Or, if you are feeling reckless (read "suicidal"), find the one that points up to El Time on the north end of the promenade in Puerto de Tazacorte and go up. It's the same path that goes to the highest point of the island. Good luck :)

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pico de Bandama and Caldera de Bandama

OK, time to resume some walk descriptions after a long break.

We haven't done a lot of walking here on Gran Canaria yet - partially because we arrived in summer, and the heat stayed considerable. Partially is due to the way the land lays here - the island is a lot steeper and more developed than Fuerteventura, so you can't easily see where exactly you are going and you are much more likely to encounter some sort of obstacle on your path. Those could range from a barbed wire fence and overzealous guard dogs, to quite unexpected (and, perversely, unfenced) drops.

Having said that, from the very beginning I was going to go up the little mountain that could be seen from my window. After a little research the mountain was identified as Pico de Bandama; it appeared there there is a (very large) hole in the ground called Caldera de Bandama next to it.

When you look at a flat map (such as googlemaps) of a steep landscape, you have no idea what time it'll take you to get from point A to point B. So my first attempt to get there failed spectacularly, as (it being holidays and all) I decided to take two whingeing teens with me. Bad choice. The problem was, we didn't start from the lip of the caldera, we started some distance off. We did get to the viewing platform at the edge, but that was all.

Next time I went, I went alone and I went up, i.e. to the peak, not to the bottom of the crater, logic being that when you go up first, you have to go down afterwards, which is nicer, in my professional opinion.

There is a spiral road going to the viewpoint on the top of the peak, and my (otherwise excellent) KOMPASS map shows that you should walk along it. Well, I don't know. I am usually against "scare the tourist driver over the side" attitude. The road, as Gran Canaria roads go, is not overly steep or narrow, but, being spiral against mountainside, doesn't give good visibility, and a driver coming around a bend and finding a pedestrian in his way could panic. So I sought and found a path that takes you two thirds to the top without being on the road. The last bit will be on the road, but only for a short time, and you can see that there is a fair amount of space on the side that cars don't use, covered by undisturbed pine needles.

The views from the top are to the caldera, the adjacent golf course (the greenest bits on the pics, of course), the vineyards; you can also see Las Palmas in distance.

Well worth the walk or short drive if you are not averse to this type of roads. The going up from Bandama village only took about 20 minutes with pictures being taken all the time, so it is short. If you do go on the footpath as I did, remember that opuntia cacti are bad news, they have a lot more small thorns that you can see and they can do a lot more damage that the other plants that are more obviously thorny.

Note1- I wanted to provide route maps but I didn't manage to conquer the new version of googlemaps. Basically, turn to the mountain leaving the village houses behind and to your right. You will see a path going up the mountainside on the opposite side of the road. After couple of meters up it forks; take the left branch, going clockwise re the mountainside. The other branch ends up in someone's private garden. The path will be forking a few times, but as long as you are going up, you are fine.

Note2 - ok, Kirill figured out how to do it, so the map is embedded at the end. 

Once the Pico was done, it took me a while to get to the caldera (hot! sure, downhill but then it's UP!), but I still went there for completeness' sake. The "official" figure that I saw is two hours to go up and down. I think it is too generous. It took me one hour thirty five minutes to go down, around the bottom and up again, taking pictures and pausing to drink water. The path is marked to the bottom, but not around, but it is visible and you can take it if you feel so inclined.

The path down (and then up) is in a reasonable state, although there were a few slippery patches of small stones, so be careful as you go. The path around the bottom presents no problems, but it doesn't give big shifts in perspective either.

There are a few eucalyptus trees at the bottom, which give very nice shade. There is also an abandoned farm. The pages I visited seem to insist that someone lives there, but I don't think so. All the buildings I was close to are completely in ruins; there was just one that I didn't come close to, but even there there were no signs of activity.

Below is the view from the bottom, from the side directly opposite to the Pico. You can see the spiral of the road leading to the top.

It's summer, so everything, or pretty much everything is dry and dead.

Those are, I believe, dried seedheads of blessed milk thistle. There were many dry plants of various types along the paths, and, once the winter rains come, there will be flowers, although it's difficult to imagine it right now.

Is it worth doing? Well, it depends. Unless you are heavily into rocks, maybe not, especially in summer. You can just have a look and take a few pics from the viewing platform or even from the road to the Pico. In winter, when the heat lessens and rain comes, it will be worth walking pretty much anywhere if you are into flowers - fora of Gran Canaria being diverse and full of endemics.

You can get to the Bandama village where both walks start either by car (well, obviously), or by 311 once-an-hour bus from San Telmo in Las Palmas (to Santa Brigida). Check the schedule on the company website It's worth noting that at the time of my going one out of two timetables  displayed on both sides of the road was wrong.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Flamenco photoshoots with Anna Villacampa Gomez

At last, after almost a year of thinking about it, I am writing about two flamenco-themed photosessions that we had on Fuerteventura with Anna Villacampa Gomez, a beautiful lady and a great dancer. As usual, we procrastinated for an awfully long time before arranging the shoot - and the arrangement was finally made only because of our imminent departure.

One of the photoshoots was in the dunes of Corralejo, and the other in the malpais on the road to Tetir, by dead fig tree shaped by the prevailing winds. The second location was suggested by Anna, while we've been planning to do the dunes for two years. A piece of red gauze was bought to fly in the wind, Anna choose her own favourite dresses and off we went.

She proved to be a great model. Despite the heat on both days, she was happy to pose and move and dance. The minimalistic background of the dunes worked like a charm, and the dead tree, although making pictures a lot busier, always provided some parallels to the graceful movements of the dance. I enjoyed both days immensely, and so I hope did Anna.

Pictures in no particular order. Enjoy :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Barranco de las Penitas

In line with our moving plans, there are almost no place left on Fuerteventura where I really wanted to go and didn't get yet. *

Last week we went for a walk in Barranco de las Penitas - one of the greenest places on the whole island. It's a sort of continuation of the valley where the old capital of  Fuerteventura, Betancuria, sits. The barranco (ravine) runs towards the west coast of the island, joining eventually with El Barranco de la Madre del Agua, to form even bigger Barranco del Ajuy, which flows into the ocean by (you've guessed it) Ajuy.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Morro Jable - Gran Valle - Cofete Pass - Villa Winter

view towards Villa Winter from Degollada de Cofete (Cofete Pass)
Cofete is one of the places on Fuerteventura where I always wanted to go and somehow didn't manage to do so. Even now I can only put a half-tick in that particular box (which is a bit nonsensical, same as the one-palmed clap). But I came close this time.

I have now so many people and organizations from Fuerteventura listed as contacts in Facebook that it brings me all sorts of useful info. On the page on Cabildo (sort of like the island's council) I saw an announcement of the excursion to Cofete organized within a program called "Fuerteventura al Golpito". They arrange excursions more or less every two weeks, provide a guide (or two, as it was in our case), and a free bus which picks people at Puerto del Rosario and Gran Tarajal. You have to phone and put your name on the list, and then they send you a message a couple of days in advance, stating the meeting place and time, plus in this case a change of route.

The original route was estimated to be two hours longer than the one that we eventually did, and I am jolly glad of the change too. It was hard going as it was, we were back in Morro Jable in six hours instead of the estimated four, and we didn't stop for very long anywhere. Even the stop at Villa Winter was rather brief.

The Villa Winter itself was rather disappointing, I must say. I don't know what I expected really, but the place has this aura of mystery about it (hidden rooms! secret passages! a submarine can come up right to the basement! etc.) so I didn't expect goats, rubbish in the inner courtyard and peeling walls. Maybe, if the owners allowed us into the basement, as they sometimes do apparently, I would be more impressed, but they didn't, so I wasn't.

The route was beautiful if somewhat hard. Shame that we didn't have time to come down to the water level, but that would probably have delayed us a lot more, and the bus driver was apparently getting really impatient as he was counting on the shorter time.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

El Barranco de los Enamorados - or so I think at least :)

Face of the barranco. Chess Pieces. Moai of Fuerteventura. Take your pick 
I wanted to find this particular ravine, El Barranco de Los Enamorados (or de los Encantados), ever since I saw some amazing pictures of it in facebook. It didn't prove to be that easy - my excellent KOMPASS map doesn't have this name, and all the local maps I saw so far don't have even the most basic stuff, let alone barrancos. I wanted to join one of the excursions that are organized by local walking groups - that didn't happen somehow. I asked for the directions and got contradictory answers (it's close to Lajares - no, actually, to La Oliva - no, it's very close to the Playa de Esquinzo - it's to the left - no, to the right - actually, just carry on straight...). I asked to point it out on a map; even that was a bit vague. So. I am inclined to think people talk about somewhat different places, but all of those places share one thing - amazing smooth water patterns on the sandstone.

Choosing the directions that pleased me by their simplicity ("just take the unused branch of Lajares roundabout and carry on straight, you can't miss it") I went there with a friend. We followed a huge barranco that starts close to Lajares roundabout; when we came to the place where it separated into three branches we started to walk the middle one. We soon met a small group of people, all looking local, and asked them for directions, just to make sure. The main guy took the words out of my mouth - "El Barranco de los Enamorados? No, you took a wrong turn, we are going that way, follow us and then I show you were to go". (So much for "it's straight, you can's miss it"). We followed them to where they parked their 4x4; he told us that "from here it's probably one more kilometer that way". Off we went. Problem is, barrancos tend to branch off. That day we took a "wrong" branch - it was nice and had some interesting sandstone structures which were probably petrified plants - but we haven't found what we were looking for.

So, we went again. This time we found all the stuff you can see on the pictures. I am still not that sure that we found "the" barranco, but I will give the route we followed, and point out at least one alternative I found. I can tell you without false modesty that my pictures are a lot better than what I saw before, but can't tell if that is because we found a better place or it's just because I haven't seen other pictures that do the place justice.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Montana de la Arena

We didn't have much luck with the sun during this excursion. One of a few small pools of light on the landscape

Montana de la Arena is a small dark mountain between Lajares and Villaverde/La Oliva. I passed it many times when doing a part of trans-Fuerteventura path GR 131. Once we tried to go up it with friends, but turned back when we discovered that the side of the mountain that we choose was one large scree. That was the side which looks at Lajares, northern face more of less.

When I saw the announcement of the excursion to the Montana de Arena on Facebook, I joined. I figured that maybe there is a good path up that I failed to spot myself.

Well, I was wrong. Where we went, there is no good path. There are bits when it looks sort of like one; but those are separated by stretches of pure picon, black volcanic gravel. You step up and slide down by the same amount, and you step up again, and you guessed the rest. It's not an easy climb, and I don't recommend to go where we went - southern face.