Tag Archives: Walking

An American Werewolf on El Hierro

Every time we reach this spot on the tiny Canary Island of El Hierro it feels like we’ve strayed into a scene from a horror movie – “don’t stray from the path”.

And also every time, within 20 mins we’re walking in sunshine.

Foggy El Hierro

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And Then it All Changed

Two islands, both arid and brown just like everyone told us they would be.

The third, Santo Antao, looked like more of the same until we passed a small forest with a confused personality; pine, jacaranda, mimosa, cypress. Trees you wouldn’t normally find sharing the same hillside.

More greenery crept in in the form of tended fields in a large caldera. It was a typical farming landscape in every way, except for the fact it was in a volcanic crater; a hidden valley surrounded by sharp, ragged walls.

Our path climbed to a saddle, a spot which wasn’t so intimidating to get to as most parts of the wall.

And then it all changed.

Walking through Ribeira do Paul Valley, Santa Antao, Cape Verde

The Rim of a Volcano

The thing about walking along the rim of an ancient volcanic crater rising over 2400m above sea level is that at some point you have to descend.

After an exhilarating and challenging 17km trek, our moment to descend arrived at what looked like a rock bob-sleigh run that cut straight through the ridge and sort of disappeared.

Mount Teide, Teide National Park, TenerifeThe path looked as though it just fell away. I stood looking at the rock exit, almost unable to compute that if I wanted to continue I was going to have to show some faith and step through the gap into who knows what.

With sweaty palms and reluctant legs, I entered the rock channel, stepped through the opening and…

And… well I’m here to tell the tale so I clearly survived. But I won’t say any more in case you ever happen to find yourself on that same ridge looking down the same furrow in the rock. Nobody likes spoilers.

The Girls who Walk and Talk

Roque del Conde, Adeje, Arona, TenerifeIn three kilometres they haven’t paused to catch breath.  Words gush out, creating sentences that never, ever end.

I should be writing things like ‘tranquil terraces’ ‘silent apart from the kestrel’s shriek’ etc. etc. etc.

The truth is there is no silence. There would be if the girls weren’t sharing the same path. But they are and so is their incessant chatter.

We started the route at the same time and our paths have criss-crossed a few times. They’re much younger and faster. But every time they get to the point where the loud chatter becomes almost a whisper, they stop. Hair is put back in place, something is applied to the face, a bra strap is adjusted.

They stop. I catch up and pass them… and the whole circle begins again and I mutter under my breath about the fact they won’t shut up and let me enjoy the peace of the countryside.

I descend to the floor of a narrow ravine as they begin the climb out the other side. Sound is amplified. The cling-clang from the bells around the necks of a handful of goats pulling at wild herbs take on the intensity of the pealing inside a church tower.

The girls are louder.

The echoing canyon prompts them to make howling noises. Nature winces. Even the goats pause their feeding to glare at these noisy creatures with no respect for tranquillity.

I pass them again and start a climb that is taxing enough to bring the sweat sprinting down my face. After a couple of hundred metres I stop to rest on a rock. The girls catch up.

“Un poquito descanso,” I say as they skip past.

One pulls her tee shirt away from her body and gasps. “Si, hace mucho calor.”

The have open, friendly faces with eyes as big as their smiles.

I reach the summit, a wide plateau with views across an arid land pockmarked by volcanic cones.

The girls disappear into the shade of a rare tree, still talking.

I sit on a flat rock nearby. Their chatter no longer annoys. In a way it has become a comforting drone. Part of the scene.

After thirty minutes the girls emerge. They’re no longer talking. Now they’re singing… and dancing. They sing jauntily as they pass. I laugh. So do they, without missing a beat.

The sun is engulfed by a bruised, heavy cloud. Rain is coming. Time to leave.

The girls are a few yards ahead on the path. They’ve returned to talking in paragraph-less sentences.

They’re enjoying themselves. They’re enjoying the land in their own way. It shows in their smiling faces and the musical tone of their voices.

The scenery is stunning with or without a soundtrack and the girls’ happiness is infectious.

I’m pleased I’m sharing the path with them.

Bad Start on the Orange Island

I’m fuming. Maybe it’s appropriate that there’s steam coming out of my ears as we’re on a volcanic island, but it’s a bad, bad start.

Apart from not being at the airport to meet us on arrival, the car hire firm has played a ‘read the small print’ card to extract an extra €120 over and above what we’ve already paid… because we don’t use a credit card. The word ‘ladrones’ is bandied about.

Plus the clouds are thick and pressing on our heads, it’s cold and we’ve been up since 4.30am.

The situation deteriorates.

I’m greeted at our rural hotel in the hills by three hounds on trampolines who seem to be competing against each other for the pleasure of eating my right hand as I try to unlock the gate to see if there are any human inhabitants about.

An elderly man appears. He knows nothing about a reservation. My mood darkens.

His wife appears on the roof terrace, fixing flags to a balustrade.

“The tall Englishman who was here a last month made the reservations,” I shout to her.

A light flickers in her eyes and then she joins the hounds in attacking me.

“He was Scottish, there’s a difference you know,” she lectures me. “Just like we are not Spanish, we are Canarios.”

It’s an ironic lecture that only serves to wind me up even more as I’m the Scottish one. I really don’t need to be told that there’s a difference between being English and Scottish.

This island will need to do a lot to charm me now.

But at least she remembers the reservation.

We’re allowed in, the dogs immediately turning gooey and friendly – anything for a pat on the head.

Our room is rustic with a four poster bed. I thaw.

But we have work to do. We change and head immediately onto the trail. Being outside helps with the thaw and the clouds inside my head dissipate almost as quickly as the ones in the sky.

Before long we’ve passed a sail-less windmill and are ascending into hills the colour of a Seville orange contrasting against an intense blue sky, a photoshopped sky. Shy spring flowers barely raise their heads from the low ground, sheltering from a wind that rarely leaves them alone.

The landscape unravels below us, hills rolling like soft waves to the far horizon; a glorious amber sea.

It is beautiful.

All is forgiven.

Above Antigua, Fuerteventura