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Published: January 1st 2016
Sunday 20th December, 2015. La Palma
After breakfast we went ashore. It was absolutely tipping it down. We sploshed our way down the quay to the cruise terminal where we found 3 car hire places - all closed as it was Sunday. We asked at the cafe and were told that they might open at 10 am or maybe when the ferry came in. We decided to go and see what was happening in Santa Cruz. It was still raining heavily and we found a small flea market just outside of the port gates. All the stalls were selling a load of second hand tat. The town was closed (Sunday) but the tourist office was open. We went inside and the helpful chica inside called a car hire company for us. It was 38 euros plus another 10 for delivering and collecting from the car park next to the tourist office. We told her to go for it as we could see that nothing was happening in the town and the weather was dreadful. We were told they would be along in 15 minutes. While we were waiting another couple from the ship came in and were asking about buses
and timetables. M was very opportunistic at this point and asked them if they wanted to share our car. After a little debating they agreed. Their names were Alan and Jan. When the car arrived the 4 of us jumped in and we set off south towards La Palma’s salt fields.
M had picked up a leaflet in the tourist office which explained that in the south of the island there are these curious salt fields, which have been declared an Official Site of Scientific Interest owing to the fact that many migratory birds use the site to rest. It is one of the most visited parts of all La Palma, where the earth, air and water join forces to form the salt fields of Fuencaliente, a hugely valuable human landscape where the contrasts of the white of the salt, the blue of the sea and the black of the volcanic earth paint a picture of immense beauty (although nothing looked particularly beautiful today). We parked in the car park and first took a look at the lighthouse. The weather was slightly better there at the southern tip of the island (i.e. not raining). We walked around the salt
pans reading the blurb as we went. Flor de Sal is the salt harvested in Fuencaliente. The sea water is trapped between stone and mud which forms a labyrinth where the sun evaporates off the liquid, leaving behind the salt. This produces incredible colour effects from yellow to blue, passing through hues of pink. The small, sparkly crystals are collected by hand and formed into small pyramids, which are dried by the air. In the Jardín de la Sal, a themed restaurant, we read about the production process and purchased a small tub of Flor de Sal, or Salt Flower, the purest form of salt. We took refreshment in the cafe before returning to the car. The descent to the salt pans had been pretty impressive but the climb up the side of the volcano was more so. We drove through banana plantations which were taking advantage of the rich volcanic soil. The plantations went virtually to sea.
We stopped at a mirador to take a photo of Volcan Teneguia. Teneguía is a monogenetic cinder cone - a vent which has been active once and is unlikely to become active in the future. It is located at the southern
end of the sub-aerial section of the Cumbre Vieja volcano of which Teneguía is just one of several vents. This vent is the source of the last subaerial volcanic eruption in Spain, which occurred from October 26 to November 28, 1971. Earthquakes preceded the eruption. The eruption killed an elderly fisherman who got too close to the lava and was asphyxiated by the fumes. The eruption also caused some property damage and destroyed a beach, though a new one was later formed by natural means. Populated zones were not affected. The vent has since become an attraction for tourists and forms part of the Monumento Natural de Los Volcanes de Teneguía. We decided not to walk to the vent because of the weather.
We drove on and stopped briefly at the Mirador El Charco where M jumped out and took a few snaps. Then we all kept our eyes peeled for a venue for lunch. After an aborted attempt at a wine cellar/restaurant we stopped at the Franchipani Restaurant. This was run by a German guy with good English. The four of us enjoyed his tapas menu.
Next on our agenda was the National Park of The Caldera
de Taburientes. We had been informed by the chica in the tourist office that it wasn't open for cars until 4.30 pm. However, when we drove past the entrance M noticed that it was open. So we decided to give it a go anyway. The road led to Roques de Los Muchachos which is supposed to give one of the finest views over the caldera. Caldera de Taburiente is one of the biggest craters in the world, 28 km in circumference, 10 km across the widest part and 1,500 metres deep. Inside stands Idafe Rock, where the Benahoaritas came here to praise their God, Abora. The surrounding mountains rise to 2426 m and are often snow-capped in winter. They weren't snow-capped today but it was pretty cold outside of the car. Also it was very misty and we could see little of the caldera through the murk. We have included a picture of what we should have seen with this blog - but we didn't actually see this view - it was snaffled from the internet. The interior of the Caldera is home to towering pines, ferns, birds, geological formations and crystal clear springs which meet at a place known
as Dos Aguas. This water is used for agriculture and household purposes.
On the way back to the main road M insisted that we take a detour to the Pino de la Virgen Ermita de El Pino. The Virgin of El Pino is a Marian devotion Catholic venerated in the chapel of the same name, located on the slopes of the Cumbre Nueva in the municipality of El Paso. The story says that on the highway linking the summits of the two sides, east and west of the island, was a majestic pine tree which had in its bark a niche with an image of the Virgin. In 1876 a small chapel was built devoted to Magdalena del Pino and for years was the hermit's place. In 1927 the first stone of the present chapel was laid and on August 30, 1930 a new image of the Virgin of El Pino was blessed. The feast of the Virgen del Pino El Paso is celebrated annually on the first Sunday of September in the chapel of the mountain. Since 1955, and every three years, in the month of August, the Festival of the Virgin del Pino El Paso takes place;
where the image is moved in procession to the old part of town, returning to this hermitage on the eve of the feast.
We drove back to the ship through the national park and left the keys in the boot of the car in the car park as instructed. Dress code tonight was British (red white and blue). There was a "British Sing-A-Long" but we didn't bother - settled for a couple of all inclusive G & T's. The show was Cool Britannia which was a tribute to the swinging sixties. Not a bad day at all given the rubbish weather.
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