La Palma III: Fuencaliente 

Sometimes the best days are those that are unplanned, a little unexpected but amazing, and on our third day on the island we had one of those days. We’d got up early to head to the Caldera, as the guidebook told us that it usually got busy after 10am, so we arrived at the tourist information building at 9am just as it opened. What we didn’t expect was to have to reserve a car parking space to access the walking routes up there and they were all booked up for that day and the next, so we decided to reschedule and get a ticket (free) for Thursday and instead head to the south of the island to explore. San Antonio and Teneguía, the latter of which erupted in 1971, are La Palma’s best known volcanoes found near the Southern tip and both are accessible to walkers, so we were excited to see the unfamiliar landscape.

After an hour of driving south we stopped in the little town of Fuencaliente to park and chose a charming street side cafe to enjoy a pre-hike coffee and something sweet.

Recharged we wandered down towards the coast and the volcanoes. Most of the tourists had flocked to the Volcán San Antonio visitor centre, but there was a €5 entry fee per person, so we bypassed it and followed our familiar GR131 trail towards Volcán de Teneguía. The path descended steeply and zizagged slowly down towards the coastline. Once on the flat we took a turn off the main path to Roque Teneguía, an almost lunar landscape of jagged lava and sharp shattered rocks.

We skirted around a shattered crater rim before starting the exciting climb up Volcán Teneguía and I was so glad to have my walking poles to help me on my way. After a bit of scrambling and holding onto our sunglasses as the wind got stronger as we got higher we reached the top. The views were impressive but seen with only half open eyes as the sand blowing from the Sahara decided to dance around us, so we hot footed it down. Then came the hill of scree.

A mountain of soft, warm, black sand. It was never going to be an easy climb. One step forward, that sunk in like quicksand, and two steps, more like a slide, back down. It took a while and a bit of practice with the pole technique but I finally reached the top, my shoes filled with gritty sand. Taking in the ashy landscape we headed back to the town, stopping off at the same little cafe for sandwiches before jumping back in the car and driving North again to Tazacorte. We left the unfamiliar black volcanic skyline behind us as around us became greener and full of life, and we wondered what other surprises this island had to offer…

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