There will be tears in the blog-reading community tonight- this will be my last blog for the next ten days. W and I are, early-ish tomorrow morning, leaving dear Ruby behind and climbing aboard the big iron bird at London’s Gatwick Airport, en route for La Palma, one of the smallest and the most westerly of the Canary Islands.
La Palma is not for everybody – I’m glad to say. W and I visited it once before, four years ago. For those who want peace, quiet and the space to let the mind expand, it is a magical place. It has a nickname – ‘isla bonita’ – beautiful island. It is basically the top third of a volcano which rises to almost 2,500 metres above the surface of the Atlantic and whose foot is 4,000 metres below it. It is precipitous; there is hardly a flat surface on the island which is covered with the most luxurious plant life.
The island is not dependent on tourism – it grows and sells bananas. Millions of them. The plantations are everywhere. But space on this volcanic outcrop is at a premium, and many of the plantations, unlike the industrial scale of those on Tenerife, are often no more than four or five metres square. They cling in some seemingly impossible way to the sides of the black rock. How the farmer tends such precarious plots is a mystery.
The summit of the volcano at 2,400 metres (just under 8,000 feet) is reacheable if you’ve a car and a more than a touch of raw courage, especially if the cloud base is low – as it sure was when we did the trip. The narrow road is not for the timorous. A seemingly never-ending series of precipitous hairpins winds relentless up the almost vertical wall of rock till eventually you get your reward and emerge to the most extraordinary sight. It’s like you’re in an aircraft – you are looking down on the tops of the clouds. And as the wind off the Atlantic sweeps them in from the ocean up the western side of the mountain, they pour across a sharp ridge and cascade down like a cotton-wool slurry into the vast crater of the volcano way below. It is awe-inspiring.
We shall not however be attempting that this trip. We’re not even hiring a car as we did four years ago. This last year has been a very challenging one and we’re both in need of peace and quiet, space to free the mind and to let it rest. Time to lie on the black sand beaches and watch the waves breaking over the rocks. Time to watch the seabirds riding the up-drafts from the ocean swell. Time to re-charge the batteries. Time to let time pass. Time to be.