La Palma – A Volcanic Isle

 

 

Volcanoes have recently been in the news: the eruptions in the North Island of New Zealand and more recently, The Philippines, have resulted in tragic losses of life, not to mention the enormous sufferings of people who have lost loved ones.

These volcanoes were land based.

But most of the world’s volcanoes begin their active life under the oceans. These eruptions might result in ash floating to the surface. Or they might, as in the case of La Palma, create an island.

 Situated on the eastern side of the Canary Islands, it was created 2-3 million years ago by underwater eruptions. Volcanoes arose out of the water and the island was formed by enormous amounts of lava which surrounded the volcanoes and cooled. 

To this day, extinct volcanoes dominate the landscape of the island. The fields on its steep slopes consist of black soil.

There are few beaches because most of the coast is solidified lava. 

La Palma is a very young land mass.

By way of comparison: rocks dating back 3-4 billion years have been found in Australia and Canada. Its centre consists of extinct volcanoes – the last eruption was in the 1970’s – but it expected that another eruption will occur in the future. There are even fears by some scientists that an eruption on La Palma could lead to a collapse of a considerable part of the island resulting in a massive tsunami which would devastate much of North America.

Anya and I went there for a month to go walking.

There are a lot of good, marked walking trails pretty much all over the island. The weather too was perfect – a run of sunny days of around 20 degrees. La Palma has a famously mild climate, never going below 20 or above 30.

Travelling around La Palma was the opposite of Chile; the distances were insignificant and bus journeys rarely longer than 40 minutes.

Incidentally the canary birds are named after the islands and not the other way around. The canary islands got their name from the Latin word for dog – apparently when the Spanish arrived, the original inhabitants (related to the Berbers in Morocco) had big fierce dogs which seemed to have made a deep impression on the Spaniards.

Wild canaries are still found on the forested islands – ie, La Palma and further south, La Gomera.

 

 

 

The walking trails are well marked….

 

Astronomical telescopes are a common sight due to the clear night skies and low population density

 

On the west coast, it is a Mediterranean climate with a low rainfall.  

 

On the east coast, it is very different due to much higher rainfall

 

In the centre of La Palma – in the so-called ‘Tarbuiente’ – are popular walking trails inside the enormous crater of an extinct volcano

 

 

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Most of the tourists on the island are older Germans. It’s pretty unobtrusive form of tourism. Most of the Germans stay in apartments or houses. There are no big hotels, no bar scene etc. We expected the food to be more expensive than in Spain – but  it was cheaper. Much of the food is grown on the island. The fish and the squid – caught locally – was absurdly cheap. We rented apartments most of the time – all of them roomy and well outfitted.

A familiar sight, even in the cities, is a a death notice printed on a piece of paper and left lying on top of a wall or a window ledge or a side walk, always with a stone on top to hold it down.  A ritual, a symbol of the journey’s end awaiting all of us….

 

Categories: Spain

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