Sunday, March 30, 2008

Easter On El Hierro

Here are some photos I took on my Easter break in the most distant of the Canary Islands, El Hierro. Before the Greenwich Meridian became the accepted standard, El Hierro was known to many as the Meridian Island being at one point the furthest point west of the known world for Europeans. This is not a destination for beach lovers, most of the coastline of El Hierro has no beach at all. It is, however, a perfect place for walkers, divers, or mountain bikers. With a population of little over 10,000 people it’s easy to find areas of the island where hardly anyone lives and for such a small island there is an amazing variety of landscapes. Despite the fact that we were there at a peak period with difficulties to find accommodation there was no sensation of crowds, on our walks we never saw more than a handful of people.

We stayed in La Restinga on the southern tip of the island, a small fishing port with some tourist apartments. An apartment here overlooking the sea cost us just €40 a night, and La Restinga has a (slightly) greater concentration of restaurants than other places on the island as well as a bigger variety of fresh fish than some of the other Canary Islands. It provided a nice contrast with the colder and often mistier upper parts of the island. We managed seven walking routes in five days, so despite overeating in the evenings I think I came back a good bit fitter than when I arrived.

The central range of the island rises to a maximum of 1500 metres, and if you start near the bottom then you see the full transformation of the landscape as you gain altitude.

Leaving behind the vineyards down below, the vegetation becomes wilder and lusher as you get nearer to the beginning of the typical Canarian humid forest that used to cover much more of the islands than it does now.

This forest then gives way in the higher parts of the island to pines, not all of which have managed to survive the occasional disaster brought by fire

On the western part of the island there is an area well known for its concentration of juniper trees. You don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.

At the western tip of El Hierro there is a dry volcanic area of jagged lava and extinct volcanic cones, with a lighthouse to help the shipping steer clear of this coast.

Higher up in the centre the island would often be divided into two parts by the clouds that would come in from one side but barely pass over to the other

Short distances between the coast and the heights mean that some of the paths can be challenging for vertigo sufferers, although the paths are often amazingly good considering the terrain they have to cross:

Back down at the coast the waves always seem to find a way through:

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