A small rock in the Atlantic

All about the island of La Palma, in the Canaries.

Click for La Palma, Canary Islands Forecast

Thursday, 21 February 2008

Which Planet Are You On?

Martian Rocks

The peak

And the blue sky on that last one that gives the game away. Yes, it's Earth, not Mars. It's actually the Teneguia volcano, on the southern tip of La Palma. The red colouring comes from iron in the rocks. The reason why there's no visible vegetation is that the volcano last erupted in 1971, just 37 years ago.

Some of these little holes in the ground (just big enough to put both hands in) are noticeably warm on a cool day. Children love them - it's when they realise that this really is a volcano.

Actually, there are a few plants beginning to grow, but as you walk up the cone, the main impression is that you're on another planet. It's very hard to believe that you're only about twenty miles from a cloud forest.

The peak

All the Canary Islands are volcanic, but La Palma is still a baby in geological terms, and still growing. The eruption of Teneguia made it half a kilometre longer. Much of the new land is now banana plantations.

Luckily, Canarian volcanoes don't BANG! so much as gently ooze. The eruption of Teneguia only killed one person: an elderly man who was overcome by fumes.

The summit is only about 400 m above sea level. You can walk all the way to the top, but be warned that the path is very rough in places. Stout trainers are about the minimum footware, and walking boots are better.

Lava field

You can start walking from the visitor centre of the San Antonio volcano, or a little lower down on the road from Los Canarios to Las Indias. In fact, you can drive several kilometres along the track, which leaves the road, which only leaves about two kilometres to walk.

And the view from the top is terrific.

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