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Date: 19 Nov 2006 18:38:02
Title: La Palma report

Hello Friends                                              "28:40.706N 17:46.039W"
 
'La Isla Bonita' really is very beautiful and spectacular - about 275 square miles in area but nearly 8,000 feet high. This is the highest altitude to area proportion of any island and a great deal of it is therefore seriously steep.
 
As soon as we got the car, we headed straight for the highest point - Roque de los Muchachos, where the telescopes of the Astrophysics Observatory are sited. The road from Santa Cruz says it's about 15 miles but the sign doesn't mention that it's also one and a half miles up. Fortunately this rental car had a bit more power than the last ones, but we were all dizzy with the scenery whizzing past one way then the other with countless hairpin bends. As we gained height we rose through lush pine forest into the cloud layer, which was worrying as we feared we'd be wandering around in mist. But, as we climbed higher the sky became brighter and we drove above the tree line and cloud into sunshine.
 
Photos cannot really do justice to the view into the crater from the top, despite it largely being filled with cloud, but here goes anyway with a composite 15-shot pic showing a 180 degree sweep.
 
 
The air up there was cool and dry and the sun felt strong. There was true mountain top silence, intense so that you could hear the blood pumping through your veins; broken only by the thin mewing of a distant bird of prey on the hunt. The peak of el Tiede on Tenerife (even higher) was clearly visible about 70 miles away.
 
The theory is that the western side of the caldera (right of photo) is unstable and likely to slip into the ocean at some point in the next few centuries. If and when that happens there will be a tidal wave of fairly epic proportions, but probably one of the safest places to be will be at sea.
 
This is the view from the other side, taken the following day.
 
 
The descent was followed by an excellent lunch of rabbit and young goat - local cuisine at its best we think and quite delicious.
 
We also visited the newer volcanoes on the southern tip of La Palma - most recent eruption 1971 and apparently still some warm bits, though we didn't notice. They were not particularly photogenic - think conical slagheap - but the twisted shapes of rock, ash and lava suggested that you wouldn't want to be too close when there was activity. Anyway, certainly not as photogenic as our lunch stop, which had a local name but should clearly have been called 'Bedrock'.....
 
 
We'll shortly be off to Tenerife, but a final note on La Palma for other sailors - beware the RCN pontoon at Santa Cruz: the lazylines are polypropylene and float nicely in the way of your propellor. They provided a first test for our improvised diving gear - 2 snorkel valves in series with a length of plastic hose - which actually worked quite well.
 
Best Wishes
 
George and Michael
 

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