As I said we decided to hire a car and spend a couple of days touring the island. The marina is in about the centre of the eastern coast of the island so we decided to do the tour that went around the middle of island first, including the large volcanic crater. As before in Madeira, we had a drawing of the island rather than a map, with most, definitely not all, the roads on, and no possible way of knowing whether you should be going up or down the mountains. Our first stop off was a view point on the way to the Astrophysiological Observatory near the highest point of the island, Roques dos Muchachos. The observatory was placed here due to the clear skies and climate making the viewing of stars and suchlike very easy.
As we drove we felt sure that we would pass a few small villages, or roadside bars where we could stop for coffee, as we had done previously, but there was absolutely nothing on the way at all. After about 45km we found the viewpoint, which was spectacular, we were up in the clouds, looking down over deep gorges which had been created by the volcanic lava spilling out and destroying everything in it's path. What had originally looked like soil as we drove along was in fact very hard, brittle lumps of clinkers, similar to the bottom of the fire at home. As we had driven up into the mountains it had got cooler and cooler, and by the time we reached the top the temperature was only 9.5˚ rather than the 25˚ it had been when we left the marina. Good job we had been sensible and brought a jumper - it was a little chilly. Disappointingly, when we got to the top of the island the whole area was shrouded in cloud, it had been impossible to tell this from the bottom and also it had been very clear and sunny all the way up, but the crater was largely invisible. We decided to join the other hopefuls to wait and see if the clouds did clear but after 15 minutes people started to drift off, and having become quite chilly ourselves we decided that it seemed very unlikely that the view would become much better.
A couple of views of the volcanic landscape, and of being above the clouds! It was very difficult to get an idea of size and scale as there was nothing there to compare it to - everything has been wiped out by the lava flows.
We continued back down the other side of the mountain and we were almost at the bottom again before we reached civilisation. There was a likely looking picnic spot - lucky we had brought this as there was no-where to stop for lunch, in a pine forest over looking the sea.
There are a few towns and villages here but the population is grouped into very definite areas, and there aren't any little settlements and houses scattered around the place as in Madeira. Again the island is very intensively farmed, using terraces to get the most use from the land, and one of the big crops on the western side of the island is bananas. Water from many springs and streams around the island mean that it is a lot greener than many of the other islands.
We continued on our tour and tried to view the crater from two other points, one at the bottom of the crater and one at the top. When we started down the road to the bottom of the crater it didn't seem too bad but half way down it got very steep and narrow and the surface was less than level so we decided to go no further - when we hired the car we were told that part of the contract was to ensure that the roads we used were 'macadam' and this seemed less unusual as we drove round as a lot of roads became tracks not too far off the main roads. The system of road numbering has all roads marked LA1, LA2 etc so you can't tell from the map when you are about to go "off road", so a couple of u-turns and changes of plan were needed!
The top of the crater, again supposedly a spectacular viewing point, was again shrouded in cloud and by this time it had started raining as well - luckily despite John telling me it is always sunny in the Canaries at this time of year, we had taken our pac-a-macs. These have not seen the light of day since our trip to Ireland in 2009 when it rained consistently every day! There are, unfortunately for you, no photos of us in our cagouls going on the blog - we looked like proper English folk abroad!
'Seaduced' in La Palma Marina with the mountains as a back drop.