As we arrived and parked up in the parking zone near to Mirador de Jinama I could see we were in look with the weather. The view looks down onto the northern coast of El Hierro over the El Golfo valley of La Frontera.
Many times you can arrive here and find that the clouds are rolling over the top of the 1000 metre drop to the valley bottom and completely hiding the view. That’s the Atlantic Ocean for you.
The view from the viewing platform was quite spectacular all the way along the valley to Sabinosa and Playa Arenas Blancas. The start was delayed whilst everyone took photos and marvelled at the scenery.
As we set of under the juniper archway that marks the start/finish of the walk, everyone had a spring in their step.
To the right here is a finger of volcanic rocks, formed many millions of years ago. This is known locally as Dique de Jinama. The local geologists can spend hours talking about this one outcrop of rock.
This first part of the walk is quite steep, but has a very convenient handrail to help you keep your footing. As with most of the walk I would advise that it’s single file walking to keep you away from the edge of the path. The apparent sheer drops in places can soon give some vertigo. The broom like trees were in full bloom and the scent from their white blossom seemed to fill the air.
The path then becomes a little more sheltered as you pass through woods. You can see the lichen and moss growing of the trees which shows you how they collect their moisture from the ocean currents when they swirl up the hillside. On the verges of the path you see clumps of “forget- me-nots” adding a vibrant blue amongst the lush greens of the rest of the plants.
Keep your eyes open and check out the crevices in the rocks and little areas which are quite unique. You will find a small flight of steps, that go nowhere and a gnarled tree and exposed roots which tells you it is the Mocán de los cochinos, which literally translates as the tree of the pig. All curious and a source of much discussion amongst the group I was with.
In other places the path becomes cobbled and covered in lichen and mosses, with ferns growing out of rock crevices and branches of trees. All making everything seem very green and luscious. These areas feel cooler and fresher out of the sun. Some areas have been stepped to make walking easier.
As you descend the end of the walk is nearly always in view and gradually grows larger. The white building really stands out against its red volcanic rock surroundings. The clock towers chimes also keep you aware of the time.
Surprisingly it’s not all downhill. You are greeted with the occasional ascent which appear like stairways to heaven. Lush green arches of trees open up to a bright blue Canarian sky.
There are a number of viewpoints and our little group took advantage of one of these areas to sit for a while to drink cool water and take a small snack to renew our energy. It also allowed for us all to regroup.
Remember please, there are no waste bins on the route so please take all your waste with you. That includes all organic matter too. In this area you do not find apple trees or banana’s growing.
The zig zag path continues with the occasional flat area. Above a couple of ravens decide to have a silly on the thermals and caw to each other. They are comical creatures at times and entertain us for a while before vanishing as quickly as they appeared. Maybe it was the nearby buzzard that had spooked them, or the local paragliding club catching the morning thermals as they seemed to be practicing for the paragliding championships. The pleasure of walking on El Hierro produces many surprizes and it goes to show that you need to keep your eyes peeled for all sorts of different events.
As the canopy of trees disappears and the landscape opens out the view of our destination becomes even clearer, though the peace and quiet of the country side still abounds. Here you can see numerous terraces on the hill side, some still used for the cultivation of grapes, but sadly many now are abandoned and unused.
The path here crosses a minor road a few times, to shorten the walk a little. As I turned back you could quite clearly see the Mirador above us that had been our starting point.
The last kilometre or so is steep downhill walking on the road which brings you at Candelaria the main church for the El Golfo valley. Before you cross the road to the church there is a wonderful little bar/café Joapira on your left which serves numerous traditional Canary Island dishes, and serves ice cold beers to tickle the taste buds of weary walkers.
From here you get a Spectacular view of the bell tower on the hill.
After refreshments I cross the road and climb the fairly steep volcanic steps up to the view point at the Campanario de Joapira, the Joapira bell tower. With a bright crystal clear blue sky above I expected to be able to see the coast quite clearly. But I have to say that I was to be disappointed. Due to extremely strong Atlantic currents and high waves, all I could see was a sea fret near the coast as the air was filled with salty sea spray.
I would advise the use of sticks for this walk. The time to the bottom or vice versa depends on you. The more adventurous who take part in the Kilometro Vertical, Maratón del Meridiano, can run from the bottom to the top in under 55 minutes. The quickest this year ran it in under 35 minutes!