As the alarm wakes me at 6am on a Saturday morning I am beginning to wonder if I made the right decision to participate in “Mi Isla Fototrek”, the opening event in Fototrek 2016. I get up quietly and gather together my rucksack, hiking stick and compact camera and set off to catch the bus that will take me to the start of the walk.
Later than planned we eventually arrived at the smallest village on the Island, Tiñor at just after 7am. Camera in hand I was told I had one and a half hours to wander round and would be allowed to take 100 photographs. The morning wasn´t too kind to us and the views out towards Tenerife were blocked by a long low bank of what I refer to as Canary Island clouds.
They stretch along the horizon for as far as the eye can see. The early morning mist was also sweeping across the hillside behind us. There were brief glimpses of blue sky and the waning moon and occasional glimpses of the sun on the houses and landscape. On the dot of 8.30am it was back to the control point to take the obligatory photograph of the guide. The local TV station was loitering around looking for victims to interview when I suddenly felt a push in the back and was propelled towards the reporter. A few minutes later I escaped.
We then commenced the walk down towards the main ferry port on the Island, Puerto De La Estaca. We would be allowed over 3 hours for the 4 kilometre descent and from a start of just below 1,000 metres we would finish up at sea level. On this part we were informed we would be allowed to take 200 photographs. As we descended the sun came out and cheered everyone up. The only drawback being that the sun was directly in front of us which made many shots impossible. We passed Barrancos, open fields and dry stone walls stretching out before us as far as the eye could see. No sign of human life could be seen, just the sound of silence and the glorious colours of nature at its best.
We walked past the line of pipes for the Islands Hydro/wind powered-electric system and past the five giant wind turbines which can provide 100% of the electric power needed on the Island, making us one of the cleanest islands on the planet.
As we descended further we passed an arch of almond blossom giving of its lovely scent, the blossom here was out much later than most of the rest of the Islands almond trees, a sign of this trees exposed position. Lower down still 2 curious horses came to see me, hoping I too would feed them the apple from my lunch.
As views of the port appeared we could see that there was the Armas ferry moored and also the British cruise liner Saga’s Pearl II. At this point to my right was the lower water system for the hydro-electric system, the drops down were quite steep in places and I have to say the path wasn’t brilliant with scree like conditions. I linked arms with one of the environmental officers on this part for assistance as I didn’t want to fall and injure my recently operated on, right shoulder.
The path then became narrower and steeper over the last ½ mile or so as we dropped down to the actual port area. I would recommend that this is a walk you do in reverse as the views as you climb are far more stunning than the views on the descent. As I entered the final check point and handed in my camera card I was relieved that this year I had time to spare and wouldn’t forfeit any photographs.
I finished 9th again and was quite pleased as I had only been using a compact camera and not my larger Reflex camera.
The following Saturday I was up bright and early again, to catch the bus for the last event of Fototrek, “Smartphone Trek”. It was a drizzly morning in the capital Valverde with low cloud. The locals refer to Valverde as the “City in the clouds”.
We set of for a location called Cuatro Esquinas, just outside the village of San Andres. As we left the bus everyone was scrambling for hats and raincoats. They say that the island is like a micro climate. The light drizzle will refresh the glorious spring colours in a few days’ time.
It may seem strange, but everyone was pleased with the damp conditions. Even in the Canary Islands we need rain for the crops to grow and this winter has been much drier and warmer than usual here on El Hierro.
The event organizers decided after about 10 minutes that it would be much safer, and better for taking photographs if they changed location. So it was everyone back on the bus and a 30 minute ride down into El Golfo. We were taken to La Maceta to walk along the costal path to Punta Grande and the smallest Hotel in the world.
Thankfully it was fine down on the coast, but was still a little overcast with a huge blanket of low cloud hanging over the 1000 metre high backdrop, this is quite a spectacular sight to see.
Mobile phones in hand we all set of with renewed vigour. No steep paths to negotiate, just a winding wooden trail by the sea.
As we set of you pass an outdoor café which welcomed all the unexpected extra coffee drinking clients.
Shortly after the wooden path stops for a very short while as you get to the first of the many Mirador’s. Beside this you can see some old volcanic stone sinks and a well which is where the locals used to wash their clothes many years ago. There is also a weather beaten hollowed out tree trunk to provide a contrast to the blackness of the volcanic path. After taking a few photo’s it was back onto the wooden slatted path admiring the many different views out to Roques de Salmor, hoping to get a different angled view of these Island icons.
I carried on along the path, stopping at the Mirador’s, enjoying a little light refreshment and marvelling at the costal erosion on the cliff faces. At one part they appear to be cut into steps, and organ pipes.
After about 1 hour I reached the top of the wooden steps down to Las Salinas. It’s so called because many years ago the locals used the area to dry the sea salt here.
The path ends at the driveway to what until January 2008 was in the Guinness Book of World records as the Smallest Hotel in the World. Hotel Punta Grande. Here I got the bus back home. Each entrant was then allowed until 4 pm that afternoon to submit as many of their photographs as they wished onto Instagram. You can view mine on my Instagram account.
And in 2017 will I do it all over again… You bet I will.