The other day I managed to persuade my husband that it was time we went back down to see what in olden days was classed as “the end of the world”.
We left Valverde and took the winding road up past the new windmills and hydroelectric system, past the tiny village of Tiñor, to the village of San Andres. Passing through this quiet village we travelled to the turn off for La Restinga and El Pinar.At the roundabout we admired the colour of the wild flowers in the adjacent fields, yellows, blues, purples, white and lots of red poppies glistening in the sunlight. We couldn’t park for all the other vehicles that had stopped to admire this glorious scene. On this plateau the glorious green fields and dry stone volcanic walls looked quite spectacular in the afternoon sun and the cattle all seemed content munching away on the fresh grass.
We continued onto the Canarian Pine forests and then dropped down past the Almond trees to the second turn off for El Julan. Here we meandered our way along through the forest admiring precipitous drops down many of the Barrancos (flood drainage ditches) magnificent views of the coast. In places the road took you round hairpin bends before climbing again, to descend again a few miles later. On this route the drops are mostly on the left hand side of the road. I would recommend that you stick to the 40 kilometres an hour speed limit. There are numerous places to stop to take photographs of the unique countryside. We stopped at the Mirador de El Julan to admire the view down onto the coast. We could see the area known as Los Letreros and watched the afternoon Landover excursion, to this site wind its way back up the dirt road back to the visitor centre at El Julan. We eventually reached the cross roads which took us left towards Faro de Orchilla.
This road crosses over a number of cattle grids as we again dropped down towards the coast. The countryside here changes from being forested to more open scrub land with a few trees. Down below the rugged coastline is volcanic. As you descend you get the odd glimpse of the lighthouse or Faro de Orchilla set against the volcano craters which line the coast. There are believed to be over 1,000 volcanic cones on the Island.
Eventually you reach the turn of for Punta de Orchilla/Faro de Orchilla. The road very quickly becomes a dirt track and as we slowly meandered our way down towards the lighthouse we left clouds of dust in our wake. We dodged the odd volcanic rock in the road and passed a few vehicles both large and small. I have to say I wouldn’t have wanted to be driving a motorhome along this route.
As we dropped down you could feel the temperature rising in the bright afternoon sunshine and we kept stopping to admire the views.
As the track levels out with volcanic crates in front of you which completely block the lighthouse from view we parked up in the car park. I then walked down the rutted dirt track to a monument which marks the original Zero Meridian (you can if you wish drive down in a 4 x 4 vehicle).
Why may you ask is there a monument to the Zero Meridian at this location, when everyone knows that the zero meridian is at Greenwich, London.
Many of the Islands in the Canarian Archipelago are referred to locally by other names and El Hierro is no exception. We are also called The Meridian Island (Isla del Meridiano).
The reason for this goes back to the second century when Ptolemy decided that the Zero Meridian would be on the most westerly part of the then known world at Punta de Orchilla. One has to remember in those days it was believed that the world was flat and that if you travelled any further you would fall of the end.
The Zero Meridian remained here until 1883 when it was moved to his current location in Greenwich, London. Even today over 1600 years later some of the locals still claim that it was stolen by Greenwich and should be brought back to the Island.
After returning to the car we drove the last kilometre to the car park at the Faro de Orchilla. We had reached the most south westerly corner of Spain. It can be a bleak place when the wind and rain blows in from the Atlantic, but on a bright sunny day the backdrop changes hourly with the different light and is quite magnificent.
The Faro is unmanned and works automatically and is quite a substantial building. There is talk of the local government opening a visitor centre here.
For our return journey we retraced our steps back along the dirt track to the road before turning left to travel to El Golfo.
The road winds down what appear to be sheer volcanic rock faces, down to the coast. As you descend you can’t but help notice the gnarled and withered Sabine trees which have been battered by the Atlantic winds. They form beautiful weird shapes, the fresh green growth appearing on only one side of the tree, giving the impression as you pass that they are dead. As the coast gets nearer the track has some lovely hairpin bends with drops in places on either side of the road. In the past it seems to be a conversation stopper as everyone holds their breath as you cross one of the ravines.
Before long you are down on the coast travelling along past Arenas Blancas and Pozo de Salud.
After Pozo de Salud we turned left and took the costal road across the valley of El Golfo. The road passes through the banana plantations and past fields and fields of pineapples (be careful if you stop to take photographs, the leaves are live razors).
After passing turn offs for Charco Azul and La Maceta we eventually arrived at the main road.
We turned left to travel back up through the 3km long three lane tunnel back to our start in Valverde. In total we had travelled about 85 kilometres and taken about 4 hours.