Eucalyptus and almond blossom. The church square and picnic zone look and smell wonderful in the bright morning sun. The square is dotted with tourists taking photos and enjoying the quiet of the simple but attractive church and the trees bedecked in the pink of the blossom. I do the same as I take my photos and enjoy the ambience but this is probably my only connection with these holidaymakers. I look at my watch, it is 10.50 am and I turn and leave the square and the idyllic scene and take the first steps towards my destination.
The initial part of the walk follows a newly created path alongside a busy road and soon deposits me at the foot of a 900ft climb to a mountain pass. I start climbing, conscious of the heavy weight on my back as I pass through a grove of eucalyptus and eye the summit of the climb high above me. I cross a stream-bed, a thin trickle of water still tumbling down the hillsides after the recent heavy rain in parts of the island and know that soon it will be dry again. Despite the weight in my pack, I climb fairly comfortably, only stopping occasionally.
Soon, I reach the forestry track that signals I am close to the pass and I stop to look back to the village, now hundreds of feet below me. Another ten minutes and I am on the pass, the biggest climb of the day behind me. A landscape unfolds. A stormy sea of rock stretching into the distance, frozen in time. Vast, gaping valleys, soaring peaks standing silently, almost mocking, challenging those who dare attempt to scale them. Ravens croak above, swooping, tumbling, as they display their mastery of the air. In the background, the Atlantic provides a beautiful backwash to this natural masterpiece. I turn and continue on my way, passing a few large groups of walkers before reaching the forest.
The comfortable path enters a green tunnel in the laurels and heathers, the edges of the path bedecked in huge, yellow sow-thistles', like giant flowers from some horticultural 'Jurassic Park'.
Massive agave line the paths and small but vivid cineraria and wild marigolds embroider the spaces in between with an intricate web of colour. I reach a crossroads in the path and sit some distance away to escape the large group of walkers that arrive and shatter the peace.
After a while, I realise that they are not going to leave anytime soon so I flee along the path, back into the trees where I continue my reverie as the silence returns once again. The ridge I am walking along delights with a kaleidoscope of scenes passing in front of my eyes, like a slide show of my favourite pictures. With my camera clicking furiously, I cross the valley road by a small car park. Tourists, reluctant to stray too far from the sanctuary of their cars, watch as I head back into the mountains, climbing towards a prominent peak. I reach a stone bench at the side of the path and take a break. Sitting in the sun, the lizards tentatively poke their heads from underneath the rocks and plants at the side of the path. I drop pieces of banana and flapjack and suddenly, there are dozens of them rushing from all directions, their desire for the tasty treats overcoming their natural shyness. A group of walkers pass me and the last of these wishes me 'buen provecho' and, my appetite sated, I continue along the path, which is now just a narrow, rocky ledge, high above the valley below.
As I round a corner, the terrain changes slightly to a more open, moor-like scene. Forests give way to a vast sweeping plateau, riven with terraces and dotted with occasional lonely farmsteads. A goatherd shouts as he drives his large flock up a steep terraced hillside, a scene that probably hasn't changed for hundreds of years
Up here is like being alone on top of the world. The land falling away to the bright sparkling ocean below. Ancient tracks and paths lead ever downwards towards the cliff edge and suddenly, there it is!
On a rocky promontory, far, far below, lashed by the waves and the wind, stands the lighthouse that marks the end of the world. I stand and stare, my feelings ebbing and flowing like the waves crashing on the rocks around the lighthouse. Here, I feel small and insignificant, like a small boat bobbing in a stormy sea, searching for a light to guide it home.
The walk back is long and arduous. I am tired after my earlier exertions but my body takes over and the hills are defeated one after another. I know that I do not have enough daylight to complete the return walk but this does not concern me. I watch the sun slowly sink behind the islands in the west as the day draws to a close.
Soon, I am utterly alone. All of the day walkers have long gone and as the shadows lengthen, I take ownership of the day. This is my time. I have earned the right to be here in the dark of these magnificent mountains. I switch on my head-torch, a small puddle of light engulfs me. I have found a light to guide me and I turn the bow of my boat and head for home.
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