Heiko alone in Fuerteventura – 140 Kilometer without shade!
Alex is on her job interview and I’m preparing for the Fuerteventura trek. Feels funny without her. Above all, who is writing our blog now? Seems that I have to do it. Damn it!
Around noon I arrive by ferry in Corralejo, the starting point of my hike. I take it easy and look for a nice restaurant at the harbor. A plate of pasta, dessert, coffee … so I spend the next two hours before I leave. It’s hot, the sun is burning mercilessly, but I’m curious about the island and I really want to leave.
The island looks similarly barren and dry as Lanzarote for the first few miles, but with the difference that the prevailing colors are not black and gray but rather red and brown. After a few hours and about 26 kilometers I reach La Olivia. A small village with a supermarket and a bar. So I can fill my water supplies and eat something. Meanwhile, the sun is not so strong and the temperature is more pleasant, but due to the heat I am really exhausted. So, I look for a place to sleep shortly after the village. For weight reasons, I have given the tent to Alex, by the way, the stove, too, so no coffee. Let’s see, how this will work out.
I fall asleep quickly, but wake up a few hours later and can no longer sleep. Nevertheless, I feel really fresh and the temperatures are a blessing. So instead of rolling me back and forth sleepless I prefer to pack my things and get on my way again.
It’s midnight, the sky is clear and full of stars. Really nice. The bright stars and the wide, easy way allow me to walk even without a headlamp. That’s really fun and the miles fly by.
A little later I hear loud dog barking and see several, big shadows running fast towards me. Ohhhh. Because of the darkness, I have no idea if there is still a fence between me and the pack or if they will mangle me right away. Believe me, that can make your heart slip in your pants …
Fortunately, there is a fence. It leads directly along the way, so that the dogs accompany me for some time, growling and barking. The height of the fence looks much too small in contrast to the shoulder height of the mutt, but they are content to accompany me from their side of the fence. Hiking at night is actually really nice, but the dog theme still accompanies me all the time. As soon as they smell me, they go completely crazy. No comparison to the little barking during the day. If the dogs bark persistently enough, eventually the cocks start to crow …. I fear in the villages that I crossed this night nobody could sleep through.
After it gets light, I have breakfast in a small cafe on the way, but do not stop too long, to use the cloudy morning to get a little further before it gets really hot again. When around noon the sun starts to burn, I arrive in Pajara and look for a cozy restaurant to take a few hours break. As I study the map, I see that Pajora is 74 kilometers from Corallejo, my starting point. Not too bad for less than 24 hours. What you can do when you have a pack of dogs at your heels! Insane!
In the afternoon I continue. The path leads me to the mountainous center of Fuerteventura. The mountains are not particularly high, but the constant, sometimes steep up and down is really exhausting. On the other hand, I am rewarded with great views. When the sun is already low, I reach a semi-open stone shelter, which can be found often on Fuerteventura. Looks like a good place for the night. I spread out my mattress on the table, which stands in the hut. Perfect! When I lie in the sleeping bag, it turns out that the place is not quite so perfect. For the first time on the Canary Islands mosquitoes are plaguing me. Despite the constant buzz of mosquitoes, I fall asleep at some point.
According to forecast, I can expect a cloudless, sunny day. For me that means getting up at 5 o’clock and start hiking to avoid the heat. In the south of the island, the landscape changes again a bit. Not only by the sea but also inland, there are suddenly tons of sand. Partly it looks like in the Sahara and probably the sand comes from there. The Sahara is not really far away and the strong winds regularly blow large amounts of desert sand across the sea to Fuerteventura. I do not have to mention that walking over sand dunes is incredibly exhausting. I reach a small surf village, which is my destination for a breakfast and replenishing the water supplies. Unfortunately, it is still so early that everything looks closed. I take off my backpack and try to find a sign with opening hours at the cafe, when a car approaches and the driver in Spanish (with a clear German accent) shouts at me that this would be private. Really? When I ask when the cafe opens he insulted me further in German. Funny, one would think, an emigrant who opens a cafe in a surfer village is relaxed and happy. He was not. I try not to get angry, to no avail. So no breakfast. The supermarket does not open until two hours. Mmh, after a critical look at the water supply-almost empty- and a look at the map – “only” 18 kilometers to the next village- I decide to go on. The sun is burning and the 18 kilometers are stretching endlessly. Without water, I fight through the sand dunes and scold in my head the unfriendly innkeeper, who „killed“my breakfast.
Around noon I reach, finally, after about 30 kilometers since getting up the seemingly endless sandy beaches in the southeast of the island. Here it is really touristy. Surf schools, countless beach chairs, hotels, bars and of course many, many people. In one of the bars I make the long-awaited, well-deserved break. First of all, I order tons of drinks and amaze the waiter by drinking everything soon. Phew, was a bit dehydrated !!
The last 10 kilometers I walk along the busy beach to the hotel, which I have booked. After the strenuous running, about 140 kilometers in 2.5 days, I actually treat myself to an all-inclusive hotel. The whole day laying at the pool, eating and drinking. Glorious. At least after the drudgery and for two days. I really need the rest now….!
La Palma – 67 Kilometer, which really tested our endurance!
After the successful trip we meet (finally) on La Palma. We treat ourselves to a day off, as we celebrate the new job and the extraordinary hiking of Heiko on Fuerteventura. But then we motivate ourselves to „quickly“ hike La Palma. But I can tell you, this island proves more difficult than expected. After so many miles, we thought we were going through the little island easily.But instead, we had to fight …!
Let’s start from the beginning. By bus we drive to our starting point Los Canarios. In the planning we have already seen that more than 2500 meters in altitude are ahead of us and that the biggest problem will be finding enough water. The first opportunity to replenish water is in Refugio del Pilar, 18 kilometers from the start. There should also be a kiosk there. Perfect! So we only take one dinner for the second evening. The first evening we eat at the kiosk. Excellent! The saved weight we take in form of water. A total of 6.5 kilograms plus, of course, the liquid in the form of whiskey. But, hold on tight: no chocolate and no cooker, that means no coffee!! on the good side you do not have to carry gas, cooker or pot. You see, weight loss is becoming more and more important. Only the whiskey is not sorted out ?.
The lady at the tourist office recommends us not to hike. It is too hot, all trails would be closed. Yeah we say and start our walk at 10.30. It is unbelievably hot. We had expected a relatively easy “only” 18-20-kilometer day, but we underestimated the climb. From the beginning it goes steadily upwards. Actually this is clear as Refugio del Pilar is located at 1900 meters … First, it goes through a beautiful pine forest, which donates a little shade. Later then over black volcanic rock with only a few trees left. Still much nicer than Lanzarote or Fuerteventura. Through the climb you also have wonderful view. After a few hours in the heat, the intervals between the breaks become significantly shorter. Phew! The fact that we both have a little cold also does not make the ascent easier. We meet a couple from Holland, who chose this route as a day trip. We envy them because they at least only have to descent. After half the altitude we pause exhausted. Oh man, „only“18 kilometers, it seems not such an easy day after all!
It feels like we have not walked a kilometer in our life before.
Our lean snack consists of two handfuls of nuts each. Two huge Canarian ravens are even trying to challenge us for the little food we have. I don’t feel very comfortable with the giant beak and the claws. So we go on. One step at a time. The sun is burning, the sweat is running, the water supply is coming to an end. Crap, according to google, the kiosk is only open until 18.30. Our goal was to be there at least 1 hour before to have a nice meal. Since Heiko’s water bag is empty anyway, we decide that he runs his pace and I walk slowly behind. So we do not miss the very important kiosk. Just after Heiko has left, the trail actually gets a little easier. Thank God. 20 minutes after Heiko I reach Refugio del Pilar, a large picnic area. Instead of seeing Heiko beaming behind a big water and a beer + burger, he is chattering next to three people. Oh dear, what’s going on? Nobody else is there. The kiosk is closed. Whether that has something to do with the closed trails?
Whaaaaat ?? At least there is water. Of course we ignore the big “no drinking water” sign. We filter the water, it’ll be fine. And, we do not have an alternative anyway. The three Heiko chats with is a Swiss woman who goes the same way in the other direction, and the two Dutchmen whom we already met on the trail. They had their car here and went back up by taxi. All three are super nice and are scouring their backpacks for leftover food as they learn of our kiosk closed-so-no-dinner debacle. Fish plus bread plus egg, what a feast for us! We are happy, thanks to these lovely people. Rarely has a dinner tasted so good! Strengthened, we continue at dusk for 4 kilometers at pleasant temperatures. For the first time, after 22 kilometers, we set up the tent with headlamps in complete darkness. A nightcap and then, completely exhausted, good night!
The night was quiet, but ended abruptly at 5 o’clock by the alarm clock. The heat of the day before made us change the walking rhythm. A message from a dear friend confirms our decision. On the Canary Islands is an unusual heat of 34 degrees Celsius, especially at high altitudes. Caused by the “Calima”, a hot wind from the Sahara. Yep, we noticed that. The breakfast consists of a banana, the last gift from the Dutch. A banana, as in one. „Strengthened” we start with headlamps in absolute darkness. The temperature is pleasant, about which we are glad, as the trail first ascends again 500 meters to an altitude of 2400 meters. As we ascend dawn and then a beautiful sunrise begins at about 8 o’clock. We enjoy it with a bar breakfast. A short time later, we no longer enjoy the sun, which quickly heats everything up. The landscape is beautiful, with a view from the mountain range into the valley. Great. At half past ten it gets too hot, so we decide to have a siesta under a beautiful pine tree. Great again! It’s a windy place, so it is very comfortable! We are only famished! A few nuts and the last Gummibärchen must be enough. After two hours, we tackle the rest of the day. The observatories are our destination. As we go around a bend, we always see them along the ridge, but, I tell you, there are many, many heightmeters in between.
It’s brutal, 200 meters up, 200 down. Up, down, up, down. The 24 kilometers to the observatories drag on without end. We suffer. We curse. We fight. But then at 6 o’clock we reach the first of the numerous observatories. Time for our barren supper. Tuna with crackers (I actually do not like fish). One thing is clear, we do not go much further. We decide to go to the next observatory, where there is a watering hole, to search for a campground as soon as possible. Said and done. Finally we reach the well, which is again equipped with a big “not drinking” sign, and fill up happily. Heiko spies a flat spot, unfortunately still within sight of the parking lot of the viewpoint. Did I mention that dispersed camping in the Canary Islands is prohibited? No matter, here we stay. Impatiently, we wait for the dusk and the sunset to finally be able to set up the tent. A group of three tourists is persistent, probably come to watch the sunset. But even when the sun set, they are still walking around the lookout. Meanwhile, we do not care any more and we set up our tent, enjoy to lie down and toast to the efforts made! Nice, when the pain subsides!
The night is rather restless due to strong wind. We’re almost happy when it’s time to set out to clear the tent before dawn. Everything is covered by a fine layer of dust. Not really fit, certainly also due to the cold, we make the 19-kilometer descent. The first few kilometers go briskly thanks to the pleasant temperature. The beautiful sunrise compensates for the rather restless night. We walk down through beautiful pine groves. But even the descent turns out to be strenous, especially when the sun is burning again. We leave the grove and descend further without shadows. The knee does not cause any problems, thank goodness! At half past twelve we reach our destination and walk straight in a restaurant. Together with a cool beer, this is the best meal ever! We take the bus back to Santa Cruz and book into the same hotel. In the evening we eat the best pasta, ever??! First recover to then muster enough motivation for the next island. La Palma resisted, but we did it!
La Gomera – 40 Kilometer, finally some forest again!
We treat ourselves to a rest day on La Palma. We really need that. We need to cure our colds and sore muscles. Yes, that’s right, sore muscles. As if we had never hiked before. My motivation to hike through another island after this debacle is almost zero, but giving up is not an option. Pfff! So the next day we take the ferry to La Gomera. Then by bus to Vallehermosa, the starting point of the GR131. From here it is 40 kilometers back to San Sebastian. Due to the strenous hike on la Palma we plan with a comfortable amount of miles per day.
On the bus ride we feel that the island looks very similar to La Palma. Many mountains, banana trees, sand. Sigh. After lunch, we start the climb at 1pm. This time “only” 1000 meters. After all. It is slightly cloudy and surprisingly it is going well. First it goes up as usual without much shadow. But with significantly more fruit trees along the way. But it works wonderfully and we climb the altitude without any problems. From about half we enter the forest. Yes, right: forest. Moist, mossy laurel forest. Unbelievable, it’s like in another world. Just barren and dry, now dripping from the mossy trees. No joke!
It’s a wonderful climate, great air and we reach the destination picnic spot at just after four. Hold on, already done for today? Somehow, we are both unwilling to stop, but still choose to follow our plan. There are a few picnic benches where we make ourselves comfortable until we later pitch the tent nearby. Easy! The night is quiet and we sleep very well.
In the morning we quickly walk the 2.5 kilometers to the next village, have breakfast coffee and fill up our water supplies. An emigrated German tells us that La Gomera has 1023 gorges. Well, hopefully we do not have to go through every one of them! The morning then is all about the gorges. Down – a little village – up again. The great forest fades in our memory and the sun is burning. We come to a lookout point with church. In the shade, we spend the next hour to escape the heat. Then the path meanders up and down again and then finally leads through a forest again. Not as nice as yesterday, but let’s not complain! It continues until we reach in the afternoon awater source. Again, a “no drinking water sign” warns and again we ignore it. The on the map drawn shelter does not exist unfortunately, but it is a huge picnic area. It is 12 kilometers downhill to San Sebastian. Since we do not believe to be able to find a tenting space during the descent, we decide to stay at the picnic spot. Not ideal, but we have not seen so many people here anyway. We share our barren tuna meal with an obviously pregnant kitten. The little cat is totally wasted after the greasy meal and keeps us company, sleeping contently.
After a restful night, we wake up early to reach the midday ferry to Tenerife on time. With headlamp we start the descent. The sunrise that illuminates the Teide on the nearby island of Tenerife is beautiful. We easily reach San Sebastian with plenty time for breakfast. With this island crossing we have made the promised 1600 miles! Wow! We are a bit proud of the achievements. Like as a reward, we receive word that the grant application submitted by my Rotary Club has been approved. 5000 € for our project! Great!
Teneriffa- The ascent on top of Teide (3718 m.s.l.) or, a really early start!
With the achievement of the self-imposed mileage goal and the approaching homecoming, our hiking motivation has indeed diminished. The Canary Islands are different on the whole, but they repeat themselves landscaped if you go through a few. El Hierro is said to closely resemble La Palma and La Gomera. The journey is expensive and tedious, and at the end you only have a whopping 40 kilometers of hiking. We decide to leave this island out. Tenerife is dominated by the Teide, a 3718 meter high volcano. So, it seems to make sense to climb this instead of going through the island.
An internet research shows us that you can climb the last 200 meters only with permit. Shit, the permits are fully booked for 2 months. Alternatively, you can spend the night in a mountain hut at 3500 meters.Then you may, without extra permit climb to the top before 9 clock. Of course, the hut is fully booked. The checkpoint is therefore apparently occupied only from 9 clock. Mmhhh, smile, there we have our loophole! We are happy and congratulate our acumen …
But when the alarm rings at 3.00 the idea suddenly does not sound that good anymore. Really now? Gähhhhn. After an hour of winding drive in which we comfortable climb the first 2300 vertical meters we arrive at the parking lot. Full. What? Either there are several crazy people out there (beside us) or they are all at the hut. Probably the latter, since we do not see anyone. Less than a kilometer later we find a place to park the car. Now coffee and a roll! While Heiko frantically is looking for the rolls and shocks me with a “die you pack the rolls”, I pour half the pot of coffee over me and the car seat. Damn! Stupid! Seat wet, pants wet, coffee almost empty. Great. It can only get better. Heiko finds the rolls and we drink half our cup of coffee.
At 4.30 clock we start the climb. It’s bitterly cold, google speaks of -5 degrees. Brrrr. You already notice the altitude when you breathe and so we slowly start the ascent. It’s a starry night. The (half) moon shines so bright that we run without headlamps. We even cast shadows, crazy! The first 4 kilometers is very easy, later it gets steeper. Except for our steps on the sandy bottom, it is absolutely silent. The world seems far away. It is very peaceful. We enjoy this atmosphere very much.
After 2.45 hours we reach the hut, just at the moment when the sky starts to change color reddish.
We continue, it dawns and we experience a gigantic sunrise. Shortly afterwards we reach the slightly sulphurous crater. An awesome view! Time for a second breakfast before we go down by cable railway. In only 11 minutes we reach the bottom, crazy. We get a ride to our car with three spanish guys. Perfect, who would want to walk?!?
Gran Canaria – planned 90 Kilometers, however… after 35 Kilometers our hiking comes to an end!
After the break, we start refreshed at Agaete, Gran Canaria with the last island. We look forward to the hiking and are excited to see the island. Who could have guessed that we actually have to quit early …
When we leave the hotel, it starts to rain and thunder rumbles. Great … “When thunder roars, stay indoors,” our dear Newfoundland friend Joy has given us on the way. Despite the warning, we only stop briefly to waterproof ourselves and our backpacks and then move on. The path already goes steeply up in the village. No wonder, 1700 vertical meters are in front of us today. Yet again. The rain stops, but it remains cloudy, not too hot, in short, good hiking climate! Suddenly the path widens and it goes slightly downhill. Ui great! We are a little surprised, Heiko thought we have to go past a mountain on the left. A look at the GPS shows us that we are about on the way. Well, the GPS is not always 100% exact. Elated, we walk for about 2 kilometers until we come to a stone ruin where the path ends. ?!? Oh no. After more than 2500 kilometers it happened again. Bleed … Whining does not help, we have to go back. The way back draws, it is now a steady uphill. Finally, we reach the path with a last stretch of cross-country. Now it’s uphill again, steeply.
Overall, the signage here on Gran Canaria is the worst comparing all islands. The GR131 does not lead officially through the island, it is more of a combination of hiking trails. We come to 1300 meters heights and thus reach a kind of plateau. The remaining 400 vertical meters then go less steep. The view is terrific! We celebrate this with a break. The (new) shoes are causing me problems. Several blisters have formed. After I did not have any the first 2000 kilometers at all, this annoys me very much. My feet probably think that this is enough hiking now …
In addition to the great view to the valley you can now see the effects of the big fire that raged here this year. The soil is blackened, the tree trunks partially or completely charred. The pine needles have already turned orange prematurely thanks to the great heat. It even smells of smoke. On the one hand bleak, on the other hand you can already see how nature recovers. The different colors are incredibly beautiful! We enjoy great views on the way. The sun comes out, it clears, so you can look up to Tenerife and the Teide. Great! The view from the other side shows the mountain range of Gran Canaria. It makes us forget the exhausting ascent. Elated by beauty, we skip our ultimate destination and plan to walk further to Artenara, the highest mountain village on the island. Here we can then fill supplies and water, enjoy a real dinner and, if we are lucky even stay overnight!
When we arrive, we are really wasted. 1700 meters in altitude and 25 kilometers is a real hiking day. The feet and especially the blisters hurt and we are looking forward to a beer.
According to the Internet even a room is free. We walk there, but unfortunately everything is closed. A group of Spaniards enjoying an aperitif next to us provide us with a phone number from the owner. Very well. Unfortunately, only the mailbox, crap. One of the Spaniards asks us what we were up to today. He shakes his head in wonderment that we have hiked from Agatea, asks several times if we had taken the bus and then excitedly tells his friends in Spanish. While we sit exhausted on the offered chairs, he calls several friends to get us a place to stay. Really kind. Unfortunately without success. We decide to go shopping, have dinner and then walk out of town to set up the tent.
With a beer and a delicious Canarian stew in the stomach we are already well again despite exhaustion. We receive a text message from the hotel owner that we can have a room. Wonderful! Joyfully we enjoy the shower and the bed!
We are ready for the next stage the next morning. As ready as you can be with sore, partially open blisters. Well, a few blister tapes on it, it will work. Again it goes up and then beautiful always along the ridge. Great! If only the feet would not hurt like that! At about eleven o’clock we reach Cruz de Teneda, a lookout with restaurant. We drink coffee and check my feet. Oh wow. The blister tape did not hold, one of the blisters has doubled in size, so that it hasthe form of a 50 cent large round, open, already inflamed area. Damn. Apart from the pain that could be ignored, it is not wise to ignore a purulent inflammation. Reason wins over ambition: With heavy heart we decide to quit and take a bus to a hotel.
But the abrupt end can not cloud our mood for long. After all, we had a fantastic time the last 10 months. Hardships and successes, obstacles that we have overcome together, laughter, gigantic views, incredible nature spectacles, new friendships, great encounters, incredibly friendly people, fun and despite 24/7 together not a minute in which I would have liked a different company. It was a great year!
Thanks to your support, we were also able to support nearly 600 people in Haiti, rounding off this perfect year. For the third well we still need about 3000 €. Maybe we manage to bring together the missing sum with this last blog? (Of course there will be a blog-encore with all details about the third well!)
Altogether, more than 38.000 € have come together, a, as we find unbelievable sum. Thanks to you for your donations, thanks to all the companies that supported us, thanks to all the Rotary friends and clubs who have motivated and supported us, especially of course my Rotary Club Stuttgart Wildpark. A special thank you to all the lovely people who have motivated us with emails, chats and calls. It was so nice to see that our reports were read, that you were involved, that you even suffered and laughed with us! Thank you for keeping on reading our blog throughout the year!
In this sense, warm, sunny greetings from Gran Canaria.
Your (no longer hiking but relaxing)
Alex and Heiko