Three months ago it seemed as if the whole island was in motion, heading up into the hills for a glimpse of snow, which was falling heavier and later than usual. This week it seemed that everyone was talking about the profusion of wildflowers, the colors, the extraordinary numbers this year. Pictures, like the one below, which I snapped close to the cemetery in Vilaflor on Thursday, dominate the newspapers, and are on t.v. daily. The rich colors of Tajinastes and California poppies contrast magnificently with the endless blue of the sky.
Tajinaste grow nowhere else on earth except in the Canary Islands, and some types are native only to specific islands. They appear on so many postcards, videos and snapshots you probably remember seeing them before. They’re symbolic of the islands. I know you don’t want to know all the latin names and explanations, because you would be reading a wildflower blog if you did, and you can look them up elsewhere if you want! Sufficient to say that when they burst into bloom at this time of year it’s a noteworthy day on the calendar. We enjoy them for a month or more, before the summer heat forces plant life on the peaks to wither or hide. People will be rushing up there this weekend to see them in the same way they rushed up to see the snow 3 months back.
Maria, Cristina and I, aiming to avoid those weekend crowds headed up into the hills late Thursday afternoon, as soon as Maria had finished work. Top down on Cristina’s baby we breezed the curves enjoying the flow of warm air and the freedom……..one of the things I miss about living on an island is the potential for road trips!
We hadn’t been driving for very long when we began to notice the colors on the hillsides we were cruising, it really was as if life was bursting out from every turn. Tajinaste don’t grown below about 2,000 meters, so we were on the look out for our first one, and there was cheering as we spotted it, although it was a smallish one in the garden of a hamlet we were passing. Still, before too long we were seeing more, and then clumps of them, and then a the stunning group we spotted by the cemetery, pictured above, and below.
We skirted Vilaflor and glided through the Corona Forestal as we climbed continuously, and leaving the forest behind we rounded a bend to see the islands of El Hierro, La Gomera and La Palma shimmering on the horizon. In certain conditions the other islands take on a sort of fantasy pose, seeming to hover over the ocean, with their mountain peaks emerging from cloud. It’s one of the most beautiful sights I know. Sadly my lens wasn’t up to capturing what my eye saw, but this is the best I could do. You can clearly see La Gomera, and El Hierro is the smudge of blue on the horizon to the left. The lens wasn’t wide enough to include La Palma too.
It was whilst we were stopped to snap the islands that we realized how busy the road had become, particularly with wagons and heavy goods traffic. We’d come across very little traffic until then, travelling late afternoon it was all going in the opposite direction.Then we realized were coming from the set of the “Clash of the Titans” sequel, which is being filmed in the National Park as well as other points on the island. Have to say, even from what I’d read and heard about film making the sheer volume of this traffic amazed me!
For us it was onward and upwards however. A few more twists and turns and we were in Valle de Ucanca, which is where I’d taken the great shots in the snow February and March. No snow this day, though. The sun was strong and just high enough in the sky to give us plenty of light, but still lend shadow. The snows had long seeped into the rock to the underground caverns where it is stored, and in their place were splashes of vivid color – white and bright yellow broom, cheerful margaritas and still some lingering wild lavender, but most stunning, the tajinaste, great clumps of them, tumbling down the mountainsides, like the pointy red hats of dozens of garden gnomes.
The broom had been perfuming the air since we’d stopped to photography the islands, and around the caldera the scent was heavy in the late afternoon warmth. I don’t remember fragrance hanging in the air, just like that, since being in Provence, in the heart of perfume country.
After scrambling around and taking snaps for a while we stopped at a mirador, or viewing point with the caldera spread before us, and El Teide rising in all his glory from its midst. I imagine he looks down and is pretty pleased by what he sees at the moment. We made time to pause and picnic for a short while, before heading back down.
We took the route I’d taken back in March, when that white wall of mist had seemed to follow us down the snowy road, but this time the malpais (badlands) were in their accustomed stark and impressive state, the odd tree bravely hanging on to life here and there, and La Gomera and La Palma visible again over the tops of the forests before we descended through them.
It was interesting, after last week’s hike, to note the difference in the flora on this which was, more or less, the west side of the island, and the east where I was last Saturday. Even in such a small space, life, as I always keep harping on about, is so very varied. I’m hoping to get back up there before the flowers fade, but the chances are that the next time I make it summer will have seared the already austere landscape, and I’ll have to wait for next year to see this amazing scene again. That’s why everyone will be scuttling up there this weekend – everyone except me that is.