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31st October, 2016

El Hierro

The small island of El Hierro is the most western of the Canary Islands and certainly the one which gets the least number of tourists. The relatively new cruise ship jetty is still not big enough to take the large vessels and I would also be surprised if the island could take 4000 plus passengers in one go. The total population is only around 6000, and from the little port it is ten minutes in a taxi to get to the first small town of Valverde, almost 1000 feet above the sea.

Mrs R and I therefore tagged along with the slightly more strenuous tour, joining a charming Spanish guide and a very competent driver who took his coach up the tortuous twists and turns of the highway that climbed up to the very top of the island. The first views were quite amazing, looking down many miles to the north west coast and the valley of El Golfo. It is believed that many millions of years ago this mountainous region just slipped into the sea, no doubt causing a major tsunami, but leaving El Hierro with very fertile slopes. It is here where, over 15 kilometres, most of the agriculture takes place. Even our guide mentioned she had a small mango farm.

At an altitude of around 1,460 feet, we trekked into the laurel forest and spent almost two hours following dry leaf covered paths, eventually coming to the top of a very large and impressive volcanic crater. We returned to the coach through the mythical ‘witches dance floor’, a small clearing within the forest where, perhaps quite understandably, imaginations can be stimulated, particularly on a moonlit night when shadows can be ‘disturbing’.

Back into the bright very warm sunshine we proceed down to a final stop at the Mirador de la Pena, another viewpoint where a first class restaurant has been sympathetically built into the very edge of the cliff. A little goat’s cheese and a small glass of the local wine was a welcome greeting.

Eventually we left this little known island, the most westerly point of Europe, but not until nearly eleven pm, by which time a real witches brew was being concocted on the after deck. It was Halloween of course, and there were some very strange sights to be seen as the few shore lights receded behind us. Ahead lay just the black of night.

Captain Philip Rentell

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