It’s true, I spent my winter break in the fantastic Canary Islands. Nearly every winter for the past eleven years I have spent this time with my wonderful host family, who I met when I was an exchange student during my junior year of high school. They are such marvelous people that I am willing to sacrifice 2 days of travel in each direction for the privilege of seeing them again. This year was no different, except that I spent even more time than usual riding my bicycle.
For the past three years, I have brought my folding bicycle (a Brompton) along for adventures, exercise, and exploration.
The islands we stay on, El Hierro and Tenerife, are known for their biodiversity, volcanic origins, and very steep roads. El Hierro is approximately one half of a massive volcanic cone. The other half of it fell off into the ocean millenia ago. The island, however, is far from volcanically dormant. For the past two years there have been earthquakes and an underwater eruption off the southern part of the island. I was there for the biggest earthquake yet – 5.1 on the Richter scale.
My family stays near the center of that crater, and so I took trips on my bicycle up and over the lip of the cone. This is a climb of nearly 4,000 feet! Needless to say, the roads are steep and the views breathtaking. The descents are chilly, but it’s nearly always warm at sea level. My host father came along on a few adventures. We always seem to find new unexplored pockets of the island, and new bits of plant life to identify. Here are a few pictures from around the island.
Of course, some of the most spectacular vistas are found along the ragged shore where half the island seems to be missing. The trailing rocks leading from the island into the Atlantic are called the ‘Roques del Salmor’ and are a symbol of the island.
On the high part of the island, it feels like you are on the top of the world, just perched on the edge. On a clear day, you can see three other islands in the archipelago: La Palma, La Gomera, and Tenerife.
I hope to some day return to the Canary Islands with Jason to take a hiking holiday in La Palma or La Gomera. Both are islands with extensive hiking networks, friendly people, and pleasant year-round weather. Perhaps after the trip, on my next visit to see my family!
Even after three years pedaling this small island of El Hierro, there are still more roads here I haven’t had the chance to ride. This years rides provided me with a much-needed dose of vitamin D and a few extra muscle fibers for our upcoming trip!