We were pleased with ourselves. It was a warm, sunny morning, the birds on La Palma were chirping, tweeting and making all sorts of happy noises, all was well with the world and we were early. Forty five minutes early to be exact.
We’d learned that the hotel’s chefs needed 12 hours notice to raid the breakfast buffet for a couple of slices of meat and Gouda cheese, bread, banana, apple, one of those little buffet butter tubs and a yoghurt for our picnic. The day previously we hadn’t realised this job took 12 hours planning and this had subsequently led to scowls and a bit of a ‘to do’ before a picnic pack was painfully put together whilst the walking group we were to join waited patiently.
Anyway, we were a day older and a day wiser and this time we were early. The drive up the coast from Los Concajos via Santa Cruz de la Palma had been a quick and easy one.
The directions we’d been given we’re straightforward – ‘Meeting point at Las Lomadas before crossing the bridge’. Andy had Googled it just to be extra prepared and had spotted there was a lay-by at Las Lomadas… just before the bridge.
We were so early that it hadn’t mattered when I shot passed the sign for Lomada and was actually on the bridge before the sign registered.
No problem. At the first opportunity I turned the car round, headed back across the bridge and pulled into a little U-shaped road/lay-by where there were a couple of cottages.
We parked up on the rough road, sat on a wall overlooking peach trees and neat potato terraces and waited for the bus that was to take us to the start of the Marcos Y Cordero tunnels walk.
And we waited.
After we’d been sitting awhile a battered old pick-up pulled up beside us. An old farmer got out and looked towards us with an intrigued but friendly expression. He waved an ‘hola’ and descended into the undergrowth. About ten minutes later his return was announced in advance by a few laboured grunts before he emerged with a basket full of potatoes on his shoulder.
I commented the potatoes looked heavy and he corrected me, pointing out that they were sweet potatoes. Then he motioned that I should follow him as he disappeared back into the undergrowth.
His accent was thick as tajinaste honey and I struggled to understand his campesino Canarian Spanish which often has little time for the luxury of consonants. For some reason the old farmer decided to take me on a tour of his terraces, pointing out papas (potatoes), batatas (sweet potatoes) huge aguacates (avocados) and big sun and rosé coloured melocotóns (peaches). As we walked he grabbed handfuls of plump peaches from his trees and piled them into my T-shirt which was doubling as a basket. When I insisted he’d been too generous, he threw in a few more – ‘for your wife’.
As we headed back up the track he asked what we were waiting for. When I told him we were going hiking at Marcos Y Corderos, he acted surprised and asked to see our map.
We really had been early. But it turns out that there was another Las Lomadas (with an ‘s’ that goes missing when spoken in broad Canarian dialect) thirty minutes drive further along the coast. And, as it happens, the other Lomadas is also right before a bridge and, yes, it does have a lay-by as well. Sometimes not a great amount of imagination is put into the naming of places on the Canary Islands.
We had been early. Now we were late… again. But we did have a mini mountain of juicy peaches and we had met a lovely old guy who epitomised the open and generous friendliness that was a common factor of the people we met on La Palma.
We were late. But it was worth it.