Photo & Words Carlos Blanchard
I'm going to tell you about that one exact feeling, you know it, its a funny one and comes back every now and then, making us face some kind of weird reality that we usually forget these days. The essence of the simple things, the closer things, sometimes the nicest, mostly jumped over by our modern wishes of seeing more, further, newer, forgetting most of the times that the nicest things lay just right next to us. Or even worse, we have been living them for a long time, but never seen the point or got the chance to appreciate them in the right way. And it's not until some external factor, a motivating factor pushes us to see and experience this that we had always had so close but never considered.
That is all a bit abstract I know, but I'll put in into more simple words for a start. How is that when you fall into a place that has always been there close to you, in one way or another, in the radar or physical map or your mental world, doesn't matter why, but you have heard the name, you know what it is and where. Distance doesn't matter either, but usually, those happen to be really close to you, but you have just never really discovered them yet… and only till you get that "push" you just don't do it, don't go there, don't see it, don't experience it. And more than coming back with a negative feeling after such a surprise, you feel, or I do at least, happily satisfied. Not able to stop sharing what you have just seen, encoring the people around me to go there and see and experience the same I just did.
To me, right now this all makes reference to a trip I got to do to the Island of La Palma. A precious treasure located in the Canary Islands. As you might know, and if not I tell you now, these Islands belong to Spain, where I originally come from, and surely by the name I´ve heard and always knew where they were and, I thought, knew how the looked. Based just on simple things such geographically position and the fact that they run one hour behind that the actual Spanish peninsula, my information and most important, picture of the islands was, I can admit now, really poor. And man was I missing out big time I can shout out loud now!
After speaking with a German mountain biker Daniel Schaefer at a big bike tradeshow, and from there one we started to speculate about the chance to go explore the Island of La Palma. Although he is more local than the actual locals down there, with more than 18 years of experience riding, building and exploring trails around the island.
It was time now to try something new. Something never really considered before, the actual trail that, on an island can somehow make more sense to do, due to the fact that you are constantly surrounded by the sea maybe? who knows. The eye was put then on to the trail that surrounds the whole Island, a circle around this volcanic piece of earth surfacing from the sea called La Palma. A mix of the purest elements that make this island. Rough volcanic floors to black sanded beaches, steep jungle sections and high dry volcano tops, all linked by the line that this antic, also renovated, the trail offers now.
Most of the times when you travel somewhere new you just need some time to adapt a bit, a process in which the actual surroundings are observed and you get the first impressions too. Doesn't matter how long or short your trip its meant to be, this is usually, the good start. For me, and for the Island of La Palma, this happened to be the perfect match, the perfect decision just in the right moment, although I really have the feeling that it really doesn't matter when you go there that you will always be happily surprised. But for me, maybe because of having just a few days time to enjoy this place, from the very first second I touched the ground, I sucked in everything the island had to offer during my stay. Both through my eyes and my camera. And that was not only because of the excitement of being in a new place, but also the weird feeling created by the constant thought of, "hey, I knew this place before, I mean, I knew where it was, it belongs to Spain you know? " just helped to escalate that excitement really. And this, as usual, comes guided by someone that is not from there, although you will be more the outsider somehow, but sometimes is just like this, someone from the outside will be showing you the views, the traditions and the place in general close to you that you never dare to go visit.
La Palma, my greatest new discovery. An Island shaped similar to the rest of the Canary group, still formed by those volcanic forces that brought them to life, but with a special touch, a flavor you can taste in its food, landscapes and the easy living established all over the island, making you feel like you are just in a different world. And not only you feel that when you reach the tops of the Island, crowned by the famous Planetarium and Observatory but also because of the rough volcanic floors, giving you a historic taste of the past of the Island.
Here I´ve experience one of the most special sunrises I´ve ever seen, hiking up in the still dark hours of the early morning, racing to get to see the first lights as high as possible and finally looking from the top, far away to the start of the new day while on its way it creates a perfect silhouette of the pyramid that is the Teide, the highest peak of Spain (peninsula and the islands) located in the island of Tenerife, truly a very special and unique spectacle, only shared by the three of us, riders Daniel Schaefer, Julia Hofmann and myself.
From there, heading down always towards the water, a deep jungle will surely surprise you.
Its variety not only of trails but also of vegetation remains me of places so remote as New Zealand, although I´ve never been there, I imagine it will somehow be like that at least… A continuous challenge for you and your bike, a constant concentration never to be loose, and a full body experience while you chase your riding partners throughout all these layers of terrain, all these layers of earth history, each of them with its own characteristics and peculiarities.
The reward, the arrival at the beach, to the water. That water that has carved the stones and black sands of the shores of the island for thousands of years. It's wild, especially in winter time, not allowing you much room to get in for a refreshment. But makes its note by creating perfect shapes waves that will come to break against the stones right below the trails you ride while surrounding the island. You have the feeling of being constantly chased by a huge force coming from the outside actually, but I guess people in the island will be more used to that.
The lifestyle, not to be forgotten, never. Just Imagine slowing down your world just a tiny bit, and seeing immediately how good that feels. The friendly local people, its culture. The fact that mountain biking down there is still growing makes you also feel like you are doing some good when you go visit, ride the trails, share thoughts and experience with the locals, maybe some helpful ideas will come out of your visit to the island, who knows. And now the warm weather, mostly all year it stays that same thanks to the winds coming from the African Sahara dessert, and the clear skies, that's actually why the Planetarium and Observatory is placed in the island, and you will be sure to be surrounded by welcoming weather both by day and night.
And this, the mix of all those elements, the culture and its lifestyle, landscapes and ground formations… so unique, but at the same time so complementary within each other, is what surely makes this place so special. And the only thing you need to go discover them all is your bike and a couple of friends, and plane ticket! of course, its an island! didn't I mention that before?
Big thanks go first to rider Daniel Schaefer for taking me along during my stay in the island, his knowledge and planning of the trip made all way easier for me and surely let me just focus on taking photos and enjoying the most out of my time there. Also to our second rider Julia Hofmann for joining us for riding and shooting. And finally the local bike shuttle LaPalmaFREEride.com@DansDesktop @carlosblanchard @evocsports @lapalmafreeridehttp://www.trailforks.com/region/santa-cruz-de-la-palma-7825/