Words by Kathi Kuypers
Snow is covering the trails and all we want is to escape this cold, not bike-friendly, winter. Then we think, what about La Palma? Europe's top mountain bike island. We surf over lava sand and then dive into the jungle until the ocean stops us for a dip in the Atlantic.
Geologists dispute that the huge crack down the center of the Canary Island could claim the western flank of the Vieja. A volcano could collapse the ground there if there is an eruption sparking a landslide into the Atlantic and sending a mega-tsunami with 160-foot waves across the ocean. To be fair, having this in mind can add a little bit extra flavor and adrenaline to your trip. But Angie and I only experienced that the most dangerous force of nature was a cactus which stuck into a tire and caused a flat.
When we have landed at Santa Cruz de la Palma airport we felt a pleasant 20 degrees on our skin. We were picked up by Acerina from Aceshuttle to take us to the other side of the island. It felt like we have taken a wrong turn and she had driven to Mars. Fist bumps aka Patattas Frittas
Our first day leads up to the eastern part of the island. We start at 1500m above sea level with flowy trails through pine forests, parallel to a mountain ridge. Wind clouds build up and lead to a green jungle forest. Angie is chasing me and I try to give us a nice dogfight. As a former Downhill racer, Angie knows how to keep pace on a trail. I give it all and get some good speed on my spinning wheels. I can find some jumps made of woods and Angie crows because of rapture. We keep getting faster and I hit some blind little drops. These maneuvers boost my adrenaline level and I am glad I land on both my wheels. I hear Angie yelling, she was probably as excited as me coming in hot and making it. O sole mio!
Nothing beats our La Palma private shuttle "Knubbelbus". It was love at first sight. Knubbelbus means something like "a bus you want to cuddle." With an average speed of 40km/h we discovered the island at a snail's pace. Our driver and Knubbelbus and Atlantic Cycling owner Philipp Foltz turned on the radio and the party bus was on fire.
Angie and I were particularly taken by the lava sand surfing afternoon. We hiked our bike up those slippery sandhills and surfed our way down on black sand. One step forward, two back. First thing at the top: I took off another layer. But all the efforts were absolutely worth it. The lava fields of Llano de Jable are even better than any bike park playground. I am still testing the grip and how this loose surface behaves on a bike. It almost feels like powder skiing and after a couple of tries, I managed to ride some curves. Oh man, what a ride!
Our tummies growl and we stop for a bite in a monastery. We eat typical food of the area: Queso aside con mojo verde, or grilled cheese with green Mojo-sauce and potatoes. We also have Cones and Papas arrugadas, or rabbit meat with jacket potatoes.
For the next day our photographer and guide Kirsten Sörries takes us to the very south of the island - the Salinas at the beacon Faro de Fuencaliente. This area is very "young". In between 1677 and 1971 massive lava sand fields from volcanic eruptions have formed this side of the island. Angie and I totally forget to take pictures for our Instagram stories and just breathe in the moment of this beautiful side of mother nature. We watch the sun slowly setting and Kirsten takes some last shots.
Don't forget your Bocadillo! In the morning, Angie reminds me to pack my canary sandwich and we head up to the Roque de los Muchachos. This trail leads from 2400m above sea level to the ocean. "Summit to the ocean" seems like the daily theme here on La Palma.
And again La Palma shows us another totally different environment. When we cross the cloud layer we see a never-ending landscape with bushes, stones and dusty steep trails with rock gardens. We stop at Europe's highest observatory and get on the bikes.
We experience a new OHO! adventure. Red stones and prickly bushes make the trail challenging. Into the gnar, I follow Angie and she shows me the perfect line through the rocks. We embrace the moment of pure trail shredding and enjoy what these paths line up for us.
After 2300m of descent, we rolled down to Tazacorte harbor and enjoyed an ice-cold beer at the promenade.
The Santa Cruz Trail tour starts on 1500m above sea level through a thick pine forest. Because of the trade wind, this area is significantly very humid and the forest looks more like a green jungle. This trail down to Santa Cruz is 16.5km long and it takes about 2.5 hours to get down to Santa Cruz. Be excited for great corners and little rocks you can use as takeoffs!
Life's easy on the island. I think we could get used to this way of life with happy people and no rush at all.
xoxo Angie and Kathi
Special thanks to Philipp Foltz from Atlantic Cycling and Aceshuttle.
Photographer: Kirsten Sörries
Riders: Angie Hohenwarter and Kathi Kuypers
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