Panting, I drag myself and my backpack containing my sleeping bag, clothes and provisions a few meters further up the mountain. I look like Quasimodo. With funky hiking shoes.
Ha, a sign! ‘Refugio: 1250 meters’. Huh? “Laurens, that previous sign said 1500 meters, right? That was an hour ago! Those were a damn long 250 meters! This way we won’t make the summit before sunset.’
We’re hiking for a shelter on the ridge of the largest volcano on La Palma. La Palma, la Isla Bonita. I don’t really feel the Isla to be very Bonita right now. I reckon Madonna would sing in a different tune if she were here, climbing this mountain with my backpack…
Mountain goat that I am, I walk on, quietly grumbling to myself. In front of me, I notice Laurens will probably also be quite happy to drink a beer to celebrate our arrival.
We arrive just in time to see the sun set the island, the sea and the sky on fire. What a sight! That is what the couple in front of us – he with his arm around her and with a tripod for their perfect Kodak moment – probably thought as well. Just until their moment was brutally interrupted by our arrival, the cracking of our bag of crisps and the opening of our can of arrival beer. Sorry to ruin your moment, people!
So, La Palma. After two weeks of Morocco (people, please go and see that beautiful country!) and a week with Maarten and Annelot on Lanzarote (such great fun!) we now feel like enjoying a lush, green spot. After spending a week in the Netherlands with my sweet father who is braving his own storms, we both really need a quiet place that feels a bit like home. Our week spent in The Netherlands was really nice, but also quite intense. Saying ‘goodbye’ to the people I love dearest in the world for the second time in a couple of months proves to be difficult. I kind of have to let all that sink in for a while. So we do not want any commitments right now, no itinerary, no vacation, no adventure. Just messing around on the boat, in a nice, friendly place. In a place where the lady from the supermarket knows you, where after a day you’ve found your favorite bar. A place where there just isn’t that much.
After a brief study of the pilot ‘Atlantic islands’ I conclude that La Palma will fit our needs best. Laurens agrees. With hiking being the biggest attraction on this island, it sounds really nice and quiet. We won’t encounter a Hankomotief (Google this term, I would say) full of bloated tourists like in Agadir. There is a small town in between all this volcanic landscape – hopefully littered with old squares, old benches and old men telling telling each other old jokes.
The arrival in Santa Cruz de La Palma makes me happy, instantly. I have a good feeling about this place. On the second day I meet Bas, a fellow Dutchman who arrived here six years ago, after many wanderings, to live here with his Argentinian wife. A chat on the pier naturally flows in to a coffee on the boat. We exchange contact information with the promise to have dinner at his home and to join him on one of the many hikes on the island. Bonus points for feeling at home: making local friends.
La Palma feels more like home when after a week S/V Karakter enters the harbor, cheerfully waving at us. Real Dutch ‘Gezelligheid’! Of the entire Dutch fleet, we really didn’t expect to see Michiel, Marije, Madelief and Jaap again. Turns out it was kind of a prophecy that we never say ‘goodbye’ but always ‘till next time’. At 12 o’clock in the afternoon they join us in the cockpit for an arrival beer (really, just one), some cheese, crisps, and, well, just open the champagne. Jaap and Madelief are splashing around in the water. How good to see them again! It feels comfortable, they arrive with no obligations. The kids drop in daily to show their school projects, to nick some of our food or simply to have a chat; it feels really good. A short week later, S/V Ben-NL also comes in to port, with Mariëlle, Han and their very familiar blue cooler. The harbor bar has opened! Together we celebrate Sinterklaas, with traditional songs, Pieten, home-made Pepernoten, poems and my best surprise present ever. (a lot of Googling for you English speakers, there!) After all the festivities, the Ben-NL, and a bit later also the Karakter, continue their way to La Gomera. We spend a couple of days in doubt: should we stay, or should we go?
We stay. Life’s good here. Staying gives us more time to prepare ourselves and Tiago for the six-day crossing to the Cape Verdes. We feel at home in the beautiful town surrounded by green volcanic walls. Despite the fact that this ‘excellent harbor’ turns out to be quite a rolly harbor, in the end we’ll have spent 27 days there. Keep calm and carry on.
By now we’ve decided let go of our planning to circumnavigate the world in three years. For Laurens our trip started to feel like being on a bus, following a timetable. I felt strong similarities with a flotilla, where everyone sails on their own, but, at the same time follows the exact same route at predetermined times. Nice if you’re in to that, but not for me.
So we decide to just let go. That means we’re no longer in a rush to get across the Atlantic as soon as possible, to discover the Caribbean islands for a mere few months, so we can pass the Panama Canal in the right season, so we have enough time for all those beautiful islands in the Pacific Ocean. Letting go means to stop all the forward thinking and reverse-planning. We do not have to do anything for a while, for no one. Our time is our own, we only now realize. So why stick to a strict planning and feel like you’re rushing all the time, while it is so nice to really explore places and get to know people? In 27 days on a small island for example …
That all sounds good, but the question what it really is what we are doing keeps popping up. Are we on a very long holiday, are we on a journey, an adventure, a discovery, living life off the beaten path? That question consumes me. What is it, this life that we chose? Our friend Han would say, “Well this. Just here. Together.”
PS1. You can read more about Morocco, Lanzarote and La Palma; just check out our photos.
PS2. I know that Madonna is singing about another Isla Bonita, really. One in the Caribbean, where we are going to. Soon, but without any haste.
PS3. Meanwhile, we have really left Europe and we arrived at Sal, in Cape Verde, on 17 December!