After a restful day, I went cycling again. This time I wanted to ride to the north along the eastern coast of the island, then turn to the west, and climb the highest peak of La Palma from the northwestern direction. I knew it would be hard (with more than 120 km and three and a half kilometer of elevation gain, on the steepest roads of the island), but we need challenges in life :) I had my breakfast sitting at the open window (that’s something I will miss in Leuven, but finally I will have my chocolate, fries, and beer ;D) and watching the sunrise over the calm see towards the island of Tenerife. I had some difficulties inserting my contact lenses (everything is great about lenses, but I don’t like this part), so it was already half past 9 by the time I managed to leave the apartment.
The first 60.9 km was like a roller-coaster ride, with amazing views to the see, the steep cliffs and narrow valleys. In general, there were three longer climbs before the real thing started, but if you are interested in the details, click here to see the GPS data of the day. Words are not enough to describe the beauty of the island, I have seen the paradise here. Really, there were times, when I could see a rainbow in the distance as there were small showers hanging over the see, and imagine the whole scene over green slopes and curvy mountain roads…
The road usually went around the ridges, but sometimes there were tunnels also. I knew this would happen, so I put my rear light on already at the beginning, and just turned it on when I saw a tunnel approaching. But at the last and longest one, I went in as usual, but then it turned out that there is absolutely no lighting inside, and as the end was not visible from the first hundreds of meters, it became completely dark very soon. Luckily, for safety reasons, I also put my headlamp in my backpack, so I stopped in the darkness, and put it on… But it was really shocking to roll in with 40 km/h and then realize that the road disappears in the darkness :D There were also some sections, where one lane was closed due to road-works, and the traffic was controlled by traffic-lights, so I had to wait sometimes several minutes to get a green sign (and I usually managed to pass the section before the other direction got the green).
So after a bit more than 60 km and an elevation gain of two kilometers, I arrived to the start of the climb at an elevation of 940 meter ASL. From here, it took 19.4 km to climb 1485 meter to the Roque de los Muchachos, which gives an average slope steepness of 7.7%, making this the most difficult climb I ever had (maybe even without taking into account the two kilometers of elevation gain already in my legs at the beginning of the big climb). The first kilometers were quite OK till the point where I had to turn to the TF-4 road from the TF-1 (which I was following from Santa Cruz), then came the brutal section. Really, it did hurt. In 1.8 km I rode up 200 meters, which translates to an average steepness of 11.1%, and also a nice amount of lactate in your legs ;) But this is only the average, there was a curve-combination (looking down you could see three two more “levels” of the road below the one you were riding on), where it went up to 15% for quite a long section. (There were two buses coming down, and the drivers were waving and smiling when they saw me – but this was the case with most of the cars I met on the way up, which felt really good.) Of course the forest and the scenery was amazing, the sky was deep blue (with no clouds on this side of the mountain), but I was really tired to take pictures, I think I just wanted to concentrate on the climb itself.
Halfway up the mountain, I really got fed up with the energy bars and gels (which I ate ate every stop after every 250 m of elevation gain), so I will be happy not to eat them for a while now, as the outdoor cycling season is probably over for this year (based on the temperatures I have seen for Belgium). Now – not like two days before – I arrived to the area of the Observatory in sunshine, so there was no need of warmer clothes before reaching the summit. I was extremely happy when I finally arrived at the peak, and I don’t want to deny that it felt very good that quite a few people gave their congratulations when they saw me :) Quickly I asked for a photo, then (after all these formalities) I sat down and took a bit of a rest. (But first I put on the knee and arm warmers, the wind west and the neck warmer, because the wind was cold.)
I already knew the way down from two days earlier, but it was still a challenge with the numerous steep curves. Luckily the road was less wet now (though it was still not cloudless on this side of the mountain), and as I did not receive another tropical rain-shower as a present from mother nature this time, I hade really nice views after I came out of the cloud layer. It was a really well spent day.
After taking a shower, I slept a bit (yeah, I was tired as hell) before I went for my usual dinner. You coud really tell that the waiter was really happy to see me again – as I had my dinner at the same small pizzeria every evening (I already had my favorite spot). They served great pizza (though not the best I ever had, but close to it), and I liked the atmosphere of the place. Moreover, I usually payed only 10 € for everything with tip included, which is at least 50% more in Leuven. But this was also true for the supermarket, I was always surprised how cheep my purchases were.
This morning (after the usual breakfast wit the view to the sunrise over the sea… – boring :D) I packed in everything (now I am a really professional bike disassembler and packer), the took the taxi to the airport, and now I am flying over Portugal on the way to Madrid. Hopefully everything will be fine and I (and also my luggage) will arrive around 10 PM to Brussels, so I might be in Leuven still before midnight. If I manage to post this post then you know I am fine (and if not, then this sentence does not make any sense, but hope for the best :D).