24th November 2021
Puerto de La Estaca, El Hierro
As a child, Christmas morning, before you could open your presents, was the most difficult of times. That wait was long and painful, but you knew that the wait would be worth it as soon you’d open your presents, tuck into some marzipan laced Christmas cake and have the best of times. With 1000’s of miles of windless miles all around us we’ve been waiting on El Hierro for the wind to fill in and give us a memorable sail south to a new country on a new continent.
Bucking the Christmas waiting trend, marzipan magically made it onto the menu. Jutta & Leo from Schloss Ort visited for sundowners, they came harbouring festive secrets and as the sun set these secrets were revealed as ‘Flaming Mozarts’! The idea of a flaming Mozart was to take a chocolate covered marzipan ball, dip it in brandy, light it and then, without drawing breath, gobble it down in one.
Jutta & Leo gobbled down the balls of Alcoholic yumminess like pro’s and show up the amateur efforts of the Brits & Kiwi’s. While Fiona couldn’t bring herself to gobble up something on fire, Iain was so excited that as the first ball neared his mouth he took a deep breath, sucked in the flames, singed his beard and burnt his tongue. These were mere flesh wounds but the result was Christmas coming early.
Needing to fill our waiting time Iain came up with more hikes to tire the legs, test the mental resolve and most importantly for Iain break in his new left shoe. In months gone by Iain had lost a right shoe and decided that keeping the left as a spare might be a good idea. Now employing this ‘spare shoe’ he had to age it as one foot was adorned with something that had trapsed 100’s of miles while the other gleamed. Even Iain is aware that wearing odd shoes looks a little weird. *
Breaking the shoe in was easy as we took in some soul-destroying road work before heading down to through fields that had been tended for eons and into a village that hadn’t changed for millennia. In the centre of the town was our target. Natural pools, freshly filled with seawater and replenished with every high tide.
Hot from the hike we plunged into the welcoming waters and quite quickly realised that these were not the usual warm Atlantic waters we’d grown used to; overnight the water had grown frigid. As Iain & Steve wore stoic expressions, they tempted Fiona and Helen to literally take the plunge. As they splashed down and emerged from the waters the deceit was complete as was the shock.
With more days to wait the biggest hill of the island was asking to be hiked. This time however we were hiking on a Sunday and had a deadline to hike to. We’d got the first bus up and had to get the last bus down. If we missed the bus, it was another 10k, and another 700 meters of tough descent.
As we walked up through the forest the dappled shade kept us cool and the glimpsed views wowed us. Moss dripped off the trees as they grew out of the cliffs at impossible angles as they threatened to tumble down at any moment. The higher we got the thinner the forest became and the bigger the views. Finally cresting the top, we had uninterrupted views to the south and thick thick fog to the north.
The descent made the ascent feel easy. Thick fog robbed us of any sense of direction and the volcanic pumice underfoot robbed us of any confidence in our footholds. The gradient was furiously steep and with each step we were getting further and further behind schedule. After what felt like hours of down, we popped out into town and had 11 minutes to cover the final kilometre to the bus station. Glory and victory were to be ours.
Romping into the bus station all was eerily quiet, devoid of busses and empty of people. We were on time but where was the bus? The bus was also on time, but it was on time to the proper timetable and not the make-believe Ruffian one, which was 30 minutes out!
Downtrodden, with sore feet and aching legs, we raised our spirits, lifted our thumbs and hoped that the goodness of man would whisk us home. Car after car zoomed past us, one with Cerulean crammed in the back, but finally we hopped into the welcome air conditioning of a luxury SUV that rolled down the hill effortlessly and delivered right to the doors of the marina.
Our waiting game was starting to come to an end with a window of wind opening up ready to blow us south. It was time to put the ‘fun’ behind us and prep up for 1000 miles of offshore sailing. Leaving Fiona to cook meals for the coming days Iain took the laundry and the Brompton 900 meters up to Villa Valverde. The bus whisked Iain up and the Brompton whisked Iain down at breakneck speeds. Taking turn after turn his momentum slowly overtook the Brompton’s ability to brake. Brake pads were worn down and rims heated up. There was nothing for it but really break-in Iain’s left show and deploy childhood left-foot braking.
The waiting game is now over, Ruffian is ready to go, the weather is playing ball and we’re ready to open the great gift of 1000 ocean miles. Next stop will be a different country and different continent which will probably feel like a different world.
* At this point its important to state that the old and new shoes are the same colour same size and same model. Its not like he’s walking about with a trainer on one foot and a stiletto on the other.
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