2 Nov 2015

2. First Impressions 1970's

As a family, we first visited El Hierro back in the late 70’s. At that time there was not even a ferry to the island: a crane picked up the car in a huge net and deposited it on the deck of the rusty old ship that made the crossing from Tenerife every week. After an interminable 12 hour voyage, we climbed the old winding road, at times cut into the very face of the cliff, towards Valverde the capital of the island. It was cloudy, windy and cold, the kids were screaming in the back of the station wagon and my wife asked “Where on earth have you brought us?” Good question. In Valverde, this Sunday in August was like a cold October day in England, misty and wet. Our spirits were dropping. We continued up the mountain road through deserted villages to Jinama, a vantage point with a magnificent view of the northwestern coast.

At least it was supposed to have a view. When we got there the wind was howling and you could see no further than your imaginary shadow. We were right in the clouds. There was a little chapel there, locked up, into which people threw coins - and others fished out with bits of wire – and next to it a stable from which we could hear the bleating of sheep. A door creaked open and a man in dark shapeless woolen clothes appeared and called the children inside. We had to follow. The place stank although it was welcomingly warm. Pancho introduced himself and milked a couple of sheep into some filthy yogurt pots for the delighted children. He then took us to a little lean-to where he made coffee, the best I’ve ever had, and offered us some cake. He explained that the weather was sometimes like this in August. The trade winds came in from the north, hurtling themselves against the mountains. That’s why he had to hand some home-made “aguardiente” - transparent spirit distilled from winemaking leftovers. We began to feel better and went outside to see what the children were doing.

The sun had come out! The wind had dropped! It was still very cool, but what can you expect if you’re out in the middle of the Atlantic at more than a thousand metres above sea level. We leant against the wall and looked out over the bay, El Golfo. There were still a few clouds, but they were chasing each other way below us, giving us moving glimpses of the white houses of Frontera and green vineyards. Above them, the forested slopes of the mountains formed a great arc that seemed to cradle the village and the little hamlets at the edge of the immense ocean. My wife felt considerably better about the place I had brought her to.

View of El Golfo from Jinama on 1 September 2015


  1. The first time you took me up to Jinama I might have been 14... and I was almost sick, but the beauty of the magnificent slopes, the sunny and calmed ocean made me forget my first impression.
    Pancho Cura, with his woolen beret and strong but gentle hands milking his sheep, was perhaps the only villager that I felt at ease to speak with years later, and who wouldn't make me feel as an outsider!

    1. Glad you remember him! I often do. He was one of the authentic islanders - as they say here: "Uno de los de antes."

  2. Has escrito de una manera sencilla y detallada al mismo tiempo , lo que ha sido sin duda alguna, una experiencia inolvidable. Y ahora, al compartirla, me pongo en tu piel y exclamo: ole, olé y ole