Caught by the volcano: two hours by boat to go from La Palma to Tenerife, the only escape

Sunday afternoon is synonymous with nostalgia. David you are checking it, perhaps, for the first time. He clings to his sister in the harbor Santa Cruz before leaving by boat to Tenerife. Then you must fly to Gran canaria, where this Monday he begins his face-to-face classes for the degree in Physiotherapy. Until he leaves, he will not know in which island area he will sleep. He only knows that he must call a number to be picked up by his aunt’s friend and that the battery in his mobile is low. He was due to arrive at his destination on Saturday, but the closure of the airport due to the ash from the volcano changed all his plans.

9 days ago the volcano of Cumbre Vieja in La Palma. Since then, the life of the palm trees and their visitors has changed. Perhaps not radically, but in substance. And it is that just three days ago, many did not imagine that they could only leave an island threatened by a volcano that colonizes almost everything with its ash by sea.

It is estimated that the Cumbre Vieja volcano will be active between 24 and 84 days. Although life on the island is safe, the air has a good quality, and in most cases it continues with relative normality, many have experienced what it is like to leave an island that can only be accessed through the sea.

It may be the first of many. As long as the volcano continues to be active, this situation can be repeated. The airspace closure will continue as long as the so-called volcano ash continues to access the Santa Cruz airport area.

David effusively says goodbye to his sister Ariana before going to study in Gran Canaria.

David effusively says goodbye to his sister Ariana before going to study in Gran Canaria.

Carlos Aciego

Pedro, one of the volcano tourists with whom EL ESPAÑOL spoke on Saturday, was another of those who had to use the sea route. Before leaving he bought his viodramina. “I get very dizzy,” he said. He didn’t seem to have them all with him this Saturday when his flight was canceled. “I have arrived alive,” he warned at the end.

His counterparts were more cautious. Maybe because they don’t get dizzy. The man from Girona and the sisters who spoke with EL ESPAÑOL knew about the possibility of closure and prepared the route. They all went to Tenerife by plane and arrived at The Palm Boat. It doesn’t matter, now everyone has to do it like this, whether it was premeditated or not.

The other side of the coin

The island of La Palma is divided in two by Cumbre Vieja. On one side, where the volcano has erupted, there are areas such as Puerto Naos, Los Llanos de Aridane, El Paso or Tazacorte. On the other side is the capital, Santa Cruz, which houses the seaport for the departure of travelers and the airport.

Until Saturday, the city of Santa Cruz, on the other side of the island, had not noticed the effects of the natural phenomenon. However, the changes in the direction of the volcanic cloud changed everything.

This Sunday, the soil of Santa Cruz was a black blanket of ash. The lines of the road could not be seen, the umbrellas of the bars held unsuspected weights – “This was not like that yesterday,” said a waiter – and the audios of WhatsApp asked for help to remove the sand from the roofs and patios. It was the first time that the capital assimilated that the volcano on the other side of the summit would intercede in its daily life.

Ash colonizes La Palma airport.

Ash colonizes La Palma airport.

Carlos Aciego

The situation was grotesque. Many citizens walked with umbrellas although the sky did not spill water. Also inside the cars it sounded like it was raining. Nothing, impossible to clean the windshield because there was no water. What fell were black specks that easily filled clothing and bare areas of skin.

If in the previous days there were tourists and normality on the beaches, on Sunday they were closed. Santa Cruz was beginning to suffer directly from the effects of the volcano. And, as long as it suffers, there will be no possibility of leaving the island in a way other than the ship.

The boat trip

The airspace was closed this Saturday. On Sunday, the airport was practically a lot. Only the television cameras and the cleaning workers passed by. Also some tourist who came to ask. “Nothing, go to the port. Aena says it opened the airspace, but the airlines are not operating. All flights are canceled ”, said workers at the La Palma aerodrome.

Two taxis were waiting for customers. Maria he waits, although he knows how little work he will have today. “Nothing, come on. This morning I have taken a tourist from here to the port. That’s what you get”. Her partner, behind her, has decided to sleep. He will have time to ‘rest’, even if he is second. Unfortunately, there is not much work here today.

At the airfield they are Noelia and Andrés. They have been on the island for two weeks. “We have come to leave the rental car. We are waiting for the bus to go to the hotel that has put us Iberia. We had the flights for today -for Sunday-, but in the end we left at 11 tomorrow -for Monday- by boat to Tenerife. Then, in the afternoon, we will go to Madrid ”.

Noelia and Andrés are waiting for the bus to go to the hotel from the airport.

Noelia and Andrés are waiting for the bus to go to the hotel from the airport.

Carlos Aciego

They are not volcano tourists, although they have been to see it. “It’s spectacular,” she says, who in turn understands the victims. This couple arrived from Logroño before the volcano erupted and their vacations have been modified since then, although they did not think of leaving sooner. Luckily they left Monday as a day to rest, because on Tuesday they go to work.

Ship reinforcement

To leave La Palma by sea there are only two options. One of them is to travel with the Fred Olsen company and the other is to do it with the local Armas.

The first of the mentioned companies got down to work from the first moment. “The shipping company will make an additional round trip between Isla Bonita and Tenerife, in order to meet the transportation needs of emergency bodies, authorities, donations and volunteers,” he announced on Saturday.

In this way, its ships would make three outbound and three return trips between La Palma and Tenerife. As of this Monday, and as long as the emergency situation continues, this reinforcement will continue. The company does not rule out new routes, which will be added to those also carried out by Naviera Armas.

According to the local newspaper ElTime3,000 people traveled only on Saturday between La Palma and Tenerife.

Locals need to get out too

Not only tourists have to leave the island. At 5 in the afternoon, in the port of Santa Cruz, the Canarian accent predominates. Many are young people, who, surely, travel to study. There are also workers: some make the journey weekly and others return with their hearts pounding because of the situation experienced by their family.

This second case is that of miracles. He was supposed to fly to Madrid, but the closure of the airport prevents him from doing so from his island. This neighbor of the Barlovento town, to the northeast of the island, does not remain calm, despite the fact that her area is not the most affected by the volcano. She had a flexible ticket, with the return open, so she had no problems.

La Palma Airport this Sunday, with all flights canceled.

La Palma Airport this Sunday, with all flights canceled.

Carlos Aciego

None of the passengers consulted by EL ESPAÑOL had problems changing their ticket. All say that their airlines have sought the solution or have not prevented them. The departure by sea is controlled. When you see videos of a crowded port it is because a ship is going to leave, there are no alarms, no rush, or desperate people as in emergencies.

David says goodbye to his sister at the port. He leaves her well, although he does not go away calm. Neither do any of the palm trees that leave a beautiful island threatened by the volcano. These are hard days in this island territory and the only way to get out is by boat.

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