I’ve always had a thing about islands. Something about the ability to explore a place more or less in its entirety in one go has always appealed to me and when I received my maps for my trip to La Gomera with Macs Adventure I was pleased to see how much of the island was covered by the brown lines that marked our routes.
We arrived by ferry from Tenerife, crossing from Los Cristianos to San Sebastián in just under an hour. On the crossing we spotted whales and talked excitedly of Garajonay national park, which covers much of La Gomera and would be our first destination.
This vast area of jungle is one of the last vestiges of the ancestral laurel forests that once covered the entire Mediterranean region. On our first walk from El Cedro to Chipude we reach the national park’s highest point, Alto de Garajonay. It is a gradual ascent through pleasant, misty woodland to the summit, passing laurel trees and lichens, and the reasons for its lushness are all too apparent – from the peak we can see almost nothing.
We fare better the following day on the route from Chipude to Vallehermoso. On this walk we cross Barranco de Valle Gran Rey, full of palm trees and marked out by man into regimented terraces. It is astoundingly green, with every shade from emerald to olive represented underneath a clear blue sky, the route marked by giant cactus and swaying palm trees. It is beautiful.
As you would expect this close to the sea, the weather is very changeable and over the next few days our walks vary hugely. We walk along ridges cloaked in cloud, cross streams that look just days old and pass through dripping forests, before emerging onto dusty paths lit by the sun and rounding corners to find sudden sun-soaked valleys.
La Gomera is known for its dramatic geology and no walk is complete without a steep ascent followed by an even steeper descent to undo all the ground gained. On our walk into Hermigua we arrive via Santa Catalina after a total descent of 1,140 metres – the steepest I have ever done. The path here appears to dive off a cliff and I am astonished at every turn to find it winding on ever downwards, across terraces and down stony slopes. It is easy to see why the Gomerans developed a whistling language, silbo, which could travel easily across valleys so that they did not have to.
BACK WHERE WE STARTED
After several days walking on the island we have covered some 50 kilometres, and a large chunk of this volcanic rock. And yet we feel as though we have only scratched the surface. All too quickly we are back on the island’s eastern side, turning a corner to find Teide suddenly just a short hop across the water. It beckons us back towards Tenerife, and our final stop back in the capital San Sebastián.
This diminutive town had seemed so tiny on arrival but after a few days walking in the island’s interior it seems a vast metropolis. We escape its centre through a tunnel at the harbour and find El Charcon, a seafood restaurant on the quayside serving fresh fish platters in the sunshine. We order a platter of local cherne and other white meaty fish, topped with huge, sweet prawns and served with salty papas arrugadas (wrinkly potatoes) and mojo sauce. Washed down with a Canarian white wine it is the perfect end to a week’s walking. But I have to admit that I was wrong about one thing – you can’t discover a whole island in one visit. So I will just have to come back.
Macs Adventure offer seven-night walking holidays on La Gomera, with six days walking, from £455 per person, including all accommodation, breakfasts, baggage transfer from hotel to hotel or taxi transfer between walking locations, and a detailed info pack and guidebook. Flights/rail to and from starting point are not included, but Macs Adventure’s team can advise best value travel options at the time of booking. Macs Adventure has more than 200 walking trips around the UK & Europe, which can be tailormade according to your level of fitness.
More details of the trip are available here or by calling 0141 530 1950.
For more information on Tenerife visit the tourist board’s website here. I also found the “Lonely Planet Canary Islands (Travel Guide)” very useful on this trip.