Walking in Paradise: La Gomera

14 Jan

We’ve reached the end of our first of two weeks on La Gomera, one of the most westerly of the Canary Islands, tiny dots off the west coast of Morocco.

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Two things really struck me these past seven days. The first is the importance of getting the fundamentals right to grow a small business. The second is the realisation that our amazing planet holds many more precious adventure destination gems to discover.

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An obvious attraction of La Gomera mid-winter in Europe is its consistently warm, dry January weather.

When we mentioned we were going to the Spanish province of the Canary Islands certain family members scoffed. They’d confused the crowded, hyper-touristic coastal port towns of Tenerife Island, with its high rise apartments and throngs of sunburnt, overweight Northern Europeans riding mobility scooters or waddling along the seafront, with all the Canary Islands. That is a mistake.

La Gomera is a small green, beautiful mountainous island populated by friendly people. It offers some of the most scenic walking we have done to date.

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I booked with La Gomera Walking run by the Irish husband and wife partnership of Andy and Paddy. Sailors who also love to hike, they’re into their fifth winter season of organised walking holidays. The reason they’re booked up so quickly became obvious day one. Our group of 12 were a mix of Irish, Scots, Mancunians, and Liverpudlians. One solo woman was back for her second holiday with Andy and Paddy and on other days we were joined by day walkers who had also walked with them before. The maximum number on any given day is 14 so whilst members of the group may walk at different speeds, or in my case stop frequently for photos, the logistics were seamlessly managed. Nothing was a bother and Andy and Paddy’s good humour was infectious. We enjoyed some wonderful conversations and lots of storytelling by our fellow walkers.

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Each day, provisioned with a packed lunch from the hotel, we were transferred from our accommodation by minbus to the start location and later collected and returned by the same drivers. La Gomera roads are excellent quality but not for the faint hearted, with endless curves, tunnels and sheer drop offs. I had complete confidence in our regular driver, Belen, as she took her job very seriously.

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Walk durations ranged from 3.5 to 5 hours so there was usually time for a swim in the pool/sea and a nap before dinner. Evenings we ate as a group or separately as the mood took us and everyone got on splendidly.

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Day One: A mostly downhill walk starting from Las Toscas and heading past the church in Benchijigua with southerly views of Roque de Agando, the lava plug of an extinct volcano. We finished in a tiny bar in Pastrano.

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Day Two: A gorgeous combination of misty, forest walk through protected Laurisliva forest in Garajonay Park followed by a ravine traverse with gorgeous views of Vallehermoso and a climb up to Las Hayas to another quaint pub.

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Day Three: Sensibly a free day to walk or rest as we pleased. We made the most of the amenities at our hotel, Jardin Tecina on the clifftop above Playa Santiago. An elevator in the cliffside brings guests down to the beach club and to reach the small seaside village.

Day Three: We started our day at Bar Sonia atop Degollada de Peraza with a warming coffee. Our blue sky was now a dust haze due to Saharan sand blown west by the phenomenon called ‘Calima’. Belen joked that the Africans were dancing (stirring up the dust). Our route took us past Fortaleza, another of the significant rock formations used by the indigenous peoples, the Guanche, for ritual and agricultural purposes. The lunch stop was by a monument to the whistling language, Silbo, used still today to communicate across the ravines. A stiff climb then took us to the highest point on the island, the Alto de Garajonay, with its panoramic view.

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Day Four: A steep climb from Las Casetas brought us up to a ridge in the direction of the White Caves. We walked the ridge top and dropped down ocasionally, many times walking a trail beside mulitlayered weather sculpted stone. It was a long walk down to our pickup at a bar on the plaza of San Sebastian but what a day!

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Day Five: Fittingly the longest and most challenging day but a beauty of a walk. Our blue skies were back. From Los Roques we passed the most imposing lava plugs on the island and approached Benchihigua from a different route before dropping down the northern side of Benchigua and climbing to Imada. The panoramas were mesmerising. A final drink in Imada’s only bar was the perfect end to our group week.

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Our group has now disbanded but we hope to see some of our compañeros again on a trail somewhere! Lynda, Peter, Eibhlin, Maureen, Jean, Alan, Sarah, Gordon, Agatha, Michael, Paddy, Andy, Kate, Finny, Elinor and Sharon#2 thanks for your company!

Now we have our bearings we’ll spend the next week based in an apartment in Playa Santiago that Andy found for us. Stuart’s dodgy knee has actually improved with each day so more walking and mountain biking await.

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http://www.gomerawalking.com
(As with all posts, the author did not receive any discount or inducement to write this article. The opinions expressed are honestly held.)

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