This is the 9th blog inspired by my 900km walk across the Canary Islands, following my two day crossing of the beautiful La Gomera. Having previously written about La Graciosa, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura, Gran Canaria and Tenerife. To read about the other islands, please click here.
La Gomera is small, but it certainly packs a punch. Crossable in 2 days, it still manages to climb up from the north coast to over 1400 meters before descending to the capital of San Sebastian in the south east corner.
Having got the early ferry from Los Cristianos on Tenerife, I arrived on La Gomera and immediately searched for the bus that would take me to Vallehermoso. Unfortunately, there was no time to spend on the beach as I followed the road out of town. It was a steep climb to begin the day, with signs warning of the greater-than-20% gradient.
It leveled out slightly to go around the water at El Cabezo – but it was here that I offered to help a local push their stalled car a few hundred meters; hardly the respite I longed for. Minutes later I was confronted with another warning sign and another steep climb took me to Arana at over 1,100 meters. Wooden poles had been used as steps to make the gradient easier – I tried to count them to give me some rhythm, but gave up as I got to 300 and was still going up.
As I was now into the notoriously misty Garajonay National Park, the views began to be largely obscured and the moisture on the trees, rocks and ground intensified. It wasn’t raining, but everything was wet. Lichen clung to everything above 1000m and I continued through dripping laurel forest before descending slightly to Las Hayas. It was soon after that I was awarded some fantastic views down into the gorge of Valle Gran Rey.
Eventually, after more descent and ascent, I made it into Chipude, which was my base for tonight. I acquired a room at the Hotel Sonia, which seemed to be the only place in town, before chowing down on some delicious rabbit and canary potatoes. With the wind and rain howling outside, I was very glad for the bed and not be stuck in the bivvy outside.
The following day I was up early for one of the best days of hiking yet. After breakfast and with over 25km of tough mountain hiking in front of me, I set off, aiming to catch the evening ferry from San Sebastian and onto La Palma. While 25km is an easily manageable distance – it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as it seems.
Not only was I presented with over 800 meters of ascent and almost 2000 meters of descent, but the last third of the route was on a knee-jarring and ankle-twisting boulder path, which slowed my pace considerably.
As I left the Hotel Sonia, the wind was still howling as it was the night before and it started to rain. Thankfully, barely a kilometer later and I was stripping off layers as the sun emerged and gave colour to the fantastic Gomera landscape. I started the walk by heading towards the dramatic sacred mountain of La Fortaleza.
With a bit of extra time I would have loved to have sumitted it, but with its history of sacrifice – perhaps its better that I did not. Crossing to the other side of the imposing rock I stopped frequently to take pictures – the path was one of the most spectacular that I had walked on – sheer drops as it hung to the side of the mountain, crossing over ravines and canyons and providing incredible views down towards the sea.
It was around now that I turned and seemed to almost be going back on myself. That worried me, but it was just the trails excuse for getting me onto higher ground as I climbed up to over 1400 meters at Garajonay. It well and truly in the mists again. It was also around now that I started passing the odd hiker, having not seen anyone for the last day and a half. The mists lifted slightly as I reached the huge Roque Agando and were gone completely as I arrived at Degollada de Peraza at around 1000 meters. There was some cool little caves cut into the rock here which could’ve been a decent place for a bivvy on another day. From here it was all downhill – and then all uphill – with very little distance covered. They were very keen to keep you off the roads.
At one point (and even looking back at the map now I’m not sure where), I emerged onto a flatish piece of land to the sound of music – something like Jason Derulo or some other shit – being sung incredibly loudly. I turned the corner to find about twenty teenagers having a BBQ underneath some shelters. Resisting the temptation (there wasn’t any) to join in, I continued on. From here it turned into real ankle hazard territory – at least 5 kilometers of it. Loose boulders made it all too easy to roll or twist an ankle, but as sure-footed as a mountain goat, I made it back to San Sebastian unscathed.
Not only unscathed, but with enough time for a beer and some tapas before catching the ferry to La Palma (a 3 hour ferry crossing which would prove to be fucking horrible). Overall, I highly rate La Gomera and wish I had more time to explore the island. Perhaps I’ll return one day (the GR132 circular route around the island does look very tempting), but for now, it’s on to La Palma – an island of incredible steepness and unquestioned beauty. Until next time.