Monthly Archives: December 2014

LA GOMERA – Los Roques, up and over again.

Our last day’s walking and we were blessed with clear and sunny weather. A lift up to Pastrana saved us 5k of road walking and we were straight into another barranco with all the usual  variety, getting blasé now. This was no ordinary valley however as at its head nearly a 1000m above us was the Roque de Agando.

A became a little lost in the abandoned hamlet of Benchijigua. we found a well signed track not on the map heading straight up, It still took us nearly 3 hours of sweating to to pop out onto a road level with the gigantic rock. There are obvious routes up this monolith but apparently there is no official climbing on the island. Views back down the barranco to the sea and now views northwards across forested ridges to more rocks and Tenerife. A good spot for lunch. There was an iron sculpture featuring the names of people who lost their lives in a large fire in 1984.

A path sloped off dramatically down a ridge below the Roques Zarcita and Ojila. Again this path has recently been resigned and upgraded recognising the importance of walking tourism to the island. Down and down through trees and heathers crossing many small steams to arrive in the next valley with La Laja now a steep climb back up on village tracks. This village clings to the hillside like somewhere from Nepal, the track winds through the houses, many having recently been restored. Productive garden plots hang everywhere in the ravine. Several cross ravine wires support swinging baskets for ease of transfer of produce to the road, a sign of recent past agricultural activity. Once up onto the road it was a relaxing walk down the valley passing reservoirs in stunning scenery to Chejelipes. Houses we passed all seemed to have German or Dutch owners. There was time for a refreshing Dorada beer in the basic Atajo bar whilst waiting for our lift down to San Sebastion. What a good 8 hour’s tramp today.

It was good to be back in the capital which I thought was an endearing port and would make a good base for a holiday with its buses to the rest of the island. We visited the ferry office to change our ferry booking to a more sensible time for the morning. There was a good little cafe opposite the hotel for our final catch of the day – fried PULPO.

But never mind the fish I particularly enjoyed the simple ‘papas arrugadas’ [wrinkled salt potatoes] served most nights with red and green mojo sauces.

Back to the cold in England tomorrow.

LA GOMERA – El Drago, the dragon tree.

The bus time tables for La Gomera are idiosyncratic – they give the route and the time of leaving San Sebastion but no intermediate times, one has to guess. We were stood at the bus stop for half an hour waiting for the bus to Alajero, it eventually arrived and whisked us for 2euro to the village nearest the oldest Dragon tree on the island. There are thousands of small dragon trees all over La Gomera but we were looking for the largest and oldest. Nobody else got off the bus. Using our poor map I think we took the long way in to the tree. Steeply down into a junction of barrancos and then a long scramble up a dry ravine. As this became a deep impassable canyon……we climbed out with the lone tree in sight across ancient terracing. The tree is protected by a rather incongruous metal fence.  We scrambled up to a viewing platform above and realised there was a constructed path coming in  from the road, which of course we followed out. The tree itself was certainly impressive with a very wide gnarled trunk and arching divided branches, about 10m high. The red sap of these plants [the dragon’s blood] was previously used in varnishes and lacquers, it was also thought to have medicinal properties hence the rarity of older trees. Our bloodlust satisfied we walked back to Alajero noticing on route a yellow flowering succulent, we had not seen many flowers so must come in Spring when apparently they are profuse.We eventually caught a bus back to the coast and enjoyed a coffee on the sea front.

The evening meal in Bar Playa was enlivened by a group of local musicians and singers initially entertaining us outside and then in the cramped little bar. Rousing local songs were clapped to, the owner was whisked away dancing  and more wine was consumed by all. The drummer balanced his excited little boy on the drum itself.  A lovely spontaneous happening. Wish I had my camera, these are from the phone.

Catch of the day  –  fried BURRO.

LA GOMERA – on the beach.

We were due for a rest day especially after yesterday. A lie in and a lazy morning was followed after lunch by a stroll across the headland to the recommended Playa del Medio. We passed the island’s only golf course and lots of banana plantations. The black beach was in a well sheltered bay, it turned out to be a nudist area, mainly Germans who like that sort of thing, ah well.

The sun was out so the water temperature of about 19degrees seemed pleasant for swimming and you air dried quickly, in the nude of course.

We had a bit more daylight to explore the main water front at Playa de Santiago. Lots of bars and apartments, a safe beach and a small marina. All from a different age – think art deco / hippie. A great place to sit outside a bar with a coffee and watch the world go by. This is the sunny and warm bit of the Island and you can see why Northern Europeans head here for Xmas.

In the evening we found a rather more upmarket [for us] restaurant frequented by sailing types. The posh catch of the day was BACALAO in pasta parcels.

LA GOMERA – over the top.

                           Looking back up Barranco de Guarimiar at the end of the day.

A long day of two halves.

It was still raining in the morning as we left Chipude up lanes towards the ‘Parque Natural’ in the centre of the island, Improved trails circled up to the top of Alto de Garajonay, 1487m.so all we had to do was walk heads down in the wind, there was nothing to see. A fire had destroyed a lot of vegetation in 2012 but already greenery was shooting up.We didn’t linger on the summit. Down hill we were still going round in circles to reach the head of a valley heading south to the coast. Now we walked out of the clouds into sunshine and better views.An awful lot of height was lost steeply to arrive in Imada next to the little bar where we ate lunch and had a coffee.Lanes out of the village took us into the Barranco de Guarimiar, we saw the only waste tipping we had encountered on our walks, someones front room! From then on the scenery was spectacular as we wound down the deep winding barranco on an old mule path which at times traversed steep cliff faces. I’m always amazed at the ingenuity of the early path makers, I am sure they would have laughed at the unnecessary ‘safety’ fencing of today.

I can see the sea.The vegetation changed as we  lost height towards the sea and arrived at scattered homesteads. It was a long and hot descent and the last couple of miles on road into Playa de Santiago had my feet feeling sore. It was with relief that we reached our lodgings in the higher part of town. SAM_6428Of course after baths and rests it was dark when we walked down to the attractive sea front to search for a cafe. A friendly family bar was found for catch of the day – CHERNE.

LA GOMERA – into the rain forest.

…well it was raining.

The day started off well, despite the rain, as we climbed out of a wonderful barranca through prickly pears, cacti and palms. We met a man who had been out harvesting prickly pears with some wooden tongs, I curse myself for not engaging him in more conversation and photo opportunities. At the top we crossed the main road through the island and proceeded into  ‘laurisilva’  forest which is supported in the subtropics by the presence of moisture from rain clouds. These are a common occurrence in the central mountains of La Gomera. The growth of mosses and lichens in the trees is encouraged by the mist. The forests were magical but there were no views today and the cafe halfway was closed!  We traversed small cultivated barrancas including an area full of tall palms ……and popped out at the hamlet of El Cercado. It felt a bit like Morecambe on a wet day. We gladly dried out in Bar Maria, served rather glumly by ?Maria. But the watercress soup was delicious as was the tortilla, despite the fact she tried to fiddle us with the bill. Soon we were across another barranca

to the highest island village of Chipude and the famous Bar Sonia, our bed for the night. The hostale was rather smart with good rooms, although our shower flooded the bathroom. Sonia and her mum were on hand in the bar and produced a great supper.

Catch of the day, probably from the freezer, was TUNA in a piquant sauce.

It rained all night.

LA GOMERA – high above the sea.

Blue sky was welcomed this morning for a high level circular walk on the northern coast.

Vallehermosa.

Vallehermosa.

As often happens the path to the cemetery took us out of town and through ‘allotments’ mainly growing potatoes, marrows.and unidentified fruits.

Papaya tree.

Papaya tree.

Then, in a wide hot valley, through palms, cacti, prickly pears, small drago trees, junipers and aloes. Scrambling up a river bed amongst canes. Zigzagging steeply in laurel forest to finally emerge onto a heather covered ridge. A veritable botanic journey.

Scattered Juniper.

Scattered Juniper.

Canes.

Canes.

Aloe and wild hillside.

Aloe and wild hillside.

We were now high above the coast at 800m with a little hamlet, Arguamul, 300m below us. What an isolated place.

Arguamul below.

Arguamul below.

Just along was a small hermitage/shrine where we ate lunch, admired the views and fed the bunch of stay cats.

Ermita Santa Clara and cats.

Ermita Santa Clara and cats.

With it being clear we could see as far as La Palma another volcanic island in the Canaries group. We strode out along the headland past another chapel and then the small hamlet of Chijere. Hereabouts the bare rock takes on many shades. From the final viewpoint at the end we had views of the coast and Tenerife and inland to Vallehermosa and the Roque Cano.

Roque Cano and Vallehermosa.

Roque Cano and Vallehermosa.

There was a steep knee-jarring descent down a ridge towards the coast. Once on the road we walked down to the little beach but the sea was too rough for a swim. We found little lanes past farmsteads under Roque Cano leading back to Vallehermosa.

Roque Cano from our balcony.

Roque Cano from our balcony.

We never seem to get back early so before you knew it we were heading out for supper. At least on La Gomera the restaurants kept sensible hours and you could eat relatively early.

Catch of the day  –  AMBERJACK. –  another tasty Atlantic fish.

LA GOMERA – a cliff, a view and a tooth.

Coming down for breakfast at 8 nobody was about in our hotel, but a bag of bread was hanging on the door. There was a small kitchen, with some supplies, attached to the rooms so we wondered whether it was a do it yourself job. We made a cup of coffee and pondered over the bread, at 8.30 we would use it. Thankfully the owner turned up at 8.29 and we had a good breakfast, he didn’t know how close he came to loosing his bread.

Our taxi driver dropped us off at the base of a high cliff and we queried the location. He just pointed upwards and drove off. Sure enough there was a small path to the rocks and then a wonderfully constructed zigzagging way directly up the cliff face for over 200m  – not for vertigo sufferers. The land at the top must have been important centuries ago or was the path used for escape from marauders?

A newly signed and improved track continued less steeply up to the Mirador del Abrante. This is a recently opened glass building overhanging the cliff with views  to Agulo 600m below and across to Tenerife. Again not for vertigo sufferers. The Fred Olsen company have financed it probably with an eye to their cruise ship customers.

From here we walked through a strange landscape of red dunes, unfortunately now in mist. Arriving at a road leading to a visitor centre we left a series of surreal red footprints from our muddy boots. A little cafe appeared in time for coffee.Onwards through woods and into yet another valley and lunch next to a pond with hungry ducks surrounding us. Onwards again along a ridge in intermittent mist until we saw the Roque Cano [the canine tooth] and dropped onto tracks traversing towards it.As we dropped towards the tooth it kept disappearing which was a shame as it was a big lump of rock.  Couldn’t wait for it to reappear so we dropped into Vallehermoso and through a park with interesting sculptures. Our hotel was comfortable and close to a good cafe for supper – catch of the day was CUTTLEFISH.