Tag Archives: La Gomera

GR131 LA GOMERA – finishing off.

Degollada de Peraza –  San Sebastion.

The bus up into the Island was full of walkers this morning, we must be good for the economy. Straight into the bar for a coffee before picking up the red and white flashes of our path. This led us down towards the valley of La Laja which I visited Dec 2014, but quickly deviated before we lost too much height across the steep hillside on a shepherds path. Guess what? we came back onto the road so it was only a diversion to avoid the tarmac, but a diversion with a view.

Looking down to La Laja.

Looking down to La Laja.

Then it was all downhill along a stony ridge to drop right into San Sebastion. We enjoyed the views towards the coast and snowy Mt. Tiede across the water on Tenerife. Behind us the centre of the Island and Garajonay were in cloud as usual. At the first bar we hit late lunch of tasty tapas was taken, it’s great they serve all day, to celebrate completing the GR131 on La Gomera at least.

Finishing off into San Sebastion.

Finishing off into San Sebastion.

Sunbathing on the hotel roof we chatted to a Scottish lass who has recently partaken in  Stage 1, London to Rio De Janeiro, of the round the world Clipper Race. Her tales had us scared and respectful, no way would I put myself through those deprivations. She is returning for another leg through the Panama Canal. Other people we met were on more humble explorations of the Canaries but all had an interesting story to tell, as had we. This is all part of the travelling ethos – its not necessarily where you go but how you experience it and whom you meet.

Next morning we experienced the expensive Parador Hotel up above the port, sneaked in for a coffee and a walk around their gardens. Didn’t try the heated pool. Within a few hours we are back in Britain and you all know what that means – cold and wet – and memories.

LA GOMERA – GR131 over Garajonay.

Chipude – Degollada de Peraza.

The last time I was on top of Garajonay 1485m I never saw a thing and the mist this morning suggested a repeat. Whilst we enjoyed a good breakfast at Sonia’s some blue sky appeared.  As we left the wind was doing its best to blow the clouds away but not sufficiently to justify a scramble up the ‘Fortress’, a rocky bastion with sacrificial and worship links to the indigenous population.

The Fortress.

The Fortress.

Next was a great traverse round a large barranca with deserted properties far below. All around here were signs of the large fires of 2012 but generally the lower vegetation has grown back. Sitting for a break in a bus stop by the houses of Igualero we were surprised, we shouldn’t have been, when the local bus stopped  and deposited lots of walkers who dispersed in all directions.  This island has so much walking and the buses are a great help.

Simply following the signs and waymarking we arrived on top of Alto de Garajonay and through breaks in the cloud had some views but not of neighbouring islands. There was a steady stream of people coming up to the top as we descended to the road and car park. Ahead was the  huge Roque de Agando but we didn’t seem to get any closer as we weaved through the forests of giant heathers. Views into the deep Barranco Benchijigua reminded me of our toil up to Roque  de Agando on a previous occasion. A roller coaster of a path along the crest had us almost running in time to catch a bus [guagua in these parts] at Degollada de Peraza. Our problem once there was to decide where the bus stop was and guess at the timetable. The road down is spectacular in itself and this evening we had great views of snow covered Mt. Tiede. Safely in San Sebastion for supper of some unknown fish.

 

LA GOMERA – GR131 into the middle.

Vallehermoso – Chipude.

The GR131 has been recently waymarked and signposted so it is difficult to get lost, but that is what we managed within a few hundred metres in Vallehermoso. Well not lost really, we had the excellent Discovery Guide map highlighting the walking routes, unfortunately at an early junction the signing was debatable. At least we debated it, John would have gone left whereas I wanted to follow the map. Later we found I was wrong, despite the odd fading red and white flash, but we had gained height and were reluctant to turn round. Worrying private signs kept appearing but the track was good and going in the right direction ie. upwards. We eventually joined an improved track which turned out to be the 131, there had obviously been a new diversion. Ahead were heavily forested complex mountain ridges through which the path wandered with occasional views back to the valley. Mainly it was steeply up through the trees 1200m to be precise. We were walking in the Laurisilva, a type of cloud forest where the trees obtain much of their moisture from mist. Fortunately there was no mist today.

In a clearing in the mainly Myrtle trees we stopped for lunch, it was a busy spot with walkers using a short circular route. German seemed to be the prominent language. We spent time feeding crumbs to what we thought were Blue Finches but I think turned out to be Canary Island Chaffinches, different to ours. In fact when you look up birds on these islands they often seem to be a canariensis variety. One of the commonest we saw was a kestrel with dark plumage.

On the top of the plateau are several small villages so we were able partake of regular refreshments as the afternoon wore on. Between Las Hayas and El Cercado we traversed round the rim of the massive barranca leading down to Valle Gran Rey, the last time I was here in thick mist I never even realised it was there.

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Las Hayas.

Las Hayas.

Called in at Maria’s bar – she still looked fairly miserable, maybe life up here is hard although she was making good money today with all the walkers.

Delightful field systems brought us on old tracks into Chipude and Sonia’s bar. All I had from Victor, the brother, was an email reply to my booking request saying OK. Beer in the sun was a perfect end to the afternoon. The room was comfy but the bath minute. For supper I chose the delicious tuna in an onion sauce – looking back had exactly the same last time I stayed. Angela the Mother is a great cook and Sonia the most efficient hostess.  On the big screen watched Arsenal get the run around by Messi and his Barcelona team. We were glad of the heater in the room as it turns cold at night at 1200m.

Chipude with the 'Fortress' behind.

Chipude with the ‘Fortress’ behind.

 

 

EL HIERRO – LA GOMERA, bits of the GR131.

Valverde – Puerto de la Estaca – La Gomera.

As a footnote we walked down to the ferry at Puerto de la Estaca on the GR131 this morning. It didn’t look far on the map but it took us longer than we expected. The manager of the Boomerang [did I detect an Aussie accent?] said fill your stomachs before going but we didn’t understand. The route, an old walled and paved way, was a joy to follow but was hard going – it is El Hierro after all. We arrived at the port early expecting to eat lunch but there was no cafe or bar – it is El Hierro after all. The ferry to La Gomera cost as much as the much longer journey to Tenerife, the girl on the till agreed it was illogical – it is El Hierro after all.  And I have to come back to walk the 131 properly.

End of the GR131 on El Hierro.

End of the GR131 on El Hierro.

Empty cafe.

Ghostly port cafe.

Leaving El Hierro.

Leaving El Hierro.

The crossing was thankfully calmer than a few days ago and Mount Tiede  was covered in snow from the bad weather last week. On disembarking at San Sebastion  an enterprising taxi driver accosted us and before we knew it we were enjoying the fantastic scenic roads over to Vallehermoso. A note was waiting for us at our booked apartment – just let yourself in. To make the most of the day we jumped a taxi down to the Playa and walked the delightful track up the fertile valley under Rocqe El Cano back to Vallehermoso.  Supper at the superb Agana included the local  potaje de berros, we had seen the watercress being picked earlier. Went to sleep accompanied by the frogs’ chorus.

Start of the GR131 at Playa Vallehermoso.

Start of the GR131 at Playa Vallehermoso.

One for you Conrad.

One for you Conrad.

 

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.

LA GOMERA – into the subtropics.

Above Hermigua we set off up a long valley under the shadow of a volcanic tower. There was water and tropical greenery everywhere, There is something about palm trees which sets the scene, cockerels crowing and tethered goats bleating added to it.. We were excited with the day and hardly noticed the steep climbing ahead. Quickly height was gained into the forest on the wonderful winding mule track heading towards a possibly impregnable wall of mountainside. Turns took us alongside a high narrow waterfall and onto a brief plateau.  Suddenly we had arrived at El Cedro and the Bar La Vista with great views back down to the NE coast. A longer break than we had planned saw us eating watercress soup with gofio [ground maize flour] from wooden bowls.sam_6049-e1419285273311Onwards we climbed into a brief laurel forest and up to a ridge walk flanked by tree heathers. To our left was a massive valley with abandoned terracing on the steep hillsides. Ahead were views to the coast way below. This is great walking with Tenerife and Mount Teide ahead! A little white hermitage is reached as we dropped down the ridge.  Lanes and steps take us down steeply towards Hermigua and eventually our quirky hotel. The evening’s meal was taken in a cafe further down the valley. Catch of the day  –  DORADO.

LA GOMERA … first footing.

We have arrived in San Sebastion, the capital of La Gomera. It seems a pleasant, almost colonial town. A tower from the 16th century remains from when the Spanish vanquished the native African population.tmp_SAM_5943-584480606

As a leisurely introduction we decided on a fairly short walk along the coastal headlands to the west, the nature of the walking on this Island was soon revealed as we switch-backed above the coast. The recently improved mule path was rough black Basalt, lined by cacti and small Dragon trees, which had just finished flowering.Crossing a few barrancos we descended to the deserted beach at Guancha. The little beach hut was unoccupied and we ignored the the trail to the shore as the waves were too high for swimming. Instead we extended the walk inland up to a col overlooking the next bay backed by a fertile valley and a few houses whose only access is by boat. The surrounding landscape exhibited some classic volcanic features, notably vents and dykes.The return involved more climbing than we had anticipated, we should have realised. There was a grandstand view of the ferries manoeuvering  into the port with Mt. Teide in the background. A swim from the town’s black beach completed the afternoon, water temperature about 19 degrees. This brief introduction had us excited about our future excursions.

Catch of the dayBONITO  – in a mother/daughter restaurant.

CANARY ISLAND HOPPING.

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Leaving Tenerife.

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Mt. Teide in the distance.

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San Sebastian de La Gomera.

Well only one hop from Tenerife to La Gomera. We had braved the stormy weather flying from Manchester to a sunny Tenerife, slight panic when our bags didn’t appear on the designated carousel (mysteriously sat forlorn on another) and a taxi dash to the ferry. Fred (Olsen) was waiting for us for the hour across the ocean to San Sebastian de la Gomera. The sea was calm and the views clear and with the temperature about 20 a perfect start to a preXmas walking holiday on the volcanic island of La Gomera.

A welcome hot tub on the hotel roof banished the travelling weariness …..tmp_SAM_5940-1170740692…. and soon we were eating some freshly caught Atlantic fish, don’t ask me its name but it was delicious. Apparently the cuisine on the island is acclaimed.

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