La Gomera Hiking

Above: Light blue marks the approximate route of our five hikes

1. The Easy Hike

Up: 100m
Down: 500m
Walk: 8Km

Our first hike is always of great interest, for it introduces us to each other and to the landscape. We planned to hike from the centre of the island down one of the many deep valleys that radiate from the central highland out to the coast. It turned out to be exactly that: a good intro to the geography and the flora; it also provided a rude correction to some of the assumptions we had all made about the weather!!

The bus picked us up from the hotel, took the inland highway, and began climbing a ridge towards the inland peak of Garajonay. We had spectacular views immediately as there were few trees and yet the hillsides were covered with plenty of interesting low brush and flowers. After about half an hour of grinding steadily upwards, the bus pulled off the road into a small layby and we disembarked.

Dry and Rocky terrain Those of us who had packed gear with the blissful expectation that we would be hiking in 30C heat for all of the two weeks were brought to earth with a crash. The sun was behind cloud, a biting wind howled about us and it felt like about 10°C. I ducked over the edge (to take a photo but mainly to get out of the wind) and found I was on a well-marked trail heading left and right. The views of both valleys were impressive [photo above].

An initial hike up the road provided a short elevation gain and some warmth; a quick branch right (taking up the trail that I had seen earlier) took us up to a small hermitage (Ermita de Los Nieves: Hermitage of the clouds) and a quick break. We then began our downward trek. The initial slope was not severe and we came out on a view of several large rock pinnacles (Rocque de Agando at left). The vegetation consisted of small but colourful brush and bushes. We came out on the road again but almost immediately turned down a trail to our right, following the centre of the valley and the barranco or creek which had given rise to it.

Lynda having lunchHeading down, cactus in bloom everywhereAs we descended from the higher ground the scenery grew increasingly colorful and lush, and we emerged gradually onto small farms, and crossed high above a string of several small reservoirs. During this period we were watched by a small hawk that seem to be following us. We descended to a road and a string of houses and passed a woman hoisting a bed and other furniture up to a house higher on the hillside using a cable system. Turned out she was a Canadian!

A little further down, we arrived at the corner at which we were to meet the bus. We were an hour early so Lyn and Brian opted to continue the walk towards town, but for the rest of us, the hike on the road was less attractive than having a beer at the bar right by the bus stop. But when we and the bus caught up with Lyn and Brian a few kilometers down, they were glad enough to get the ride and we all went home together.

2. The ridge hike

Up: 150m
Down: 850m
Walk: 14+3 Km

Looking down to our destination:San Sebastian Looking back to hike 1 (blue at top)Heading down, cactus in bloom everywhere A similar start to the day before, with a bus ride up, this time on a different road, towards Agulo, our destination tomorrow. But again we were hiking back into San Sebastian down one of the ridges that we had seen to the North of us the day before. The prospect was a bit unsettling when we realized where we were going, as the day before this same ridge had been socked in with dark clouds which had almost reached us. But the cloud keptAlong the coast from San Sebastian off for the day this time and we had warm—even hot-weather at times. We began with a short sharp climb from the road to the top of a ridge. From this vantage point, we had the two views in the photos: one looking back to yesterday's hike, and in the other direction we could see San Sebastian and our route below us. We zigzagged our way down the ridge through dryer and more rocky terrain, with sparse but varied cactus plants. Everywhere we can see the gigantic "poles" of the agave americanas that grow in abundance here. Many of the other cacti were in bloom. But two days of steady downward descent were beginning to result in some sore feet.

3. Agulo to Vallehermoso

Up: 800m
Down: 800m
Walk: 16Km

Agulo from the bottom of the cliff Perhaps the most varied and interesting hike on La Gomera. We take a longer bus ride acrossAgulo from the top of the cliff—
 Tenerife and Teide beyond La Gomera to the village of Agulo on the northern coast, arriving in the village after a spectacular descent on a road zig-zagging down a steep cliff on one side of the valley. The benefits that Euro money had brought to the Canaries was evident in the massive and yet tastefully constructed rock reinforcement for the road here.

We disembarked from the bus, crossed the road, and found the trail heading towards the bottom of another vertical cliff face...except we're supposed to climb this one on foot. The trail was solidly constructed, and zig-zagged back and forth up the face of the rock, but by the time we reach the top, we have about 600m of thin air about a foot to the left of our boots—not a place for those affected by vertigo!

Pleasant break We assembled at the top less than an hour after starting. Agulo was spread out below us with Tenerife and the volcano of Teide visible on the horizon. We're surrounded by flowers. From there, we ambled up a pleasant road through open pine woods to the visitor's centre at the top of a hill and by this time it was lunch. We spent a pleasant hour at the center, wandering about the exhibits explaining the flowers and the history of the area, and then resume our walk with a gentle up and down stroll through farms, around a reservoir, and finally along emerge into the open on a ridge high up on the side of the valley where we can see Vallehermoso in the distance. Unfortunately no sooner do we reach Rocque Cano, high above the town, than it starts to rain. It is our only heavy rain experience in the Canaries, and it is pelting down! We make a hasty and rapid descent directly into the town and dive into a bar in the main square to await the bus, uncertain whether to start with beer and then have coffee or vice versa.

But the excitement wasn't over yet. Our bus driver, perhaps anxious to get back quickly for the peace march in honour of those who died in the Spanish bombings, drove like a madman back across the island. Those of us who sat near the front were spared the motion sickness that affected those further back in the bus, but paid for it by seeing the antics of the driver at close hand, as he tried to clear the windshield of condensation with one hand as we swirled left and right around mountain bends.

4. Conquest of Garajonay

Up/Down: 800m
Distance: 14Km

Heading up to the laurel forest

Lyn,Nora and Brian at churchGeez! The first day was warm compared with the start to this hike. We took the same route as our first day but went higher and deeper into the island...and apparently deeper into the cloud. When we emerged from the bus, the wind was howling, the cloud was down around us, the temperature can't have been much above about 10C, and it looked as though it would rain any minute. We spent 10 minutes donning every garment of clothing we had: our first goal, a quick jaunt (25 minutes) up to the top of Garajonay peak. This high point of the center of the island is blanketed with an area of laurel and gorse trees, most of them no taller than about 2-3 meters, and with trunks less than 5cms diameter, but packed tightly together. We bolted up through the tunnel that this undergrowth made for us and emerged at the top to great views, although the inclement weather made it more sombre than we might have liked. Down we plunged, out towards the village of Cipudae. We crossed another valley and found ourselves now in English countryside, strolling along between stone walls and stopping for a short break amidst deep grass and flowers. We cross the creek, and are back on a dryer and dusty hillside heading into Cipudae, the highest village on La Gomera. The wind was coming up again, so we sought shelter by the church for our lunch, only to have to greet (Hola!, Buenos tardes! etc) all those going into church. After a quick sandwich we gave in and headed across the square into the bar for a coffee (and in a few cases, a beer). It was tricky navigation finding our way about on this hike. Laurel forestBack out again we headed, up the hill and towards the Garajonay national park. We got lost and had to backtrack but found our way eventually onto the trail that plunged suddenly into the enchanting laurel forest within the park boundary, and threaded out way up through it to the bus pick-up. Unfortunately, the cafe at the Information Centre there is filled with smoke so only the immune among us were rewarded by the usual libations inside.

Somehow our pictures of the Garajonay hike disappeared so I'll direct you to this chap's pictures ; he certainly had better weather than we did!

5. Playa del Cabrito

Vertical (Up and Down): 750m
Distance: 16Km

Two beaches: Playa la Guancha and then our 
destination, Playa del Cabrito beyondOur last hike in La Gomera is along the coast—great views and yet windblown—through arid and sparse vegetation on the headlands (much like hike 2) and then down into more varied brush along the two beaches. The hiking must be getting to me: yesterday I lost my darn glasses on the trail, and today forgot to bring water!

We begin walking through San Sebastian and (thanks to our feckless tour leader) find a trail at the back of what looks like a service yard. The trail goes rapidly up the headland overlooking our "home" town, to almost level with the Cruz Jesus—the large statue of Christ overlooking the harbour. The wind picks up immediately, but we have great views of San Sebastian and the harbour immediately below where the ferries are just pulling in. We cross this headland, go down and up through a small baraccio, onto a second headland for a great view along the coast where we can see both our next descent and our destination beaches.

We descend to the first beach (Playa de la Guancha) where some of the group decide to skip the challenge of another headland, and will relax here to await for our return. Those of heading on trudge inland in order to cross the next headland: the cliffs rising at the far end of the beach are too steep for a trail, and we head for a low point further back. We follow a dried up riverbed for a kilometer or so inland before beginning a zigzag ascent of the still steep ascent. We make the top and below us on the other side is another long valley, reaching to the Playa Cabrito. We take the trail down, slanting diagonally down the hill almost directly towards the beach, and eventually find ourselves in the middle of a small but surprisingly populated beach resort where a few puzzled German residents are having lunch. We negotiate the purchase of a few extras for lunch from the staff and sit outside on the beach enjoying an excellent hour in blissful surroundings. Further along the beach, Nora braves the waves and tries for a swim but it is tricky with the currents and rocks.

A tiring but excellent day, and the end of an excellent week.