There’s something quite special about being able to explore a small island; a circular coastline marking our boundary and allowing us to wander freely, safe in the knowledge that we won’t get too lost.
The Island we were exploring was La Gomera, the second smallest of the Canary Islands with a pleasant year-round climate and a character quite different from its big sister, Tenerife.
We didn’t find wild vibrant nightlife or beautiful sandy beaches on la Gomera, nor did we dine on fish ‘n’ chips or a full English but what we did find was an island unspoilt by mass tourism with spectacular scenery and steep gorges with white stone cottages that salted the slopes. By the coast we dined on freshly grilled tuna steaks or other catches of the day and inland meaty stews were on the menu accompanied by garlicky mojo sauces, a Canary Islands specialty.
Getting around La Gomera on foot was far less terrifying than negotiating the winding hilly hairpin bends in a car, although the island does have some precipitous footpaths which were so narrow in places, they felt as though they had been made for mountain goats.
Until the road system was built, the people of La Gomera used to communicate across the valleys using a whistling language called el silbo. Today it’s only the birds whistling across the gorges but the challenge of walking from one side of the valley to the other is still as formidable, as most of the routes are direct and can be quite steep. However, they are well signposted with clear tracks.
Each day’s walking revealed a different surprise, from pastel coloured houses perched precariously on cliff faces, lush green vegetation on an island closer to Western Sahara than the Spanish mainland, cacti and prickly pears and striped skinks that appeared from under the roof tiles of an abandoned hut when we stopped for lunch.
Walking La Gomera was not the easiest of hiking holidays, in fact, it was quite challenging in parts as was so aptly pointed out to me on our last day as I was ascending the highest peak on the island, la Garajonay. It had been a long day and the weariness was obviously starting to show on my face but I still managed to maintain pleasantries with other walkers I passed on the way, until I met a tall German lady who was descending the same path that I was going up. I smiled and said hello and asked if it was far to the top. She looked me up and down and with a slight tone of disgust in her voice, said to me, “For you, it will be difficult!”
She wasn’t wrong but the views and the heady perfume from the vegetation helped to unburden the continuous challenge underfoot.
We finished our long walk back at Playa Santiago where we dined in a restaurant built into a cave. The next day we left our peaceful little canary and sailed back to lively Los Cristianos, another world away in Tenerife.