Spain Autumn 2006: Walking in The Canary Islands

('La Gomera - Hidden Gem of the Canaries')

Way back the mists of time (well, in October 1996, actually) following our wedding, we spent our honeymoon on the wonderful island of La Gomera in the Canaries. We resolved at the time that we would return to the island to celebrate our tenth anniversary. And so we did, but this time around, instead of a leisurely and relaxing time by and in a swimming pool, we planned to spend several days enjoying yet another fairly strenuous Grade 2-3 Inntravel walking holiday.

Our travel arrangements worked remarkably well. After a short taxi ride from home to Birmingham Airport we caught the scheduled 14:45 Monarch flight ZB932 direct to Teneriffe South followed by an unbelievably manic and nightmarish tyres-screaming taxi ride of some eight miles from the airport to the town of Los Cristianos, we found ourselves unceremoniously deposited outside the Hotel Reveron Plaza just before 20:00.

After checking-in we strolled down into the harbour area and found an excellent fish restaurant in which we had eaten last time we were in the town. Our meal of fillets of fresh sea bass with Canarian potatoes was most acceptable and we chatted to a couple of rather eccentric Norwegian ladies at the next table before heading back to our hotel. We had first spent time in Los Cristianos more than twelve years ago when we found it busy and bustling but pleasant. Sadly the town in 2006 was quite different. Everywhere was brash and loud, tacky and grubby, Los Cristianos has unfortunately gone the way of Playa de las Americas. Thank goodness we were only staying on Teneriffe for just one night!


Saturday Sep 30, 2006: Day 1 - Los Cristianos to Vallehermoso

We had breakfast in the hotel restaurant in the company of other guests. The food was not particularly good - a very poor quality 'English Breakfast' appeared to be the only choice on the menu. We had had better.

A stroll around the town after breakfast confirmed our impressions of the previous evening. We retreated hastily back to the hotel and sat on the sun terrace on the top floor (overlooking a noisy building site!) for an hour's reading until the time came to checkout and head for the ferry across to La Gomera.

Having paid the €3 fee for the privilege of using the room safe for just one night, we checked out, carried our bags across the road outside the hotel and found a taxi to take us down to the harbour.

We had a reasonably pleasant hour and a half wait at the Ferry Terminal made all the better by a couple of beers and a chance to watch a practice session for the Chinese F1 Grand Prix on a TV in the café. The Fred Olsen 'Express' ferry was splendid. A magnificent catamaran car ferry that whisked us smoothly and comfortably the twenty miles or so across to La Gomera in around 40 minutes. Ten years ago it had taken over two and a half hours by conventional ferry.

Arriving at around 14:10 we found the port and town of San Sebastián had changed a lot in 10 years. A new marina had been constructed and the town appeared busy and thriving. We were met on the quayside by the splendid Señor Manuel Herrera Ortiz, who was to be our taxi-driver for the next few days. He loaded up our bags and we set off.


We headed northwest away from the port. Although he spoke only Spanish, Manuel took pains to point out to us places of interest as we passed through the villages of Hermigua, Agulo and Las Rosas. We stopped just outside our destination, the village of Vallehermoso, so that he could show us, way across the valley and high above the village, the path that we would be walking the following day.


The weather was magnificent and we were assured that it would continue to be so for the next few days. Just past the village centre we arrived at the Hotel Rural Tamahuche, which we found to be deserted. Manuel quickly made a few mobile phone calls and it turned out that we had been expected much later in the day after a crossing on the evening ferry and not on the one at 13:30 as booked by Inntravel. After Manuel left we had only a brief wait before the delightful German manageress Inza arrived, full of apologies, to welcome us and show us to our room.

From the small courtyard outside our room (No. 1) we could see the statuesque Roque El Cano which loomed high over the village. Our dinner was to be taken at the rather spartan Restaurant Amaya just off the main village square. After a quick shower and change of clothes we strolled up through the village at dusk to the restaurant. Mike had Prawns in a sizzling Garlic Sauce followed by an excellent Veal Steak with Chips, Onions and Peppers. Claire had a huge salad with loads of fruit and green leaves followed by two gigantic grilled Tuna Steaks accompanied by Canarian Potatoes. For once in her life she was unable to eat it all!


Day 1:   0 km, 0 km in total


Sunday Oct 1, 2006: Day 2 - Vallehermoso circuit



Today's walk
took us on a circular route starting in the valley before climbing up into the hills to the West and then descending back down into Vallehermoso.

We slept well and awoke on Sunday morning much refreshed. After an excellent buffet breakfast we set off following the road steeply up the hill outside our hotel. It was good to be walking again.

The long climb from the head of the valley up through laurisilva woods to the ridge, although strenuous, was pleasant and was marred only by Mike being stung very painfully on his right knee by an extremely vicious wasp!

After some three hours we reached the top. The track was broad and barren and we found it very dry and dusty, the conditions were much more like those of North Africa than we were to find elsewhere on this island.



Strong westerly winds were blowing hard from our left as we walked the ridge trail. Clouds constantly formed ahead of us as the moist warm air hit cold. The inscription on a stone plaque set alongside an iron crucifix encouraged all to not forget a rose and a prayer for Santa Clara when next they passed that way.

From the nearby Ermita de Santa Clara we carried on NE along the dirt track on the top of the ridge. It became hotter and dustier and more barren as we reach a second chapel the Ermita de la Virgen de Guadelupe. Both chapels had been splendidly restored and appeared well maintained.



At the NE end of the ridge we turned right and headed down a very steep and rocky path toward the sea. The going was tricky but eventually we reached the valley bottom and followed the road N to the beach at Playa de Vallehermoso. The beach café provided an excellent late salad-bar lunch and a refreshing beer or two.

Shortly after leaving the beach and after following the road for a mile or so we turned off to the left and walked off-road up the other side of the valley. After an hour or so we crossed back over the valley, walked up into the town and arrived safely back at the Hotel Tamahuche.

We strolled up into the town at 20:00 and ate again at the Restaurant Amaya. Mike had an enormous plate of Scrambled Eggs with Spinach and Prawns followed by a Steak (not as good as the previous day's), whilst Claire had a Mixed Salad with Mozarella and Tomatoes followed by a huge plate of Chicken and Chips with a Green Salad. Far more than either of us could eat! Sadly the restaurant ambience had not improved in the last 24 hours and was still not particularly inviting although our waiter was reasonably friendly. We left early, very tired, and were in bed by 22:30.

Day 2: 14.3 km, 14.3 km in total


Monday Oct 2, 2006: Day 3 - El Cercado to Vallehermoso



 

An extemely hot day was forecast so, on Inza's advice, we decided to choose the slightly shorter route option from our walking notes.

Manuel's taxi picked us up promptly at 09:00 after breakfast and took us to the village of El Cercado close to the edge of the Garajonay National Park right inthe centre of the island. We were dropped off outside the Bar Maria on the edge of the village and, leaving the road, we walked north zig-zagging steeply down into the shaded valley (Barranco de las Lagunetas). A steep scenic but vertiginous climb of some 250m followed, up to the village of Las Hayas, luckily the path was reasonably wide and the climb, although it was hot, was not too difficult.

The gorge was spectacular with wonderfully intricate rock strata on show. We followed the track around the head of the valley until eventually we found a huge clump of nine Eucalyptus trees close to the Bar la Montaña, Casa Efigenia. We took a well-earned break and had a beer on the first floor terrace adjacent to the bar. Efigenia freshly baked for us, whilst we waited, some of her speciality pasteles con miel de palma which were splendid and very tasty. We chatted briefly to a Yorkshire couple, Julian and Sue, who were spending two days driving around the island. We rather envied them their air-conditioned car!



We said goodbye to the delightful Efigenia and headed on our way. Soon we reached the edge of the Garajonay National Park. The paths were now lined with laurisilva, tree heather and laurel trees, and we headed down to the picnic site at Las Creces.







The path continued easily down as we zig-zagged into the valley. An hour or so later we reached the bottom and followed lots of irrigation pipes into Los Loros. Here we turned left and followed a tarmac lane down through Banda de las Rosas down the Barranco del Ingenio and through the hamlet of Los Chapines. The reservoir of Embalse La Encantadora with its backdrop of Roque Blanco was spectacular. The road was very quiet and the walking was easy.


Before long we had reached the outskirts of Vallehermoso and easily found our way through the town to the square outside the Restaurant Amaya. We couldn't resist a beer and sat outside enjoying the late afternoon sunshine.


We had our final meal at the Amaya that evening. Mike started with Prawns in Garlic butter whilst Claire had Goat's Cheese. We both followed with the 'catch of the day' which was a fillet of a white fish that we didn't recognise - the Spanish name for it was something like cherna. Though simple, the meal was surprisingly good and we washed it down with a bottle of the local red. We passed on the dessert and had our usual espresso and menta polleo.

Farewells were said to Inza before we had dinner and we made arrangements to be collected by taxi the next morning. The Tamahuche had been very good despite the rather noisy school playground which our room had overlooked and which had doubled as a motorcyle race track each evening that we were there!

Day 3: 13.0 km, 27.3 km in total


Tuesday Oct 3, 2006: Day 4 - El Contadero to Hermigua


Manuel arrived promptly at 09:00 and we loaded our bags into the boot of his taxi and set off up into the heart of the National Park.

Today's walk was to take us up to the peak of Mt Garajonay, at 1487m the highest point on the island, and then down into the next valley to the town of Hermigua.

We arrived at a lay-by at a spot called El Contadero right in the centre of the National Park and Manuel unloaded our rucksacks from his Mercedes. We waved goodbye to our splendid taxi-driver for the last time as he drove off to deliver our bags to the next hotel. Unfortunately, as the taxi disappeared around the first corner, we suddenly realised that our walking poles were still in the boot! With the state of our aging knees and hips there was absolutely no way that we were going to tackle a steep climb without our trusty poles. There was nothing else for it but to abandon the climb up to the summit and so instead we crossed the road and entered the forest. As luck would have it, by the side of the track we found a rack of roughly hewn sticks that had obviously been well used by other walkers. We each selected a suitable staff and, undaunted, girded our loins and set off.

Luckily the walk today promised to be virtually all downhill and, as we wended our way down through the well-worn forest paths, we found the initial going to be gentle and fairly easy. Unusually the path was quite busy but as we ventured further into the laurisilva forest the number of tourists dropped dramatically and we were soon on our own again. After some 90 minutes we came to the end of the forest at Las Mimbreros ('The Willows') and turned right over a wide bridge and then almost immediately left down a track signposted 'Ermita 0,3' on the PR3 trail. We soon reach the Ermita Nuestra Señora de Lourdes with its attendant 'magic tree' from which water (admittedly somewhat cunningly contrived) flows from a pipe halfway up the trunk. A plaque on the wall noted that the Chapel was restored in 1964 in memory of one Donna Florencia Stephen Parry.





Leaving the chapel we took the wide track ahead marked '1.7 Caserío de El Cedro', Route PR LG3, which wound gently around through woods until eventually we reach a café/restaurant called 'Bar de la Vista' at El Cedro. The café was busy with many German tourists most of whom had had arrived the easy way by road. We had a welcome beer or two sitting on benches outside before heading off initially NW on a long, steep and very hot climb up onto the ridge.




The views from the top of the ridge were spectacular, we were able to look straight down into the next valley to the NE towards the village of Hermigua which was to be our day's destination. We ate our picnic lunch at about 15:30, right at the very top, and then started on a very long, rather difficult descent which involved several hundred very awkward rocky and uneven steps. Mike's knees in particular really took a bashing and the climb down seemed to take us forever.




After a rather convoluted trek down we eventually reached a remarkable small chapel, the Ermita de San Juan, perched high on a rocky outcrop overlooking the valley. We had been able to see it for the whole of the previous hour getting ever closer as we had climbed down. The views from the Ermita down the valley to the NNE towards Hermigua were spectacular. As time was getting on we cut short our visit and walked directly down to the main road which we then followed for some 45 minutes to the N into and through the village of Hermigua. Just past the centre of the village we turned left off the main road and climbed up along a country lane until we reached the upper road where we turned right and very shortly reached the Hotel Ibo Afaro which was to be our base for the next two days.

We arrived at 19:45 and were met at the foot of the drive by the son of the proprietress, a rather Germanic young man called Alex. He was quite agitated because we were 'late' (he obviously had not met us before...) and told us that we had missed the taxi which had been booked for us at 19:30 to take us to a restaurant for our evening meal. Undaunted, we insisted on having a shower and a change of clothes first and so he very kindly rearranged the taxi and we dashed off to our room. After the fastest shower and change of clothes in history we were ready just 15 minutes later and the taxi duly arrived and took us off to an excellent local restaurant (we unfortunately didn't make a note of its name). We both had enormous Avocado Salads followed by more 'Cherna' (fish) in a light Sauce with Canarian Potatoes, an excellent meal. A bottle of Señorio de Mendieta rioja with the meal followed by coffees and brandies rounded the day off splendidly. Our taxi duly arrived at 22:00 and we were swiftly deposited back at our hotel. The room was very comfortable and our stay promised to be much quieter than that at our previous hotel!

We were most relieved to find that the splendid Manuel had dutifully dropped off our walking poles along with our luggage. According to Ina, the proprietress, he had been most apologetic. We forgave him, it had after all been our own fault that we had left them behind ... !

Day 4: 12.2 km, 39.5 km in total


Wednesday Oct 4, 2006: Day 5 - Hermigua circuit



A fairly easy straightforward route today, starting and finishing at Ibo Afaro. We left the hotel and walked back down to the village where we turned left and followed the main road almost to the edge of the built-up area. Just before a petrol station on the left we left the road to the right and walked down a track a short distance to the almost dried up river bed below. We followed the valley NE towards the sea, passed under a road bridge towards a large banana plantation and then climbed up a set of steps to join the road above where we turned E for a short distance before climbing up a path to the left signposted to Playa de la Caleta and La Palmar.

 

The path climbed very steeply until, at the top [the photo to the left shows the view looking back down towards Hermigua], the path met a country road at Camiña which was some 290m ASL. The wind was very strong at the top. We followed this road to the right briefly before taking a turn to the left at a T-junction which luckily was sheltered from the wind.


We followed this road which was signposted as Route PR LG2 to 'El Moralito - El Palmar'. The track wound around the hills for several kilometres, sometimes it was wide and easy to walk and sometimes narrow and vertiginous.




At one point the path crossed a stream where there were dozens of brightly coloured dragonflies flitting around the rocks. We reached El Palmar and turned NW across some quite rough ground just inland from the cliffs until we could see the beach at Playa de Caleta far below. To get to the beach we had to turn inland and descend a steep path to meet the road at the bottom of the valley. Following this road to the right for a kilometre or so downhill at last brought us to the Playa which we reached at around 15:30.





After barely seeing a soul all day we found the bustling beach café to be quite a welcome relief and we relaxed with beers and plates of spaghetti with pesto. Sitting on benches under some shady trees, in the company of the odd stray cat, we watched the world go by for a pleasant hour or so.

Mike and friend The only sensible way back to Hermigua was via two or three kilometres of steep tarmac road back up and away from the beach. It was very hot and having just had a meal didn't help with the general weariness that we were both feeling. We climbed back up to Camiña and then retraced our steps down the steep twisty path into the Hermigua valley.


This time we avoided the path along the river bed and followed the road until it met the main road into the town. At the first junction we turned left. Before long we had reached the town and walked up the road leading to Ibu Afaro which we reached at about 19:00. The leisurely shower and change of clothes were most welcome and we were in good time to meet the taxi that had been pre-booked to take us to this evening's restaurant in the nearby village of Agulo. The restaurant (again we forgot to note the name!) was very busy. Claire had Grilled Tuna whilst Mike had Cod in a Leek Sauce. Our meals were both excellent.

At the end of the evening we met and chatted briefy with Howard and Val who were, we discovered, staying at the same hotel as us. Our taxi took us back and we had a brief drink with them in the late evening cool on the hotel terrace. On finding out that we were walking to San Sebastián the following day they, very kindly, invited us to join them for a drink on their yacht which was moored in the marina at San Sebastián. They had a hire car and planned to drive back to the main town in the morning. We accepted their invitation to visit gladly and wished them a safe trip back.

Our room at Hotel Ibo Afaro was again quiet and comfortable and we slept like logs anticipating a long hard last day of walking the following morning.

Day 5: 18.7 km, 58.2 km in total


Thursday Oct 5, 2006: Day 6 - Hermigua to San Sebastián

Today was not only our last walking day, it was also our tenth Wedding Anniversary! We planned to celebrate the occasion with a slap-up meal at the four-star Hotel Parador in San Sebastián the capital town of La Gomera. But first we had to get there...

After a pleasant and reasonably early breakfast we said farewell to Ina and met up with our taxi. Today we would be leaving the north of the island and so were taken to the centre of Gomera, east of the Garajonay National Park, to be dropped off on the road between Santiago and San Sebastián at a spot marked on the map as Jerduñe. As we waved goodbye to our driver we turned up a track away from the road to the left and were hit by an unbelievably strong and very cold wind. The sky was overcast and it all looked rather gloomy. Nevertheless we set off following the track south.  As we dropped down past the Roque de Berruga the wind eased and we passed the first canyon of the day, the Barranco Chinguarime, way down to our right.

Bracing against the wind!

Mt Teide on Teneriffe

The walking became easier as we descended slowly towards the coast but the wind started to increase again.  We sought shelter in the lee of a derelict building in the abandoned village of Seima where we ate our picnic lunch in the company of many small black lizards. The lizards swiftly removed our discarded crumbs, peach stones and apple cores as we watched. Nature's refuse collectors at their most efficient!

We headed southeast and as we started to turn to follow the coast to the northeast we were faced the prospect of descending into, crossing and then climbing back out of several barrancos. The climb down into the first of these (Barranco de Juan Vera) was extremely difficult due mainly to a savage 30 or 40 knot wind that did its best at every twist and turn to dislodge us from the very steep cliff path. We both found ourselves stuggling to keep on our feet all the way to the bottom. Luckily it was a lot calmer once we were down. We crossed the canyon, climbed up the other side and headed inexerably for the next canyon.  The path was well signposted as we climbed down into the Barranco la Guancha and and followed the boulder-strewn floor of the canyon to the edge of the sea at la Guancha beach. At the east end of the beach, past a fisherman's shack and a dog that nipped Mike's ankles, we easily found the path up to the top again.

After one more canyon, the Barranco Rebolcadero, we were at last on the cliff path with the prospect of a long slow descent into San Sebastián ahead of us. When we caught our first glimpse of the city our hearts sank when we realised that it would be a good hour before we would reach it. The Parador de Turismo Colombino Conde de la Gomera (phew!) is perched on the top of a sheer cliff on the NE side of the San Sebastián and the climb up to it through the city streets left us very hot and tired as we finally arrived at 20:15.

A shower and a change of clothes made all the difference and we made it to the Dining Room by 21:00. A bottle of bubbly restored our spirits and we celebrated our Wedding Anniversary in style with a splendid meal. Both started with zuchini and tomatoes and Claire followed with grilled fish of the day whilst Mike had a very good medium rare fillet of veal. A perfect end to a perfect few day's of walking.

Day 6: 14.7km, 72.9km in total


Friday/Tuesday Oct 6/10, 2006: Day 7/11 - San Sebastián

We spent five splendid nights at the Parador, resting and relaxing and enjoying the cliff-top swimming pool and wonderful gardens. During one of our many excursions into San Sebastián we met up with Howard and Val whose yacht 'Deep Blue' was moored in the marina. We had drinks on board with them and we all had a splendid lunch the following day at a restaurant in the city.

We watched from beside the hotel swimming pool on Sunday evening as our two friends set off on the next leg of their journey to La Palma.


Val, Howard and Claire 'Deep Blue' departs for La Palma

Our time at the Parador passed all too quickly and on Tuesday afternoon we checked out and took a taxi down to the harbour where we caught the 16:30 ferry back to Teneriffe arriving at 17:00.

Yet another taxi whisked us off to the Airport from the harbour at Los Cristianos and we caught the 20:15 scheduled Monarch flight ZB933 back to Birmingham. Arriving at 00:15, we were home and tucked up in our bed by 01:30 to dream of the wonderful time we had spent on the magical isle of La Gomera.


As with all our walking holidays to date, we arranged the trip through Inntravel who are based on the Castle Howard estate in Yorkshire. They provided maps and suggested route notes, arranged all flights, taxis & accommodation and transported our luggage efficiently between each stop. All in all on this trip we trekked some 73 km (45 miles) in 5 days of walking and stayed in 4 different hotels/hostels. We highly recommend Inntravel, their service is second to none and we'll be using them again…!



Our Walking Holidays Spring 2003 - Spring 2006
km
miles
total km
total miles
Spring 2003 'Along the Catalan Coast'
67.6
42.0
67.6
42.0
Autumn 2003 'From the Pyrénées to the Med'
277.0
172.1
344.6
214.1
Spring 2004 'An Andalusian Adventure'
247.5
153.8
592.1
367.9
Autumn 2004 'The Grand Cerdagne'
145.8
90.6
737.9
458.5
Spring 2005 'From the Picos to the Sea' & 'The Coast & Hills of Asturias'
220.7
137.1
958.0
595.6
Spring 2006 'The Heart of Italy Long Trail'
133.3
82.6
1,091.2
678.2
Autumn 2006 'La Gomera - Hidden Gem of the Canaries'
72.9
45.3
1,164.1
723.3