La Gomera – The Enchanted Island
As part of my on-going love affair with the Canary Islands for my writing, as well as continually updating ‘The Canary Islander website’, I visit each of the islands regularly. It was recently the turn of La Gomera once again, and although I usually resist naming a favourite island, this must be somewhere at the very top of my list.
La Gomera is an enchanting island. As soon as most people step off the plane, they immediately sense that they are in a very different world from the one that they have left behind. This island is in the form of a volcano, with a World Heritage site, and the Garajonay Forest at its heart. It has towns and villages that fascinate with their beauty and simplicity, as well as beaches of dark sand and a coastline dominated by steep and unyielding cliffs. It is a place where simplicity and peace dominate and there is a sudden rebalancing of harmony with everyday life. For some it may be a shock, and if they want regular transport and a reliable Internet connection, they would be advised to head off to the delights of nearby Tenerife instead!
The cliffs plunge dramatically into the sea, reminding the visitor that this island is the product of many volcanic eruptions, but thankfully not in the last two million years or so. Due to the harsh nature of the landscape, man has only been able to cultivate a small part of it, as seen by the many steep terraces on the mountainsides. As a consequence, over one third of the island’s total surface area retains its natural and unspoilt beauty with Garajonay National Park and the El Cedro Forest being two outstanding examples of their kind.
Many visitors take to the hiking paths and royal roads (caminos reales) in order to get away from the small amount of everyday tourism. If you are fortunate, you can hear examples of the Whistling Language (Silbo), an ancient language that is still used to communicate across the steep ravines that is recognised as culturally significant by UNESCO, and which is the subject of another ‘Letter from the Atlantic’.
Wandering in and around the ancient forests quickly became a magical and enchanting experience. I saw insects, birds, plants, trees and shrubs that I have never seen before. It takes time to learn to look, listen, smell and absorb and blend into new surroundings. It was amusing to see, what I refer to as, ‘heavy duty’ walkers charging down the hiking paths, complete with walking poles, at great speed, determined to complete an impressive number of kilometres that they could brag about over dinner later that evening. Needless to say, most of the group were oblivious to the uniqueness of their surroundings. For me, it was important to allow my senses to slowly absorb my new surroundings and to take over from the usual and mundane for a few days, which became intoxicating and totally relaxing.
There is something unique about this island and as I sat waiting in a newly built, but deserted, airport waiting for my flight home, I wondered for how much longer this island would retain its natural and unique charms set amongst mysterious cliffs, black sand, crystal clear waters and ancient forests. Would this airport soon be alive with dozens of planes arriving from mainland Europe, discharging huge numbers of walking pole carrying passengers, divers and sun seekers? Fingers crossed that they do not stray further across the Atlantic than Tenerife. I will return again very soon.
For photos and more information about this special island, take a look at the ‘La Gomera’ pages of The Canary Islander website.
If you enjoyed this article, take a look at Barrie’s websites: www.barriemahoney.com and www.thecanaryislander.com or read his book, ‘Letters from the Atlantic’ (ISBN: 9780992767136). Available as paperback, as well as on Kindle, iBooks and Google Play Books.
© Barrie Mahoney