Led by Bob Rogers
Tour dates: 10 to 24 February 2008.
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An interesting follow-up to a visit to Madeira (another volcanic island). All three islands are good for walking and are sufficiently different in character to make each a novel experience.
The two reported here are a strong recommendation for visiting as a tour party. Some of the routes would be difficult to reach for individual walkers. Ramblers Holidays know where the good walks are and arranged the shared coaches to take the group to and from the walks, so the good walks were accessible.
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We arrived at Tenerife after dark and got to our overnight hotel at Los Christianos just in time for a dinner. Our hotel was comfortable, but the morning revealed an ugly jumble of multi-storey hotels around us. Happily we were away directly after breakfast!
It was just a short drive to the ferry which would take us to La Gomera. Once on the water the town of Los Christianos looked much prettier with the island of Tenerife rising behind it to the snowy peak at Mount Tiede.
Our destination at La Gomera was the port at San Sebastian which looked small and attractive from the sea. Once there we were quickly on to a coach to take us up and over the hills to our destination at Playa de Santiago. Our views of the island showed us a scene of sloping ground with a sparse covering of low scrub and succulents. It looked a little bleak at this stage, but Bob would be taking us to the much better bits during our walks.
The hotel was a surprise. It was on a truly vast sloping site covered in attractive purpose-built units which had all one needed and certainly offered some remarkably wide
beds. I gather there were five swimming pools and four dining rooms, not to mention an outdoor theatre!
By 13:00 we had got settled in and we were assembling for our first walk. A coach took us uphill past the island's airport: a very strange construction which looked like an
aircraft carrier carelessly dropped on top of a mountain. The walk started uphill of the airport (about 400m amsl) and took us on a gentle climb of some 140m.
The terrain looked better from a close view and a local lady working in a village garden offered Bob plenty of advice about where she thought we ought to walk - and continued at foghorn volume across the valley when we did not follow her recommendations.
We then began a descent into one of the barrancas (deep ravines leading to the sea). Now we were on spectacular ground with steep cliffs partly covered in plants and bearing abandoned terraces in many places. The spectacular nature of the walk continued all the way down
to the beach in Playa de Santiago. After some shopping for provisions we walked a little distance to the base of a cliff and into a tunnel, from the end of which the hotel elevator
raised us nearly 40m to the hotel grounds.
The evening meals deserve some mention. The hotel has four restaurants and the largest had a sign saying it was licensed to seat 479 persons for meals! We ate in one of the bays of this room. The food was good and the range of choice on the buffet service was quite mind-blowing!
The buffet breakfasts are overwhelming too in the choice being offered. One unlikely item was chilled champagne style wine on a help-yourself basis. It did have a few takers but not many at that time of day!
Our walks were mostly going to depart at 09:30 and today we set off on the coach to travel higher (about 1080m amsl) on yesterday's road to begin the walk. A short initial section led to a tiny village bar and shop where we could have coffee or fresh orange juice - energetically squeezed from anything up to five oranges.
The continuation of the walk started with a rocky traverse passing below one of the many volcanic plugs that are common on the islands. Then it followed down the opposite side of the barranca to yesterday - we followed the East side today.
All the paths today were attractive and the views spectacular. Nothing at all like the bland initial appearance of the island. We were seeing date palms and fruit trees in bloom today.
The day finished with a coach ride back to the hotel.
Today we went up to one of the high points of the island at nearly 1400m at the level of the Laurel forests. The walk started in light rain and we were initially walking within the clouds. The route started near a prominent volcanic plug and took us past it on the way down to the same bar as yesterday. We stopped again to drink more fresh orange juice and enjoyed sitting outdoors, since by then the rain had stopped.
The walk continued down a ridge to reach the minibus waiting for us. Part of the group returned to the hotel and eight of us continued the walk, zigzagging through abandoned terraces and the remains of an old road across a steep cliff. The return to the hotel on foot took us back via Playa de Santiago. We arrived there to a loud sound of children singing and found a stage had been set up near the beach and carefully-costumed children where doing their turns while watched by parents - many in elaborate costumes themselves. The walk today totalled 21 km.
After dinner in the evenings it is always possible to go to the free entertainments and this evening it was a demonstration of the Canaries language of whistles which evolved for long distance communication.
Today was a free day. At 10 we went on a guided tour of a small banana plantation adjacent to the hotel. It was
quite informative and ended with a tasting session of banana liqueur: to which I am unlikely ever to become addicted.
We ambled around the hotel site and sat for a while at a fine viewpoint which was out of today's strong winds. Later I went down to the beach and a walk around the harbour.
Today we had a 9am start and drove to the North of the island. About half the group walked up a well-preserved old track ascending a steep cliff to meet up with the rest of the group at a Visitor Centre.
After a quick look around we went to a nearby cafe for a coffee and then continued our walk. There had been heavy rain overnight and the paths were slippery in places, resulting in a few mud-covered ramblers.
The weather was improving when we reached the well-situated Cafe Blanco where both the view and the beer were most welcome. Finally we descended to a small town where our transport was waiting for us.
We returned, in the taxi and minibus provided, by a different route which hair-pinned its way through thick Laurel forest over one of the high passes to arrive back fairly late to the hotel.
Another 9am start, but this time a relatively short drive to the NNE to establish ourselves on the top of a long ridge, which was our route back down again to arrive on the coast
at the E of the hotel. From there we crossed a few ups and downs to arrive back still in fairly dry conditions. Afterwards, when we were safely back in our rooms, there was really fierce rain which had the pathways running like rivers.
On the way the path crossed some fine steep cliffs and led us to an abandoned house snuggled into a shallow cave on the cliff face. Its situation was dramatic and it was sad to see that there was furniture abandoned in the rooms by the owners.
Further down we came to another abandoned house. This time one that had been a prosperous tax-collectors house, situated to collect taxes from the local farmers. The rooms of this house also had a few items of furniture but these looked to have been used by walkers who had been camping in the building.
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