We’re in the Canaries, on the magic island of La Gomera. Just five degrees north of the Tropic of Cancer, mid Atlantic Ocean.
It’s 11th Feb, and we break away from our poolside days on the south coast, and views out over the ocean – nothing between us and the Antarctic ice cap – now there’s a thought, and the full moon, and southern hemisphere stars such as Canopus (sacred to the pre-Conquest Gomerans), and we head for the mountains and the cloud, and the cool and rain and dripping wet – via Alajero, in our hired Corsa, climbing high, right turn at Pajarito then left on CV14 toward Hermigua, and our walk begins, winding down north then south (the contours are wild) through laurel and tree heather forest, trunks thick with moss, to Las Mimbreras, where a rushing stream, fed by the aquifer that the forest feeds, crosses our path, and we join the Alto de Garojonay walk, then north through dripping forest, touch of mist, until we turn east and wind down via a rocky slippery descent to a valley where palm and cacti sit incongruously amid the green and damp, to the El Cedro café restaurant, lunch of watercress soup with green and red pepper sauces, and tuna and salted potatoes – rustic, long tables, fire burning in an old iron stove, mist turns to downpour while we’re there, eases to drizzle before we leave, and head down to river and a rushing water tunnel, then wind round first south then north, climbing all the while to pick up our original path.
Leaving 11.15, back 4.30, lunch took an hour, so for 5 ½ miles distance it was a slow walk – but atmosphere all the way, with damp drizzle mist drips endless drip drip and streams flowing fully formed which, given the parched landscape only maybe five miles south, is a miracle, a magic meteorological act, driven by the north-east trades and helped not a little by a remarkable geology – a volcanic land which has had two million years to erode and carve deep barrancas radiating out from the laurisilva forest which occupies the centre land.
Enchanted land, magic misty sweep of forest, trunks and boughs thick on the ground and cross-crossing and intermingling, as dense as a tropical jungle, no place to get lost not just because you wouldn’t want to get lost there – you’d never get in there in the first place.
Amazingly this exotic land is Europe. The hand of Spain, the hand of our European continent – it stretches far.