Tuesday, January 3, 2017

January 2, 2017: What Goes Up Must Come Down

Thousands of tired, nerve-shaken, over-civilized people are beginning to find out that going to the mountains is going home; that wildness is a necessity” 
― John MuirOur National Parks

Max, our hiking guide, Margaret and Nikki hold the map so he can show us where we are hiking today.
Our day started today with a drive of about 90 minutes to Vallehermosa in the North of La Gomera. 90 minutes is about as far as you can go in any direction by car, and some of that is due to hairpin turns and narrow roads.  This is a peaceful small town surrounded by steep hills, palm trees, and dry zone vegetation and is the starting place of a serious incline up to a feature called El Cano.
El Cano, the distinctive rock we hiked up to.

About a third of the way up to el Cano. The village of Vallehermosa is seen below

We made it up about 3000 feet in one good slog. Those tiny white buildings you see are the town where we started. Don't ask me how we made it, but we did.

John, Andrew and Nikki take a well deserved break near El Cano.
The scenery never fails to be spectacular at every turn. The island of Gomera is predominantly a series of steep ravines that run down to the ocean.

The view on the back side of El Cano. You see el Cano on the extreme left,

The mists we see are not fog. They are sand from the Sahara.

A farmer has put up a sign giving direction and mileage to many world famous cities.

A nome trapped by a tree

We saw many gorgeous flora. Fauna is rare. An occasional lizard is about it.
Our lunch stop, the Country Farmer's Corner

The view from the restaurant--terraces in the foreground and ocean in the distance.

Paul enjoys his lunch--watercress soup, garbanzo beans, almogrote, and bread. Flan for dessert. 
We passed many terraces, some with grapes for wine, some with bananas. Bananas seem to be a big industry on this island and Tenerife. We had a lovely lunch at a small restaurant on the edge of a cliff. Lovely authentic food and the owners were really congenial. We love the local fare.

From here we hiked on to the Visitor Center of the Garonjonay National Park. This is the major park in La Gomera and the reason people come here to hike.  Although we didn't actually spend time in the park today, the visitor center had a lot of exhibits about the volcanic nature of the Canaries, which in many ways parallels Hawaii, but in an earlier time.  It also housed some very nice cultural exhibits

A great scale model of La Gomera....one ravine after the next headed to the ocean.
I was really impressed by the gardens at Garajonay Visitor Center. Many native and nonnative plant species and so gorgeous

Bird of paradise

Gorgeous bromeliad

Calla lily

Don't know this one but beautiful color
One of the nicest parts of the visitor center was the cultural exhibits, They had a standard Canarian grave scene which was like the ones we saw on Gran Canaria. There was a pottery exhibit and one about pole vaulting--which used to be a pretty standard way of travel for sheperds, but now isn't so in style. The most amazing thing was the Canarian whistling language called Silbo. It almost disappeared from the earth, but now it is a compulsory course in school. The whistling is phonetic and even in some cases understandable. But more on Silbo later....

In addition to this sign board about silbo, there was a film with examples.
From this point, we progressed on to an area of iron oxide clay soil which isn't very common in the Canaries. It somewhat reminded me of my grandparent's farm in South Alabama.  And at the end of that section of hiking was an overlook into the city of Agulo---a long dang way down.

Iron oxide in the soil

The glass floored overlook where we started and the city of Agulo below.
Needless to say, our peering over the edge to see the very steep, but well paved in stone path downward to Agulo which you see in the above photo, was a bit intimidating. It reminded me of the descent from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon that my brother and I made on a rim to rim hike about 25 years ago---vertigo-inducing and frankly frightening. But just like then, somehow we made it. But not without sore knees, hips and hamstrings. And a sense of relief at having survived to the bottom.
All our companions, including Andrew and John (along with Paul known as the disciples) are Brits except us. So we never have to suggest a stop at the pub at the end.

The Tasca bar is a place where we not only had a beer, but heard authentic Canarian whistlers explain and exhibit their languatge. I am so glad they are preventing it from dying away.

I include this to show you the glass floor observatory high on the hill at ahout 11 oclock. Can't believe we made it down in one piece!
 After a very welcome warm bath we were off to a local dinner with a Cuban couple.
Chris, a lecturer in marketing and also known as Miss Maidenhead dresses up for repast.

Max, the tour leader, discusses dishes with David (aka King David) and his lovely spouse Nikki who is a physicist. 

All in all, it was a great hike with many scenic vistas, challenging climbs and perhaps more challenging sojourns in the downhill direction.  With the addition of new lovely British friends, we feel this hike was glorious. And very tiring!

“Getting to the top is optional. Getting down is mandatory.” 
― Ed ViestursNo Shortcuts to the Top: Climbing the World's 14 Highest Peaks

Paul's Ponderings:  This was a fairly strenuous day out hiking, with a VERY challenging route, with a huge uphill to start and a pretty strenuous downhill at the end.   That said, it's hard to imagine a better hiking day out due to the scenery and the companionship.   We have a really nice hiking group this time around.    The scenery here in the La Gomera is stunning, even if the hiking is challenging!

La Gomera is a stunning area of the world.  We had a great lunch looking over a valley to the sea with beautifully prepared Canarian food.   The bookends to the day were fabulous ascents and descents in the area.   If you get a chance, go here, particularly if you like hiking.

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