Wednesday, January 4, 2017

January 4, 2017: La Hermigua Village to Black Sands Playa de la Caleta

Subtitle:  Banana Nirvana
Today we started at the vlllage of Hermiagua--the same place we stopped yesterday's hike. Today we walked through a banana plantation and then several other types of terrain to the black beaches of Playa de la Caleta.

“On a hike, the days pass with the wind, the sun, the stars; movement is powered by a belly full of food and water, not a noxious tankful of fossil fuels. On a hike, you're less a job title and more a human being....A periodic hike not only stretches the limbs but also reminds us: Wow, there's a big old world out there.” 
― Ken IlgunasTrespassing Across America: One Man's Epic, Never-Done-Before (and Sort of Illegal) Hike Across the Heartland

I have one word and one word only for today: WOW. Sure, there will be other words, but this one best expresses what we saw along our path on La Gomera between the "city" of La Hermigua and Playa de la  Caleta (meaning the beach of the little cove.)

Lest you think we were walking on a  beach, let me specify that we walked up about 2000 feet and therefore descended the same to get to this little treasure on the north coast of La Gomera.

Maximilio, our guide, shows us the route on the map in "downtown' La Hermigua. On a sad note, we lost a beloved hiking mate, Andrew, who was forced to fly home due to a family illness. God Bless Andrew and family.

The narrow streets of La Hermigua, descending to the hike and banana plantations. 

Gofio mill in La Hermigua. It is a local mix of corn meal and flour that kept Canarians from starving in lean times. They still use it in breads, pudding, etc.
We passed the local gofio mill. Gofio is the Canarian  name for flour made from roasted grains (typically wheat or certain varieties of corn) or other starchy plants (e.g. beans and, historically, fern root), some varieties containing a little added salt. Gofio has been an important ingredient in Canarian cooking for some time, and Canarians have spread its use to the Caribbean and the western Sahara. It is also found in southern South America, where it is known as harina tostada and is employed in a wide variety of recipes. The gofio commercially available in the Canary Islands is always finely ground, like ordinary flour. The locals use it regularly. We find it in a dessert much like lflan used in restaurants.

40,000 tons of gofio

Nanny needs milking
The local goat cheeses are amazingly good and come in a variety of soft, semi-solid and hard varieties. We are not fortunate enough to get these in the USA, but we surely enjoy them here.

40,000 tons of bananas.

Banana production is a big deal on La Gomera. The plant only produces for about a year. Due to demand in the Western Hemisphere and success in the Latin American market, many farms in La Gomera are converting to avocado.

We saw many beautiful vistas and got a look at a number of interesting plants. We were constantly surrounded by succulents along the pathway. 

We passed this tree which is used for the production of "palm honey."  In reality, there are not that many palm trees on the Canaries, despite the idea that they are tropical islands. But La Gomera is the exception. This is the tree that produces the palm honey.  We passed quite a few in the valley before our ascent. 
  Miel de palma or palm honey  is an edible sweet syrup produced from the sap of a number of palm trees. It is produced in the Canaries  and coastal regions of South America . Harvesting it isn't exactly easy!

A look back at La Hermigua and its banana production

At about 2000 ft, we encountered our first view of the sea and our final beach hiking point of La Caleta, which means the Little Cove. We couldn't see it, but we very much enjoyed the local vegetation. 

Prickly pear. Like Mexico and parts of the Southwest USA, pretty ubiquitous. The native Guanche likely ate the paletas, just like modern day Mexicans sometimes do.

The ever present agave plant.

People, prickly pear and panoramas 

John and Chris enjoy the first rest stop at 2000 feet!

Our guide, Max

This tree produces a milky substance that made the Guanche locals dizzy headed. They used it to do the same to fish in order to catch them.

Prickly pear and La Hermigua about 900 meters below. 

There was literally a breath taking view on this hike around every corner.

This is one of my favorite hikes ever.  After a significant but not life threatening climb, we had some ups and downs and finally a descent to the beach. Every turn produced a post card!

Somewhere around the corner was a small black sand beach. We didn't mind not seeing it for awhile!

Lovely succulents abounded.

Paul says " eat my dust, all those who are not hiking in the canaries at this moment."

Princess Margaret enjoys a sit down. These are rare in a day.

Chris smiles but would rather raise her middle finger.

Max, Nikki, King David and the Apostle John

John pauses amongst the high pines to enjoy the ocean ahead. At about this juncture, we realized we could see Teide Mountain on Tenerife in the distance.

Beyond the forest and in the mists of the Sahar, Tenerife looms.

The rugged coast of La Gomera with the faint outline of Tenerife beckoning in the background.

More of the forest running to the sea.

On the way to our lunch stop.

We stopped for lunch here. Who could blame us? We were still about an hour to the seaside, but it didn't matter when you have such a great place to picnic!
After a beautiful picnic we provided ourselves from the tiny grocer across the street from the hotel, we had ascended and descended most of the biggest peaks and valleys and walked on the Playa de Caleta.  The beach of La Caleta de Adeje  offers very good conditions for swimming. It is a beach of black medium grain sand and pebbles. Its waters are fairly quiet and  is sheltered from currents and, therefore, recommended for sunbathing and a dip. But first, you have to get there and it isn't exactly flat along the way!

Our first actual look at the beach about 20 to 30 minutes before ending the hike.

Paul and Max discuss the route.

Finally, about 8 miles later, the beach. Lovely black sand. The water was pretty cold but okay once you got in . I partook. Paul thought a beer on the beach was a better idea and Chris (AKA Miss Maidenhead) agreed with him. The rest of us braved the cold and the bashing of the waves. I found it refreshing after a sweaty walk.
We made it to the lovely tiny beach of La Caleta which had a small bar serving beer, coffee and soft drinks. What more could we ask for in this life after a walkabout ala Canaria?

From here fortunately a bus picked us up and whisked us back to San Sebastian ala  Gomera. The ride was filled with hairpin turns on barely accessible road and when we met another vehicle, it reminded me too much of articles in foreign press where a bus goes over the edge. But we returned in one piece thanks to extreme caution and skill of the driver!

Paul decided sleeping on the way back was the way to go. Can't say I blame him.
In a not unusual maneuver, after three days of heavy hiking, we decided to treat ourselves to a dinner at the Parador Gomera. The paradors of Spain are really spectacular buildings usually used for a public or military or religious purpose ages ago and now converted to hotel, restaurant, bar, garden complexes. They are all unique and very beautiful.  We stayed in one in Santiago de Compestelo and ate in the one in Leon, which you see in the movie, The Way.   The one here is quite a hike up the mountain above San Sebastian de Gomera, but we figured we would get a good meal. One nice thing about the tour company we are using from UK, Explore, is that they are dirt cheap as far as tours go. Meals are your responsibility except breakfast but they slay themselves finding good cheap eats! Bravo, Explore! However, should you desire a high end gastronomy experience, you are on your own. Fortunately, the Paradores usually will more than suffice.

Parador de La Gomera. Built in the Canarian Style.

This hotel was once a manor house. It sits high atop a hill over the harbor of San Sebastian de la Gomera. We were able to visit the bar and restaurant, despite being guests in a cheaper hotel down in the city.

The lovely bar area with beautiful blue tiles.

Paul is seriously looking forward to a high end meal

The table setting of the parador. We said if I was Elisa King, we would own this monogrammed plating before leaving La Gomera!

The tables are situated along the windows. But it was too dark to see.

Paul and I shared local cheeses from goat origins and then we had lamb (Paul) and vegetarian rice. There were no complaints!

Overall, a simply amazing day of hiking through banana plantations, succulent forests, mountains, then downhill through pines, a water distribution project and finally to  a black sand beach. Who is this lucky? I can only hope it is not only us. 

We were actually somewhat worn out after 4 days of hiking much more altitude than we are used to, but so grateful for this opportunity.

“Let my toes teach the shore 
how to feel a tranquil life
through the wetness of sands 

Let my heart latch the door
of blackness, as all my pain 
now blue sky understands” 
― Munia Khan

Paul's Ponderings:   What a great day out hiking....certainly one of the best ever for scenery, weather, and overall quality.   We had a pretty strenuous climb up to start, but after that it turned into an incredible high seaside walk.  Our lunch had a hazy view of Tenerife from a high point along the way.  Then spectacular views of the sea.   That said, we are ready for a day off and we'll get it tomorrow.   We followed that with a wonderful meal at the local Parador overlooking the sea from the high point of the city.   This was about as good as it gets for an overall perspective of vacation, hiking, and dining out.  

I told our guide that I wondered why everyone was not down at Playa de la's definitely the best kept secret in La Gomera.   It is just a stunning seaside area with a small cafe and beach.   Tomorrow a free day looms in the southwest part of the island!

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