Exploring La Gomera & Alto de Garajonay, Canary Islands

Back in August 2014, I packed my bags for my final semester abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland.

I arrived a month early; I planned to see England (second time there), visit some friends (that I made when I traveled Belize earlier in January of 2014), and meet new people in England through couch surfing.

I made my way through London, Bath, Stroud, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and Fort William in that month before my semester at uni.

In Manchester, I surfed at a very couchsurfing-experienced man’s house, and we became good friends. Tom was busy with work during the days, but in the evenings, his passion for music and love for his friends drove him out consistently, and lucky me, I got to tag along! In Manchester, we did something fun every night; watching him play in a pub, celebrating a friend’s birthday, having a bbq with leftover food from a friend’s work (spoiler: this boy ends up being my boyfriend in 8 months) and just a plain house party! I extended my stay there, got to meet his lovely friends, made them my friends too, and even got a boyfriend (eventually) through this experience 🙂 (not Tom, more on this in the future). Needless to say, we kept in touch. Tom, and his friends 😉  even came to visit me a month or two later in Edinburgh! Since Tom travels all over Europe often, I told him to let me know next time he’s adventuring since after I graduate I’ll be in Europe and eager to join up again. A few months later I got a text message asking if I was interested in joining in a trip around the Canary Islands for his birthday.

Hell yeah.

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At Alto de Garajonay, La Gomera!

We met up in February and stayed with a friend of his who is working and living in La Gomera as an English teacher.

La Gomera is the green island of the Spanish islands. There are 7 main islands of the Canaries. Tenerife is the most famous (watch out for tourist world—Los Cristianos and Playa de los Americanos; do not vacation here unless you want to be with 50+ year old British folk with orange wrinkled skin and bacon baps). Seriously, a horrible place, luckily we only waited for the Ferry there). The islands are off the coast of Morocco. La Gomera is only about 140 square miles. This island is practically a mountain with smaller mountains in it and a few accessible beaches to enjoy the sea as well. If you love to hike, go to La Gomera. I was surprised to see so much German influence. We all know German’s love their hiking and outdoor nature, but some villages were so German I forgot I was on a Spanish island. No hate–about half of our hitch hiking rides were by Germans (thanks guys!).

Our friend Louis lived out of the ‘village’ center, tiny San Sebastian, and up towards the beginning of a mountain. The views from her windows were amazing—the mountains were massive, beautifully green, and in the morning/evenings, a haze of clouds hung low on them.

While Louis was at work, Tom and I explored San Sebastian, and more importantly, hitch hiked our way over the island. The island is 1,487m (almost 5000 feet) tall and 14 miles wide.

start hitching before the sun sets or you might be very unlucky!!
start hitching before the sun sets or you might be very unlucky!!

One very very long day was spent in and around Garajonay. Alto de Garajonay is the highest point, about a 40 minute walk from the carpark, on all of La Gomera. At the viewpoint they even have stones commemorating the sacrifices the Guanches, the original inhabitants of La Gomera, used to perform here for their gods.

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Resting about the clouds. Island conquered.

The view is spectacular—on a clear day you can see almost all the other Canary Islands! Unfortunately, a fire destroyed much of the dense trees in 2012 (as our ride told us in Spanish, chatting our way up the mountain with our poor Spanish skills), but it is slowly recuperating.

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Tenerife’s Teide in the distance
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Delicious snack (korovka) that is not native to La Gomera

After climbing the top, we went hiking through Garajonay National Park (UNESCO Heritage Site – 1986) and enjoyed our green, cool, misty sight.

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Edible mushrooms?

We spent a good amount of time finding our way to an ‘impressive’ waterfall which was one of the most disappointing views in all my travels. The amount of effort it took to get here, hours and hours of hiking, possibly a thousand steps going back down the mountain to get this view, was unacceptable since barely any water trickled down a slab of rock that was difficult to see through the trees. By the bottom of the climb we were so tired and exhausted, yet we still needed to get back to the main road to catch a ride. I was so done I seriously considered finding some large leaves and sleeping there for the night!

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trying to hide the pain and exhausted caused by 9 hours of hiking La Gomera and dealing with microclimates!
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A nice view coming down the mountain we hiked up

The coolest part besides the views, was meeting this duck who was ALL ALONE in a dam near the waterfall. I dont know if he was lost too, but we quickly became friends when he followed me and when he listened to me bitch about my aching knees and ankles.

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My new duckie friend at the end of the stupid ‘waterfall’

Still, there is no better way than learning an area than by getting lost! We had an enormous amount of green bliss.

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