La Gomera: A hike to remember
A HIKE TO REMEMBER
FROM LAS HAYAS TO LOS ROQUES
I left Las Hayas on a beautiful sunny morning with one goal in mind : Hike to Los Roques, the most impressive rock formation on the island.
On paper the walk looked fairly easy and my 16km walk didn’t look like a big challenge when I set off singing in my boots but I clearly underestimated the terrain! There is no such thing as a flat stretch of terrain on the island, it either goes up or down and the slopes are really steep! The hiking paths on La Gomera are really well marked and people are ready to help you if you get lost.
Leaving Casa Efigenia, the Casa rural where I was staying, I followed the path to Chipude. It is a lovely stroll on the hillside, with beautiful views of the Valley and terrasse fields. The sun was shining, there was a lovely breeze and I hit the road with a beaming smile.
The walk up to the next village called El Cercado is fairly steep but it is very enjoyable to look at the vineyard as you walk pass. They also developed Aloe vera farming, it is THE speciality of the island. Aloe vera has many properties it is especially great to heal sun burn and to hydrate dry skins. It is funny how the vegetation can change drastically in a few kilometres I left the pretty terrace fields of Las Hayas and I was now surrounded by very dry canyon. A few km later in Chipude I stopped for a lemonade before heading to La Fortaleza.
The climb to La Fortalezza is quiet an abrupt one when you leave Chipude. The path winds through little houses where craftsmen make the very famous ceramics. They are always pleased to answer your questions, if you can speak Spanish that is, as they don’t speak much English.
Leaving the houses behind you will enjoy the beautiful panorama over the valley. The path is truly delightful, between the sweet scent of the flowers in bloom and the crisp air on that beautiful morning I felt blessed!
La Fortaleza used to be a sacred place where sacrifices were carried out. A few years ago archeologists found remains of an autel at the top, for this reason it made me think of Eyers Rock in Australia.
Once you arrive to la Fortalezza the path slowly reaches the main road which you’ll have to follow all the way down to the valley where you start your ascension to El Mirarador. This section of the hike is quite is a bit difficult as the path is very narrow, the ground uneven and the heat quite intense. The vegetation on this part of the hike is full of half burnt pine trees. In 2012 La Gomera suffered a terrible fire which claimed 750 hectares of of the pine forest and the wax myrtle trees of La Garajonay National park, listed as a Biosphere reserve on the Unesco Heritage list. Over 50000 people had to be evacuated to San Sebastian. The ecological loss was terrible and the scientists expect that Nature will take 30 years to recover and come back to its previous state. But as always Nature is resilient and 6 years later nature is claiming back the ground that it lost during the fire.
Due to this dramatic fire the Spaniards are being very cautious on the island and you can’t miss the huge road sign describing the risk of a wildfire. This long segment of the walk is a good reminder of the behaviour we must avoid when hiking in a desertic country: Don’t smoke. You never know, you might smash the end of your cigarette thinking that you put the fire out but it only takes a few ambers to light up again and start a fire. They kindly ask you to refrain from smoking and barbecues are strictly forbidden within the National park.
When I finally made it to the top of this valley I found "El Miradores del Chipude” a belvedere with amazing views of Alto del Garajonay, the highest point on La Gomera. I felt humbled by the beauty of my surroundings and by the silence that reigned there. The only thing I could hear was the wind in the pine trees below me. I ate my picnic at the miradores sitting in front of a whitewashed little church among the Gomera lizards (gallotia galloti gomera), watching them fight around a tiny piece of apple that I threw them.
Eventually I had to leave and headed towards Alto de Garjonay, 1487m above sea level. That day the sun was too harsh and the heat quite intense so I decided to tackle the summit by the side to stay in the shade as long as I could. Looking back on my hike I would actually recommend taking the actual path to the summit despite the heat because I lost a lot of time looking for a sign through the myrtle trees. I felt quite proud to reach the summit, from there you have a glorious view on Teneriffe, the national park and the clouds. After a nice rest facing the ocean I headed down towards Los Roques.
The rock is visible from quite far. I was still 2 killometers away from it when I spotted it. The hike down to Los Roques is impressive due to its unique location on a pass between the national park and a small seaside village. You can see the misty white clouds rise above La Garajonay primal forest and slowly move up towards the pass swallowing the forest and the sky. It feels like the mist is slowly approaching the majestic rock to swallow it!
After walking around the rock to observe it in details I found a peaceful spot facing the rock formation to rest, I didn’t any energy left for rock climbing in the end so I just admired the rock and its shadow until a couple of german tourists offered me a ride back to Las Hayas. A perfect way to finish my day!