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La Gomera, the sacred mountain 

PAGE 21 LA GOMERA1

Call me a romantic, but I adore woodland and forest rambles above all other landscapes in which to roam. I think this is due to the fairy tale scenery that invokes my imagination and fills my senses with joy.

Whilst in La Gomera last week, Andy Tenerife Walker took me for a beautiful walk in el Parque Nacional de Garajonay which started on the outskirts of the forest which is covered in mostly Laurel. The trees were adorned with moss which dangled from their branches like garlands. A fine mist clung to the canopy and danced through its branches. I was expecting a witch on a broom stick to appear at any moment.

We soon left the forest and entered woodland as we ascended many log lined steps painstakingly put there by the local council to provide good passage along the way. The path and steps were lined with wax myrtle or tree heath and many early summer flowers.

The high point of this hike (in more ways than one) was our destination, el Alto de Garajonay, the highest point in La Gomera which is steeped in history and famous for a local legend. On a clear day you can see Tenerife with magnificent Mount Teide dominating the skyline, La Palma and El Hierro. This is a sacred mountain which stands at 1,483m above sea level. Here are the remains of a 6th century place of worship where the Guanches worshipped their God “Orahan” as they did on all mountain tops because they felt closer to heaven. During archaeological excavations, remains of animal sacrifices and burnt plants and flowers were discovered here. This was also the final holdout point during the Spanish Conquest, some nine centuries later. This sacred site gave me a feeling of spirituality, as I couldn’t help but try to imagine what the Guanche’s day to day lives were like, what they believed in, and who the people were that worshipped here all those years ago. At this point, I will just mention the famous local legend of how Garajonay got its name. It is said that some time before the Spanish Conquest, a beautiful princess called Gara lived on La Gomera who fell in love with a peasant’s son from Tenerife called Jonay. He used to sail to La Gomera nearly every day to visit his love, but it was a love that was doomed as a priest predicted a great misfortune for the couple. As they were about to be married, a powerful earth-quake shook Tenerife. Our magnificent Mount Teide spewed lava from its mighty summit and the sea around La Gomera turned red and the island of La Gomera began to glow. Gara’s family thought this an omen from God and forced Jonay back to Tenerife. His love for Jonay was so strong, he returned to meet her a little while later and they ran away and hid in the forest high up on the island. The lovers could see no way forward so they took the drastic steps of taking their own lives by stabbing themselves in their chests with lances made of Laurel and then died in each other’s arms. Ever since, the National Park in La Gomera remem-bers these two famous lovers in its name: Garajonay.

Having left the pinnacle of this holy place, our return journey was a gentle descent, again, through very pretty woodland. Here flowers were out in profusion in various shades of purple and yellow including the Gomera endemics Pericallis street ziti, Micromedias, and Tolpis proustii. White daisies were in profusion and really at their best which carpeted the sides of the paths. Here, we also saw many butterflies including Red Admirals Vanessa atalanta, and the Canary (Indian) Red Admiral Vanessa vulcanica. There were also many bees sipping the nectar of purple thistles and what seemed like 100s of swifts darting to and fro at breakneck speeds, feeding on the air.

This beautiful short walk fulfilled my rambling wish list: forest, woodland, pretty flowers, wildlife, stunning views, and history and romance were the icing on the cake.

This trip to la Gomera was a research and development exercise as Tenerife Guided Walks will be offering five-day walking holidays on this beautiful island in May and June next year. If this is of interest to you, then please do contact us in good time for further information.

For further information see: www.tenerife-guided-walks.com or email andy@tenerife-guided-walks.com

By Lynne Scaife