Early start to get the bus, fortunately, I woke feeling 100% better. We had plenty of time to pack up and get to the bus stop for 7.30am. Each bus zone costs one euro sixteen and I have been really good at ensuring we have the correct change. Sod’s law I was 20 cents short for this early trip, I apologised to the driver who was not pleased and offered either a 10 euro note or the change I had, he reluctantly agreed to take the change. I didn’t feel too guilty because I had consistently rounded up the amount required on each trip and on balance I think we were probably about equal.
The El Hierro airport is small, really small, we have been in smaller but it only has two airlines Binter and Canary Airlines. The process for checking in is really straightforward you simply present at the desk, hand in your allocated luggage (free 20kg allowance for all passengers) and return to your seat. Once security arrives you go through the normal process of taking your shoes off and separating out your electrical goods into trays but the process is very quick and hassle-free. Of course, that is if your name is not Gary, he would be the one picked for a random check. In fairness, it only took a few minutes more and as he was dressed in colourful shorts with two hats on his head I am not surprised they pulled him they probably thought he was the most likely passenger to be carrying drugs.
The plane ride was only 40 minutes long but the air hostesses managed to provide all passengers with a courtesy chocolate wafer biscuit with a napkin, later a glass of water and a little later a boiled sweet and a face wipe. Amazing service, Ryan air and EasyJet can learn a thing or two from this airline.
Once in Tenerife we decided to visit a small town called La Laguna, we had a short wait for the bus but we didn’t mind. The journey cost 5 euros 30 this was extortionate compared to what we had been paying on the other islands especially as it was only a 10 minutes bus ride.
We stuck lucky with our choice of destinations, we had 6 hours to kill before our onward flight to La Gomera, our luggage had been transferred direct so we were carefree tourists. As it was the Sunday before Easter there was a big religious procession taking place in the town it was led by men, women and children dressed in blue gowns with blue cone hats, followed by a group of marchers carrying staffs and behind them a statute of Christ being wheeled by several dignified older men, finally at the back of the procession was a brass band. It was great to follow the procession in the midday sun through the streets of Laguna.
It was a chilled out day and we arrived back at the airport in plenty of time for perhaps the shortest flight we’ve ever taken to La Gomera. Two of the passengers carried dogs onto the plane, I don’t recall ever seeing that before.
We stayed the night in Saint Sebastian in a lovely (but noisy) apartment in the centre of town. Before settling down for the evening we ventured out to explore the town and to have a drink in the bar where competitors meet for drinks before starting their 3000-mile journey across the Atlantic. The bar was much smaller than I imagined, it must be heaving every evening during the run-up to the event. Our host said she is already fully booked in all 5 of her properties. It was interesting to hear that have arrived on the island at the end of the seasonal period, apparently business slows down after April as the island is too hot for tourists.
We left San Sebastion by bus this morning after a shopping trip for food for camping.
The bus route number one didn’t stop exactly where we wanted but the stop was only another 1K down the hill so this was not a problem.
The bus rides in La Gomera are up switchback mountain roads giving stunning views of the surrounding mountains and sea, plus Tenerife in the background.
The bus dropped us at a scenic view area just as a coach arrived and spilt out its tourists in front of us, our walk took us away from the crowd, straight onto the GR131 and into the rainforest.
We followed this path for the 1K then headed down inland towards El Cedro, down some steep slippery tracks and also onto the road which was also very slippery.
We reached the campsite and booked in at the cafe.
I don’t think Ginette was impressed, but at €3 each I thought it was pretty good.
We have terraced areas to camp in, shelters to cook under and picnic tables on each terrace. We have a cooking area on each terrace where we can build our own fires.
The toilets aren’t great but at least we have them. The showers are open, outside and cold water.
One of the snags is there is a footpath where we have seen lots of walkers pass right through our campsite heading for the cafe.
Net – for context the views from this campsite are beautiful however we passed 4 large barking dogs, at the bottom of the campsite was a field full of mangy sheep, goats, turkeys and other birds. There was only one toilet with no toilet seat. The showers were outside with a note saying it was OK to wash naked! The sink for washing dishes etc was full of leaves and scum. Admittedly we only paid €3 each but we would have had more privacy wild camping. Moan over.
Gary – After setting up camp we set off downhill for a walk, Net turned back after a while to save herself for the long walk the following day, I headed on right down to the road about 4K downhill, then climbed back up, collecting firewood on the route.
The walk was steep and strenuous so I needed a shower when I got back to camp. I did this naked in view of the cafe and ready to shock any passing walkers, but as the showers were bloody freezing I don’t think I could have shocked anyone.
A bad nights sleep, we had dogs nearby barking, a couple who decided they wanted to talk all night right outside of our tent and to top it off a stoned young lady came to our tent in the middle of the night shouting and whistling (this Island has its own whistling language, which is great but not outside your tent when we had both gone to sleep). I had to get out of the sleeping bag and out of the tent, she was after some more papers for her roll-ups. I am not sure what time this was but, it was probably 2 or 3 in the morning.
After breakfast, we walked back up the 4K climb to the main road and the GR131.
We hiked back to San Sebastián which was a total of 17K.
The walk was through rainforests and had spectacular mountain views. We followed tracks hugging the mountainsides and enjoyed the ocean views across to Tenerife. Mount Tiede was playing hide and seek between cloud cover.
Towards of the end of the walk, we were both very weary, the walk had been hard going and the track was often uneven stone and steep ups and downs, the knees and thighs took a real battering.
We were also tired from last nights restless sleep, this was the most tetchy I have felt on this trip.
We reached San Sebastian with an hour to go for the next bus back, we shopped for fresh fish to treat ourselves and foil so we could cook it over a wood open fire. To award our efforts we had a beer at a local cafe.
I was tired and managed to confuse myself on the bus times, I initially thought we had missed the bus and we would need to get a different one but when we turned up at the station there was the bus I initially thought we were going to catch, told you I was tired.
We were dropped off slightly lower than the previous day which meant a little further to walk, the clouds had covered the mountains and it was raining. We walked the short distance to a shelter and had a small pack lunch.
The walk back to the campsite took nearly 2 hours which is a small feat in itself.
We treated ourselves to a beer in the cafe on site, Ginette then went quiet and pale. She was then very poorly taking to the tent in a shivering fit, she is such a worry.
I was unsure what to do for her, in the end, I cooked the fresh fish and Langostine so she would at least eat something.
To cook the fish I cut and garnished with garlic and chilli and wrapped open foil to steam roast on the open wood fire I had made.
Ginette did get out of her shiver pit to come and eat, she was still odd, very pale but had stopped shivering.
The lady from the previous night walked nearby our tent with the owner, she was still making loads of noise and whistling, I made sure I walked over to see them, I don’t think she is all there either, she was definitely stoned again. She asked me again if I had any weed, I told her no we are poor, I hoped that would deter her from waking us again.
Ginette – One minute I was absolutely fine the next I felt extremely weird, I almost fainted and then I went very cold. I was that poorly I left my beer and went straight back to the tent. I realised I was wet so stripped off and got into my sleeping bag but I could not warm up. I took paracetamol fearing another infection but after an hour of none stop shivering took another. I would have gladly stayed in my sleeping bag, but Gary had gone to so much trouble to cook the fish, it would have been selfish of me to not even try some of it. I had no appetite at all but once I’d eaten some of the fish my body started to recover. I think my blood sugars must have dropped and perhaps my blood pressure dropped. I don’t really know what happened but I didn’t like it one bit.
Before Ginette was ill yesterday we had decided to pack up camp and walk the rest of the island with our packs. I was surprised to find Ginette still up for this plan, she had already packed the bedding away while I was doing breakfast.
Our walk from the campsite took us through the rainforest national park, it’s surprising how remote some peoples houses are, only accessible by a walking track, there was even a small church on the edge of town in the forest on its own.
Today we bumped into loads of other hikers, mostly from Germany. Some are walking in small groups with a guide, others as couples or small families.
It took 7km of uphill walking to reach the GR131 route, this happened to be the highest point on the island.
Ginette struggled in the morning with the hill climb (Ginette – my legs felt like jelly and I was exhausted from the previous day. I remember thinking at one point, I don’t want to do this, I am such a liability to Gary, he would be better off travelling on his own). The weather was overcast, damp and cold. But once we started the slow descent the sun came out the clouds cleared and this section of the walk led us along mountain tracks on steep mountainsides so we had some great views.
We found a camp spot on a terraced piece off farmland with great views of a valley in front of us but it was right in front of a village called Pabon. Due to the terrain, we had to pick a flat spot that we hoped would be OK. Before setting up camp we left our rucksacks concealed and went in search of a cold beer. We found a lovely sunny spot, I did contemplate climbing a mountain opposite us a German couple had recommended the climb but my knee has started to twinge a little so instead I relaxed with Net and enjoyed the view.
We set up camp hoping no one would complain, it is illegal to wild camp in all the Canary Islands but La Gomera is most anti-wild camping. This may be due to the fact that in 2012 there was a huge fire that destroyed a lot of their forests. Several websites warned of on the spot fines for wild camping, however, we had little choice so we tried to be as discreet as possible. This is not easy on La Gomera as the ground is very cracky and mainly on steep mountains, with very little flat ground.
As we finished dinner a man walked past on the road above us, he shouted down to us, I initially thought he was telling us off but it seemed more likely he was warning us of rain. It was possible that the terrace area we were in could be affected by heavy rain, we couldn’t be bothered to move the tent, it was late and there were very few places we could have moved it to. As a precautionary measure, we put our rucksacks in the inner tent area with us. Not long after seeing the man the wind picked up, so it is possible he may have been trying to warn us about this, either way, we couldn’t understand him and he walked off and left us be.
We hunkered down for the night with rocks on the pegs, hoping we would not find ourselves swimming in the night.
Ginette was much better, it’s no fun walking when your partner is obviously not happy and well but this afternoon we took it easy, the route was easier to walk and we stopped by 5pm.
Ginette – I found the morning really hard, my foot ached, my legs were like jelly and I was exhausted. I remember thinking Gary would be better off without me, I am such a liability. It was the first time on this trip that I would rather be back at home, fortunately, the feeling didn’t last long and by the afternoon my mood and outlook improved.
A very cold and windy night, we had to sleep in all our clothes, thermal socks and two layers. To reduce the weight for hiking we purchased lighter sleeping bags and a tent. The sleeping bags are great if it is warm but useless on cold evenings. For the next stage of our journey, we will replace these with our old sleeping bags, which were much more effective. It was very windy during the night which meant another restless night.
We didn’t cook at our makeshift campsite as it was windy and we were in an exposed position in the town. As we packed up the tent we realised we had no walking sticks, we had left them in the bar in the village. Fortunately when we arrived at the cafe/bar one of the staff arrived to let us in. It was a small village we would not be surprised if they’d seen us packing up and opened up the cafe especially so we could retrieve our walking sticks. So much for us being discreet!
After a short while, we came across another small town with a supermarket with a bar/cafe attached we treated ourselves to coffee and a hot baguette. The GR 131 walk has very few villages on route, in this village, we met a German couple who were hiking the island. They stopped us to ask us about the route to San Sebastian and asked us if there was anywhere on the route they could get water. We suddenly realised that unless they stopped at the campsite there was nowhere on the route and the campsite was a good 4km off route.
Ginette looked a lot better this morning despite the cold night’s sleep so we made good progress. We had planned to take a bus to our next destination Villahermosa however when we crossed the bus route she was still going strong and we decided to continue on foot.
The initial stage of the day was on the east side of the island, we had some narrow tracks and steep rocky gorges to pass, once past the main road we entered the national park again and walked through the rainforest.
When we started to make our way down the mountain onto the west side towards Villahermosa we were treated with some great views down the beautiful valley (Hermosa is Spanish for beautiful). The path was pretty steep at 30% and we both found this a struggle with sore knees hips and nets bad heel.
At the bottom, surprise surprise we had another up to do, this GR131 must have been planned by a relative of Stuart Pattern-Lawrence.
On the way down we wondered if we might be able to time it right to be able to catch the bus back to San Sebastián and the ferry to La Palma, it didn’t matter if we couldn’t but we decided to give it a go.
On arrival (after even more steep ups and downs) in Villahermosa, we arrived at the bus stop with 3 minutes to wait for the next bus would have been another 2 and a half hours wait. We couldn’t believe our luck.
The bus ride up and down the switchback mountain roads is a treat and I tried to video some of it.
When we reached San Sebastián we marched straight to the ferry port as there were two ferries docked in the harbour, but it turns out neither of these were going to La Palma, the ferry wasn’t until 8pm and it was only 5pm.
After some internet research, we discovered the evening ferry would take 2 hours and cost £85 whereas the ferry the following day would cost £45 but would take 5 hours. We looked at accommodation prices and the apartments were slightly cheaper on La Palma so we decided to cross on the 8.00pm ferry. To pass the time we treated ourselves to a pizza in the main square. We were served by a girl who came from Blackburn but had been raised in La Gomera when her family returned to the UK she decided to remain on the island. Although she has retained her northern accent she explained she now thinks in Spanish and English is like a second language to her.
Our Ferry was delayed, which meant we didn’t arrive on La Palma until 11.00pm. We had booked accommodation in a hotel and after departing made our way – uphill (of course) to book in. We were greeted by a very friendly and welcoming receptionist, who showed us to our room. Although small, it was very nice, the staff had made the towels into swans and chocolate had been placed on our pillows. Despite the late hour we both stripped and jumped in the shower, we felt very smelly and dirty. We ended the evening watching an episode of Fleabag and having a glass of wine in bed, very civilised.