As I left the island of La Gomera in early March the sun, seen throught the salty windows of the Armas ferry blazed a welcome, and then scurried behind onimous clouds. That was as much as I’d seen of it in that week.
The lazy, sunny, autumn days when I first arrived had given way to mostly bleakness in a valley famed for its lushness – so what do you expect, the green needs water.
Hermigua is quite breathtakingly beautiful, and certainly thoughts of coming back to stay crossed my mind. Every time I fell down that rabbit hole I was enchanted anew, and yet there was always this sense of “making the most of it.” Granted, La Gomera was only the beginning of what I intended to be an indefinite journey, so I knew I would move on, regardless of how much the island tried to ensnare me. Yet the feeling was deeper than that too. I couldn’t exactly put my finger on it, but I knew that I wouldn’t be back to stay - and here is where I admit that, although I see my travels as being infinite, I don’t see them as being unending. In the sense that one day I would like to find somewhere to make a small base from whence to travel as long as I am able. A retreat.
What I wasn’t sure about was just why, since I adored this valley, I didn’t see it in my long-term future. I pondered this as the dark shape of the island of Tenerife came into focus on the horizon, outlined by that rising sun.
A week or so later, as I pulled on shorts, and stretched out on the terrace of my room in Fuerteventura, the simple truth dawned on me. I’m addicted to sunshine.
Traveling, we learn things about ourselves as well as about other people, cultures or places, and I have learned that I like the sun. I’ve learned that I don’t care if it’s cissy to admit that.
That is the (apparently eternal) tomboy in me, the not wanting to be cissy. Whilst I embrace most things feminine, my upbringing in the countryside of north west England, free to play in 3 acres of grass, instilled a desire to be tough too. I once fell off the tricylce I was racing, though the glass of my grandad’s greenhouse, and didn’t cry – still have a small scar on the back of my hand. It was cowboy and indian country, not princesses and party dresses; though I do admit to believing that fairies lived in some places around the land. We played outdoors in rain, snow and whatever conditions prevailed. Hence, I suppose, I unthinkingly considered myself able to tough out all weathers.
Emigrating in the 80s to a sub-tropical climate was a delight, and I, finally, verbalized my belief as I watched locals shiver the moment the wind got up a little, or there were a few drops of rain. “You call this rain?! – This wouldn’t even be worth mentioning in England, and there our conversations are dominated by the weather!” And don’t get me started on the Arctic gear brought out every time there is snow on Mt Teide – necessary at 1am, yes, but not at 1pm!
Sitting here by an open window today in Fuerteventura, I can finally admit to myself (and you) that though I still consider myself far from “nesh,” I much prefer to live with as much sunshine as I can get. Today the sun is, actually, playing hide and seek, but there is the overall feeling of light and warmth, and this is how I want to live. And why, much as I love the green valleys of La Gomera and elsewhere, and though I will often (hopefully) visit them, those times when the light fades early in winter as the sun slips over the mountain tops, and the days when the magical and hauntingly-beautiful mist curl around the hillsides happen just too often for me.
Ostensibly, my trip isn’t about finding a new home. Right now I’m more than happy not to have one, but I choose to be in the open and in the sunshine as much as I can possibly be. I like the uncumbered feel of not having to wear a sweater or jacket, of slipping into sandals instead of tying up shoes, of being able to decided (most days at least) whether to go to beach or country, and not having the weather dictate my movements. I like the light, the sense of openness, the way the day ekes out the joy of the sunlight until the last possible minute.
It’s not that every single day here has been sunny since my arrival, but they have far, far out-numbered the dull ones, and even on a dull day, because of the topography of Fuerteventura, the sense of openness remains, there are no high mountains to draw in the mists. The highest point is only around 2,650 ft, Mount Jandia, where the desert mounds of the southern tip of the island field the winds from every direction.
Looking back over photos of La Gomera I am surprised that the overall impression, when I see them displayed on my screen is blue, rather than green. Did I find the coast more photogenic than the forests? Was that a natural inclination I hadn’t realized? Or perhaps simply that I wasn’t in the forests a much as I’d hoped because of my bad knee?
There is a roundabout at the entry to the resort area of Morro Jable in the south of Fuerteventura which has attracted me since I first saw it over a month ago. The other day I stopped to photograph it, and find out more.
On an island which boasts some impressive sculptures in the open air, this one stands out for me, although it isn’t as immediately eye-catching as some of the others. It is entitled “Caminos,” and is the work of Cuban sculptoress Lisbet Fernández Ramos. Represented are two groups of children, all looking expectantly and happily skywards. The symbolism of looking to the sky, and the happiness on the faces of the kids was palpable. It spoke to me. Fernández herself, who used local kids as models (don’t you love the symbolism of that?) describes it this way: “It expresses the future, the beginning of a journey, that seeks the light, ever striving to reach the heights.” The translation is mine, so I hope I captured what she intended there.
Mostly, I like it because it kind of reflects how I feel, unencumbered and hopeful. And no-one I think can say it better than one of my favorite poets, Pablo Neruda: