Exploring the Stories of the Islands and the Freedoms of Third Age

First Month in La Gomera: reflections


Working by Ermita San Juan Hermigua La Gomera

I swing my legs out of bed, and my first act is to pad over to the casement window and open it wide. The daylight is hesitant (we are in a valley), but there, and eager to get in. It brings only its own freshness, unlike daybreak on the El Médano street on which I lived, which entered with dust and noise – if I allowed it in. There, I made it shove against closed windows, its essence shut out.

Trix and I sneak out of the house, sneak for no other reason than not to disturb the quiet. Here the church bells peal at 8 to announce the day (by night they are stilled), in the distance, up and down the valley, there are muffled cock crows, and bright wagtails chirp as they hop around the small square, but there is no human sound.

Church bells El Convento Hermingua La Gonmera

Along the road we look down into the valley floor, green, half-cultivated, half-abandoned. The story here, as in so many places the world over, is that that young folk left to seek fortunes elsewhere. Morning Glory and other stray seeds have taken over a half of the terraces, but at least they are green, and not parched and withered, as I’ve seen in other places. Local TV is reporting this morning that the Island Council has begun a campaign to renovate and revitalize these terraces, which, they rightly claim, are as much a part of the island’s heritage as the magical laurisilva forests or the unique whistling language, Silbo.

A couple of goats freeze when they sense our presence, and no matter how long we wait, they won’t move, and so we do. Trix isn’t up to long walks now, so we’re back to make coffee before too long. I pull open the remaining windows to welcome the first rays of sun. It isn’t just the room they warm, my whole being lifts with the light. The sweet smells of mangoes and nisperos envelope me. My landlords brought me bowls of both, and a piled plate of light, delicious sponge cake. My sense of a new beginning is palpable.

The journey here was both long and short: long because it has taken my entire life to get here, not just physically, but mentally; disappointingly short to mark such a momentous occasion. From rising in predawn blackness to dropping my backpack on the sofa in my new apartment was only 6 hours, and yet …. it feels as if I’ve arrived in a different world. Leaving that last tunnel before you begin the curving, lazy descent into the Hermigua, at times I felt like Alice, in slow motion down the rabbit hole into an alternative universe, and that sensation remains, after several weeks.

In this universe the green hillsides are set against a sky of unbelievable blue. I have the luck to arrive in one of those periods of perfect Canary Islands weather which make you feel that you never want to be anywhere else – which says a lot, coming from a travel addict.

Playa Santa Catalina

Second order of my day is, as ever, coffee, and work. I’ve always found the early morning a great time to work, and here it seems so natural, as I face the open window, and watch the day brighten as the sun rises higher. Some days I drive down to the pebble-strewn beach of Playa Santa Catalina, there I can turn inland, and take Trixy for a short walk along a dusty path along the valley floor, which winds between banana plantations and forgotten plots. After I’ve worn her out, she is happy to lie at my feet, whilst I get online. In the apartment my connection is rare to intermittent, but I am slowly adjusting to not having the Internet at my fingertips. It’s a strange feeling after so many years, but I am learning to organize my work, do the stuff at home which requires no connection, and list the tasks I need to do when I get back online. Sitting here, my back against the wall, smooth ocean-washed pebbles smooth under my feet, and hypnotic waves rising, is probably the best work place ever! I have a 3G connection directly from the hilltop above me.

Banana plantation Hermigua

Working Playa Santa Catalina La Gomera

Lunch is at my new favorite restaurant Tasca Telémaco (and therein lies a fascinating story – upcoming soon), a happy discovery in my first days of living here. I’d expected to eat mostly traditional foods on this small island, but my second meal here is a Thai inspired pancake. Rochi, the owner and head chef, has traveled extensively, and returned to bring all her ideas and skills to fruition in this tasca-cum-chill-out-bar….where the ADSL connection is also excellent. I work here, happily munching for another three hours, until they close for siesta.

Light in a valley, I have discovered, is very different from light on the seashore. Finding the right light is dictated less by the harshness of midday than by shadows, which are longer and deeper. Daylight hours are shorter, and as the day wanes, and the sun is lost behind the peaks, mists often roll down the hillsides. At four I take a short drive to a spot where I know the photo ops will be amazing in the right light. That doesn’t happen today, but sitting on a hilltop watching nature unfold is surely a good way to pass a few hours.

On my way home I stop off at Bar Pedro for a beer, more Internet, and some rock ‘n’ roll – today Perdo is playing Springsteen. This bar was another pleasant surprise. Great internet, good, local dishes and “my” kind of music. If it isn’t the Boss, then it’s Blues ….. you see I can’t go entirely native! Pedro is a huge fan of all the same music which moves me. This is bonus to my new location.

Back home books and pamphlets about the island or associated histories litter my table and sofa. I pick one up, curl up on the sofa and read as the lovely sounds of the choir drift from the church.

Parque Nacional Garajonay La Gomera

This was a quiet day, a workday in fact, but how different from the stress and boredom which the word “work” used to mean! Other days will be more exciting, will reveal more secrets and stories, or will challenge me more. Tomorrow I may follow a narrow road on impulse to see where it leads – it may wind through enchanted forests, where the trees boast lichen and moss the way a Xmas tree drips tinsel, and those familiar mists curl amongst the trees, or it may lead to a black-sand beach, stark against that sapphire ocean. I may find a new bar or a new pastry shop to try, or return to the roadside shop where they sell local wines and cheeses. I may meet someone who tells me stories of the people or the history of La Gomera, the ones which make it different from the other islands of the archipelago….there are countless possibilities here, some of which never entered by head before……que sera, sera.


Author: IslandMomma

Exploring island life and the freedoms of Third Age: Challenging myself every day: writing, traveling, snapping pix, running & teaching ESL

8 thoughts on “First Month in La Gomera: reflections

  1. Excelent! A big hug for you Linda.

  2. I´ve really been looking forward to your first in-depth piece on La Gomera, and it hasn´t disappointed. I am very happy that you are so in tune with the island, and I hope that when it is time to move on, you will have done one another proud! Looking forward to the next installment ;-D

  3. Splendid piece of writing and some classic photographs. Thank you.

  4. You sound so happy and busy and purposeful (is that a word?) and yet totally relaxed at the same time. to use the modern idiom ‘in a good place’ and not just geographically. love learning about this new to me place. how long will you spend there? or is it flexible?

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