Big celebration – I was 123 half-years old today! But despite this, we were full of apprehension – there was a big walk ahead , and we were both full of a cold. Breakfast was bread and marmalade with a black, hot liquid labelled as café. For my second cup, I pressed the espresso button three times, and only then could I discern the coffeeness of the coffee. Soon after nine, we were met by Sherpa Expedition’s man on the ground, John. It’s funny how preconceptions go, but I was expecting a young, exercise-mad jock. Instead we were met by someone older than us, but spritely, erudite and entertaining. I’m sure he took in our initial shock, but he seemed to take it in his stride. He drove us the 20 kilometres or so north east to the town of Hermigua, recounting on the way how he had invited Sherpa to expand their operation to this island 15 years beforehand. It was his hand behind the detailed walking notes that were to prove so helpful and occasionally exasperating over the days ahead.
He dropped us off at the Hotel Rural Villa Hermigua, where our room looked inviting and cosy. He then took us just above the town to start our day’s walk. Having looked at the notes, it did seem to be quite arduous.
The first three kilometres were deceptively straightforward – travelling south along the western side of Hermigua’s valley on a narrow, rural road. But at one of La Gomera’s rocky pinnacles, we left the road to travel up a vertiginous valley which ran up south-west. This was captivatingly verdant – bamboo, cacti, aloe vera, and woodland. We overtook two young ladies from Belgium; we didn’t discover their names, but we found out where they were from – so we referred to them as Mademoiselle Charleroi and Mademoiselle Ghent. We knew it was three kilometres from the road to a telegraph pole on the horizon above. The gradient increased as we proceeded. The dramatic sight of a long, sheer waterfall did not really ease our sense of longing for the telegraph pole. And suddenly, we were upon it; and barely 100 metres beyond was the welcoming site of Bar La Vista, which is part of the hamlet of El Cedro.
We were introduced to potaje de berros (watercress soup) drizzled with gofio (powdered maize). It was surprisingly delicious! The terrasse was warm and sunny; the beer was cool and sharp; we felt replete. There was a reluctance to leave Bar La Vista.
However, we still had a climb after lunch – up to about 900 metres, but this was a post-prandial stroll compared with our morning exertions. The climb was through the famous laurisilva woods, and then along a mud track which followed a ridge running north/north west. Almost flat!
We reached a point at which a sign told us that we were 3.2 kilometres from Hermigua; we could see the scattered town below us through the mist. We seemed to be hovering above it. Sure enough, we had some serious descending to do. Fortunately, today was the day that we had brought along our walking poles. They had been gathering dust in a tray in the garage for a good couple of years. I hate to think how we would have got on without them – not only was the terrain steep but it was rocky and uneven. Periodically we passed a derelict building – I wondered how the building materials – stone, concrete, wood, tiles – had been brought to such remote and inaccessible places.
We reached La Ermita St. Juan. It had a Tarmac road leading to it – surely a sign of civilisation. It was closed, but its balustrade gave a great view of the town below, and there were benches upon which to rest our legs. Our hopes that we had reached Hermigua’s outskirts were dashed by further helter-skelter descending on rural tracks (looking up from the main road through the town the next day confirmed that La Ermita was perched way up in the sky!).
Eventually we reached the road along which we had climbed away from John’s car that morning. And we wended our weary way back to our hotel. The Hotel Rural Villa Hermigua proved to be comfortable and quiet. Not only was the room spacious, the shower was piping hot, and we had access to a small cucina and a deserted roof terrace!
We togged up ready to light up the town. But the town was deserted! Fortunately, John had provided the vaguest recommendation for a restaurant just downhill from the main church. It looked like a spruced up tobacco-drying shed.
But Tasca Telmaco proved to be a gem – a popular gem! No wonder the streets were quiet, everyone was in the drying shed! Good wholesome food and great service. The highlight was a passion fruit mousse which the owner had proudly made from the fruits of her garden. Oh…and we had a bottle of Rincon de Liria – a tinto from Hermigua itself!
We rolled up the street, intent on reading in bed. But it wasn’t too long before I was snoring with the book on my chest. Julia gently shook me and told me to get my pyjamas on.