Despite the fact that I had been travelling since three in the morning, sleep was not an option in my current position: My knees draped somewhere in the neighborhood of my ears, my bulging backpack in close proximity to my kidneys. From the look and feel of it, the bus taking us from Tenerife airport to the harbour in Los Cristianos, had been designed for pygmies with severe cases of inhibited growth.
The other passengers did not seem to be faring much better, so the relief was palpable throughout the vehicle when it came to an abrupt halt.
The bus driver, who clearly was not in favor of prolonged farewells, promptly disposed of passengers and luggage. He waved in the general direction of the sea, said something incoherently about a ship, and shot off.
A little taken aback, I looked at the bus disappearing in the distance, and then at my fellow castaways whose mouths seemed to be gaping just as wide as mine. Shaking my head, trying to get rid of the heavy cloud of sleep deprivation enveloping my brain, Ilooked at the boat ticket the driver as an afterthought had thrown out the window as he sped away. There seemed to be time for both drinks and a snack, with ample time to spare, so I sank down on a bench.
The couple sitting next to me, turned out to be British, originally from Manchester, but now located in the south of Ireland. I never grasped the reason for their shift, but from what they told me it was not on account of the Irish climate: The rain never ceased to fall, and the only break they got was Saint Patrick’s Day. Which was just as rainy, but the celebrations made it legitimate to get so wasted that you were able to forget about precipitation for a saint blessed while.
Being on a roll in the company of an attentive listener, they explained that their home turf was so saturated with rain that occasionally even the marine life got disgusted and headed for southern hemispheres. As for themselves, in order to keep their marbles from drowning, the pleasant pair escaped to the Canary Islands for several weeks each year.
And so, it seemed, did a whole bunch of other Brits. English, not necessarily the queen’s, was spoken all around me. A friendly couple from Salisbury with serious looking hiking boots and ancestors amongst the builders of Stonehenge, had been on La Gomera before, and knew what to expect if you wandered a few meters away from the boardwalk. I looked down at my own light weight sneakers and thought about the sandals in my suitcase.
My forebodings deepened as I looked towards what from the ferry seemed like a big, rugged rock dumped smack in the middle of the ocean. Observing the locals, however, I noticed an impressive array of very flimsy foot ware, which made me relax.
At closer inspection, the island actually turned out to be what it had seemed from afar. One cragged chunk of mountain. Dotted with retired volcanoes, and furrowed with deep barrancos, it is a sight to behold. Or rather, sights: The island, its geography and vegetation is so diversified, it is hard to fathom until you actually lay eyes on it: Going across la Gomera from East to West, takes you from San Sebastian’s treeless hills onto the mountain plateau , through what for most practical purposes is a rain forest, lush and steaming, and down into the at some point in time painstakingly terraced Valle Gran Rey and its black lava beaches. Beautiful, but many of them treacherous, like the mountains, if not approached with sufficient respect.
Powerful currents and unforeseen monster waves may whisk you off to shores you actually had no intention of visiting, and a typical Gomeran walking trail may take you from sunny 25 degrees at sea level to goose bump provoking 5 up in the cloud shrouded mountains, leaving you high and wet if you don’t take necessary precautions or get back before dark.
Sunset for my part was still a couple of hours away when I sat down the suitcase in my small, but cozy apartment. I quickly changed into shorts and the afore mentioned sandals and walked a mere seven minutes down to a small, sandy lagoon. El Charco del Conde (the count’s pool), or more commonly called The Baby Beach due to its sheltered qualities, is a paradisaical little place.
Still hanging back in the happy hippie 60’s and 70’s: People of all ages were sitting or lying about, many sporting hair in advanced stages of dreadlocks, colorful, loose fitting clothing and “recreational” cigarettes. The place literally reeked with peace, love and community. A woman walked passed me with a huge leather drum tucked under her arm, and on the beach a couple of guys were playing didgeridoos. The sound merging with the ever incoming waves.
I sat for a while on the low stone wall skirting the beach, acclimatizing myself from the land of Frosty the Snowman to this haven of colorful, eternal summer. After a while I got up and strolled along the boardwalk. Just beyond the cove, I came across an arrangement of stones and flowers on the pavement. Beside it lay a piece of paper saying “Lieder diese Erde” (Songs of The Earth) with an arrow pointing in the direction of a small promontory. Curious, I took the hint.
The sun was now low over the horizon, and as I approached the tip of the outcrop, I could see a group of people silhouetted against the sky. They were chanting in low tones, swaying back and forth, their voices a whispering accompaniment to the music of the sea. Perched on a rock, I watched as the sun descended, on its way showcasting the shapes and colors of the steep, layered face of the for millions of years dormant volcano behind us.
As it sank into the sea, in a brilliant, last attempt to make an impression, the great ball of fire colored the sky and the fleeting clouds with a daring palette of yellow, orange and red. Impossible to capture on film or canvas, imprinted in mind not as a clear image, but a hint of something magnificent, existing only in the very instant it was observed.
The singers were now quiet, maybe silenced by the sounds and sights of Nature itself. Even the ever prevailing sound of water rushing over stones was now subdued. The sun having withdrawn its warming rays, hippies and hobos folded their draperies and dreadlocks about them and wandered off. Left were a couple of stray dogs, and a lone gull, circling above the water. Before it made a last sweep across the bay and disappeared into the night.