Rising above clouds and the frog chorus in La Gomera

Either the BBC Sound Effects department was having a holiday in Vallehermoso, La Gomera, or we were surrounded by thousands of croaking frogs. A quick enquiry to a barmaid, and she confirmed with a roll of her eyes and a smile, that this was a regular after dark happening. The tightly terraced hills that cling to the rising plateaus of La Gomera, are fed by a series of small reservoirs, and we had seen earlier that the small northern village of Vallehermoso had many of these water retainers between the banana groves and orange trees, a perfect setting for a frog to sit and croak to it’s hearts content.

La Gomera terrace

The last time I visited La Gomera, Tenerife’s nearest neighbour, was 4 years ago and I didn’t stray beyond the ferry port of San Sebastian, as I was covering the start of the Atlantic Rowing Race. So the idea of this 2 day trip was for me and the lovely Pam to see as much of the green and fertile island as possible. The 9am Fred Olsen ferry (55.68 € return or 27.84 with my residencia) crossed in 40 minutes and arrived to the first of many short sharp showers. We had pre booked a hire car with Piñero, based in the San Sebastian port building, and picked up our Seat Ibiza for 42 euros including insurance. I don’t drive but Pam was keen to hit the Canarian roads, so we headed up the east coast on the TF 711, the main road for the whole island.

Roque Cano

A series of long, barely lit tunnels, and the quick downpours, added to the fun of the 40 km journey to Vallehermoso, but the sun had burst through in time for a coffee stop in Hermigua, home of the Gofio museum, at a small kiosk. From then on it was an upward climb with ever more stunning views from road side miradors, looking down to small deserted beaches and craggy rocks. By now the skyline was becoming dominated by Roque Cano (above) and after one last tunnel, we emerged to find our Rural Hotel Tamahuche nestling in the shadow of the 650 metre high rock.

Hotel Tamahuche

The converted 1890 house (74.45 euros for our en suite double room and breakfast) impressed with setting, comfort and the sun terraces and gardens, which were bathed in sun as we checked in. Time to explore, we headed to the plaza (pic below) for a snack at a local bar and a chance to get our bearings. Most of the buildings had recently added new fronts, and the few people around seemed to be tourists, mainly German hikers, most of the bars seemed to offer cheap basic accomodation. Several of the local public buses passed through, the main towns are fairly well served, and the sedate, peaceful feel was only punctuated by cockerels straining to out crow each other. Cutting through a side street, we found the Church of San Juan Bautista, half way through a years renovation, although the bell in the clock tower was still in good voice.

Vallehermoso Plaza

A quick check of the map, and we decided to take the 5km drive down to Parque Maritima and the Playa de Vallehermoso, and arrived with the rain. The shingle beach was bordered to the east by a high cliff full of enough rock formations, stratas and colours to keep a geologist in raptures for hours. Behind the beach was a modern swimming pool and small cafe bar, and to the west, we followed a path close to an equally high and diverse cliff face, signposted for Castillo del Mar. A small fort type building, jutted out to sea, but the partially blocked access path, showed that it was abandoned. Notices warned that rock falls were a danger, but edging carefully up the stone steps, we could see signs of a recently used cafe/bar inside.

Castillo del Mar

A public notice explained that originally this area was used as a loading bay and factory, featuring the islands first crane, brought over in 1890, but as bigger more modern ports grew around La Gomera, it was abandoned. Back at the Hotel, we discovered that a private company had turned the Castillo into a recreation area but had been forced to close a year ago due to council objections to their commercial operation.

A leisurely evening stroll was rewarded with some lovely Tuna and Cherne at the Agana bar restaurant in the village, and the slightly eerie rise of the frog chorus. The bars were friendly but to my horror, they shut at 10pm, never mind it had been a full day, more to come tomorrow.