“Only connect,” entreats Margaret in E M Forster’s Howard’s End.
We arrive on La Gomera in the Canary Islands at half past noon on the only daily flight from the neighbouring island of Tenerife. The sunny little airport sits on the cliff top above the resort of Playa Santiago on the island’s south coast and we need to get to Vallehermoso in the north.
While we wait for the baggage handlers to retrieve the entire half dozen cases that were on our flight, I decide to wander outside to chat to the drivers of two buses that connect with the airport, neither of which go to Vallehermoso. I ask the drivers what, in their opinion, is the quickest way for us to get to our destination.
“If you take my bus and get off at Chipude,” says the Valle Gran Rey driver. “You can get a taxi from the village to Vallehermoso.”
“No, no!” chimes in the San Sebastián driver. “Take my bus to San Sebastián and then pick up the 3.30pm connection directly to Vallehermoso.”
“But wouldn’t that mean hanging around in San Sebastián for a couple of hours and then travelling the length of the island to get back to half way from where we are now?” I ask.
“Yes, exactly,” agrees the Valle Gran Rey driver.
The San Sebastián driver shrugs, huffs and climbs into his cab to drive his empty bus back to the capital.
Anyone who has ever visited La Gomera will know that its rugged features are hiking perfection but by the laws of yin and yang, they’re a nightmare to commute. There’s no point being in a hurry to get anywhere on the island because everywhere you go will involve negotiating winding mountain roads and a travel path that’s about ‘as the crow flies’ as your average drunk’s walk home on a Saturday night/Sunday morning.
We climb aboard the bus, pay our €3 each fare to Chipude and then the driver gets out his mobile phone. I assume he’s very helpfully going to give me the number of a local taxi firm and gratefully, I take out my phone to add the number.
“Where are you going in Vallehermoso?” he asks.
“Hotel Tamahuche,” we respond.
But instead of giving me a number, he hits a speed dial and begins a short conversation that ends with a time and a place.
“Okay,” he beams, and we set off along the mountain road that climbs and zig zags its way along the island’s craggy spine, stealing your breath away with its epic views and returning it unharmed with every hairpin bend successfully negotiated.
When we pull into Chipude there’s a taxi waiting at the little plaza and we arrive at our destination of Vallehermoso in record time and with the whole afternoon ahead of us to explore. Now I don’t know where you’re from, but back in my home town of Stockport in the UK, expecting this level of service from a bus driver would have you thrown off the bus or punched on the nose – it could go either way.
The following day we’re hiking from Igualero to Vallehermoso and as we cross a barranco in Chipude a bus turns the bend on the road above us and toots its horn. We look up to see the beaming smile of our driver and a wave out the window as if we were lifelong friends.
Only connect. Margaret would have liked La Gomera.
Most visitors to La Gomera arrive at San Sebastián on the ferry from Los Cristianos, Tenerife. Buses to Vallehermoso, Valle Gran Rey, and Playa de Santiago meet the ferries.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+