“You’re going to walk from Igualero to Vallehermoso,” our grinning host Gordo enquires. “why?”
“It’s a fantastic walk,” Andy replies. “People love it.”
“But it must be over 20 kilometres,” an equally surprised Carlos pipes in. “On La Gomera terrain. Who would want to walk that?”
“The British love it, they like walking long distances… well, those of them that actually like to walk,” I tell them.
“Pah,” Gordo waves his hand. “The English are crazy.”
We all laugh. I’ve come a long way since I left Scotland a quarter of a century ago. I no longer correct people when they refer to British people as English. But I do correct them when they refer to me as English. That’s just going too far.
Gordo and Carlos are both walking guides on La Gomera; they know the terrain intimately. Gordo is almost a self sufficient farmer.
The irony is that it’s not the terrain that makes walking on La Gomera potentially difficult – well, yes it partly is as you’re nearly always either going up, or you’re descending on slopes that could give a mountain goat a nose bleed. But that’s not the real reason. It’s actually people like Gordo who can make walking on La Gomera a real challenge.
As we swap tales of walking on the island, he pours us generous measures of his home produced red wine. This is a wine that tastes exquisite when sipped sitting around a chunky table in the rain forest whilst the aroma from a paella, suffering from a prawn overdose, has the resident cats fantasising about us humans passing out before we scoff the lot, leaving them on their own with the generous pan.
The wine slips down the throat far too eagerly. Almost before the wine has been downed, Gordo produces a football team of bottles. Soon our wines are joined by a chopito (shot) of banana schnapps and another of parra (La Gomera’s take on grappa). They’ve all been distilled by Gordo. It would be rude to refuse. And, anyway, the night is warm, the scenery seductive, the company compelling and Rory Gallagher is blasting out across the remote valley.
Rory’s guitar complete drowns out the voice shouting from the shadows of my mind: “Remember you have a 17 kilometre walk tomorrow.”
Over the coming days we will bump into an old man in a small hill town who, within minutes of meeting us, offers us Gomerón – a local drink consisting of parra calmed down by palm honey. Our visit to La Gomera will be bookended by a mini shindig at our friend Jo’s house where more valley residents, Chris and Steve, will lubricate our throats with their extremely potent home-made cider.
What really makes walking on La Gomera so difficult is not so much the vertiginous terrain as the generosity of the island’s residents and their insistence on filling you with their local hooch.
It’s a brilliant place.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+