La Gomera – Traveling in the Time of Corona

All plans and hopes for some travel were dashed due to the Covid-19 pandemic. But finally in May 2021, there seemed to be some hope. In addition, the weather here was terrible, an average of 5° C colder than normally and constant rain. A friend was on La Gomera, and the incidence rate of Covid there was zero, so I decided on the spur of the moment to head there. I almost canceled the trip when a friend told me that the island was a preferred destination of esoterically inclined Germans. Indeed, Valle Gran Rey seemed to have more Germans than Spaniards, many who apparently spent months there. Although they certainly saw each other often, they hugged passionately each time they met as if they had not seen each other for months.

Although I was fully vaccinated, I discovered two days before my flight on a Tuesday that I need a PCR (polymerase chain reaction) test to enter Spain. It was a Sunday and Monday was a holiday. The airport had rapid pcr tests, but they were fully booked for Tuesday morning. After a nerve-racking search, I found one place nearby where I could get the test Sunday afternoon and waited anxiously Monday, worried whether I could get the results on time.

I also needed to fill out a form for the Spanish government, which they looked at briefly when I arrived in Tenerife Airport, but they seemed uninterested in the expensive pcr test results. I had booked a transfer from the airport to the harbor 15 minutes away and then the hour boat ride to La Gomera where my next ride to Valle Gran Rey on the other side of the island took 1 ½ hours. I felt a little seasick on the boat, but the ride on La Gomera was worse, since the roads solely consist of curves up and down mountains.

Ferry from Los Cristianos on Ternerife to San Sebastian de la Gomera:

El Teide, a volcano on Tenerife at 3,715 m that I had visited a few years earlier, was covered in clouds, although I could see it several times during walks on La Gomera.

After almost 12 hours of travel, I arrived in Valle Gran Rey in the dark and waited for my friend to show me where the accommodation I booked was. He was nowhere to be seen, and when I finally reached him on the phone, he told me he was in a bar in another part of town and that I should walk there. I had no idea where that was and had no desire to walk with my pack to another part of town. I had not researched anything about the island, since he had already been there for six weeks and I thought that he would be a much better source of information than any guide books.

I finally found a couple of Germans who had lived on the island for 30 years and who were able to direct me to my accommodation. Fortunately, the owner lived downstairs and was still awake at that late hour to let me in.

After a day of recovery, my friend took me on a ride through the island.

42, 52

This was once a splendid restaurant built into the side of a mountain, but had lost since closed due to lack of customers.

Aqueduct

Another restaurant built into the side of a mountain, which apparently had never even opened, its owner having been imprisoned for illegal machinations. But it had fantastic views!

Trails were everywhere on the island, often very steep. The highest elevation is 1,487 meters, and areas higher up are often shrouded in clouds or mist. We then went to one such cloud forest area, but I was less than enthusiastic about more than a short walk there, since I had come to the island for sun. Some people just hike around the mountain, sleeping outside, but since the central area of the island is a national park, this is not actually allowed. We heard about a couple of hikers being awakened by ranger, although he let them off without charging them the usual fine. Of course, this might have been since there were few tourists due to the pandemic and they were happy that there were any tourists at all.

After many more curves and a long ride (it took forever on these roads to get anywhere), we went down to Playa Santiago. There was a deserted rock beach where we took a refreshing swim. At the other end of the beach, there was a cave where a hirsute individual was apparently living the life of a hermit. We saw his bicycle with a basket on it, which he used to get a few essentials.

Colorful campsite

View from the terrace of my accommodation: La Gomera apparently has the greatest number of palm trees on the Canary Islands.

It was a great place to catch up on reading a few books.

We took a bus up to the village of Arure from where we hiked back to Valle Gran Rey. The views were once again stupendous and we often could see the island of Las Palmas and El Hierro in the distance.

The only wild animals we saw, actually not that wild: goats.

The trails are well marked all over the island.

Former shepherds’ abode:

Steep walk back down

The beach had black sand, and the water was surprisingly not that cold. Depending on the tides, the beach was wider and longer. There are a couple of other beaches, but this was the best one.

Statue at the beach of Hautacuperche, an indigenous leader in the rebellion against the Spanish conquistadores.

Of course, there were plenty of restaurants with good food and even a bar with live music most nights, including some musicians who are quite good. Dancing was forbidden due to corona, but nobody wore masks in the restaurants/bars. It was quite strange that masks were mandatory everywhere outside, even when walking alone along the beach promenade with a strong wind blowing. We even saw people hiking alone in the mountains with masks on, including one jogger.

Where I live, masks were not required outside for the most part, but you needed a corona test to go to a restaurant when they first opened. It was the opposite on La Gomera: no tests where required for restaurants, but masks were mandatory anywhere outside.

It was a relaxing vacation, but I disliked the fact that you need a lot of time to get anywhere to start a hike. The views were fantastic, but often very similar: jagged mountains and ravines with the sea in the distance or forest trails covered in mist. Guess I am spoiled from our hike along Portugal’s coast last fall.

I needed another test against corona for the flight back even thought I am fully vaccinated and this would no longer be required a week later. The airport where I would arrive has both French and Swiss sides, and the Swiss only required an antigen test, which was a lot cheaper than the pcr test that the French demanded. I got an antigen test, but once I arrived at the airport, I was sent to the French side. The agent controlling passengers told me I was in France and needed a pcr test, even though I protested that I wanted to enter Switzerland, not France. However, he said okay, but next time I should get a pcr test. Traveling in corona times can certainly be annoying!

Interesting fact quoted from Wikipedia:

The inhabitants of La Gomera have an ancient way of communicating across deep ravines by means of a whistled speech called Silbo Gomero, which can be heard 2 miles away. This whistled language is indigenous to the island, and its existence has been documented since Roman times. Invented by the original inhabitants of the island, the Guanches, Silbo Gomero was adopted by the Spanish settlers in the 16th century and survived after the Guanches were entirely assimilated. When this means of communication was threatened with extinction at the dawn of the 21st century, the local government required all children to learn it in school.

4 thoughts on “La Gomera – Traveling in the Time of Corona

  1. I was a little worried since you haven’t posted in a long time, Glad to know you’re OK. Great that you got a little holiday. I’ve never been to Canary Islands and I didn’t expect it to be mountainous and rugged. The coast is beautiful but you’re right it does all look quite similar. We hope to travel to Canada’s east coast this summer and then maybe Mexico this winter but unfortunately nothing too adventurous. Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks! Besides the fact that traveling was not possible, it seemed a bit trivial given the seriousness of the pandemic. I hope to explore Europe more in the future, since there are so many beautiful places, which are not far from where I live. Of course, this summer will be very crowded in Europe, since many people have been longing to get away for quite some time. Probably only some short weekend trips and then hopefully longer ones in the fall. Sounds like you have survived Covid till now: happy to hear that. I will get my green digital pass tomorrow, having been fully vaccinated, and then travel in Europe without hassles will be possible.

      Liked by 1 person

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