We are anchored off a harbour on the island of La Gomera in the Canary Islands. The anchorage is well protected by a 400 meter cliff so a great place to hide from the north wind that is currently blowing and pushing the swell in front of it. Living under such a huge cliff takes a bit of getting used to. Norway feeling!
Yesterday we used the dinghy to get our bikes across to the harbour, pulled the bike bags up the harbour wall with a rope and then put the two bikes together. Just as the first rays of sunlight touched the top of the cliff, we were on our way – once again mountain bikers.
La Gomera is the top of a volcano and so from sea level the only way is up – seriously up. The road out of town climbs continuously as it passes the oasis like farming steps that climb the valley side. Eventually you leave the last house behind but keep climbing through tunnels and round hairpin bends until you are eight hundred meters above the valley and looking down on to the rooves far below.
Slowly we left the desert like cactuses and palms and entered an area of upland moors with ruined dry stone walld, a little like Scotland but with the occasional palm in a wind protected nook. Some time later we reached the wine growing zone and at one thousand meters above sea level found a bar for a (well deserved) coffee.
The next vegetation zone was the laurel forest. This looks and feels like a rain forest. Dense undergrowth and moss covered trees interweved with mist and drizzle. It was hard to believe that sand and cacti were only two and a half hours behind us.
In the forest there is a visitors center so we sheltered under their porch to eat our sandwiches and then continued along an unpaved track. I mentioned that I was out of practice on slippery wet trails and within a minute had slid sideways landing hard on my hip and breaking my helmet. Luckily I was not badly damaged and my bike was OK so we continued.
We once again cycled up hill and at just under 1500 meters we reached the highest point on the island to be rewarded with mist, drizzle and no view at all. We took a photo of us next to the sign, put on all the clothes we had with us and set off back downhill folowing a mixture of trails and roads.
From the top back to the boat was nearly all downhill which was just as well with all the clothes we had on. On one short uphill section we had to take at least the top layer off.
We passed a small village full of craft shops, cafes and tourists where we think we spotted the local “Tyrol mountain guide”. We also visited a statue dedicated to the unique whistling language that is still used on the island. It is on the side of one of the huge gorges across which the locals can communicate by whistling.
The last eight hundred meters downhill we followed the road at high speed before stopping in town to strip back down to shorts and tricot.
I am sure I learned about climatic zones in school but actually seeing them all stacked on top of each other is much more interesting and far more fun.