Our Beautiful World

Wandering and Wondering III - The Laurel Forest

On our 15th day of our visit, we finally decided to pay a visit UP to the Laurel Forest.
Yes, UP, because here on La Gomera the forest limit does not end at 1.000 m asl,
but that's where it begin!

But first, preparation for the trip. Since our experience with the drop in temperature when on our trip
across La Merica, we now packed our sacks full of windjackets, raindresses and clothes to keep us warm,
ready for use when we arrived Arure.

Last week we were told that they once again had what they call 'horizontal rain'!

(Thick green marking - border to La Garajonay - national park and laurel-forest)

Taxi up to Arure (2.000 Ptas once more) and then we tried to find the trail.
As so many times before, we had no luck this time either, so we started to walk
the asphalt-road toward Las Hayas.

That is where the path we should have followed ends, and we did find that point as
described in the handbook (ours is 15 years old), namely the restaurant "La Montaña",
well known for their Gomera-specialities - mostly vegetarian.

There, just up from some enormous tall eucalyptus-trees, we found a sign with a wanderer,
and to arrows pointing towards a small path. One showed 3,6 km to 'the road' (carratera),
the other 2,4 km to Creces, whereever that may be. According to our map, we ought to
go in here, and follow a sand track, wide enough for a car if driven carefully. But, no,
just a few yards ahead, the track was reduced to a small path, and so again a big sign announcing
"Here is the limit of the National Park of Garajonay". But to get there,
we were bound to take another path further down the road, again - according to our map. Anyway,
now we were in the park, so why not go on further?

Here we met a German (of course...) couple, and asked them whether we were on the
right track or not, that is - would we sooner or later arrive at Arure? They confirmed they
have just come from there, by the trail we never found. We could follow that path, they said,
but it would not be an easy walk - as our map was not correct, and neither was his -
even as if was double the size of the one we had, and of a more recent date. But, they said,
they also had been luckier than us, as the worst half of the path they had been
climbing up - we had to go down, and that was not that easy.

Anyway, we went on, following the small path closely as we came into the thick laurel
forest, which is said to be several thousand years old.


The trees were certainly old. Some of them with moss all the way up, and the top was often extremely
way up - so if we previously were used to bow our necks to look at the mountains,
it was no easier to look at the tree-tops.

After a while, we sighted a small gras-covered spot, where the sun came through,
and here it was just the right place for our lunch, while the butterflies were flying around.
(Picture above at left.) Soon after we continued, and then we suddenly crossed a broader track. Here they
kindly had put another sign showing that now there was 1,0 kilometre to an even wider road.
Afraid that we should be out of the laurel-forest too soon - we wanted to see more - we decided going
along the track up to the other road, and then back again, and then
continue the smaller path on to Arure.

(Picture from the magazine 'La Isla de La Gomera' Nr 267 Especial Turismo)

A beautiful track to walk, but the trees were again unbelievable. Roots as thick as two
or three oil-barrels, and a lot of different kinds of trees - and all of them just as old as the
others. A mixture of leaves and pines, but some times we were fooled. What looked as
needles at first sight, showed up to be tiny little leaves.

1,5 kilometer further ahead we found a large place for resting, with three grills and several benches around a
sunny opening in the wood. Here four paths and road met, and you know what? A MAP of the area - showing
"HERE YOU ARE NOW". But, of course, we should not be there according to our map, but decided to thrust the
on the map, while we after another short stop, continued our expedition..

Text on the map also told us that as soon as we came outside the park, there should be
several smaller paths leading to Arure, where we were bound. So we just had to choose.
And so we did.

From the book "La Gomera - Isla Colombina"
Photo: Copyright Thomas K. Müller

The small path we now followed (picture at right above the two upper pictures of the wood)
was following a small waterstream, at least when it rained, down through a narrow canyon.
And we were going downward.
We must have found a popular track, and it was amusing to see how different people were.
The ones running along - up and down - wondering why they had to hurry so...

Next the people with their noses in the book, and not interested in anything else but
heading in the right direction - and finally those like us, who had given up reading the map -
and spent most of the time looking at all the interesting things around. Flowers so tiny
that we had to bow down to even see them, flowers on bushes and trees way up
in the air, and birds hopping and singing all over.

As we went on, the type of the wood changed,
and next we were going on the edge of a small
canyon. There, on the other side, we sighted
three huge bundles of yellow flowers growing
on some rare palm.

What was it?
Well, at present it was too far away, even with our
binoculars. Later on we sighted another one -
not so far away this time, hopeless for people to
cross the canyon - for two good reasons: ,
1) It is strictly forbidden to leave the paths
2) the laurel-forest is complete non-approachable.
So that's that....

But just a short while later we arrived at another roadcrossing
- again four different trails and paths.
And there - right through the bottom of the canyon
we could spot a narrow path, possible to follow -
we hoped - back to the rare flowers. Of course,
we had to pay for it, the thorns and what else
gave us some sore wounds on arms and legs ,
but few minutes later we finally sighted one of the flowers up
on one side.

If we were still inside the park, or outside, we don't know.
But temptation was too overwhelming -
and so we got a picture of the largest biggest
dandelion we have ever seen.

Back to the crossroad, we chosed correctly again ( just pure luck?) and went on toward Arure.
The valley was now more open, and soon it became one of the most vigorous and green
valleys we have visited. Flowering trees - green fields - and in between sunburned terraces where withered
vines lay in their holes, waiting for the spring and a new flourishing
and delivery of juicy clusters of grapes.

Another siesta below a fig-tree in a green grove - and so a road soon changing to an
asphalt-road in the upper end of the community of Arure.

Again we had to argue with our map - and this time we followed what we saw around
in the nature - and put our map away. And believe it or not, this time we were right again
- a small path ending right where we should have started - but now we learned why we
did not find it in the beginning. The entrance to the path was closed by a thick chain -
and polite as we are, and eager not to bother 'the aborigines of the island', we did not
dare to cross it. Private proberty we thought.

What this should teach you: Get one of the absolutely newest and updated maps -
then throw it away - and use your head and your common sense (read: luck).
Then when it comes to packing your sack: We took off the little we had when we
arrived at Arure in the morning, and had a wonderful hot day in the sun that day.

An unforgetable wandering i a strange wood, on the opposite of what we at home call
the tree-limit - everything here were above 1.000 m asl. At last we hired a taxi, and down
we got to Valley Gran Rey and the ocean. Recommended to everyone, that is: when the
sun is not too hot, and when rain is not falling vertically.

Have a nice wandering!

Old Wood
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