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16th January, 2016

San Sebastian, La Gomera

San Sebastian is a delightful town and the capital of La Gomera. The port has just one pier for cruise ships and can be ‘interesting’ when docking with an off shore wind. Fortunately weather conditions had been unusually warm with light breezes and today was no exception.

Not having seen anything of the interior I joined the walking tour that went into the Garajonay National Park. Our coach, with guides Mika and Lorenzo, soon left San Sebastian where preparations were being made for a parade later in the afternoon to celebrate Saints Day. The road wound its way up the south side of a very deep ravine, gaining thousands of feet before we stopped at the first view point. Here a café sat precipitously on the edge, but gave magnificent views to the south. Continuing on, evidence of the islands beginning, around 12 million years ago, could be clearly seen in the landscape, with one or two grey barren volcanic plugs emerging from the weathered mountain ridges.

In the centre of the island lies the Park, much greener because the plants and shrubs gain their water from the mist and cloud that is often covering the higher levels. Not today, however, and after leaving the bus a paved path took us up towards the highest point, El Alto de Garajonay, 4,878 feet above sea level, from where we could see the other islands of La Palma, El Hierro and Tenerife. The conditions were perfect and I managed to get most of our party into posing mode, so the photograph shows them with Mount Teide on Tenerife in the background with gardening expert Carol Klein as tour escort in the front. The route back to the bus was down a different un-paved path, through what is left of the dense forest of Laurisilva, which was devastated by fire about three years ago. Now the tree heathers and smaller plants are coming back and there is much evidence of replanting, but it will be many years before the forest recovers.

The ride back down stopped again at the café where there was opportunity to sample a local liquor, made from heart of palm. An interesting taste probably not dissimilar from mixing Madeira wine and cough mixture, I shall not be buying a bottle to take home.

The day became very hot indeed, which must have made it very uncomfortable for the locals kitted out in the many layers of national dress for the parade. According to passengers to whom I spoke however, the festivities went on with a considerable element of laughter and merriment, helped in no small manner I should imagine, by the amount of ‘refreshment’ being given out on the way.

Captain Philip Rentell

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