Monday, December 19, 2011

Until a few weeks ago, my mental image of 'the Canary Islands' was rowdy bars and rows of loungers on black sand. I'd never heard of La Gomera, reached by ferry from western side of Tenerife. So if your geography is as shaky as mine, you might like to know the total population of this 2-million-year dormant volcano is slightly less than that of Frome, and most of this tiny circular island is covered with one of the oldest natural forests of the world.
You can walk deep into the laurel 'cloud forest' with moss thick as hoarfrost on every branch, you can climb literally out of the clouds into brilliant blue sky again at the top of the rocks, and an hour's walk will take you through eco-systems varying from dense pine forest to near-barren rocks polka-dotted with cactus and aloe vera.
Every turn in the hairpin-roads brings vistas to make you gasp, from the hikers' paradise of Garajonay National Park right down to the palm fringed bays 1450 metres below.
And then you drive back along the narrow mountain road past rural settlements painted moorish colours of cinamon and gold, a route that becomes daily more familiar - there's the goats, there's the bar with the bougainvillea - there's our house, in the middle of Chejelipes, as Madness might sing.

And the apartment was utterly astounding. A picky person might take issue with the broken cooker and paucity of light bulbs, but there's a coffee-machine and a fridge, and what I'll always remember is the panoramic window giving amazing views right down the valley, high above the reservoir where hawks circle slowly in sheer blue sky in the morning and at night the moon rose slowly above craggy distant hills.
Which brings me back to lounging beside black sand, which after 2 or 3 - or even 5 - hours of strenuous walking seems a grand idea, when beer comes in frosted glasses and all you can think is: it's December, and it's 23 degrees!
So I've just spent a week of my life without wifi or internet access, and mostly without mobile signal. But I've seen dolphins and exotic plants and primeval forests and incredible rock formations in sunshine and mist, in places I could never have imagined and places I'll never forget...

Back in the real world, there was a festive feel in the air at Words&Ears Poetry night in Bradford-on-Avon on Monday, so thanks to Frome posse - Rose, Alison, and Rosie - for so brilliantly supporting my guest spot. For an angelic footnote: click here then Programmes and scroll down to Dec 18th Seeing Things - A Week of Angels for David Chandler's programme on FromeFM featuring some of the great poets of Frome.

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