Not Walking to Teide and Alto de Garajonay

Mt Teide: High point of Tenerife, The Canary Islands and Spain
Summit height: 3,717m
Highest point reached: 3,555m


I don’t remember much about visiting Mt Teide. I’ve definitely been before, at least to the bottom of the Teleferico (cable car). Judging from the old photos it must have been about 35 years ago.

I do remember talking with my dad about going up again when I was an early teenager. This was in my less adventurous days and I was scared when my dad told me that the air would be thinner up there. I had this fear that it would be too thin for him and he would have a heart attack. I realised today that he would have been about the same age as I am now ... which I’ve now decided is really really young.

So, on my first trip back in over 20 years and with a well developed adventure obsession, I had to make it to the top. I’d made all the plans: permit, pre booked tickets, all the right clothing. The only problem was that it was February and the trail from the upper cable car station was shut due to ice.

Despite the near miss of reaching the summit, Timi and I had an amazing day. We ticked off the Teide National Park UNESCO site and got some amazing photos of the peak and Los Roques de Garcia before the clouds came down.

I was a bit disappointed in not getting to the top but February is always a risk. It’s was the same reason we didn’t get to Mt Olympus in Cyprus 3 years ago. After all, our mission for the week was to have a relaxing end of winter break, not to get to the summit. Anway, I figured that we would have better luck climbing Alto de Garajonay on Friday.

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Alto de Garajonay: High point of La Gomera
Summit height: 1,487m
Highest point reached: 1,250m


Whilst a Teide trip is simple to organise, La Gomera is trickier. We wanted a 1 day trip from where we were staying in Costa Adeje, Tenerife. I started researching 6 weeks before. The first company that I emailed obviously hadn’t got the knack of using computers. After 2 weeks with no reply to my enquiry I emailed again. Apparently their reply was stuck in their draft folder. They sent me as brief an email as they could muster, so I replied with a few basic questions. No response.

With a bit more research I found another company that had a few interesting trekking options on their website. I picked one and paid online, giving all the details they asked for, including the hotel where we were staying it. It was a good sign that I got a response straight away, but strange that they were asking me again where I was staying. I told them our hotel name and within minutes got a refund with a blunt email saying I that I could not join the trip as I was not staying on the island. After a bit of back and forth with me trying to explain how god customer service works, I gave up.

Attempt #3 was prompted by an email from my hotel asking if there was anything they could do to help with our upcoming stay. They even had an Experience Centre with a dedicated email address. I wrote to them to explain what we wanted to do on La Gomera. No reply. Was the island was actively trying to discourage tourists? By now I’d given up hope of making arrangements in advance and decided to chill out and sort out when I got to Tenerife.

Once we’d arrived at the hotel and settled in Timi and I went to the hotel’s Experience Centre to ask about La Gomera. Having not quite got to the top of Teide we were determined to bag at least one island summit. I asked whether the jeep safari they offered would go to Alto de Garajonay, the highest point on the island. The guy made a phone call and confirmed that yes, it definitely did. Result.

On the day of the trip we were picked up early and taken on the ferry from Los Cristianos to San Sebastián de la Gomera. Soon after arriving the jeep convoy stopped at a nearby viewpoint and the main guide explained the day’s agenda. It all sounded great but was a bit odd that he didn’t mention to stop at the summit. I asked him about it... “no, unfortunately we don’t go there, it’s a bit of a hike and no tour company goes there.” I was, as you could imagine, not amused.

The tour itself was OK but not special and certainly nothing to make up for the lack of summiting. We did the usual stops for the Aloe Vera Farm, Banana Plantation, local lunch and Botanical Gardens. All fairly interesting but not worth the money we’d paid for, especially as I’d been there before. So close.

Back at the hotel I made sure they understood my frustration and eventually got my money back. I’ll spare you the details here as my Tripadvisor review explains it well.

So, the learning for La Gomera is not to go with an excursion if you want to get to the high point. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they go there unless you’re sure they completely understand that Alto de Garajonay doesn’t mean just the National Park that surrounds it. You may have better luck than I did with a local company on Gomera, just don’t expect good customer service.

We plan to go back but we’ll organise it ourselves now that we know what to do and where to go. The best plan seems to be to go by ferry on foot and hire a car on La. Gomera. Our first plan had been to take our Tenerife based rental car over on the ferry, then we found out that most rental companies don’t allow it. The island roads from the port to the national park are good and there’s several parking spots around the trail to the summit. We will probably stay on the island for a few days and check out the many other trails too.

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So close

Roque de Agando - volcanic plug, a highlight of the centre of La Gomera

Roque de Agando - volcanic plug, a highlight of the centre of La Gomera

 
Richard gowerComment