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La Gomera

La Gomera is the second smallest island of the Canary archipelago and one of the most beautiful. It is of volcanic origin and roughly circular, about 15 miles in diameter and rising to nearly 5000 feet at the central peak of Garajonay. The Island is shaped rather like half of a peeled orange from which the segments have been parted, leaving deep ravines or barrancos which are coated, like icing, with laurasilva - or laurel rain forest.

The upper reaches of this densely wooded region are almost permanently shrouded in cloud and swirling mist, which has created a vegetation which is a veritable botanists delight. This is the Garajonay National Park which enjoys UNESCO recognition and protection of the environment. The slopes are criss-crossed by paths, presenting varying levels of challenge to walkers, and stunning views to reward the energetic.

The central mountains catch the moisture from the trade wind[?] clouds and create a jungle climate rich in vegetation high in the cooler air, which contrasts with the warmer sun-baked cliffs near sea level.

Between these extremes is a fascinating range of vegetation, and the Gomerans have for centuries farmed the lower levels, channelling water for the irrigation of their vines, fruits and vegetables - and even bananas! The local wine is distinctive, and complements a tapa (snack) of gomerian cheese, roasted pork or goat meat.

The Gomerans are friendly and they have a unique way of communicating across the barrancos by an amazing kind of whistling language called "el silbo". Christopher Columbus was charmed by the place - his last port of call before crossing the Atlantic in 1492.

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