Thursday, February 13, 2014


An Unexpected Bit of "Wilderness"

     There are a lot of people in the world! In fact, I can not say how enjoyable it will be to back at our 20 acres in the country--no people.  We do love the great cities and countries we've visited, but getting back to a place without so many people will be comfortable.  Now, that's a bit of an odd statement, don't you think, when you are on an island in the Atlantic, off the coast of Africa, that has no town over about a 2,000 people? And, that's where the story begins....
     You see, around the world, they love tour buses. That's what I've learned. Everywhere--more tour buses. Remotest village in rural Burma--tour buses. Hong Kong with its 100 story apartments--tour buses. And when I went for a hike in the high mountains of  La Gomera yesterday--tour buses.
      Now, I know what you're thinking. Tour buses on Route 80 crossing the country at 70 miles per hour watching the rolling wheat fields pass you by. You're right on one count--70 miles per hour. The rest, nah! You see the roads here in La Gomera were built at the time of Columbus, as in Christopher Columbus. Horse-carts and sailboats. I mean, gasoline was not yet invented. (An environmental wackos Nirvana.)  Here is a bus trying to turn on one of those roads.

     If 'turning buses' were the only issue, well you could stop and wait, but remember these things actually drive on the roads.
    Again, a bit of digression before I get back to the story.  This Island is famous these days because it contains the last truly pre-Ice Age Mediterranean forest.  There are, perhaps, more species of plants that exist only here than on any other island in the world. This means the 'internationalista' of the UN have designated the forest as a "World Heritage Site". In other words, if you think it's a big deal that California is running out of water because we've chosen to protect a 4 inch long minnow around San Jose is a bit over-protective, try doing that on steroids by letting the UN declare you are something special. Build a "real road" thru the park, surely you jest.

     I do love this picture, though, because despite my protestations, here you have the national park sign and immediately outside the park a stump of some tree species that is probably near extinction.  I may be a cruel capitalist, but even I understand that sometimes protection might be a good idea. (Or put differently, I accept human nature--and if you can cut a tree to buy a flat-screen television, well the Amazon be damned....)

      So, after swerving up the mountain on roads built for horse-cart, one reaches the information center for the park. A really nice place

on which five (I counted them) tour busses then descend. I mean I don't even know how they got there. I'm in a very small EU qualified VW (with stick shift, ouch!) and here five giant tour buses show up. And everyone is speaking German (a bit of Russian, I did notice).
I make a hasty retreat down a one lane  road thru the park at about 4,000 feet above the sea, precipitous drops on both sides, overhanging trees of species I have no clue about, driving about 4 miles per hour (or maybe 3,000 kilometers per hour, never have figured out the conversion) And, what happens?
    It is NOT a One Lane Road!  Here come three (I counted them again) tour buses from the other direction.  You think I'm kidding--nope--three tour buses that make our U.S. buses look like minivans. I come to a complete stop. So do they. A game of chicken--"Pollo", this is still Spain. Guess what, the bus wins! The driver literally stands up behind the wheel and points to the side of the road--as in, go there gringo! If you don't, the blue helmeted UN troops will take you to UN jail (actually a resort, it is the UN, after-all, probably in a Syrian suburb). I dutifully comply, say a prayer, hope I remember how to put it back into first gear and do all that before I fall off the cliff.
Here's the road and one of the buses and the one receding into the distance after I dutifully complied with the order to get off the road.

     The problem of course is that this is just the beginning of the road. 20 kilometerslater I lost track of the number of buses and vans I had to pull off the road to avoid. And coming around blind corners--now I'm saying Dick Butkus would wet himself if he would have been in the car with me.
      All's well that ends well, as Shakespeare says, and I did see some truly magnificent places hiking thru the woods.

    A word to my fellow Badger-staters (and those from the flatland of Illinois as well) La Gomerian roads are not for the faint-of-heart. One ranger in the park said, "sure you can take that road, so long as you're not afraid of heights". I thought I wasn't. After-all, I've driven with Flint Stephens in the mountains, and I've been to the top of the Sears Tower. Little did I know that you could build roads into cliffs and then incline them roughly at the same incline as the giant single-person waterslide, the world's fastest roller-coaster and the trajectory of a rocketship. Now I know--and well, I did survive.

     Boy did I drink some serious wine last night when I returned... could have used some American Whiskey. 

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