La Gomera is stone. Unashamedly so. Stone with a capital S, and overwhelmingly igneous and rocky. The island’s stony character can be seen in its every element, from the landscape sculpted by the slow and inexorable passage of time to that shaped by man, stone by stone. To view the island through eyes that are attentive to this aspect is to sense a deep and ancestral connection to the most remote past and the origin of things.
Forget about time, forget about the clock, and return to nothingness. The detailed features of La Gomera can only be appreciated when our gaze is able to discern the cradle of an island in the throes of birth. The island’s volcanic past can be seen throughout the landscape. But the combined actions of the rain, the waves of the sea, the power of the wind, the intense cold, the suffocating heat and the force of gravity have also shaped the island you are now standing on. This legacy, left to us by the forces of the earth, can be appreciated wherever you are and wherever you look. The imposing landforms of Los Roques or La Fortaleza are indisputable proof of those forces, expressed in the shape of natural monuments.
Explosive convulsions inside the earth provided the materials that were later altered by the action of erosion. Before humans first appeared on the planet, water, in both its fresh and salt forms, was already transforming all that it touched. Its powerful energy created beautiful waterfalls such as La Vica, El Chorro and La Zula in Agulo, which can be seen on rainy days, as well as the fertile channels that cut through ravines such as Valle Gran Rey or Taguluche. This force of nature also formed countless natural springs, ensuring year-round greenery, and enormous coastal cliffs, the most powerful example of which is the Natural Monument of Los Órganos. The sheer rock faces and natural pipes that are dotted around the island landscape have received their own name: “Taparuchas”. They seem to have been sculpted by man, but no, they are the unusual vestiges of a release of magma, lava that was cooled and then solidified beneath the earth’s surface. It is only thanks to the effects of erosion that we can see them today.
And then humans arrived with their culture…and their ability to adapt to the land. Stone has lived alongside generations of islanders, and this has given rise to a special way of doing things that is both creative and unique. The prominence of this natural resource can be seen in a great many features such as houses and stables, mills, walls, paths and threshing floors. Its extensive use means it is visible everywhere; stone placed upon stone is how this beautiful landscape has been shaped over the years. And scattered around the island, the terraces also bear witness to man’s steadfast ability to adapt to these terrains and farm the land since time immemorial.
And with their survival skills and similar capacity for adaptation, plant and animal species are also able to remain and prosper in every corner of this territory. The special conditions provided by the island have led to numerous plant species being considered exclusive to La Gomera, plants that can climb impossibly steep landforms or grow among the stones, providing color and enhancing existing contrasts.
One of the planet’s most threatened reptiles, “La Gomera giant lizard”, has also adapted to these conditions. This endemic species was believed to be extinct, but it has found refuge in the cliffs of Valle Gran Rey.
Man and nature, united by the origin of the island’s stones, leave their mark at every step and invite visitors to appreciate this legacy in all its detail.
In Casa Bencomo (San Sebastián de La Gomera) you can visit a fully interpretive exhibition titled “The Memory of Stones” that provides more information on the island’s geological character and its impact on life on La Gomera.