The jeep juddered to a halt on a dusty red mountain path 400 metres above sea level. With a foot to spare at the side of the track, I looked down as if into a kaleidoscope that had broken open. Below was an intensely green and fragmented world of giant palms, banana trees, huge ferns and mossy boulders blanketed by flowering vines. Beyond, the colour of mercury, the Atlantic Ocean seemed to stretch into infinity. A Cleopatra butterfly floated lazily by, its yellow wings tipped by tiny pink spots.
It was early December. I was little more than half-a-day’s travel from wet-and-windy London, and just 50 minutes by ferry from the egg-box apartment resorts of southern Tenerife. But standing spellbound on the side of that mountain, on the lesser-known island of La Gomera, I felt light years away from the chaos and brashness associated with the Canary Islands’ more obvious tourist destinations. Bathed in sunshine and silence, with only sea, sky and nature for company, I could have been in a different century.