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Introduction | Reviews | Garajonay | Marshland Myths | Here be Spatial Anomalies


The Enchanted Forest of Garajonay

I love travel. I like seeing new places, meeting new people, trying new things, attempting new languages and having all my assumptions turned upside down. So lockdown did not suit me. At all. Within a week I was bored, stir-crazy and climbing the walls.

Fortunately, not long before the first lockdown in 2020, I had been away on a trip, to La Gomera, one of the Canary Islands. During the long, claustrophobic months of lockdown I tried to make the memory of that trip last, like a winter squirrel eking out its supply of nuts.

My most vivid memories were of Garajonay national park, a cloud forest in the highlands of La Gomera.

Garajonay – high view teide floating

Sometimes elfin rays of pale sun filter through the canopy, gleaming on the brilliant green moss that hangs shaggily from bark and bough. At other times thick mist creeps between the trunks like a living thing. The forest feels like an enchanted place, where the trees might pull up their roots and glide away silently if you took your eyes off them.

Garajonay – enchanted pointing tree

Garajonay – elfin sun

Garajonay – hanging moss

Garajonay – brilliant moss

When I wrote Unraveller, something of Garajonay’s forest crept into the way I described the Wilds. The Wilds are a lot flatter and marshier, of course, but they have some of Garajonay’s misty, mossy, mysterious strangeness…

Garajonay – tree fountain
Some trees even have hidden fountains in them

Garajonay has its own legends. According to one story, a local princess called Gara once fell in love with a young man named Jonay from the neighbouring island of Tenerife. Alas, Gara’s home of Agulo was known as ‘the place of water’, whereas Jonay lived near the great volcano Teide, a ‘place of fire’. Theirs was a dangerous love, a mixing of water and fire that angered the great forces of nature, so that the earth shook, the sea bubbled red and the volcano streamed lava. The lovers were forbidden from seeing each other but could not bear to be apart. Pursued by armed troops, they fled together through the tangled forest, until they reached the highest peak. There they impaled themselves on a single laurel stake, rather than face separation.

Forests are breeding grounds for stories, and not every story has a happy ending.