The journey from Seattle to Garafía is long. From Seattle to London it is nine hours then, three more to Barcelona. Add to this, an overnight in the leafy Eixample neighborhood, a string of bus, metro and cab rides, a four-hour plane ride to Tenerife and lastly: a 30-minute flight which, finally deposits me on the smallest and northernmost island in the Canaries—La Palma.
I rent a car at the La Palma airport and soon am lost to the coastal highway’s rhythmic lash of curves, careening past sunny beach towns, descending into ravines and climbing up blanketed mountains. I savor the loneliness of the drive—no one to shout over, to point excitedly with when a blinding fan of light explodes through a grove of pines. Godlight, some call it. I pull off and get out to stand on springy earth; all around me wildflowers poke their purple and red heads through the dense grass. The godlight remains for some time and I stand, motionless, admiring the perfect, golden beams shooting skyward through the trees, as blaring and expressive as a song.
Back in the car, I am swathed in a cocoon of ambient music, my hands at ten and two as I watch the sun spill rose-purple into the Atlantic. The island’s fabled dragon trees become a blur of spiked silhouettes outside my window. The farther north I go, the emptier the road. Will I arrive before nightfall? I am only slightly concerned. The island is small and the map embossed in my mind is clear. I round a corner and find myself on a narrow, single-lane stretch of highway bordering a steep, canyon wall. My tires crunch haltingly up the gravel incline and a hairline streak of delight runs through me.
It is late when I finally arrive in the village of Santo Domingo, darkness dampening the clouds as my host, Antje—flashlight in hand—leads me up a series of switchbacks to the cabin I will inhabit. It is a one room affair perched above a gorge. At the entrance there is a patio and sun bed and to one side, a bath house. Inside, there are a pair of bunk beds opposite one large bed, two bookshelves and a desk made from an old sewing machine stand. The front window frames a view of the ocean cradled by the rugged lines of the barranco (Spanish for ‘ravine’) to the east and the steep silhouette of Santo Domingo village to the west.
The little house is aglow with warmth—lamps, woven rugs, handmade curtains; wisps of style in the mode of driftwood, stones and feathers. It is a traditional Canarian home, Antje tells me. The thick stone walls and lava rock roof keep the interiors snug in the evenings and cool during the heat of the day. All in all, it is roomy, charming, comfortable and has cost me $16 a night. I shrug out of my backpack, duck into the bathhouse to splash water onto my face and walk next door to the kitchen house for dinner.
"Spa-ghetti,” Antje says in a sing-song voice. “There is nothing better after a long trip.” She is aglow in buttery lamplight as she moves from stove to table. Her long, red hair shimmers as she spoons pasta with red sauce onto my plate and nudges a bowl of lettuce towards me. “There is tea, also,” she adds, and pours boiled water into a pot. A subtle, reedy aroma fills the air. I ask what it is.
“Lemongrass, from my garden.”
She pours herself a tumbler of wine and we talk easily. She is from Germany. Her name is Dutch. “Ahnt-yeh”, she says when I ask how it should really be pronounced. But here in the village of Santo Domingo, people simply call her, “Angie”.
There is more pasta, more tea and soon, I am teetering on sleep, eyes swimming with exhaustion. I return to my cabin and within moments, sink into bed—a large, full-size mattress dressed with soft sheets and bordered cozily by a wall lined with sheepskin. Gratefully, I give myself to sleep.