Inky black water slowly changes color to dark cobalt then lighter blue as we finish loading the fishing boat with our supplies. Motoring gently out of the harbor in San Sebastián de La Gomera, in Spain’s Canary Islands, we pass the 35 row boats silently waiting for their crews.
Once out of the harbor, salt spray and thick sweet coffee bring us fully awake and out of that pre-dawn zombie state, an existence somewhere between full sleep and wide awake. Leaning our backs against the hull and bracing against the swell, we soak up the solar heat.
Rounding our first headland we come across a colorful oasis nestled in a small cove, bursting with chartreuse green, sunburst yellow and damask rose. A stark contrast to the grey, black and sandy hues of the surrounding landscape.
Small folds of basalt rise in tiers behind the colorful shore, echoing the vast Barrancos of cliffs, canyons and basalt towers that lie deeper inland.
These canyons and towers draw adventurous sport climbers throughout the year. Those who venture deep inland and navigate the rough approaches are rewarded with routes on dry and warm rock, nestled in wild location with far less traffic than the more popular nearby Tenerife.
All of the Canaries offer good to spectacular climbing (bouldering, sport, trad and a few aid routes), with many of the islands still holding the potential for hundreds, if not thousands of new routes. Tenerife is the most developed, with over 1,400 routes, everything from 4a to 8b+, but La Gomera has gems of its own.
Passing more massive sea cliffs, we think back a few days earlier, sailing from Tenerife to La Gomera. Light winds had us almost dead still. Lucky for us, we had some entertainment after hearing shouts from far above: A team of climbers was slowly inching its way up a 600+ meter aid route.
Back in the present, the next headland falls away to reveal another spectacle.
On a deserted rocky beach is a wilderness bar, seemingly constructed in a Robinson Crusoe fashion. Its bones of wood and stone have been bleached pale from years of tropical sun.
Landing on the beach, we’re greeted with a signature cocktail, created from wild edibles and Talisker Whisky. Notes of salt, citrus and spice give the drink an unexpected depth. The salt marries perfectly with fresh oysters served unadorned. Simple, rustic and elegant.
A shift in the wind carries with it sounds of revelry. Further down the beach is a second bar, its seating area and a fire-table packed with a medley of people. Athletes and adventurers, writers and sailors: All on this remote beach to enjoy tales of challenge and exploration. We’re here to celebrate and toast the forthcoming start of an epic and daunting journey. The Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. More than 100 brave souls will soon drop below our horizon, heading west in search of a finish line over 5,000 kilometrs away in Antigua. For now, it’s time to sample various iterations of Talisker Whisky used as an integral element for cocktails and wild cooking.
And after that, maybe sneak in a another cheeky climb or two on the wild rocks of La Gomera.
Check out the slow-cooked goat taco recipe below!
Slow-Cooked Goat Tacos
With Orange, Lime, Chili and Talisker whisky.
Ingredients (Serves 2)
200g diced goat shoulder (or for a quicker dish use lamb loin)
50ml Talisker 10 whisky
Juice and zest 3 oranges
Juice and zest 2 limes
1 tsp coriander seed
Salt and pepper
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced
1 tsp dried seaweed
1 spring onion, sliced
Blue corn tortillas
Black lava salt (regular sea salt will suffice)
A few rings of chili
Fresh coriander leaf, chopped
Season the goat with salt and pepper.
Bring a saucepan to a medium heat.
Add the lime and orange juice, Talisker whisky, half the zest, coriander seed, seaweed, chili and spring onion.
Bring to a simmer, add the goat and cook slowly for 30 minutes.
Taste and season if necessary.
Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated and the meat/juice mix has turned sticky.
Shred the meat with forks.
Toast the corn tortillas over an open flame or in a dry pan if you prefer.
To serve: Spoon the goat meat onto two tacos at a time, so the tacos don’t get soggy. Season with a little coriander leaf, chili, zest, and black lava salt.
Eat and repeat.