Monday, 24 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

My travels and other animals, a brief account of a holiday unbounded

Early Evening, Monday 24 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We decided to go on a trip further south than yesterday, to get past the tourist trap (Playa des Ingles). We went down the coastal dual carriageway again but further on until it ran out. The journey became a road stuck to the cliffs about halfway up as again the mountains came all the way to the sea.

We stopped at a town called Arguineguin that was much smaller than yesterday. It had a car park that was 5 minutes walk from the beach. We settled down on the beach to a quiet read and found out why there were not many people actually here. The wind was whipping up a storm. We could see it disturbing the palm trees on the other side of the cove, then running across the sands towards us lift great clouds of sand on it’s way. By the time it got to us it seemed to have a tycoon like quality. Sand was getting into everything, yes, everything. I was on the windward side of our little group so seemed to take the brunt of it. I was rapidly succumbing to a persistent dune that wanted to take my towel, clothes, and probably me into it’s mass. We toughed it out for almost an hour then gave up and went to a bar at the back of the beach for a snack and a drink. This, thankfully, was in the wind shade.

The bar was an interesting experience in ‘tourist spot’ behaviour. The bar staff didn’t seem to want to serve us, we had to ask them over. Then the were a bit churlish, expecting us to do things in their way. The food arrived quickly and was goodish, not wonderful, but we were all a bit hungry so it seemed good. We asked for the bill (la cuenta) only to have ‘more?’ (más) asked back. No we didn’t want more we just wanted the bill, what was this waiter like? The bill arrived and we paid and waited for the change to be brought back so we could leave some maybe for the speed of the food. They didn’t bring it, we had to go and get it, which was the last straw. They thought that as we weren’t Spanish we would just leave, leaving a massive 50% tip. We left with all our change vowing never to come here again.

We decided to go to some dunes at Punta de Maspalomas just along the coast to have a less tourist outlook on the area. The road stuck to the cliff face even more here making the scenery even more dramatic. We stopped to look at the view and take a photo. The montage was, as I guess you know by now, splendid. We got back in the car and turned the ignition. Absolutely nothing, rien, zilch, no go hosé. We looked under the bonnet to no avail. Christian was fairly certain it was the starter motor, and she knows about distressed cars so we didn’t argue. A nice man, a very nice man, also had a look but we all came to the conclusion that a push start was needed. Luckily we had stopped on the only straight for a long way on the coastal road. Christian sat in the car and Nicolette, the very nice man, and I started pushing. We soon reached maximum pushing speed and the car jumped into life. Because we didn’t want to stop the car, Christian kept driving for a little way, then swapped over just before the dual carriageway for return to Las Palmas.

On the way we decided it was a good idea just to drive to Nicolette’s garage and see if we could leave the car to be fixed. We turned off the dual carriageway and headed up into the mountains to Nicolette’s garage. We seemed to just go up and up until there was drops all around us. The road was even more hairaising than anything we’d been on so far, which just seemed tame now. Up and up we went without relief, or is it with too much relief? Each time I thought we were at the top it seemed to level off and yet more fields would appear.

Eventually, after passing through Marzagán and Tafira Alta, we got to this town called Santa Brigida, where, by complete coincidence we bumped into Oliver. He is a friend of Nicolette and related to the garage owner. We couldn’t stop the car so we just went round the square and tired to catch him on the next pass. This time we managed to tell him we couldn’t stop as we passed, like some mail train dropping off and picking up mail as it moves. Third time around the square and he wasn’t there so we drove round to the garage, which we had passed twice by now and knew was closed. Oliver was there, like a trooper, and able to rescue us by directing us to a garage that was open. The car was looked at immediately, good to know somebody who knows somebody, and fixed for a measly 500 pesetas, so it must just have been bad connections.

We said goodbye to Oliver, and his girlfriend, who had just walked up the hill, and headed off. It was quite a miracle to bump into him, as he studies in Solihull, prime choice, and was only around for the holidays. Mind you, Nicolette said that everytime her car goes wrong he is around, so he ought to have been there. He, obviously, thinks she treats her car really badly.

The journey back down was more into town and on a dual carriageway. This was perched on a ridge with about 200 foot drops on either side, almost all the way down into town. Halfway down this dual carriageway decided it needed to get lower before making the final run into town, so it had a hairpin turn in it. A dual carriageway with a hairpin bend in it, whatever will they think of next? A mountain road without barriers?
Night falls quickly in this place. The island is almost within the tropics so the equator is not far away. Sunset occurs at about 7 o’clock in the evening and after quarter of a hour in is pretty much dark. This is very strange as I am used to having the sun go down, and having a good hours worth of twilight to let the evening sink in. Even before the sun has got near the horizon the is an hour of light with the sun bouncing along the horizon giving all kinds of fantastic images to light the evening. But no glorious 2 hour long sunsets like England here, in quarter of an hour it is over. In quarter of an hour they squeeze golden shafts of light surrounding a mountainous seascape, across a tempestuous blue and grey ocean. In other words just short ones.

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