Tuesday, 25 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Afternoon, Tuesday 25 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We’ve just returned back after what seems a long day. Nicolette headed straight to bed for a siesta and Christian’s headed to the beach for a read and a view. I think I’ll stay in for a little bit, and put ‘Priscilla’ on, just for a laugh.

The day started cautiously with a ride up into the mountains, the way we had come down yesterday. It was very foggy, but we could see parts of the valleys and mountains as they presented themselves to us. It was quite a populated area with houses and communities all over the hillside wherever the build of which would permit. As before, we kept on getting to the top of a ridge, only to find it expanded into the valley floor of the next climb. The further we went the steeper it got until all the houses attached themselves to the mountainside with a lot of glue and praying. It is a strongly Catholic country so this works. The houses were, well, brightly painted and obvious through the fog. To say how brightly, well, I think I can safely say that I think the word gaudy has been outdone.

When, after passing through Vega de San Mateo and Las Lagunaetas, we finally got to the top at Cruz de Tejeda the view was spectacular, well Nicolette said it was, all we could see was more fog. We did take a little wander up the final part of the mountain but couldn’t see much apart from the flora. Then, suddenly, there in the distance, a shaft of light hit the rooftops of a village almost a thousand foot below. Then, just as quickly it had gone. We moved more slowly back down the hill, aware of our rocky perch. Or was it that we had run out of breath at this rarefied height of 1450 metres. No, I think we’re not all used to running up mountains.

We went into the restaurant back at the Cruz and had coffee and chocolate. That is I had coffee and the others had chocolate, not the drinks mixed together. That would be just awful, and the chocolate would blah de blah, well you get the idea. Whilst we were sitting there the sun appear again for a longer spell and by the time we got out we could see all of the valleys to the south and east. It was spectacular, the mountains must have soared sheer at least four hundred foot at the top, with the near vertical offslopes running for another thousand foot. Houses were scattered across this landscape trying to find a nook here, or a cranny there. The road stuck to the side of the offslopes with a tenacity that even these heights could not deny.

We followed the sun down into the valleys to the south daring the car to travel along the roads we had seen earlier. It was a wild countryside showing us different vistas every turn as we made our way through the myriad of gorges and peaks. Sometimes great juts of rock bust the now bright blue sky, peaking four or five hundred feet up. A rock climbers paradise, even if it volcanic and very chocky. Roque Bentaiga, Pozo de les Nieves and Roque Nublo where the highest amongst these and we drove right underneath the latter. It seemed incredible to see what looked like toy cars driving beneath this rocky outcrop towering above the road.

After Roque Nublo everything seemed a little tame, and the world flattened out for a while. We stopped the car when we found somewhere a bit sheltered to eat. The wind was strong when you found it. Some of the mountains offered good shelter and some just had a wind straight from hell whistling all along it. We found a small area which had wild thyme, and dry grass growing on it and pulled out the tomato and avocado rolls. This, and the lemon doughnuts, washed down with coke and 7up (see coffee and chocolate, earlier) went quickly and satisfied to the full. Despite being in a flatter area we still had views down the valley to peaks in the distance nearer the south coast, and peaks above.

We sat there for a while, soaking up the calming wildlife and pacific scenery, although it was created with such violence. That seems a long way away from here and now. Coaches past us on the road back down to their resorts in the south. we decided to be different characters and wave appropriately as they past. The coach parties all recognized Meg Ryan, Demi Moore, and Patrick Swayze, so they beeped and waved back. This even went as far as the jeep safari (a group of 6 or 7 jeeps full of people) getting their video cameras out to record their magic meeting with the stars of their dreams.

As we moved on Nicolette warned of more dramatic views to come. I was a little bit sceptical since we could almost make out of the sea in the distance and we seemed to be on flat land right now. We rolled on down and it all appeared to be simple until we went through a town called San Bartolome de Tirajana, then it all went pear shaped again. Big drops, sharp bends, road swinging backwards and forwards across breathtaking drops, and, of course, a lack of barriers on critical corners (see yesterday). This is when you realize that there is something more petrifying than going up mountainous roads, yes, going down them in a small car with funny brakes (something I discovered later) and shaky steering. Nicolette kept on saying ‘There’s a scary corner coming up’, I couldn’t believe it, what was more scary than this? She was right again, the scary corner did appear, after the road dropped to the valley floor and the valley floor dropped away from us one more time.

After that it did finally calm down and we soon entered the outskirts of Playa des Ingles. Here I took over driving from Nicolette, she was quite tired. I not entirely sure whether my driving helped her rest, but it was good to drive a left-handed vehicle, on a the right of the road. driving is almost completely mirrored, bar the pedals. This did lead to one confused moment as I tried to get into third gear on the dual carriageway and couldn’t work out where the clutch was. All worked well and I got to drive into Las Palmas and park at the end of the day.

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