Saturday 29 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Saturday 29 March 1997

The announcement came at ten to three, about half an hour earlier than they had put on the board. Lucky we didn’t set the alarm for that ‘official’ time. We struggled onto the plane with everybody else and sat in our seats. Completely by coincidence we were sat next to exactly the same women as the one that we flew out with. She was, thankfully, minus child as she was helping her daughter take her children out to Tenerife last time.

Takeoff was delayed until four o’clock because, yes, some people had checked in, got their baggage onto the plane and then gone back to their resort. Their baggage was found and thrown off and we took off. The flight seemed to take forever, during which I tried to get some sleep. I managed to get a complete hour at the beginning but it all got a bit to much after that with incredible sunrises, bawling children, cricks in the neck, and the odd bit of turbulence.

Touch down was just before eight in the morning into a chilly four degrees. The train arrived just three minutes after we had picked up our baggage, perhaps I was little harsh earlier. It was quick into King’s Cross Thameslink and the taxi driver knew where he was going. I finally left a tired Christian just after ten in the morning and got here at eleven after a total of twenty-seven hours traveling.

Bon Voyage

Canaries with Attitude

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

Early Morning, Saturday 29 March 1997
Aeropuerto, Tenerife

I’m sat in the airport at one o’clock in the morning attempting to find some peace and quiet. The rest of the day has been satisfactory, both Christian and I have been suffering due to lack of sleep. I tried to get my head down at about five in the afternoon, but only managed to nod off for twenty minutes. It’s not easy to rest when you’re mid journey with too many thoughts on your mind. Give me the comforts of my own surroundings now.

We drifted around town in the early evening to get something to eat and found a little place away from the main hub-bub. The hub-bub is due to the local interpretation of fiesta, as it is Good Friday. The is a small fair and most of the village/town is on the front strutting their funky stuff. Fire crackers are the bit of fun enjoyed by the kids.

Anyway, why am I at the airport at one o’clock in the morning? Because the sodding flight is delayed for four hours, that’s why. You can guess that I’m suitably impressed. With only four hours sleep last night and the odd snippet during today, this is going to be an awfully long day. Guesses at arriving at Christian’s house are varying between nine and ten o’clock, which given the start at about half past six will roughly give a 27 hour day. I’ve done much longer, but none with all this waiting around for a single announcement. You don’t really sleep if you put your head down for fear of sleeping through the flight boarding announcement.

Friday 28 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Afternoon, Friday 28 March 1997
Medano, Tenerife

Well, here we are, halfway home almost! It is nearer in time, but a little less in distance, about one thousand miles less. We managed to get the Jetfoil this morning despite less than four hours sleep. Last night was an excellent last night in Gran Canaria, just as we wanted.

We started at the ‘Happy Cockerel’ restaurant, which looked foul from the outside. All of it’s menus were in English, Dutch, German, Spanish (I wonder why), and two others but not French. It sounded good! I chose what looked to be a good wine, Seniros de Prayda, Reserva 81, and it was. It had musty flavour with a deep brown outlook. Started with eel and scrambled egg on toast, which was like a cross between salmon and sardines, only a bit tougher, but very good. Christian and Nicolette had asparagus soup, which pleased them by all accounts. I followed this by a delicious peppered steak, very tender, melt in the mouth affair.

After the food we headed back into town to, beyond all belief, an Irish theme pub. All the normal crowd were there, and Christian started on the ‘Vodka y Tonica’ whilst I got on the Dorada which was served, rather bizzarely, in pint glasses. This means it feels to big to hold and if you knock them over they lose all their contents, unlike a bottle. We finally headed to bed at about two o’clock with alarms set for half past six, definitely not to be missed.

Half past six rang, and it was in the middle of the night. It definitely was not the time to get up. I struggled out of bed and headed for the toilet only to find Christian had struggled a bit harder and faster. We did the final packing and said good-bye to Nicolette and went outside to get a taxi, by which time it was pretty much light. We got to the Jetfoil port just before Seven and booked our bags in, rather than carry them on board as we had done previously. As we waited in the lounge, the sun edged over the horizon from across the sea, almost the opposite of yesterday evening.

We boarded the Jetfoil and fell into a fitful dozing sleep, not really very good rest. Arrival in Santa Cruz occurred promptly at Nine o’clock after what felt like endless sea. It was very hot and sunny for that time in the morning. We walked to the main road and found a bus stop right next to the port. Ah, not like England!

Whilst we were trying to check out which bus to catch to Medano, a bus arrived. Searching got a bit more frantic, until a helpful couple just said get on this Urbain bus the bus station, then get a InterUrbain bus from there. The cost was minimal again and we had a joyful coffee at the bus station waiting for the main bus at Ten o’clock. We got to doing things and only remembered we had to get the bus at five to ten.

The journey down the dual carraigeway took an hour only. The bus drives straight down the dual carraigeway without turning off into all the villages on the way. It does, however, stop on the hard shoulder, at the junction that goes to each village. Soon into the journey we found out why there were so many free seats on the left hand side, the south side, the sunny side. As we baked, we justified ourselves by saying it was the last day in sunnier climes.

After an hour the bus turned off at the Medano junction and stopped at the top of Gemma’s street, what convenience. We had come over a hundred miles by public transport, over half of which was across the sea, in four trips, in just over four hours, walking no more than one to two hundred yards. This must be some super subsidized transport system that is horribly expensive to the taxpayer, not like the wonderful super economic British system, that would involve a high spend from the individual and a high degree of commitment to get to and from the central ‘supportable’ transport area.

Unfortunately nobody was at home when we rang the bell s we wandered through Medano to Frank, who we’d hoped would be working in the surf shop. The locals watched us with a disinterested gaze, possibly noting our slightly different but definitely still tourist look. We did find Frank at the surf shop and he gave us the keys. We wandered back through Medano to the apartment, with the locals managing to raise their level of interest about an iota. We stored our stuff and went shopping for cheap booze. Not much success, all the booze is cheaper than duty-free, but it is all absolutely dire. Sparkling wine for seventy pence, whisky for about four pounds, but anything recognizable was about half English prices and nothing I would buy. We settled for the wine which was goodish and not exactly what I was looking for, never mind.

We stashed the wine and wandered back through Medano to give the keys back to Frank, the locals managing a wry smile which was hard work. As it was lunchtime we headed for the French place we had been to on our last visit. I had an excellent pancake whilst Christian plumped for the prawn salad, again with orange squeezed on the premises.

After this the beach beckoned, maybe a last day swim, maybe a last chance to burn. The beach was covered in bodies, ah fiesta time in El Medano. We perched on the rocks in the same place as last time and I got on with the job of writing postcards. This was a task and a half as it was twelve postcards and my hand couldn’t write after a week’s break, not to mention the uneven surface I was writing on. We held back from jumping in the water, trying to get settled, which wasn’t the best of ideas. Just as I finished the postcards everybody left the water and the clouds appeared. A few minutes later a kid screamed and shot out of the water, he’d been stung by an octopus. This was the last straw, bad weather was a stopper, but stinging wildlife was a definite turn off.

We head back towards the apartment for just after two o’clock and waited for Gemma, whose shift we’d discovered ended then, on the steps outside the apartment. After an hour we are still waiting, after I’d had a chance to wander around town looking for a postbox, which turned out be yellow.

Thursday 27 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Evening, Thursday 27 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

What a day today has been. The original idea was to just potter around the west coast for a little bit and head back. We had no clear idea about where we were going and what we would do. A vague thought that San Nicolás de Tolentino sounded nice.

Before we started the car had to be. Yes, again turning the ignition provoked a rather tepid response, that is, nothing. Christian got out her technician’s handbook and went through all the known procedures. ‘Pop the bonnet, love’, ‘oo, that’s not right’, ‘It’ll cost ya’ all spring to mind, but none of these apply. She cleaned the battery connections and the car ticked over again.

As we drove around the north coast the weather seemed a lot better than before. We saw ‘Cenobio de Valeron’ up close that we’d last seen on the Jetfoil. A bit inland we went through Galdar which was a very pretty working town. There isn’t much tourist industry here, it’s all nicely unspoiled.

We got to Agaete slightly further round the coast where the road had become a single-track across the bridges. Life was getting a little trickier and subsequently slower. We went to look at ‘Puerto de les Nieves’ which is a fishing port and has a car-ferry service to other islands. It was tiny compared to Las Palmas port which is a full, imports and exports cargo place stretching for several miles. This was a hundred yards square. As we drove round the town we saw a café called ‘Dedo de Dios’ which means Finger of God. It is meant to be a sizable finger of rock at the seas edge, but we couldn’t see it though against the backdrop of cliffs towering above us.

We left the port and headed up the sea-cliff road. I said the previous roads we had traversed were scary, this route was utterly terrifying. The road swung along cliffs with drops four to five hundred feet sheer to the sea. When it wasn’t sheer, we were up over fifteen hundred feet above the sea. So whilst we were traveling along these cliffs, we were also having to change height. It would take us only a couple of miles to get to the top heights which meant the road was climbing and dropping quickly. So not only were we negotiating sharp bends but also having to deal with them at a horrible inclination.

Every bend promised to offer us a bus or lorry that would force to burst the thankfully existent road barriers or dash us into the rocks. At points along this route there would be rockfall debris on the road. Nothing bigger than a couple of fists, but how high had it come from?

We stopped in a town appropriately called ‘El Risco’ and attempted to get lunch. After waiting on a outside table for ten minutes watching people go in and out of the bar, nobody had appeared so we decided that life was too busy in this little town and headed on. We had calmed down by now, after our cliff clinging experience and felt we could probably handle a bit more. We stopped at least once more before arriving at the port at San Nicolás to calm our nerves.

After such a journey, our priority immediately turned to our stomachs, and why not. Why not indeed, we’d taken so long to get the San Nicolás, we were starving. As it was a fishing port I wanted local fish and had my wish supplicated with white fish, seared on both sides. It came with another local dish, Canarian potatoes in ‘Mojo’ sauce. The potatoes were small, flavoursome, and red and the sauce was green and quite hot, essentially made from avocado. ‘Mojo’ sauce can be red but I have no idea what that would be made from. Again at the end of the meal, the waiter did seem anxious to keep us there by taking ten minutes to get the bill. Although, we had got used to it, we didn’t expect it on this side.

After lunch, at half past three, and a brief wander around the port we decided to head on round the island rather than go back through the mountains. The road headed away from the sea and into the mountains. It wasn’t as hairy as before, as it didn’t seem to be straight down. Time to calm down, so then they starting forgetting about crash barriers again!

As we meandered through the mountains, we came across some incredible rock formations above the road. All kinds of differing colours from green through to red, and squashed and sheered into strange striations. We drove through the upper part of the valleys called ‘Pinar de Inagua’ and ‘Pinar de Ojeda’ seeing rocks like this all the way.

Mogán appeared only too soon and not soon enough. Just after we arrived, the front offside tyre burst. We got the spare tyre and jack, out of the engine, but no tyre spanner. Off Nicolette went to find another very nice man, and arrived back with both the required bits. We mended the tyre, me of traffic duty and jack monitoring. This took a little long adding to an already late schedule. We thanked the very nice man and went to a garage to fill the tyres up properly. This was done and we indicated to get out of the garage. The indicators wouldn’t work, Nicolette was a little bit rude about the car, stress maybe. Our traveling garage mechanic fiddled again and it worked.

We finally headed towards the southerly part of the island along the coastal road through the resorts that most people come to stay at. The sunset was across the sea and a brilliant golden orb with it’s dappled reflection in the azure ocean. Finally, we did the journey back to Las Palmas along the dual carraigeway in the east that we know so well by now. We got home after going all the way around the island, the wrong way (we were on the outside of the road), in the wrong car (we had intended to hire a car), and without any planning. Oh, the indicators broke again half way home.

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Thursday 27 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

I’m slowly waking up with tea and toast. We had another shortish evening again last night, only ending at about one o’clock. Christian and I were both a bit pooped after absorbing too much sun during the day.

We started the evening with a meal at an Italian place only 2 minutes walk away. They served an excellent starter involving red cabbage, green cabbage, and cheese all shredded then covered in tomato/mayonnaise/tabasco sauce. This was followed by reasonably normal Italian fare, only more of it. Again the bill was miniscule.

We moved on to one of the bars at the other end of the paseo that we’d been to before. All the usual crowd was there, as if I would know who they are! After much drinking and shouting we left and headed straight for bed.

Tuesday 25 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Evening, Wednesday 25 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

I’ve just sat down to tea and crisps (try it, you might be surprised), and have reminded Christian and Nicolette that they wanted to go to aerobics tonight. Somehow enthusiasm was a little damper than previous discussions, but we have had a long(ish) day.

Yesterday evening was started, at nine o’clock, with a stroll down the paseo to a Lebanese restaurant. The wind is still with us, and it is beginning to eke into our bones, so jeans and jumpers are in order. The food is simple but good and includes falafel, homous, and tabula as famous representatives of Lebanese cuisine. We arranged for a meal for two, I was a bit suspicious at this stage, to be made up of any other the starters that the restaurateur so fit. First, a plate of olives and pickled gherkins arrived and we dabbled with that. In a few minutes the table was covered with dishes, including all of the above, and pitta bread to assist in the consuming. This task complete, dishes were cleared away in order to make way for this dish of glazed chicken and salad that Nicolette raved about. It was definitely good but my earlier suspicions were beginning to sway the other way. We dutifully finished this dish, only to have it replaced with a bigger dish of a range of kebabs on a mound of rice. This w
as too much, we couldn’t finish this one of and resigned having lost to the restaurateur’s choice.

After paying the minuscule bill, 5200 pesetas (under £8 each), and complimenting the English speaking Lebanese restaurateur in Spanish we wandered further down the paseo to a bar with friends from previous gallivantings. The bar was owned by a Zanzibar-born man (British by colonialism), and run by a Spanish women who also spoke English. We ordered, and paid for, drinks and joined in the fray. I started on the vodka and tonics again, and found there was no measuring system, you got what seemed to be right. This resulted in some of the strongest longs I’ve ever had.

Conversations went along the lines of ‘We haven’t had such bad weather since before Christmas’ and ‘It’s due to clear up at the weekend’. This was heartening as Christian and I would be back in blighty by then, enduring the last of the mad March winds followed by the joys of the April showers. It all seemed a bit too arranged. We get here, the weather gets windy and dull, we leave and it all brightens up again. Can’t say I’d blame it, and it hasn’t really been a big problem.

Whilst all this ‘weather’ conversation is going on, a row was developing behind us. It seemed that the bar owner didn’t like the choice of music by the bar staff. He was, shall we say, a little wobbly on his seat. He kept on wanting ‘American Pie’ by Don McLean put on. He then sat at the bar and proceeded to mime the keyboard part, with complete accuracy of course. Well it was accurate if you took into account the amount of feeling that went into the piece, this is often underestimated in deference to technical accuracy. We decided that he needed helping along and also mimed the part, although I noticed there were some interesting interpretations of the second break. He came over to our group, some of who knew him, and started saying how much he loved to be British, what a marvelous person the Queen was, and how you couldn’t beat them. He did use some other words, well actually just one other word every other word, to add emphasis, something about multiplication.

I stayed in the bar after Christian and Nicolette went home, chatted for a bit longer then toddled off myself finally getting to bed at about half past two.

Today, I was the last to get up, just after ten. Christian knocked on the door to say she was going out to buy the food for the day and I needed to listen for the ‘phone. I got up and decided ablutions were required at which point the ‘phone did indeed ring. Agreed the time and place to meet, and headed for the shower.

We drove down to the south again, hoping the clouds would lift, as before, the further we went. It didn’t look as promising but we stopped at another beach spot car park. The beach was a little scramble around the coastal rocks, which reminded me of trips to the ‘Strangles’ beach in north Cornwall. Walking on compressed sheol, dry dusty environment, a beach at the end, and the words ‘Playa Nudista’ on the rocks. No wait a minute, Cornwall never had those words, I wander what they mean? Okay, I know ‘Playa’ means beach, so what can ‘Nudista’ mean?

On arrival at the beach everything became clear, or more like visible, leaving no need for imagination. Nicolette said that it really was a mixed beach and there was no need to strip off. I breathed a small sigh of relief as burnt back is one thing, burnt thingamajigs is a totally different kettle of fish, ball park, galaxy. We set up about half way down and released pink skin to the elements, which by now were promising to be a little more heated. After a small frying, Christian and I headed to the water to cool off a little, we started by playing frisbee in the shallows, which led to a few none-too-accidental wayward shots. When I realized I was up to my neck in water, still wearing my glasses, I knew I’d been tangoed.

We spent the day, jumping into the ocean to cool off, reading with the occasional distraction, and attempting to do various ‘game’ type activities. These games amounted to attempting to surf on 10 foot long wave breaks and the beach craze of batting a ball between two people. This, the locals demonstrated, is incredibly easy and possible at about ninety miles an hour. Whenever we picked up bat and ball, it seemed impossible to do at twenty miles an hour with high lobs for the receiver’s convenience. Other games the locals played, included ‘who can drop in from the highest height’. A game not totally familiar but quite acceptable to parachutists who jumped off the slopes above the beach to land within the beach towels below to much applause.

On arrival back in Las Palmas I dashed to the shower to clean out sand from all the crevices only to find the sunblock I applied earlier had worn off. I was pinker than a carnation at a May wedding. What fun that will be later tonight.

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.

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Tuesday 25 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We stayed in again as we wanted to go to the mountains tomorrow which required an early start. I cooked a kind of pasta styled, marinated chicken thing with parmesan and Christian’s tomato and onion salad. Adding the restaurant flare comes out as chicken marinated in mustard, wine and kikkoman sauce, gently sautéed with caramelized onion served in a rich homemade tomato sauce on a bed of conchillo, lighted dusted with parmesan. It went down well.

We had to shop for the food in a supermarket, just along the paseo. The supermarket was full of all the same kind of produce that you see in an English supermarket, apart from the brand names were a little different. ‘Heinz Baked Beans’ sat on one shelf, next to it the same can but named in Spanish. The only other difference is the prices. Some are a little more, like mushrooms, and others are a lot less, like olive oil and booze. Decided a bottle of virgin olive oil for £2.50 couldn’t be missed and had a long, wishful look at the spirits which were all less than a fiver for a litre. The other thing was, at last, I found evidence of self-sufficiency in food. There were great piles of fish at one end of the shop. Big ones, little ones, green ones, red ones, ones with heads, ones without. At last there was something on this island that didn’t reek of European dependence.

After the meal Christian fell asleep and Nicolette did the washing up. After the washing up was done we took pity on Christian and didn’t insist that she came out. We sent her to bed and headed out along the paseo up the bar at the end. The wind had got to almost hurricane strength by now which made walking in a straight line difficult. I know that some people would have blamed the two bottles of wine we had with the meal, but it was really blowing, honest. The bar was overlooking the reef where the waves break, and they were definitely breaking tonight. Nobody was sat outside, they would have been very wet, and there weren’t to many people inside. Monday is a quite night so I guess the wind had to make up for it.

Once we had our beers we looked around the restaurant with a general aim of having a good discussion of the varying groups represented. We picked on a group of girls sat nearby and started taking their style apart. ‘God, we haven’t had that kind of fashion in England for at least ten years’. ‘It’s really sloany to wear clothes like that’. The had starched shirts tucked into designer jeans all held together by a good quality leather belt. In other places and other times we might have referred to them as the ‘horsy set’.

Bed was achieved at about half past midnight with alarms set for nine. Alarms were ignored at nine and the day started nearer ten. It’s still the earliest uptime on Gran Canaria so far.

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.

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Monday 24 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We had a quiet night in yesterday which was probably a good thing after the night before. We ordered pizza and started on the beers. Ah pizza, what would we do without pizza, the world over it is the same food only subtly different in each country. It was saltier, with more olives, and a slightly different texture of cheese. Slightly different food ingredients, same recipe, slightly different result. The same program but different operational parameters.

The island is interesting in that it is not self-sufficient for food in any shape or form. Nothing grows here apart from bananas and tomatoes, which would make rather an interesting pizza. The soil base doesn’t take it, and there isn’t enough regular rain to cultivate crops outside a covered environment. These gives a barren, volcanic outlook with large ‘tents’ in swathes across the small sections of the landscape. There are no grazing animals either so all meat and other vegetables are imported. The only thing that ought to be readily available is fish but I haven’t seen anything of that ilk around either.

After finishing the pizza we debated which game of cards to play and settled on a halfway house between Bridge and Whilst. You had to bid the number of tricks that you thought you would win and scored a 10 point bonus if you did get that number. Every hand I got seemed to be a dud, which meant I could only score the 10 point bonus really. I managed to get 4 out of 5 hands correct but since I only had 1s and 2s I was still last. It’s not fair!

After a good nights sleep, breakfast was good, straightforward, and toast.

Sunday 23 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Evening, Sunday 23 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

We got back after an afternoon doing the tourist thing down in the south of the island. Sitting on beaches, eating McDonald’s, listening to crass music pumped out by the myriad of bars at the back of the beach.

The drive down showed a similar landscape to the drive in Tenerife, yesterday. A road snaking it’s way past cliffs, over gullies, into the sea, and so on. We past a massive wind farm on the way down. A lot of the sails were turning at a fair old rate, indicating the wind was up. The fact that the car wouldn’t stay on the road and our hair was blown all over the place also gave this hint. We also past a statue of a woman with breasts on her front and back. This is the symbol for fertility, apparently.

As we got back into town we started to sing in the car. This was a vain attempt to make up for the lack of radio in the car. Everybody was good at pulling the right words for first lines, but just trailed off after that. ‘At first I was alone, I was petrified, kept thinking hm would never ha de hum by my side’. We got back home, left the car in the carpark opposite and avoided the unofficial carpark attendant asking for money for nothing (must work on that for a song idea). Christian was determined to do some exercise, and got the Cindy Crawford aerobics video out. I promised not to laugh as I would look just as silly, but it was impossible. I tried very hard, but it was too difficult. Christian, to her credit, didn’t take this badly and kept on going.

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Sunday 23 March 1997
Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Woke up. Oh dear, what happenend last night? What did I do? What did I drink? How much did I drink? Did I just drink? Did I do anything else? Technically, it is 2 o’clock in the afternoon, but I haven’t had breakfast yet.

We arrived at the seaport a little late and a little tired. We were the last of the boat, for some reason Christian wanted to go to the toilet on the boat after we had docked. I guess everybody goes to the toilet when they need to. We quickly located a ‘phone box after disembarking, without having to ask anyone where it was in Spanish. We had learnt it after all. We tried ringing Nicolette’s number but a Spanish woman’s recorded voice started telling us something at about 90 mph. We couldn’t work it out at all. Was it that we were ringing the national code as well? Or was it that Nicolette’s ‘phone was barring calls from pay ‘phones?

We eventually gave up and trudged outside to the taxi rank. The taxi driver looked perplexed at the addressed but motioned for us to get in. He drove off the dock, no not into the sea, but into the town. The taxi driver headed one way up the promenade, went down an undepass, turned around and headed back. After a couple of minutes he stopped and pointed to a pathway. It felt like we could have walked, but since we didn’t know where to, it did seem worth paying the 500 pesatas for the trip. The apartment was on the first floor with no view, so EM Forster was a little lost. However, it was about 30 yards from the north beach, with palm trees and waves crashing in from thousands of miles away.

The town is a strange shape being built next to, and on, an isthmus. The main part of town faces across the sea to the east, the north end of which is the isthmus with the port on it. Then other side of the isthmus, which stretches to an island to the north east, has a north facing coast which is the part of town that we will be in. The north promenade is called ‘Paseo de las Canteras’ with the beach known as ‘Playa de las Canteras’. Well that’s hard isn’t it. It has a reef about hundred metres out into the bay called ‘La Barra’ which shelters the beach from the really rough weather coming in from the north. When you look out to sea, you see massive waves crashing over La Barra, windsurfers doing their little dance over this turbulence, followed by a much less dramatic lapping of waves on the beach itself. Sometimes this gentle lapping bursts over the paseo, so I dread to think what the windsurfers put up with further out.

The evening began well, at about 10 o’clock with a Mexican restaurant at the east end of the paseo. The menus were in Spanish, which is actually okay since the food is as well. The beer was easy, Sol. The only perculiar thing was the free Tequila slammers at the end. This was perculiar as they provided you with a hardhat and then slammed the Tequila on your head. It had the desired effect.

After the meal we walked back along the paseo to a bar at the western end. It was about a 10 minute stroll with, at points, waves crashing against the walkway sending their spray over us. It was very windy but still warm enough for shorts. We met a number of Nicolette’s friends at the bar, all teachers, and proceeded to start on the vodka and tonics like they were going out fashion. The measures are a little different to English ones, like triple, so this a glowing affect. The bars are like Paris, where you order you drinks all evening and settle up at the end. Just imagine trying to do that in the ‘Falcon and Firkin’ in Hackney.

We decided to go on to another bar that had live music. This involved a taxi ride to the other end of Las Palmas, or 3 taxis as there were 10 of us by now. So we dashed of, leaving the last 3 people to pay for all the drinks (oops!), and got to this very dodgy back street bar with a couple of ‘gentlemen’ on the door. The music was an interesting combination of rock and roll and more traditional Spanish salsa, not really sure where it wanted to be. It might have been better to pick one camp or the other as it would have had a clearer message and been easier to let loose to enjoy. Perhaps it’s my expectations of what both those types of music ought to bring to me.

We left the bar at about half past three and headed to another place back in the north part of town. By now all was getting a bit hazy, and I decided that heading for bed was a good move. Well, actually my eyes were closing as tried co-ordinate the beer in my hand and the opening of my mouth.

Saturday 22 March 1997

Canaries with Attitude

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

Early Evening, Saturday 22 March 1997
Jetfoil called ‘Princesa Teguise’

Another journey, another seatbelt. This time crossing the stretch of water between Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It’s about 30 miles across but the journey is 50 miles as Las Palmas is much further along the coast. The digital speedo says we’re going at a raring 82.5 km/h which seems to be a fair old lick, but it is quite smooth so there’s no green faces around yet. Or maybe all the people are used to traveling at sea, being islanders.

The coastal journey to Santa Cruz was an interesting geological survey. Many a geography first year student must have trekked this road in order to study the ‘new born structures’ or something. It is a hilly landscape stretching up to the mountain in the north. Quite often the mountain drops down to see us on the coast, forcing the road to swerve into it’s belly only to pop out the otherside into further flatlands. All of the hills have great striations gashing down from the mountain and into the sea. This is where the hill has been melted away by some lavaflow in distant times. All the manmade structures have to negotiate these, usually by just building bridges across the canyons. This is true of our road, a pipeline and a couple of over conveniences, but one road just seems to go up and down like some long dragon, snaking off into the distance.

Santa Cruz was nice, bizarre, wet, and sunny. Quite literally it took 5 minutes to go from brilliant, baking sunshine to complete deluge. Above the town there is an area of wooded mountains that have perpetual cloud cover, in fact it’s called the cloud forest. It’s like a rain forest only a lot older. This is the only one left in the world, apparently. This explains the peculiar weather patterns and the fact that all the waterfront bars have strengthened canopies. Or is that canapés?

Gran Canaria is looming to the right of our boat. It had bee described as ‘hillier than Tenerife’ meaning less actual height but more up and down. The sea cliffs look enormous and the ‘hills’ also disappear into the clouds. Who knows what joys climbing them will bring?

Canaries with Attitude

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

Afternoon, Saturday 22 March 1997
Medano, Tenerife

It happened, we made it, breakfast was walked to. When I say breakfast, it was half past Twelve but it definitely was breakfast. A French breakfast nonetheless. A French breakfast in a Spanish colony, eaten by English, surrounded by Germans. What a wonderful multi-ethnic society. The orange juice, or naranja, was actually squeezed in front of our eyes, the coffee was almost undrinkable and the jam was very English guesthouse. The croissant and French bread made up for the latter two and, of course, the bill (la cuenta) at a measly 1650 pesatas or £2.50 each.

Breakfast was followed by a walk around town. We headed along the waterfront, past swimming places/anchor points into a more suburban area (of this village?). We past a rollerblading area where we saw a dude on a trick bike performing all kinds of swirling maneuvers. We eventually arrived at Frank’s (Gemma’s boyfriend) windsurfing shop. It was filled with lots of surfboards, surf dudes, bits of surfboards, and pictures of lots of cool dudes doing lots of cool things about 30 foot above a wave. We arranged to borrow the car to drive to Santa Cruz some time in the afternoon so that we could catch the boat to Las Palmas, our intended destination for the week.

By now it was about half past One and no time for any self respecting local to be out in the sun. Gemma was beginning to look a bit anxious about this dilemma. Here she had two white English on holiday, wildly strutting their funky stuff beneath a semi-tropical sun with every chance of flaking out. ‘Swimming’ was mentioned, to ease the mood, and swimming was decided upon. On the way back to the apartment, Gemma told us of all the wonderful beasts that bask in the warm waters that surround. Killer whales, lemon sharks, barracuda, and small fish that lie on the bottom with poisonous spiky backs. We only ventured in for a shortwhile but it was a beautiful 16 degrees centigrade. Afterwards we sat on the hot rocks next to the sea and burnt our extremities until we thought it time to move.

Canaries with Attitude

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

Morning, Saturday 22 March 1997
Medano, Tenerife

Well, we got here in the end. That sounds more dramatic than it was! We were only about 50 minutes late to arrive, but we spent all of that in the plane waiting for people who had forgotten to board! It also took about 30 minutes to get our luggage from the luggage rack, which at two o’clock in the morning isn’t your main thought. But we are here, wherever here is.

The flight itself was all right, nothing to write home about (what am I doing then?). Everybody seemed to be subdued, as if penning people into their seats really has the effect of mollifying them. Christian was knackered before we got on the plane so she slept for about an hour after we had eaten. It was a 4 hour flight so that still meant a certain amount of staring at the monitors, trying to decipher the humour they portrayed without the sound.

We were on the wrong side of the plane to see the comet, which was a pity, but I did get to see some thunderstorms that were over Morocco which was pretty spectacular. Also I saw boats of the African coast when the clouds permitted.

The third passenger on our side of the gangway had a 2 week old baby with her, which she was looking after while the mother had the 18-24 month in the seats in front of us. He wouldn’t stop howling until he was allowed to stand up and Christian and I made stupid faces at him. That brought out a smile!
Eventually we landed, which, incidentally, Christian forgot we needed to do, and jumped out of her skin when we hit! The joy and pleasure of having a plane full of quiet, well-behaved people lost it’s battle and a sea of laddishness flowed forth. People shouting obscenities at each other and playing music on loud ghetto-blasters even before we had been through passport control. I despair of my fellow countrymen at times, no wonder it’s ‘look out he come les Anglais’.

We padded over to the luggage belt and watched lots of suitcases, over-the-shoulder bags, rucsacs and parcels make they dizzy circuit before we realized we were looking at the wrong belt. Moving over to the right one, we did it all over again, which was kind of fun, in the dull monotonous way. Christian went to see if she could see Gemma and disappeared for a while, whilst I tried to remember what colour strap her bag had. Eventually my rucsac, a supreme giant of a bag glowing luminous turquoise appeared and I deftly handled it of the belt with one hand, to much admiration of all the female audience, well maybe in my dreams.

Eventually, Christian’s bag appeared and we headed to where Gemma had been. She had gone. She appeared again. We went to her car and attempted to leave the airport. On the road I attempted to put on a seatbelt but couldn’t find anything to plug it into, let’s hope the laws are the same as England. We turned of the main road just after the runway had finished and headed towards the sea when a village suddenly appeared.

It was not the village you expect, you know, quaint little villas and dogs lazily patrolling the night, but a village of apartment blocks. Sat here on the balcony writing, I’m on the 3rd or 4th floor and there are blocks the same all around as if we were in the centre of a medium to large city, but only 200 yards away is the hills and open space.

As soon as we got in we were heading for bed, it was 3 o’clock in the morning. I wanted to stay up, have a drink and a bit of a chat, but Christian was dropping on her feet. It is a heady 18 degrees centigrade in the middle of the night, but we slept. It was a kind of wakeful sleep, but I was well-rested when we got up just after 10 o’clock. All night it seemed people where walking around in th hall, with squeaky shoes on a tiled floor. When I eventually came fully out of my dozings, I realized it was some form of birds that were constantly chirping, somewhere. Oh, the duality of it all.

Woke very slowly, and went to sit on the balcony in the morning sun. Read a few pages in my book, and watched the locals flooding the streets. They do this in Paris as well, a good way of cleaning away the past 24 hours debris. It does require a smooth, uninterrupted street surface, which would make it impossible in England.

It is a pleasure to get off the rollercoaster of life, constant work to sort my clients, my business, FSC, and my life was going to put me in a early grave. I haven’t relaxed in quite this way for years, my sanity might just be restored at the end of the week. All thanks to Christian suggesting the idea, I must tell how wonderful she really is!