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.

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