Tag Archives: Spain

Gran Canaria Day 8 – Bandama Run

Friday March 11 2022 – The day started with the usual mixed feelings; sad to be leaving, but with a sneaky feeling that it might be nice to be home again after two splendid weeks away.  Read on to see whether that latter hope was actually realised.

We checked out of the hotel, having given the excellent Augustin at reception our feedback on the restaurant (which, by the way, he seemed to be in agreement with).  Then, since Jane hadn’t done the hike up Bandama, the local volcano, that I had enjoyed, and since there was a road available to its top, we thought we’d spend a few minutes driving up to take a look. It’s a drive with its own idiosyncrasies.

We made it without actually crashing in any significant way, and went right up to the mirador to look at the view.

In one direction, it’s a great panorama.

In the distance, towards the right of the photo above, you can see the island’s capital, Las Palmas, and the peninsula of La Isleta beyond it.

Walk round to the other side of the mirador, and this is what you see;

further proof, were it needed, that you can put a golf course on the side of a volcano. This is the same crater that I saw during my hike of a couple of days earlier.

Before wisdom prevailed and I forswore golf for the rest of my days, I had developed quite an astonishing slice; I think I would have been in real trouble right from the first tee, given that playing your ball from inside a volcanic crater is not easy.

That view was the last great piece of scenery of a great couple of weeks exploring two of the Canary Islands.  The rest of the day was spent in the relatively dull administrative side of getting home – returning the hire car, sitting on a delayed flight awaiting takeoff, stumbling through the dark and cold and rain from the taxi back in the UK, discovering that the boiler had broken down a week before and the house was freezing, that kind of thing.

That last item quite ruined our plans for a relaxing final glass of something cold in a post-vacational glow at home.  Instead, we put a drip tray under the apparently now-leaking boiler, made a cup of tea and climbed into pajamas to try to keep warm during the night, with a firm plan to try to get the boiler mending people out on the next day. This last plan was also kyboshed by Jane’s honesty in confessing that we’d been in The Foreign for a couple of weeks; now, it turns out, we have to do two Covid LFT tests, 24 and 48 hours after we landed in the UK, before (assuming they are negative) they’ll even consider looking in the appointment diary; so it may be several days before we’re warm again. The only consolation is that excess electricity provided by our very recently-installed solar panels has at least furnished us with hot water in our tank without actually collapsing our roof.

 

View this post on Instagram

 

A post shared by Steve Walker (@spwalker2016)


(We’re also lucky in having a gas fire so we can at least keep warm whilst we check that we are not plague-ridden in order to receive the necessary service visit.)

And that’s about it for the holiday.  It’s now Saturday 12th March, and we have kept our spirits up by continuing what had become something of a habit during our time in the Canaries – a glass of something cold followed by a decent lunch (although we had to cook this one ourselves).

We’ve had a great couple of weeks, exploring two very different islands.  The weather was by and large wonderful, the scenery was superb and overall the experience was just what a holiday should be.  If you’ve been following the blog for the last couple of weeks, thank you for your company, and come back to these pages in a couple of months (all other things being equal)  to read about our next excursion, which should be a great deal more exotic.  See you then!

 

Gran Canaria Day 7 – We Gotta Get Outa This Place – But HOW??

Thursday 10 March 2022 – The forecast for clear skies and sunshine was propitious for the whole island, so we decided that it would be a good idea to head for one of the highest points, Pico de las Nieves (1949m above sea level), to see what the view was like.

It was pretty good.

Looking to the north-west we could even see the island of Tenerife; in the foreground is another of Gran Canaria’s landmarks, Roque Nublo, a 67m tall volcanic rock (its top is 1,813 m above sea level).

Looking to the south-west is also a great view.

and dead to the west, you can even see the vast area given over to growing fruit and vegetables at La Aldea.

After the Pico, we spent the rest of the morning getting to the north of the island, via several other lovely views, such as this one, from south of Tejeda.

We stopped at lots of miradors to take snapshots and I won’t bore you with an endless succession of the views; I hope the above (and previous posts) gives you the general idea.

As we approached the coast, we did get a nice view of the town of Galdar, clinging to the slopes of its conical hill.

and a nice view along the coast towards Las Palmas, the capital of Gran Canaria.

We weren’t just idly driving around, though. We had an objective, Cenobio de Valerón.  This is an aboriginal barn, built by the ancient Canarians more than 800 years ago.

They hacked out more than 350 cavities using stone picks, and used them for the storage of cereals and other foods.  The term “cenobium” comes from the idea that the chambers of the site were used as the rooms of a kind of convent in which young women of the noble classes were secluded until the moment they married. But we now know there wasn’t a grain of truth in that notion.

Once food was stored in a silo, it was sealed up to help preserve it. The site has some examples of the sealing.

Our next planned destination was the town of Arucas, described in our Sunflower book of Gran Canaria as a “pleasant country town”.  Can you have a country town?  Surely it’s either town or country?  Anyway, the same book mentioned that en route there was a ravine worth a visit, the Barranco de Azuaje, so we thought we’d take a look. Apparently it’s the deepest ravine in the north of the island.

The book also mentions a small detour deep into the ravine. About 300 metres along a track you come across something very unexpected; a deserted and ruined spa.

This web page has a photo of it rather less obscured by vegetation, and we found a photo of it in its heyday on a nearby information board.

After this diversion we headed into Arucas with the idea of finding some lunch.  We eventually did this, but first we found the disadvantage of modern technology, swiftly followed by some advantages. We wanted to park in the town, but to park in the road required buying a ticket from a machine; but the machine only took coins – no chance to use the phone or a card to pay.  We had no coins, so turned to the satnav we brought from the UK to help us find the free car park we knew was somewhere but couldn’t fathom out the one way system in order to find it.  The satnav knew the way, and as we drove in a chap motioned us to a space.  It turned out that said chap wasn’t an official, he was a freelancer, hoping to get cash from the people he helped find a space.  Sadly, we had no cash, so couldn’t pay him. So unfortunate.

Where we parked is just by the church.  But – what a church!

It’s the church of San Juan Bautista, and is neo-gothic; started in 1909, completed in 1932.  We wanted to look inside, but it was closed, so we lunched at a restaurant, El Mercado, that Jane had unearthed online, in the hope that it would be open when we had dined. It was a good meal, with great service from a waiter who actually advised us that our original choice would be too much food, so we ended up having just the right amount (including vegetables for me – yay!).

When we got back to the church, it was indeed open, but mainly because a service was going on.  I managed a quick grab shot to try to give an idea of the interior

and we wandered back to the car via a few other sights in the town.

A nearby hill, imaginatively named Montaña De Arucas, offered a mirador and so we headed up to the top, which gave a very impressive view back over the town.

From this you can see how imposing the church is.  The hill once had a volcanic crater, which was filled in to allow the building of a very comprehensive viewpoint facility, with views at all four points of the compass and a restaurant an’ everyfink. And there is an impressive panorama from it.

Sadly, though, the restaurant is closed (maybe due to the pandemic) and has been extensively vandalised, which is a real shame, because it must have once been a great facility.

This was our final port of call, so we headed back to the hotel.  Or, rather, we tried to.  But the technology that had found us the car park was badly traduced by whoever it was who decided to close one of the roads that led out of the town.

Arucas may be on the surface a “pleasant country town”. But under the thin veneer of pleasantness lurks a hideous, hidden horror.  Because the idiots who built the place had no idea about the modern automobile, the one-way system in place in Arucas is extensive, labyrinthine and complicated. The satnav knew quite a lot about it, but not everything – and didn’t understand that the road out of town was closed due to roadworks. We spent a full thirty minutes trying to find a way out of town, only to end up back where we started.  Have you ever had one of those nightmares where no matter how hard you try you can’t get to where you want to?  This was one such, only made real.  The one-way system was so complex that we couldn’t use common sense, the satnav kept leading us back to an impossible route and we got more and more frustrated with the whole thing.  Jane cracked it in the end by taking us back up the hill and then darting off unexpectedly on a side road when the satnav wasn’t looking, and we eventually made it out of the never-ending story that was the relationship between our satnav and the Arucas one-way system.

Technology had one more fiendish trick up its sleeve. Today being the last full day of our time here, we thought it would be a good wheeze to check in for our flight tomorrow afternoon. Sadly, BA’s website had other ideas.  We have to provide proof that we are Covid-compliant – vaccination certificates and Passenger Locator forms.  Jane is superbly organised and so has the necessary documents to hand (and online).  Firstly, the BA app on my phone decided not to have any truck with PDF documents; then when we went to a good old-fashioned PC with Windows, the BA website decided it should communicate with us in Spanish. Anyway, the practical upshot is that we have managed to submit the proofs, but are awaiting either a person or an AI entity at BA to give us the thumbs-up so we can complete check-in. Why we should have this problem now when we haven’t had it before when travelling back from Spanish islands is simply one of the eternal mysteries of life.  One hopes that we’ll be allowed to leave tomorrow to get back to a cold, rainy England.  Stay tuned to find out how it went.

Gran Canaria Day 6 – Hike Quality

Wednesday 9 March 2022 –  Three days of dashing about the island (plus one of going back over some of the original workings) had left us with the luxury of not having to dash about to find multiple exciting new sites with which to dazzle our senses (and, of course, yours). There are a couple of things we’d like to do before we go, but since one of them was to go up to the top of the island (Pico de las Nieves) and the forecast was for fog up there (something I suffer from increasingly, these days), a day of leisure beckoned.

I spent much of this day of leisure battling up a mountain, and back down again (don’t ever let them tell you that downhill means speedy progress, unless they’re talking about ageing). Jane elected to stay at the hotel and drink tea.

The excellent Augustin, at the hotel reception, had given us a map of a local hike, plus  the key information that we’d need a, erm, key to get through the hotel’s fields, so I set off, armed with the map, sunscreen, water, hat and the key. Very soon after that I returned to the hotel to change my sandals for the walking boots I’d always intended to wear for the hike had not the downhill ageing process taken hold quite so effectively. Then I set out again, this time properly equipped for what turned out to be somewhat tougher than I had expected.

Quite soon after the start, and some initial intellectual exercise in connecting the map provided to the reality of what I could see, I started to rise above the level of the hotel and local houses.

You can see the hotel’s vines in the foreground and a further ammo for the comments I made in yesterday’s blog about the “sludgy” colours of some of the buildings (you can skip down to the last couple of paras if you’re pressed for time, or have a life to live).  In the sunshine, these look quite jolly, but when it was dull and rainy we really noticed the ochre shades.

The path ascended gently through farmland (more vines, mainly) and I noticed an attractive plant, so took a photo for Jane to look at.

It turns out to be an Echium, which is apparently a member of the Burridge Borage family. Yes, it’s an in joke.  If you don’t understand, just read on; nothing to see here.

All of a sudden, the gentle ascent started to be a bit steep

and it jolly well stayed that way right up to the top, I may say. At one stage I paused to take a photo (not a breath, oh, no) which seemed to show a slope similar to the one I was toiling up.

It may not look much to you, languishing there with a cocktail in your hand as you read this blog with a slight smile twisting your lips, but it looked fucking steep to me as I toiled up it.  I approached what I thought was the top

only to find that cruel fate was laughing at me and I had more uphill terrain to conquer.  But conquer it I did, and the views back down the valley were quite rewarding.

I was by this stage on the edge of a caldera, a volcanic crater, and, as one might expect, this was also quite a spectacular sight.

If you look carefully at the top left of this picture, you can see evidence of the oldest golf club in Spain,

Real Club de Golf De Las Palmas. Really. Founded in 1891 to cater for the English tourists of the day, apparently.

(I actually spent quite some time waiting for some sunshine into the crater.  Although the clouds were moving rapidly, they weren’t uncovering the sun; I suspected that the clouds themselves might have been caused by the very hill that I was standing on.  For amusement, I recorded the cloud’s movements. Please note that this represents ten minutes of watching the shadows. Just wanted you to understand the extent to which I suffer for my art.)

There were paths along the lip of the crater and I pottered about on them for a bit, appreciating the view, and working out whether to carry on up to the top of Bandama.

you can see that the final bit of the route to the top is simply a spiral round the peak, and this is actually a road, which wouldn’t be too rewarding to walk on.  That, and the fact that I’d used up nearly all my water, and wasn’t sure about whether spending the next three hours getting up there and back was a good idea or not, persuaded me to limit my ambition.  So I started down again, but not at all at high speed.  The going was steep and over slippery, gravelly paths.  Going up was hard work; going down was a little nerve-wracking, as a fall would certainly be annoying and possibly serious. Anyway, I made it down, back to the gate into the hotel vineyard.

I arrived back just in time to go for lunch in the hotel’s restaurant.  Those of you who have been paying attention will remember that we lunched there on out day of arrival, last Friday, and were not particularly impressed, so we thought that we’d try again in the hope that it would be better.  And, frankly, it wasn’t.  I was fortunate in that my food was very good, but Jane was left unimpressed with hers and aspects of the service were really not up to the spec one would expect of a destination hotel.  I did try the hotel’s own wine

and it was pretty good.  It’s unusual for me to drink wine these days – this was the first wine I’d drunk in three holidays in Spain over the last two years.  While I enjoyed it, it left me feeling a bit more bleary than the equivalent hit of gin would have, so I shall continue to avoid wine for the time being.

However, there’s still half a bottle of it left, and it won’t drink itself; Jane won’t help me, so I shall have to man up and take on the task of ensuring it doesn’t get poured down the drain.

We have one more full day here before travelling home on Friday; the weather auguries are favourable for a clear day in the mountains tomorrow so we may well take on the twisty roads once more and head up to Pico de las Nieves en route to exploring some more of the north of the island.  Come back and find out if that’s what we did, OK?