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A Couple of weeks ago we went on holiday to Gran Canaria and it was underwhelming and Yet...
Ok, here's the background first; we had intended this to be a beach holiday, but the hotel we stayed in was average, the crowds too big (despite the locals telling us it was low season), the surroundings shabby, the beach small and the sea displaying a thin oily film. Oh, and it was impossible to find a decent meal anywhere!
So did I have a terrible time? No, I enjoyed myself immensely.
And the reason is; Mountains. Well, in truth I should firstly say that my wife and daughter bring me so much joy it is impossible for me to be miserable with them and secondly, Gran Canaria has a desolate mountainous interior. Of course this came as no surprise - I was judicious enough to come armed with a Cicerone guidebook.
My love of the hills meant that on the second day I had a reason to get up at before 7 a.m. and creep out of the hotel room, pace rapidly and excitedly through the large and strangely deserted entrance hall, down the steps to the basement garage and into the car. Driving away from Puerto de Mogán it is remarkable how quickly you are transported into another world; not just geographically but in terms of the low volume of people willing to venture there.
Weaving nimbly around the tight hairpins of a recently asphalted road I was one of few people on the island to have the good fortune to see the silhouettes of the rocky ridges begin to form, stark-black against the lightening sky.
45 minutes later I was on a trail, walking briskly up a path cushioned with rust-brown needles and casually littered with giant pine cones. The steeper parts I walked, the less demanding sections I jogged and then ran downhill or on the flat stony tracks. Frequently I stopped to admire the sun breaking over the mountain tops and flooding the valleys with the light of a new day.
For an hour and a half I did't see another soul. From a clearing I could hear the faint bells of livestock and my ears guided my eyes to a distant herd of sheep, moving blindly together in search of food on this barren patch of earth, a cloud of dust rising in the air above them. But generally it was quiet.
At one point the peace was broken by a hoopoe which glided past me, flashing its pied rump and cape-like wings. I watched it for a while sitting smugly on a nearby branch, seemingly joining me in admiring the stillness of the dawn, then I marched on with the kind of joy that came from having experienced a moment that was all my own (and presumably his, although I doubt the hoopoe reflected on it as much as me).
By the time I got back to the car; hot, sweaty and panting like a saw, I had made my day.
Trashy music blaring, I drove back to the the hotel with the satisfied grin of an idiot or perhaps a knowing man (I think I probably sit somewhere in the middle) in time for a late breakfast.
I did this on a three occasions.
Wherever you go if there is some wilderness, some example of the majesty of nature, it makes life sweeter and only the churlish could really complain about other matters.
Gran Canaria is the second largest of the Canary Islands, adrift in the Atlantic Ocean, 150 miles from Africa. It is one of seven islands in the archipelago best known as a haven for Brits, Germans and Scandinavians sun-seekers.
In truth Gran Canaria and Tenerife both harbour some spectacular and rugged wilderness and many paths and tracks to keep the the keen hill-walker entertained for much longer than your regular two week summer holiday will allow.
The capital city is Las Palmas; it was founded in 1478 and Columbus was an early resident, albeit only fleetingly as made his way to the Americas.
Go to Tejeda. Tejeda is a beautiful white-washed hill village with steeply winding streets and the road to get there, whether from the east or the west of the island, is spectacular. It took us about an hour and a half to get there from Puerto de Mogán and we encountered very few other cars.
Geography & Climate
Like the other Canary Islands the history of Gran Canaria is volcanic. Most of the mountains on Gran Canaria were formed following volcanic eruptions around 4 million years ago. The subsequent erosion resulted in the peaks and valleys that rise from the coast to a high point of 1956 metres (Pico de las Nieves).
A program of reforestation means there are large areas of Canary pines spread across the mountainside as well as other hardy plants, including the spiky green Agave. The stability of the climate in Gran Canaria is of course what has made it so attractive to northern European tourists. On the coast the average daytime temperatures go from 20 C to 27 C, summer to winter, offering a pleasant year round climate.
Away from the beaches or the dunes the mountainous areas offer up the possibility of more variation, with occasional frosts and one assumes snow, given the name of the highest peak! Having said that it is not common. Outside the summer months you can expect a few more clouds and possibly rain but it is a good time to walk the trails, out of the summer sun.
There are plenty of year-round flights in and out of Las Palmas which include tour operators and cheap carriers such as Ryanair and Easyjet from a city near you!