Friday, 30 March 2012

Gran Canaria part three

Today, we decided that we'd like to see the interior. A trip that was on offer at 59 Euros each sounded expensive, but we bit the bullet and decided to go. It turned out to be WELL worth it. The lunch alone was worth at least 50 Euros for the two of us. Anyway, the blurb said 'English speaking guide'. We were picked up outside our hotel, and set off to join the rest of the convoy. This trip was in several small minibuses. The roads in the middle of the island can be a bit 'tight', as we were to find out, so minibuses were the best option. Well, as we drove along, the driver didn't say a word, and we were worried that we were going to spend the whole trip with no information! When we reached Puerto Rico though, and joined the other three buses, one was driven by Alan, who was from London (so yes - he spoke English - just LOL). He was really great, with a terrific sense of humour, extensive knowledge, and an obvious love of the island. The four buses were connected by radio, so a full commentary was given for the whole day - great! This is Puerto Rico - not a place I like the look of. A lot of the small inlets and beaches on Gran Canaria have been very severely 'concretised' with huge building programs. pack 'em in, build 'em high, seems to be the mantra here. Not for us.

As SOON as we set off, the banter started from Alan. So did the incredible scenery! With being volcanic, the landscape was sudden and stark. Amazingly though, pine trees were a feature of it, and could often be seen growing on ridges above us. There were also substantial pine forests in the interior, which we were to see later on.

This rock face was really strangely coloured. It's the ONLY place on the island where this occurs (and is, of course, an attraction to trips etc). It's caused by different elements in the rock, three in total - Copper, Iron and sulphate.

A quick 'comfort and coffee' stop at Las Cases de Veneguera. These places in the middle of nowhere must really depend on trips such as ours. The display of fruit though, would have rivalled any supermarket.

WHAT a balcony - WHAT a view.

Gran Canaria is known for its lizards. We only saw one small one in the wild, but they had a couple of really big ones here in a cage.

They also had a sort of museum, full of weird old stuff that REALLY made us feel our age! I had one of these myself

And when you think how electronic switchboards operate now, and how complex they are - this really does look archaic!

And who mends things these days?

After a coffee, we set off again. This is looking down to the village of Mogan. There is a place called Porto Mogan, but that's right on the coast.

The sudden, volcanic 'lumps' that were here and there were amazing. This one stood alone on a ridge. It looked like it had just been placed there.

The roads to navigate this country are also amazing. The locals call this one 'the staircase'. NOT for the faint -hearted.

Looking back down 'the staircase'.

One of the few things that grows in abundance - cacti. Alan told us that the interior was looking 'particularly green' right now. Not to me! He insisted though, that when it doesn't rain for two years or more, it REALLY dries up, up here.

People will colonise just ANYWHERE! This remote village was just perched high up on a ridge, MILES from any other habitation.

Huge fingers of volcanic upheaval were everywhere.

See what I mean about building anywhere - this place was on stilts.

And some places looked no more than a collection of tin sheets. This place was famous on the island as home to one of the most artisan goats cheese makers. Note the small water tank, water is a very precious commodity up here.

People also took to living in caves hollowed out of the rock (or took advantage of natural hollows, if there were some). In more populated places, these dwelling were much sought after, as the Canarian government gave very good subsidies and advantages to owners so they (the houses) would not disappear. You can read more about them here;

We were now in the REAL wilds of the interior, and LOVING it. All these peaks and faces, I wondered if they were ever visited by rock climbers. 

There's my answer - the only ones we saw.

Time for another stop for coffee and 'comfort'. This beautiful wood-burning oven caught my eye (and my nose - the things baking in it lent a wonderful aroma to the whole place).

Bread, veg', cakes - you name it, they were cooking it.

Also, if you had a sweet tooth (which we don't, particularly), there was a huge choice of things to temp you!

We were happy with coffee on the patio (the most expensive we'd bought so far), but what a place to drink it in! We were about halfway on the tour, and enjoying every minute.

Thursday, 22 March 2012

Gran Canaria 2012 Part two.

While we were at the shopping centre, we noticed a bike-hire place. We decided to see what the prices were like (expecting them to be high), and were amazed it was only SEVEN Euros for a whole day (and I DO mean 24 hours) each! That was it - we went back the next day and hired two 'city bikes'. They are like those bikes you see around Oxford and Cambridge. You don't get a helmet if you hire this type of bike as you are not supposed to go on roads outside the confines of the 'city' (Maspalomas, Meloneras, Playa Del Inglis), but you DO get a basket on the front (and a bell). Not sure why no helmet, but maybe accidents don't happen in the city????
Anyway, we left our apartment 'bungalow' early. This is a shot of our pool. REALLY lovely, and it was all kept pristine clean, but we didn't use it once - preferring the open sea or the beach to lie down.

You can see the 'bungalows' we stayed in. This was probably the cloudiest sky we had all the time we were there!

Here she is - bike rider extraordinaire! We'd had a 'test run' with some friends in Bakewell a few months earlier, but to say she hadn't ridden a bike for many years (apart from that), Sue was fine.

We travelled to Playa Del Inglis. It was mainly flat, but there's a really steep hill up to the town. However, the views as you climb up just get better and better. You can JUST see the lighthouse at Maspalomas, sticking up on the horizon. We did a lot of miles on these bikes, and NO sore bums!

 We could also see the dunes - our first glimpse of this natural phenomenon, along with the glittering expanse of the ocean
As we reached the edge of them - you REALLY got the measure of just how widespread they are. There's been a hell of a lot of building around the edges, but I'm so glad they have preserved them and they are a protected area now. 
Sue makes sure we've got enough water for our desert trek.
We looked out for Lawrence..........

We DID see camels - but no Lawrence!

After Playa Del Inglis, we rode the whole way in the opposite direction as far as we could to a place called Meloneras. We'd walked a bit of the way in the evening, but wanted to see just how far the promenade went. This was the end - Meloneras beach. We decided to try and ride to Puerto Rico, but we soon had vehicles tooting at us - we would be in trouble with the law, as we had left our 'designated area' and were now on the open road - where helmets were obligatory! We slunk back to the prom' like naughty kids!

The sea and rollers here were beautiful. We earmarked it for a 'beach day' soon.

 We called at one of the many dune-side bars and ate.
There were some very interesting things on the menu. I didn't buy Sue one of these - but a lady on the next table was greatly amused when it was set before her!!

 We rode back for a last look at the dunes.
 The palms, as you would expect, are many and lovely here. We made our way 'home', returned our bikes and got set for our next 'adventure'.


Gran Canaria 2012 Part one.

 A trip to get some sun on our backs, and to set us up for the busy period ahead.  It was quite a long flight (by our standards) to Gran Canaria, but this time we wanted to guarantee sunshine (as much as possible), so we had no choice but to face the cramped four hours on board a plane. We flew early morning, which was great as it meant we got there at lunchtime, and had almost an extra day. The only real highlight of the flight (there was a LOT of cloud about for most of it) was going over the snow-capped Pyrenees.

 We were AMAZED at the number of wind turbines along these beautiful mountains. I mean, I know we have quite a few in the UK, but these really were in their HUNDREDS, and along mountain ridges too. The first set were of great interest, but by the time we'd crossed the mountains, we'd seen thousands of the things!
 The next thing we saw was hours later. This ethereal lump sticking up out of the clouds is Mount Teide on Tenerife. We were to see it MUCH clearer later on in the week as the weather improved.
 We landed, got settled in to our accommodation, and went out for a local walk to suss out the area. We knew there was a shopping centre nearby, so headed for there to stock up (we were self-catering). They have these massive dry canals to take away flood water (when it happens - which isn't very often). One or two locals told us it didn't rain for years sometimes, but when it DID, it was the hardest rain you can imagine! We all saw what it can do in Madeira when it washed away anything in its path in 2009. The canals sort of lead your eyes to the breathtaking mountains. From day one, they were beckoning Sue & I.
 We had a look at the local flora too - the needles on these cacti were REALLY strong and sharp (as Sue found out).
 We saw lots of these green parrot-type birds too while we were there.
 We had a look at the local beach area, quiet now as the sun was setting. This is the lighthouse on Maspalomas beach. This area has had huge development over the last forty years.

The whole of the front is now VERY developed. In the 60's, it was like this;

 The only thing you'd see now in an aerial shot are the sand dunes - at least they have been protected and preserved as a natural wonder. These days, the sand is used by some to sculpt these shapes.
A Mermaid.
 As the sun began to set (and our tummies started to rumble) we set off to find a restaurant we'd been given the nod about. El Toro, said to be the best steaks on the island.
Well, the plates look good - let's see if the meat lives up to the decoration!

 PERFECT! In case you're wondering, 32 Euros (total).
Cheers. February, and sitting out in the warm evening in short sleeves.