Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

It’s Friday night and we’ve been in the Canary Islands for 2 days. I’m sitting on our balcony watching the ocean and the passing parade, drinking an unremarkable local wine.

We arrived very, very late Wednesday night and after getting lost, inevitably, we found our apartment and went seeking food and beer. Tired and hungry, we weren’t fussy and found a dodgy bar that had an atmosphere of cigarette smoke and salmonella. We survived.

On waking we realised that our El Cheapo apartment was rather ghastly and have now upgraded to a sea view with balcony. The ocean and promenade are brilliant for people watching and indulging in our favourite game – ‘guess the nationality’.
Breakfast in the balcony

The Poms are obvious, dressed for 45 degrees. The Spanish are dressed for winter. The Germans are dressed in their sensible clothes as though about to head off on safari. The Finns are strutting about with their suntans and Barney Rubble haircuts drinking beer for morning tea.

This is Tourist Central.  You may wonder why we chose Gran Canaria.. It was simple, the flights worked, it was cheap and we could get accommodation, AND the sun was shining. Our apartment is conveniently located above a Finnish Karaoke Bar. This is really not our kind of place, but certainly an eye opener.

Day one was simply spent pottering about, buying some cooler clothes etc. We found the weather we were looking for.

Day two we ventured out on the road looking for some walking trails and some interesting scenery. Well, we found it.

This is going to be a long blog I’m afraid. I normally try to be succinct, but this one will be wordy. I suggest you go and pour yourself a decent glass of wine and get a bite to eat. Are you ready?

Come on a journey with me. We head to what we thought would be an interesting jut of land in the north west. Now, I need you to use your imagination. Picture a moonscape, and then add seriously bad apartment developments. In your picture you can see that financial crisis has hit and most of these were have never been built. The land, however had been prepared, therefore ruined irretrievably. Turn a corner and you can see acres of poly tunnels growing bananas. Some abandoned and left to fall to shreds where they stand, most still producing. 

Now picture a nuclear holocaust and lay that over your image. Next put in some wind turbines, some ugly flat tumbledown buildings, and then add a feeling of abandonment and despair. Do you see it??

Bear with me, we are about to take a couple of hairpin bends. Close your eyes, if you will, and drive around the long bends. Now open them to take in a coastline of such staggering beauty and drama that it takes your breath away. The scene is so dramatic we feel giddy. The road is a master of engineering and we wonder how it was ever built. We stop whenever it’s possible to take in the extraordinary beauty of this coast. Photos cannot do it justice, but we try.
The Coast

We drive and drive exclaiming at what unfolds before us, and then, the next town appears. Our hearts sink, a beautiful valley filled with acres of plastic. Try to recall this scene next time you are inclined to buy out of season fruit in the supermarket.

After leaving this dreary town we head into the National Park with the intention of driving across the island.  Once again the road is something to behold and we hold our breath on the single lane track each time we need to pass another car. Once again the scene before us is astoundingly beautiful but incredibly rugged and harsh as a result of its volcanic ancestry.
National park - thank goodness it's protected
 We gasp, we exclaim, try to stop for photos but it’s really impossible to capture. Once over the highest pass we are suddenly in green hills and natural pine forests. This is an island of contrasts.

As we head down towards the coast, we are once again struck by the dreariness of the towns.

Day three saw us back into the centre of the island to do some walking.  We did a lovely 7km walk in a natural pine forest dotted with flowering azaleas and bright yellow daisies.  A teasing mist accompanied us on our ramble, allowing us glimpses of the Atlantic Ocean far below only to snatch them away again. We didn’t mind as yesterday was so extraordinary that our minds were all ready full.

Lunch was enormous and I have to tell you that we ate our favourite black pudding! It’s so delicious, flavoured with aromatic spices and filled with nuts. YUM!

Day four and we are on the road again. We head south via the coast and try to ignore the miles of hideous development interspersed with falling down plastic ‘greenhouses’. The environmental vandalism that has been allowed is astonishing. We drive right by more ugly ‘tourist resort’ towns and finally climb our way into the mountains from the south coast. Accompanying us this time are 100s of cyclists wending their steady way up the road. Such determination on their faces!  We climbed to almost 2000 metres through more incredible landscapes, stopping for more black pudding (Morcilla Dulce) for lunch.  Once again we drive home through dreary coastal towns and enjoy a beer by the beach.
Black pudding again for lunch

I’ll let you get back now to whatever you were doing before reading this dissertation. We are back in El Puerto de Santa Maria and it’s raining and windy and muddy. Sun is promised tomorrow and we’ll pack up Hilda in preparation for heading north through Extremadura.

View of Las Palmas beach from balcony

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