Gran Canaria: where the colour “brown” was invented

In need for some final warmth & sunshine before winter kicked in, Kim & I started searching for an affordable flight to a destination down south. We somehow stumbled upon Gran Canaria and booked in a moment of travel-fever.

That decision soon resulted in a far harder search for “things to do in Gran Canaria”, followed by a lot of  “seriously, what were we thinking?” epiphanies. Still, we managed to put together a decent program: A few days in the volcanic South, some days in the alpine centre, finishing things up in the touristic North. And off we were!

On the first day, we went for a walk around the Bandama volcano crater and immediately got a first impression about the island: Dry, dead, brown. It would turn out we arrived after about 6 months of drought… Things were not as green as they tend to get in the Canary islands. Still, the crater is worth a visit and we had a nice walk around & through it.

On day 3, we went for a bike ride. It would soon turn out that the roads up North aren’t the best on the island. The climbs, however, are surely amongst the steepest: ascents hitting 20% were no exception. With bikes we weren’t used to and the heat not really helping either, we decided to turn around near Tejeda and head for the coast. The descent was a treat. Not that we fell in love with the island though – brown rocks & industry still dominated the view – but at least the road was smooth and fun to ride.

Either way, we decided to leave the bikes be and stick to hiking from then onwards. Every hike was heavy, with no exception. As soon as you head inland in Gran Canaria, you’re going up. Meanwhile, the temperature never fails to hit 30 degrees. The centre of the island is definitely worth your time though. It’s nature at its roughest and we finally started to appreciate the island. I started teaching Kim little tricks for ascending and descending and an old idea rose back to the surface, but more about that some other time. We did a few 20k hikes, each one of them with about 1000m of positive altitude accumulated.

Finally, we moved to the South. High-rise hotels all along the coast line, swimming pools, crowded beaches… After lying in & next to the pool for a few hours, I decided to squeeze in a long run island-inwards. I followed a road what may have been a farmers road for a few kilometers which ended at a solitary goat-farm, protected by a bunch of dogs. I retraced my steps for a bit and discovered a way around the farm. Half an hour later, I ran into a couple of hunters, leaving the ruin of what must have been a farm when they spotted me. A few of their 20 something dogs ran up to me, barking. Not sure about the legality of hunting and being in the middle of nowhere I wasn’t really at ease so I waved & yelled “Ola” to show I was just passing along, minding my own business. They called back their dogs, some of them more obediently then others. One of them stuck with me for a while. He was skinny, a bit neglected maybe, and he kept howling, a sound piercing straight through skin & bone. But just when I started thinking about running off with him and saving him, he headed back for the pack and seemed to have the time of his life. I carried on, they carried on, all was well.

Past the farm, I followed something that looked like a goat trail, probably used by hunters as well. I’d been running for about 90 minutes now and decided it was time to try to get on the adjacent ridge and retrace my steps, meanwhile running further & further from the coast. In the end, I decided to just retrace my steps a bit until I spotted a lone farm in the valley and then descend on the flank of the ridge, using another imaginary trail. Once I got closer to the farm, I saw my prayers answered in the shape of a small gravel road leading up to the farm and started following it, direction: the coast!

Roads, however, have a mind of their own. And when they decide to slowly bend to the left hand side, away from where you want to go, there’s very little you can do but follow. I tried though. I went off-road and tried to reach the valley using what looked like a hunting trail. But once I reached what looked like a shelter, the trail was dead and turned into a very rocky descent. Drifted off too far to turn around, I tried to climb down on all 4 until I bumped into a straight drop of about 5-6m and regretted going off-road. Nothing left but heading back and following the road again which eventually led me to a golf course about 5k from our hotel. With water supply running low, no risks now and over the boring, paved road back to the hotel.

That night, we had dinner at N’enoteca, easily the best Italian restaurant I ever visited. Lovely people too.

After a day of rest we did one final hike to the otherwise unreachable (except by sea of course) Gui Gui beach, in the South-West of Gran Canaria. It would turn out to become the nicest hike we’d have during our entire stay. So the South, and in addition the entire island, isn’t all bad. You just have to look past the crowded beaches, neon-cities and mega swimming pools.

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