Tag Archives: Canary Islands

TENERIFE GR131. Arona/Ifonche – Vilaflor.

 A shortened day.

We were a little chastened after yesterday and neither of us feeling ready for a long day with 1400m of ascent, I know I’m getting soft. Walking to the bus station at 7am we suddenly decided to shorten the day by going directly to Ifonche by taxi, saving 7k. This leaves me with another little section to finish some other time but there looks to be a pleasant circular walk from Arona. We were dropped off at a bar, unfortunately closed, and wandered off for a view down the dramatically named Barranco Infierno and distant La Gomera. Once back on the Gr131 waymarks were plentiful as we climbed a ridge between two deep barrancas. Tagaste [white broom], prickly pear cacti and Cistus [rock rose] give way to pine forest. There have been forest fires here but the Canarian Pine is able to regenerate low down from the charred bark. We drop into the Barranco del Rey and then through old terraced plots and the occasional ‘era’ threshing circle. In the next barranco there is a fine old bridge, a good spot for lunch. Going up Montana de la Vica, high point of the day 1600m, there are many paths in the red ash and lots of people heading in the opposite direction. Water pipes are everywhere and down the otherside fields full of potato plants, papas arrugadas is the commonest dish in Canary cafes. Vilafor is a small town with an attractive church square where outside cafes serve beer and coffee. We chat to a young English couple who had passed us earlier in the day.  Our hotel, Rural Vilaflor, is an old house in a quiet side street strangely run by a friendly Russian couple. Tourists disappear in the evening and most cafés close, but we find one open for an average dinner.

TENERIFE GR131. Los Cristianos – Arona.

Escaping the suburbs.

This should have been an easy stroll but we arrived in Arona hot and sweaty after a frustrating morning and a climb of 900m. We had underestimated the climb and distance and come to realise our map is poor. The GR131 didn’t exist on this section. Not a good start and in the evening we need a good meal and wine to lift our spirits.

Playa de la Americas and distant Mount Teide.

Playa de la Americas and distant Mount Teide.

From our airbnb we headed down to the harbour and began a coastal walk – the well known Los Cristianos, Playa de las Vistas and Playa de las Americas. It is already above 20°, people are heading for the beach, joggers are sweating past and the hint of full English breakfasts wafts out of the cafes. In fact we stop off for an orange juice and scrambled egg.        There has been no sign of any waymarks for the GR131 but we follow the red line depicted on my map and head inland. Busy roads are negotiated and the motorway crossed. We are feeling pleased with ourselves until we become trapped in a new housing  maze not shown on the map.  The hills can be seen across vast banana plantations, but there is no way out and we turn tail and head down again, always a humiliating experience. The locals can’t help and thoughts of giving up cross our minds as we traipse the pavements and overheat.  By chance, we meet a Dutch couple doing a circular walk, their GPS points us onto a scruffy lane marked private. At last we are heading into the hills up this narrow road which leads to a water pumping station. A fortunate small arrow points our way and silver paint marks help keep us on a small track up to an aqueduct crossing the now rough hillside towards Roque del Conde.  However familiar plants appear, deep gorges drop away and we feel  in the wilds at last. Steep climbing brings us to a col with views back down to the holiday sprawl. In complete contrast, an isolated pig and goat farm is passed which looks to be in another century. Steep lanes lead into the small town of Arona where lots of walkers seem to be congregating, no doubt having enjoyed pleasanter paths than ours. There is no accommodation here so we hop on a bus, full of walkers, back down to Los Cristianos.

TENERIFE GR131.

 

JD and myself are back on Tenerife and staying once again in a fabulous airbnb next to the church, Nuestra Señora del Carmen in Los Cristianos. All is peace and tranquility with this family. We go round the corner to the busy locals’ Restaurant Raymond  and enjoy a typical supper, salad and then Merluza with Papas Arrugadas. The house Tenerife wine is good but the large serving of post dinner fire water Orujo  [ a transparent spirit from the distillation of the remains left after pressing the grapes with an alcohol content often over 50%] could mean trouble. Their paella apparently is superb – next time.

The GR131 through Tenerife follows in the main part El Camino Natural de Anaga-Chasna an ancient route crossing the island used when most people lived away from the piratical coast. My map shows the route from the harbour in Los Christianos to the harbour in Santa Cruz, 125k, thus linking with ferries to the other Canary Islands, the original idea of a continuous route through all seven. The Cicerone guide only details it between Arona and La Esperanza, 85.5k, as does the signing on the island, we were to find out later why.

We also intended to visit the summit of Mt. Teide on the way which involved pre-booking the Altavista Refuge on the mountain to avoid the restricted permit system.

GR131 LA GOMERA – finishing off.

Degollada de Peraza –  San Sebastion.

The bus up into the Island was full of walkers this morning, we must be good for the economy. Straight into the bar for a coffee before picking up the red and white flashes of our path. This led us down towards the valley of La Laja which I visited Dec 2014, but quickly deviated before we lost too much height across the steep hillside on a shepherds path. Guess what? we came back onto the road so it was only a diversion to avoid the tarmac, but a diversion with a view.

Looking down to La Laja.

Looking down to La Laja.

Then it was all downhill along a stony ridge to drop right into San Sebastion. We enjoyed the views towards the coast and snowy Mt. Tiede across the water on Tenerife. Behind us the centre of the Island and Garajonay were in cloud as usual. At the first bar we hit late lunch of tasty tapas was taken, it’s great they serve all day, to celebrate completing the GR131 on La Gomera at least.

Finishing off into San Sebastion.

Finishing off into San Sebastion.

Sunbathing on the hotel roof we chatted to a Scottish lass who has recently partaken in  Stage 1, London to Rio De Janeiro, of the round the world Clipper Race. Her tales had us scared and respectful, no way would I put myself through those deprivations. She is returning for another leg through the Panama Canal. Other people we met were on more humble explorations of the Canaries but all had an interesting story to tell, as had we. This is all part of the travelling ethos – its not necessarily where you go but how you experience it and whom you meet.

Next morning we experienced the expensive Parador Hotel up above the port, sneaked in for a coffee and a walk around their gardens. Didn’t try the heated pool. Within a few hours we are back in Britain and you all know what that means – cold and wet – and memories.

LA GOMERA – GR131 over Garajonay.

Chipude – Degollada de Peraza.

The last time I was on top of Garajonay 1485m I never saw a thing and the mist this morning suggested a repeat. Whilst we enjoyed a good breakfast at Sonia’s some blue sky appeared.  As we left the wind was doing its best to blow the clouds away but not sufficiently to justify a scramble up the ‘Fortress’, a rocky bastion with sacrificial and worship links to the indigenous population.

The Fortress.

The Fortress.

Next was a great traverse round a large barranca with deserted properties far below. All around here were signs of the large fires of 2012 but generally the lower vegetation has grown back. Sitting for a break in a bus stop by the houses of Igualero we were surprised, we shouldn’t have been, when the local bus stopped  and deposited lots of walkers who dispersed in all directions.  This island has so much walking and the buses are a great help.

Simply following the signs and waymarking we arrived on top of Alto de Garajonay and through breaks in the cloud had some views but not of neighbouring islands. There was a steady stream of people coming up to the top as we descended to the road and car park. Ahead was the  huge Roque de Agando but we didn’t seem to get any closer as we weaved through the forests of giant heathers. Views into the deep Barranco Benchijigua reminded me of our toil up to Roque  de Agando on a previous occasion. A roller coaster of a path along the crest had us almost running in time to catch a bus [guagua in these parts] at Degollada de Peraza. Our problem once there was to decide where the bus stop was and guess at the timetable. The road down is spectacular in itself and this evening we had great views of snow covered Mt. Tiede. Safely in San Sebastion for supper of some unknown fish.

 

LA GOMERA – GR131 into the middle.

Vallehermoso – Chipude.

The GR131 has been recently waymarked and signposted so it is difficult to get lost, but that is what we managed within a few hundred metres in Vallehermoso. Well not lost really, we had the excellent Discovery Guide map highlighting the walking routes, unfortunately at an early junction the signing was debatable. At least we debated it, John would have gone left whereas I wanted to follow the map. Later we found I was wrong, despite the odd fading red and white flash, but we had gained height and were reluctant to turn round. Worrying private signs kept appearing but the track was good and going in the right direction ie. upwards. We eventually joined an improved track which turned out to be the 131, there had obviously been a new diversion. Ahead were heavily forested complex mountain ridges through which the path wandered with occasional views back to the valley. Mainly it was steeply up through the trees 1200m to be precise. We were walking in the Laurisilva, a type of cloud forest where the trees obtain much of their moisture from mist. Fortunately there was no mist today.

In a clearing in the mainly Myrtle trees we stopped for lunch, it was a busy spot with walkers using a short circular route. German seemed to be the prominent language. We spent time feeding crumbs to what we thought were Blue Finches but I think turned out to be Canary Island Chaffinches, different to ours. In fact when you look up birds on these islands they often seem to be a canariensis variety. One of the commonest we saw was a kestrel with dark plumage.

On the top of the plateau are several small villages so we were able partake of regular refreshments as the afternoon wore on. Between Las Hayas and El Cercado we traversed round the rim of the massive barranca leading down to Valle Gran Rey, the last time I was here in thick mist I never even realised it was there.

LA GOMERA – into the rain forest.

Las Hayas.

Las Hayas.

Called in at Maria’s bar – she still looked fairly miserable, maybe life up here is hard although she was making good money today with all the walkers.

Delightful field systems brought us on old tracks into Chipude and Sonia’s bar. All I had from Victor, the brother, was an email reply to my booking request saying OK. Beer in the sun was a perfect end to the afternoon. The room was comfy but the bath minute. For supper I chose the delicious tuna in an onion sauce – looking back had exactly the same last time I stayed. Angela the Mother is a great cook and Sonia the most efficient hostess.  On the big screen watched Arsenal get the run around by Messi and his Barcelona team. We were glad of the heater in the room as it turns cold at night at 1200m.

Chipude with the 'Fortress' behind.

Chipude with the ‘Fortress’ behind.

 

 

EL HIERRO – LA GOMERA, bits of the GR131.

Valverde – Puerto de la Estaca – La Gomera.

As a footnote we walked down to the ferry at Puerto de la Estaca on the GR131 this morning. It didn’t look far on the map but it took us longer than we expected. The manager of the Boomerang [did I detect an Aussie accent?] said fill your stomachs before going but we didn’t understand. The route, an old walled and paved way, was a joy to follow but was hard going – it is El Hierro after all. We arrived at the port early expecting to eat lunch but there was no cafe or bar – it is El Hierro after all. The ferry to La Gomera cost as much as the much longer journey to Tenerife, the girl on the till agreed it was illogical – it is El Hierro after all.  And I have to come back to walk the 131 properly.

End of the GR131 on El Hierro.

End of the GR131 on El Hierro.

Empty cafe.

Ghostly port cafe.

Leaving El Hierro.

Leaving El Hierro.

The crossing was thankfully calmer than a few days ago and Mount Tiede  was covered in snow from the bad weather last week. On disembarking at San Sebastion  an enterprising taxi driver accosted us and before we knew it we were enjoying the fantastic scenic roads over to Vallehermoso. A note was waiting for us at our booked apartment – just let yourself in. To make the most of the day we jumped a taxi down to the Playa and walked the delightful track up the fertile valley under Rocqe El Cano back to Vallehermoso.  Supper at the superb Agana included the local  potaje de berros, we had seen the watercress being picked earlier. Went to sleep accompanied by the frogs’ chorus.

Start of the GR131 at Playa Vallehermoso.

Start of the GR131 at Playa Vallehermoso.

One for you Conrad.

One for you Conrad.

 

EL HIERRO – Camino de Jinama.

 

La Frontera – Valverde.

Behind La Frontera is a 3000ft wall of vegetated rock leading straight to the crest of the island, the result of a massive landslide. There didn’t appear to be any route through. The morning was brighter as we walked up through the hamlets of La Frontera to the chapel Nuestra Senora de la Candelaria with its prominent bell tower above on a volcanic cone. Here we found the sign for the Camino de Jinama, an ancient paved way linking the high plateau with the lowlands of Golfo, used to transport animals back and forth according to the seasons. We zigzagged our way up this unlikely way marvelling at the skills to construct such a path,  ? a thousand or more years old, modern roads weren’t started until the middle of the last century. On our climb we had plenty of occasions to rest and take in the bird’s eye view of the coast below. The vegetation was exotic to start and then we moved into the Laurel-Silva forest with the occasional Canary Pine.

At the top, 1200m, was a small hermita and a large viewing platform, a road came up on this side so we were inundated with tourists bused up from the cruise ships which now come to the Canaries instead of Tunisia and the Eastern Med. Walled drovers’ tracks weaved through the larval rocks in a scenery reminiscent of Scotland.  The fields provided meagre nourishment for cows and sheep. San Andres seemed to be the centre of everything agricultural up here , like  Masham in the Dales. The local bar was doing a fantastic luncheon trade, no doubt of local meat products, we sat outside with a beer. We were now on the GR131 our original objective and it was all downhill from here. We passed wind turbines used for pumping water up to a reservoir, feeding turbines when needed thus making this island almost self sufficient in electricity. Impressive technology. Yet further on we met a farmer cutting fennel stems for salads which must have been used for centuries.

The church in Valverde at the end of the Camino de la Virgen.

The church in Valverde at the end of the Camino de la Virgen.

In Valverde the deserted Hotel Boomerang gave us Room 101 where I tried to consign into oblivion some of John’s excess equipment. He got his own back when to avoid losing them I hid our room keys in a chair on the corridor – he came out with the classic subtle reprimand  “I wouldn’t have done that”   Our night on the town didn’t materialise as almost everywhere was shut. A chance find of a tiny local bar, with men playing dominoes, gave us a beer and vague instructions to a shop up the top of town. We had just about given up after much climbing and searching when the shop appeared and we emerged with all that was necessary for a supper back in our room. It was with trepidation that I, keyless, approached the hotel front door but thankfully it was open so there is no story of bivouacking in the street.

EL HIERRO – first steps.

NO!   That was the response to my simple question in the Valverde tourist information office  – ‘tiene la previsión del tiempo para mañana?’  That had us off to a bad start, we were the only ones on the bus from the ferry up to the main town which at 600m was bleak, wet, cold and windy. More like the Falklands than the Canaries.

Approaching El Hierro.

Approaching El Hierro.

'Caneros' an ancient figure in sheepskins - more friendly than the Tourist Information office.

‘Caneros’ an ancient figure in sheepskins – more friendly than the Tourist Information office.

Until 1885 the Punta de Orchilla cape marked the Zero Meridian and was used in most 16th and 17th Century maps. Today the island is still known as the Meridian Isle.  John and I were back to follow the GR131 footpath across the high spine of EL HIERRO which starts at that point and incorporates the Camino de La Virgen. Every four years islanders carry a sacred statue from a shrine to the church in Valverde to commemorate the miraculous ending of a drought in 1614.

We based ourselves in the friendly little town of La Frontera and had arranged a taxi to take us to the start of the GR the next morning, however the mist stayed down and the cold rain continued. Apparently there had been a few days of unseasonal weather. I think I’ve had enough days in the hills when I’ve seen nothing all day so when the taxi arrived we opted for a low level walk from the coast at Pozo de la Salud back to La Frontera. The village of Sabinosa appeared deserted but we heard later that the Saturday carnival went on till morning despite most residents being over 75years. The land in this area, the Gulf of El Golfo, is mainly agricultural with bananas, vines and pineapples, though there is evidence of old walled enclosures where animals used to be kept. Call it a cop out if you want but despite the wind we enjoyed ourselves and the mountain tops remained in cloud.

Pozo de La Salud.

Pozo de La Salud.

Gulf El Golfo.

Gulf El Golfo.

Pineapples.

Pineapples.

Not the GR131 GRAN CANARIA – Festival time.

Hoya Pineda – Galdar and onwards.

As you can imagine we had a slow leisurely start to the day, dragging ourselves away from the Hostel we climbed back up into the village and contoured round the west side of the mountain. Walking through the village dump we found a path under steep basalt cliffs and height was slowly lost. Over to the west were the steep Tamadaba hills and ahead the volcanic cone above Galdar.

Lanes were met and led us past dog infested houses to St.Maria de Guia, a pleasant little town with supposedly an area of historic houses. We were sidetracked by a car rally in the plaza. The narrow streets, cobbled with black volcanic rock, and old houses in the higher part of town were  explored. What struck us most was the height of the doors in proportion to the properties. Why?  The area is also famous for its Queso de Flor de Guia made mainly from sheep’s milk curdled with Cardoon [thistle] flowers. We found ourselves in the courtyard of a house selling this and opted for a taster of three cheeses and wine. The cheese was salty and served with a biscuit like bread, I wasn’t that impressed. However the olives we ate were some of the tastiest I’ve ever had and the ambience in the hot sun perfect.

Galdar is a stones throw away across the motorway. Some of its houses seem precariously built on the side of the volcanic cone. We found our way to the Santiago church and walked into the local festival, marching bands, fancy dress, dancing troops and a very loud pop concert. It was a couple of blocks away before we found a quiet cafe for a drink.

Galdar.

                                                               Galdar.

Santiago Church.

Santiago Church.

The Guagua [local bus] soon had us into the capital, Las Palmas, for a couple of days relaxation exploring the old town with more festivities, unusual modern art galleries, tropical gardens, lovely beach, fish restaurants, local back street bars…………… All a distant memory now we are back in the good old UK.

Not the GR131 GRAN CANARIA – downhill all the way?

Tunte – Hoya de Pinata.

Today we left the  northern part of the GR131 which we had previously walked and continued on our pilgrim route across the Island. We set off in cold mist and despite my assertion that we would be walking downhill all the way spent an hour climbing steeply towards Moriscos. Out of the mist appeared our friend the runner, now with followers in tow, we will check how he performs in the grand run in March. This wet weather is due to the trade winds from the NE which had brought Christopher Columbus to the Island and established it as a trading post in the Atlantic. We bypassed Mt. Moriscos and Mt.Negro, the latter a perfect ash cone and arrived at the view point into Caldera de Pinos. That was quite impressive and ‘only’ 3000 yrs old. Nearby were some Canarian Pines 300 yrs old.

Mt.Negro.

Mt.Negro.

Caldera de Pinus.

Caldera de Pinos.

Steep descending on ash through the pines brought us out into rolling green countryside with  grazing sheep, Tagasaste plantations [used for animal feed] and flowering almond trees. Quite a contrast to the higher areas of the Island. A door admitted us into a small bar for a Tropical beer and bocadillos once we had pronounced them correctly. The local police stopped by for a drink and a chat. We emerged into hot sunshine and carried on down lanes past farmsteads and barking dogs. Over to our left the Tamadaba hills seemed impressive in profile, we had climbed them last November. The village of El Saucillo was next and in our endeavours to support the local economy coffee was taken in the cafe. Despite the fact that there were only three people at the bar the volume of conversation was off the decibel scale, I’m sure it was all very friendly. Our onward route was identified on the road signs.A little peace and quite followed as we strolled down the lanes and into Hoya Pinada. Our hostel for the night, the Camino Art Hostel, was the last house in the village after the church,  on the very edge of the wild barranca. Beata, an Hungarian girl, made us very welcome and proudly showed us round her gardens and property. The girl sharing our dorm was Ukrainian and others staying there Polish and Spanish.  As the wine was cheap we stayed put for an evening of International discussions.

https://caminoarthostel.wordpress.com/

 

Hoya Pineda, Camimo Hostel salmon coloured house right middle above barranca.

Hoya Pineda, with Camino Hostel, salmon coloured house right middle above barranca.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – to be a pilgrim.

Tunte – Cruz Tejeda.

In Tunte there is a church dedicated to Santiago [St. James] and one in Galdar at the North end of the Island, between them is one of the ancient Camino Reales which has been recovered by the Cabildo Insular [Regional Government]. A pilgrimage route has been established along this although the route itself is pre Spanish Conquest and Christianity. So today we can complete our GR131 and start a pilgrimage after our obligatory coffee in Plaza Santiago, I still haven’t got used to the taste of the local Canarian coffee, don’t know what they put in it. We spend the next 4 hours climbing up into the centre of the Island. Initially on a steep made up path through pines to the road at Cruz Grande and a rest whilst looking over Tunte and further to the East coast. Across the road is the start of a magnificent cobbled  track zigzagging through steep volcanic scenery. At the top the path goes across bare rock and we stop for a snack [tuna again] as runners pass through. The day is passing and we don’t seem to have gone far on the map but the ground levels out through a pine forest on ash and magma below the highest point of the Island, Pico de las Nieves 1949m,  which being military is out of bounds.

At Garanon there is a youth camp and we can get a coffee from a machine, the huts have an appearance of a concentration camp so I hope the kids survive.

Suddenly we are on a balcony path looking out to all the famous landmarks of Gran Canaria – Roques El Fraile, Nublo, Bentayga,  Mt. Altavista and distant Mt. Teide on Tenerife. Some scenery and we are just in time as the mist starts to role in. Onwards to Cruz de Tejeda and El Refugio for the night. It is surprising how quickly the temperature drops up here once in mist and we are glad of heating in the rooms. Later we are treated to a spectacular sunset over Mt.Teide.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – the empty quarter.

Ayagaures – Tunte.

Déjà vu at Ayagaures as the taxi dropped us off the next morning, but this time we were heading north on the GR131.Crossing the dam above Ayagaures led to small houses with surrounding Garden of Eden plots. Hard work had created fruit and veg that anyone would be proud of.From there we climbed a clear path into a scattered pine forest looking out for elusive Blue Chaffinch as we went, no luck.

As height was gained we seemed to be heading for a pass but we continued traversing above it into a more and more remote area with views back down to the coast. Some mountain bikers sped fearlessly downhill past us and low and behold that hill runner nonchalantly trotted by. Lost valleys appeared below. The original route has been closed due to a landslide and the volcanic rocks hereabouts looked friable. Lunch was taken before we reached the col at Manzanilla. I was so impressed by the feeling of spaciousness up here.

Two curiosities en route –

Giant dandelions, 3ft high, growing everywhere; you should see the size of the rabbits!

– and water on tap out of the rock.

So eventually over the top and onto an ancient looping track down to Tunte. We were chasing the 14.30 bus but on arrival at the stop found the timetable had changed, we didn’t fancy a three hour wait for the next. The ploy is to go into a bar and ask for a taxi knowing full well there isn’t one, this usually finds an ‘hombre’ willing to do the job. The helpful lady in our bar of choice did just that and before long we were on the way again in an unlicensed car with a driver who would probably failed even the most lenient of alcohol tests.

 

Who is driving?

                                                         Choose your driver.

We arrived safely and reflected on a yet another brilliant day’s walking in a beautiful and remote area of the Island.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – Barranco de los Vicentillos.

Ayagaures – Maspalomas.

Virtually within an hour of landing at Gran Canaria airport I was in the pool of our cheap bungalow complex at Maspalomas, with an air temperature of 25degrees. It is January, we had  just spent 5 euros on a decent bottle of wine, nuts and olives, and are relaxing before a trip to one of the good fish restaurants for supper.  When John asked me back in England just over a week ago if I fancied a return trip here I readily agreed – we had unfinished business.      https://bowlandclimber.com/2015/11/15/gr131-gran-canaria-change-of-plans/

The GR131 through this Island is not waymarked as such, the Cicerone walking guide gives a version of what may transpire. Their last section [N-S] follows a road all the way from Ayaguares to Maspalomas,18k, surely there must be a better alternative. This is where Barranco de los Vicentillos comes in, it looked an obvious route but paths on the map were marked intermittently – there was only one way to find out. The taxi dropped us off in the virtually deserted village of Ayaguares at 9.15, the bar didn’t open till maybe 10 so we just set off walking. A winding lane took us steeply up and over the intervening ridge where we could look down into the Barranco, it did look inhospitable. However paths led down to the dry river bed and we then could follow the rough stony ‘trail’ through reedy vegetation. After heavy rain this would be impossible but today we enjoyed blue skies and increasing temperatures.

John became preoccupied with plans to convert the stout reeds into trecking poles thus avoiding the hefty aircraft charges for hold luggage containing our own ‘weapons’. His schemes probably still need refining so Ryanair needn’t  worry about loss of revenues just yet. The Barranco was quite deep in parts with ‘Swiss Cheese’ volcanic rock on either side. A wide selection of plants and shrubs were encountered, the prickly pears were particularly vicious.  We only met one person down there, an awesomely fit hill runner preparing for an Island race later in the year. Eventually we emerged under the motorway into the outskirts of Maspalomas and a welcome coffee at a kiosk outside the health clinic. We had previously followed the tracks onwards down to Faro lighthouse at the coast so we took a short cut  back to our bungalow.

For anybody following the GR131 I would highly recommend this route for the last stage to the coast.

GR131 GRAN CANARIA – change of plans.

From Top to Bottom.

All good things come to an end. I was up all night with the most awful abdominal pain!  If I’d been at home would have gone to hospital – ?appendix ?kidney stone. Eased up after 7hours and spent the rest of the day resting in bed feeling sorry for myself and disappointed about missing the walking in this fantastic weather. The hotel were very helpful and we booked another night. John had a great day’s walking with a taxi back to Cruz de Tejeda. Saturday I was feeling better but didn’t dare set off into the wilderness. So we had a pleasant short walk down to the village of Tejeda, a lovely little spot where we dallied on a bar terrace overlooking the valley down to Artenara.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Roque Nublo above Tejeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Sleepy Tajeda.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

Towards Artenara with Cueva de los Candiles high on the right cliff.

The bus didn’t leave from where we thought so we had a bit of a rush down to the small bus station. I didn’t envy the drivers task of negotiating the steep narrow hairpins over steep drops, he did hit the barrier on one hairy section! Two hours later we were in the busy holiday resort of Maspalomas, installed in our hotel apartment and enjoying a swim in the pool. Another world from where we had been. Our complex was massive but  surprisingly pleasant and clean. Didn’t really like the fitting of a wrist band for our stay, shades of electronic tagging. Are they trying to stop us running away, not something I’m used to. We were given a map of the complexes and it took us some time to locate our room, even worse when we tried to find the restaurant. We ended up on the streets outside and arrived back where we started, the areas all looked the same! Maybe tagging would be useful for finding lost, and hungry, guests.

Sunday was our last full day, John was not happy to go back up into the mountains whilst I could possibly take a turn for the worse [somebody has to have some sense]. So after a leisurely breakfast we walked through the no man’s land of apartments and shops to Meloneras beach where we had a swim and dried of in the sun before heading back to a little restaurant, La Esquinita del Mar, for lunch. Papas arrugadas con mojo sauces and then the local fresh Cherne [Wreck fish].

As an aside I noticed a quirky translation elsewhere  of ‘papas arrugadas’  wrinkled potatoes. Mis hijos quedaron encantados con sus papas arrugadas – became – My children were delighted with their parents wrinkles.

Walking back past some exclusive looking hotels along the wide promenade ‘living statues’ were in evidence, some quite clever. At the lighthouse at Faro, a prominent landmark, it was 28degrees and everyone was making use of the good weather sunbathing and swimming. One can see why Northern Europeans flock here in the winter. The southern tip of the Island is famous for its sand-dunes above the beach and I was keen to see them, I wasn’t expecting all the other sights I saw. Some things are best kept hidden.Can’t really end with that photo so here’s another cheeky chap seen along the way …..

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

Gran Canarian Giant Lizard.

All being well we will be on a plane home tomorrow, I hear the weather back in Britain hasn’t been that good – can’t wait.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – caves in the sky.

Artenara – Cruz de Tejeda.

Another leisurely start and another perfect day. we say goodbye to the lovely people at the cave. Breakfast at Bar Tamadaba was taken in the town square, tomate tostada and good coffee. Lanes led to the hills above with views once more to distant Mount Teide. On the ridge we came across a sign for Cueva de los Candiles describing it as one of the most important pre – Hispanic caves with hundreds of carved triangles possibly representing the female pubes, fertility symbols?  The approach to the cave was described as dangerous and precarious so we were soon scrambling down the loose cliff face in search of the cave. After a few false descents we found a metal ladder taking us down to an exposed terrace leading to the cave in the rock face.  Disappointingly the entrance was barred and it was difficult to make out the carvings but what a situation 400m above the valley.

The best 'triangle' I could see.

The best ‘triangle’ I could see.

We had not seen much in the way of bird life in the hills, some Kestrels yesterday but up here we spotted a Barbary Falcon flying across the cliffs below us. Continuing along the ridge we found more caves [all barred] Cuevas Caballero which were worth exploring, this time without risking life and limb. There was an interesting carved face in the rock but this was probably of a different date.

Back on the ridge we had a surprise view down to the capital Las Palmas.

The day was disappearing and we hadn’t gone far but good paths led us towards the col of Cruz de Tejeda where all the day trippers land up in the centre of the island. We had a beer on the terrace of the exclusive state run Parador hotel but couldn’t afford a swim in their heated pool. The view down the caldera is impressive, as is everywhere in these mountains. The sombre pilgrim cross overlooks the busy tourist cafes and stalls and our more modest hotel, El Refugio, was tucked away behind. There were pleasant gardens with a pool which looked inviting in the hot afternoon sun – but turned out to be freezing, about 15degrees [we are at 1500m], so we didn’t linger.

We were in a cheap attic dorm type room and suffered several head injuries as we moved about. The couple running the place were most charming and provided a good Canarian evening meal with honey/rum to finish. Recommended.

 

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – through the forest.

Tamadaba – Artenara.

The morning was perfect, clear and sunny and already warm. We supped our tea gazing at the view from the cave across the caldera valley to Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga as cocks, mules and goats awoke. The Acusa plateau to the west reminded me of Andean landscapes. The small Bar Diaz provided us with desayuno, tostada con tomate, although the coffee on the Island is rather strange. Our taxi man turned up at 10 and we were soon back in the trees of Tamadaba. We climbed up to the summit at 1444m for a view of Mount Teide on Tenerife.

Undulating paths led along the pine covered ridge. We passed a giant eggshell of larva which would have made the perfect bivvy. The path was well waymarked and was really only running parallel to the road with several well frequented view points. Soon we were overlooking Artenara and were drawn into the town square and the rather touristy Bar Tamadaba. So it was a mixed tapas and beer including the classic ‘patatas arrugadas’ with mojo sauces and fish croquettes. We took the opportunity to walk up to  la Ermita de la Cuevita a church inside one of the many caves on the hill side. Up here we passed many inhabited caves with goats and chickens scattered about.

Dropping back down to our own cave as the sun was setting and a new influx of interesting people. A mother and daughter from England had come up on the bus and were adjusting to high altitude cave life.  We set off into the village hoping for supper and found the only place open was our Bar Diaz. Classic Canarian meal of mixed salad and dorada  [a type of sea bream] and chips.The local ‘Tropical’ beer was good as was the company. About 7euro per head. Bought some more wine and retired to the cave for another chilled out evening. The old hippy in me is resurfacing.SAM_6609

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – into the mountains.

Puerto de las Nieves – Tamadaba.

Aeroplane and bus had us onto the Island and into the busy capital Las Palmas, where Christopher Columbus stopped over [1492] as did we; and the next morning over to Puerto de las Nieves, a sleepy port on the north west coast. Time over coffee to adjust to the sun and temperatures climbing into the high 20’s. The GR131 is not marked as such on Gran Canaria but the route across the island is covered by a series of well signed and numbered paths. We picked up the S90 on the edge of town and started climbing.

The path was well contoured through the volcanic ash and soon typical Canarian plants were distracting us from our task. A new bulldozed track gave us easy walking, its purpose we found out was to access land where millions of trees were going to be planted. The workers put us on to our smaller continuing path up the rocky crest [a sign will be needed]. Steep slopes were crossed and a large party of 25 walkers met descending, there is a walking festival on the Island at present. At over 600m old terracing appeared and an ‘era’ threshing floor. I suppose this was the reason for our old path in the first place. Surrounded by cliffs and with good views down to the coast this was a good place for a rest and snack. Also an opportunity to compare the carrying properties of our respective packs, my back was soaked in sweat from my basic Golite sack whilst John was dry using an updated airflow Osprey pack. Sometimes the quest for the lightest carry has its downfalls.

The stone paved path now climbed steeply to find a breach in the cliffs above and entered the forest of Canary Pines at 1000m.

Volcanic bomb.

Volcanic bomb.

This was a different world of shade and mist with silent needle covered paths, hanging lichens and giant heathers. The absence of any other walkers enhanced its spookiness. We hit the road where I had hoped the taxi would appear and sat and wondered if it would. There was no mobile reception.

Taxi!!!!!

Taxi!!!!!

This is not a particularly busy road, we only saw one other car, so when a taxi came round the bend we stopped it and jumped in. The driver’s replies to my stuttering Spanish had us worried as to whether we were in the right taxi – he didn’t seem to know my name or where we were staying and his phone number was different from the one I had. The simplest solution was to keep quiet and get to our hostal in  Artenara. We arranged to see him in the morning for the journey back.

Our hostal was in fact a cave house, and a very good cave it was. Adam the ‘warden’ was from Hungary and the other guests from France and Belgium. The laissez faire [can’t translate that into Spanish] atmosphere was perfect for the situation – a cave with the most fantastic outlook and that black cat, Sombre.  [El Warung Cave Hostel]. SAM_6536We had no food with us so wandered into the village to eat only to find that due to some previous local festival every bar was closed. A shop provided us with pasta, beer and wine and it was back up to the cave for a convivial evening. The stars were fantastic and the planets almost aligned. Should be good tomorrow.

PS. The taxi was the correct one.

GR131 on GRAN CANARIA – Plans.

Cicerone Press.

Cicerone Press.

 

A rather bleary eyed friend, John, opened his door last week – “we’ve just arrived back from Tenerife at 4am this morning!”

“Oh – so you won’t want to go walking in Gran Canaria starting this weekend? We might have to bivvy a few nights but the weather should be good”

“I’ll have a think about it”

We ‘outdoor types’ seem to live from one expedition to the next, there is never enough time for all the potential trips. I’d come across the GR131 on La Gomera last December and realised it’s potential for winter walking.  Cicerone, as ever, do guides. The trail links all the seven Canary Islands and I thoroughly enjoyed the Lanzarote section at the beginning of this year. My plan was to try and complete the other Islands this winter. Gran Canaria would easily fit into the week I had free.

A day later – “Yes I’ll come, what do we need?”

So I booked the flights, getting and paying for more than I expected from Thomas Cook. Taking trekking poles [a security risk] always means having to book expensive hold luggage, but somehow I bought reserved seats and meals as well.

Planning went into overdrive and within a couple of days we had booked accommodation for every night to reduce the amount of gear needed. This did involve however the use of taxis for complicated transfer link ups and I wasn’t confident of my some of my telephone conversations in Spanish.

The Map Shop at Upton-on-Severn sent me a map by the next day, one of the superb Discovery Tour and Trail series.  I’d got my rucksack weight down to 6kg,  John’s was only a couple of Kilograms heavier but he was much fitter than I having just completed the Cape Wrath Trail with camping gear. We were ready to go.

 

 

WALKING LANZAROTE. Over the sea to La Graciosa.

This trip was a bonus. The GR131 doesn’t go onto this island – but should and maybe will.

Having discovered the existence of Isla Graciosa off the northern tip of Lanzarote it looked like an ideal place to explore. No roads, few cafes, lovely beaches, virtually uninhabited. I had a spare day so I made myself get up at 6, miss breakfast and catch the first bus. I arrived in Orzola just in time to catch the 8.30 ferry which took a little over 25mins to cross the relatively calm sea to the little harbour on Graciosa – Caleta de Sebo.

One is greeted by a few sea front cafes and lots of people trying to hire out cycles for the day. I wandered away from the busyish front to a smaller bar for a coffee and time to plan the day.  I found a man with a jeep who gave me a bumpy ride up towards the top end of the island. Poor chap had a swollen face from an infected molar and was in a lot of pain, his nearest dentist was on Lanzarote!

Once he had gone I was left in this isolated wild volcanic land. I wandered up along the coast to the northernmost rocky point, black larva disappearing under Atlantic breakers. What a great place to sit and contemplate, the only sounds were the wind and waves. Other uninhabited Islands were visible to the north and east but no boats appeared.

More islands.

More islands.

I then started my walk around the east coast of the Island. There was a vague sandy path through the rocks and several times I diverted onto sandy beaches. The fascinating breakers coming over the rocky promontories were a challenge to my photographic efforts. In a couple of places were rock arches breached by the sea.

I didn’t see a soul until I reached the apparently uninhabited small harbour village of Pedro Barba, a couple of mountain bikers had reached here on tracks. By now the early mist had lifted and the sun was warm, a small sandy beach had me stripped off and swimming in the clear water. Magic.

I ate some lunch whilst drying in the sun. Looking down the coast there seemed to be no way below the cliffs and I contemplated moving inland to continue south. However once I had followed the beach further I spotted the path going across the crumbling cliff face and enjoyed a Kilometre or so of exciting walking.

After the cliffs there was a better path round the coast on a more open ash field backed by distant volcanic cones. At times the path was really crunchy as you walked over thousands of shells.

Sparse flowers were a delight…

At one point someone had collected all the round stones in the area and created a concentric  design giving good symmetry with the background of volcanic cones.

Again there were glorious beaches and rocky coves all the way back to Caleto del Sabo.

Time for a beer before catching the ferry back across the strait under the dramatic 2000ft  Famara cliffs of Lanzarote and round the rocky point into Orzola harbour.

What a great day!