Sunday, November 22, 2015

Gran Canaria: The Best Medicine

The wild west coast of  Gran Canaria.
Walking is man's best medicine.
 Wow. What a great day in the Canary Islands. Paul and I made a long, but uneventful sojourn across the big, bad Atlantic Ocean. After about 14 hours of airplanes, we really appreciated the folks who came this way on boats for days and days and even sometimes months. So even though I got tired and stiff on the aircraft, I'd best not complain.

We spent the night in St. Lucia, very near the airport and the next afternoon, met our new friends from Canada and were off to our new temporary home of Aldea de San Nicolas on the west coast of the Canary Islands. We read the Lonely Planet entry on this town and basically it said, "There is absolutely no reason to go to this town." But we disagree! Respectfully of course. It is the gateway to some remote and beautiful hiking.

Happy hikers
 Gran Canaria, as you might surmise from the name, is the largest of the Canaria archipelago. These islands are volcanic in origin, so they rise dramatic up from the sea. They have a long history that involves the native Berbers (unfortunately, almost all gone now), France, Spain, Italy and the Dutch. Christopher Columbus spent some time here outfitting for his journey. Literally, it was the last stop before the trade winds to the New World.

A view from our hike to the Atlantic Ocean
More gorgeous views of this desert island

Give the man and walking stick and trail and you will get this smile....if there is gin and tonic at the end of the road!
 We started out by meeting fourteen new acquaintances from the UK and Canada and our buddy, Bert, who guided our prior trip to Andorra. Nice folks, but that is typical of hikers, in general. We were told by Bert, who very obviously is NOT a meteorologist, that we would have a  sunny day with 0.01mm of misty rain. WRONG. It rained off and on all day, but not particularly hard. And we had a rainbow. What's to complain about? We started at public land that was once a private farm for hunting called Finca de Tirma.

 Apparently, Franco spent time hunting here with the family for birds. The terrain was super dramatic and with clouds, it was even more so. We often glimpsed the ocean, but mostly jagged mountain peaks.

We were invited into a cave home for tea along the way with a family that had an eclectic souvenir collection, about 7 dogs and a bird collection in cages. They were gardeners for the finca and they basically lived off the land by eating vegetables, goat and honey. Very pretty place and they attributed their health to "pure mountain air." They were very generous with the little they had and the tea was made from mint from their garden.

The city of La Aldea de San Nicolas. Very small but very very friendly people.

This hike was really gorgeous, not only because we were walking amongst agave, prickly pear, barrel and the taller version you see above, but because we were surrounded by serrated mountaintops, the ocean in the distance, and the pine forest punctuated by rainbows and walking through the mists. Seriously, can it get any better? We really got in touch with nature today, and we loved it. Sure we got rained on a bit, but why not let your "mother" wash you?

Mist, mountains and desert isle.
The best thing to do when it is raining is to let it rain.
Paul's Ponderings:
We had a bit of a slog over here, thru Amsterdam, being awake about 36 hours more or less in the end other than sleep on the plane.   But, we stayed at the airport overnight at a hotel and then were pretty refreshed on Saturday.   We rode up to the hotel with some new Canadian friends thru some stunning mountains and lovely views of the sea.   Folks from Europe appear to use the Canary Islands like US residents use the Caribbean islands.   That said, the Canaries are stunningly mountainous, unlike what we've seen in the Caribbean.   The town we are in is pretty devoid of restaurants, so the first night we bought food at the local SPAR (local equivalent of Kroger) and cooked in our room which is more like an apartment.   
The first hike today was a combination of rain, sun, and wind, but not overly strenuous, despite being 7 miles or so...about a 200m ascent and a 600m steep descent in the mist.   Dinner was at the hotel, then we went out for a nightcap at another nearby hotel, which is more "full service".
This is a very rural area.   The island is not large, but very mountainous outside of the Las Palmas area, meaning two lane curvy roads up or downhill.   And I mean really hilly and curvy....not the parkway in Virginia or Tennessee.  
The first night we were here, there was a large festival in this rural town, but we missed most of it due to eating in the apartment.  There is a nice hotel near us that has a quiet terrace and bar that we are composing this blog entry on, the "La Aldea de San Nicolas Inn and Suites".   As of 10 pm local time, it's about 60 degrees, versus 41 at home!   Very nice!  
So far so good.... a remote and unique corner of the globe and with many of the benefits of Spain....low prices, warm weather, friendly folks.   We have spent a lot of time in Spain over the past 2-3 years and continue to find it a pleasure......the Canary Islands are another unique region....if you get the chance, give it a try.

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