Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Gran Canaria Day 4: Into the Clouds

                                                                                 Edward Abbey

Picking off peaks
Today, we definitely were subjected to the prayer of Edward Abbey for our day. And we were grateful. We did three tandem peak hikes, spent quite a bit of time above or amongst the clouds, took some of the most curvaceous and narrow roads we have ever seen and got stupendous views. What a wonderful day!

We started by taking a winding path through the mountains. I tried to take a photo that would give some perspective to the drive and the skill of the bus driver, but it all pales in comparison to the actual experience.  Just suffice it to say that the W road in Chattanooga would be about the only local experience that comes close, and it doesn't have nearly enough hairpin turns, nor does "the Dragon" on Hwy 129 to compare to this. Let's not even discuss the single lane thread of  road. But needless to say, our capable driver, Juan, got us to Point A. Which was Roque Nublo--Cloud Rock...That in itself should give you a clue!

Roque Nublo roughly translated into English as Cloud Rock is seen in the distance...with a cloud on it.
It was once again windy and cold (what tropical island isn't ?) as we started our 45 minute uphill trek, hoping conditions would clear so we could see down into the valley and the path to the rock. As you will note, the mountains here are volcanic and subject to many spikes, points and fun shapes.  We bundled up and slogged up to the rock.
As you see, we got the reward of having the cloud clear off for a while. Paul is in the foreground to give perspective to this monolith, which is 125 meters high (about 400 feet).

The views into the valley below were intermittent with the misty cloudcover, but needless to say, it was very dramatic. We could see lower valleys and occasionally out to the Atlantic Ocean. Then the clouds would drift over us again and we'd see very little, but even that had its own special magic. From this point, we hiked to the base of the rock, and then back to road to get to peak #2  Pico de Nieves, the peak of the snows.

The beginning of the Pico de Nieves trail in a picnic ground where we enjoyed a mortadella and local queso rojo sandwich which we bought the ingredients for in the ubiquitous Spanish SPAR grocery store. 
As you see, we were hiking only a few miles away, but in a gorgeous pine forest. It was such a welcome contrast to hike on a pine needle floor for a way with many tall trees. Most of our hiking has been on bare rocks with only cactus and succulents as our cover, when available.  This area reminded me somewhat of hikes at home... prolonged climbs with lots of canopy. Eventually we did end up on bare rock again, but it was fun to do it a little differently.  After about another hour of uphill, we were greeted by the highest point in Gran Canaria, Pico de Nieves. In years past, before global warming (which of course, doesn't exist), there were frequently freezing temperatures here and the local people would come up to the peak to get ice and bring it back to the villages below. Thankfully, there was no snow today (and we are told its a rarity nowadays), although it was quite chilly, but there was a food truck selling coffee and cocoa! Thank you Jesus, thank you Lord as they say round home. And this was the view--

High up within the clouds at Pico de Nieves. Although the view was frequently shrouded, occasionally it would move over and give us a peek into the valley.
It was an impressive and fun hike and yet, we still had one segment to go. So we were back onto the bus, through even more hairpin turns and finally to Acusa Seco, a plateau high in the mountains with cave homes. People apparently still inhabit many of them today, as we witnessed both mailboxes and an active public trash service. We did not see any inhabitants. The guide says many of them live in the main city of Las Palmas now and use these cave dwellings only on the weekend. The cave homes have apparently been dated back native Guanaches 1100 years ago. They had an elaborate labyrinth of connections which are being excavated in places by archeologists, and they had crop storage areas, animal husbandry and their home all within the caves. We got the distinct feeling that most of these caves are now in disuse, but it was still fascinating to see the homes built into the hillside, much like areas of Cappadoccia in Turkey, the Pueblos of the American Southwest and some parts of Peru. 

Acusa Seco cave dwellings.
From this juncture, we ventured back down the mountain on a super narrow road. I have no idea how the bus driver manuevered on it, as it was only about a foot bigger than the bus. We passed reservoirs mostly and deep canyons that made you flinch if you looked out the bus window. I kept thinking about all the tourist bus disasters we hear about on the news!

But alas we made it safely back to our hotel in Aldea de San Nicolas. Dios mio!
As you see, I am no worse for the wear!
Overall a really great day with a variety of hikes covering amazing clouds, wonderful vistas and plenty of winding roads.

“Aren't the clouds beautiful? They look like big balls of cotton... I could just lie here all day, and watch them drift by... If you use your imagination, you can see lots of things in the cloud formations... What do you think you see, Linus?"

"Well, those clouds up there look like the map of the British Honduras on the Caribbean... That cloud up there looks a little like the profile of Thomas Eakins, the famous painter and sculptor... And that group of clouds over there gives me the impression of the stoning of Stephen... I can see the apostle Paul standing there to one side..."

"Uh huh... That's very good... What do you see in the clouds, Charlie Brown?"
"Well, I was going to say I saw a ducky and a horsie, but I changed my mind!”
Charles M. Schulz, The Complete Peanuts, Vol. 5: 1959-1960 

Paul's Ponderings:  Three hikes of differing lengths but all of interest....the first one with the rocks at Rogue Noblo was the payoff today....simply stunning views with a panorama across the valley to the sea and beyond.   You won't see this at home as they say.   We were quite lucky as the clouds held off long enough for us to see that panorama.   The second hike was quite steep but we were socked in at the top for most of it.   Both of these had quite brisk weather and we were glad we had multiple layers for the trip.   Finally, the cliff dwellings....very much like certain ancient tribes in the USA.   

We followed it up with another communal meal at a local bar here in Aldea......we have a great group to hike with this time with a variety of folks, mostly from the UK.   

We are very privileged to be here as this is not a part of the world most folks ever visit.  While I hate to be effusive, the mountains here are incomparable and incredibly scenic.   That said, the hikes have been strenuous, but not quite up to the level of the Pyrenees a year or so back, which is welcome.   

We've had a couple of folks ask about food....out here where we are, it is pretty much home cooking at this point.   Lots of fish, potatoes, fried seafood, and such.   We think it may be different next week in Las Palmas, but will wait and see.   This is a very rural area for hiking and the amenities are limited.   The weather today had no rain at all, but was quite chilly up high....maybe 40 degrees on the lower elevation, it was more like 70.

The roads, as someone said, are about six inches more narrow than a large bus.   We drove up and down on a roadway that would put Lombard Street in San Francisco to shame....and this was on a full bus meeting cars with huge ravines...can't say enough about our bus driver today, Juan.  

Much more to come....more hiking tomorrow then adventures to come....we keep on keeping on....

No comments:

Post a Comment