Report and photography by Allan Rogers
On a visit to the Canary Islands we were disaponted to find that our holiday apartment was right in the middle of one of Europe’s biggest holiday towns. Walking to the beach was a major undertaking and after the longish hike up the hill on the first day we were almost resigned to spending most of our time by the hotel pool. With the busy traffic just over the wall prospects did not look too bright but like most things in life there was an “up” side.
The local bus services provided the answer and we soon found that Gran Canaria had a lot to offer.
It is the third largest of the seven Canary Islands and like a miniature continent with extreme landscapes combining African, European and American vegetation.
At Playa Del Ingles on that first day we had larked about, like children, in the warm waves and watched as hundreds of people of all nationalities walked along the ever-widening beach towards Punta de Maspalomas in the distance. So many people and yet so much space.
The next day we began our bus adventures with a trip to Faro de Maspalomas. The lighthouse round the headland marked the beginning of the vast stretch of truly massive sandy dunes. It is a fascinating area but let me give you one tip before you go off hot foot to explore it. The term ‘hot foot’ is appropriate because as the sun climbs higher into the clear blue sky the sand under your tootsies will get burning hot, so take some footwear.
Inland there is room to find solitude amid the vast sea of sand and there is the occasional oasis of palm trees. Understandably it is a popular area for nude sunbathing. Look carefully and you will find that you may be sharing the shade with one of the ‘Canary Island Lizards’, there is an abundance of on these fascinating creatures.
The closer to the sea you get, the more people you find with many tidal walkers head back in the direction of Playa del Ingles. Fortunately for them and those who lay browning on the sand or sun-beds there is the odd kiosk selling sandwiches and beer, so life can be sweet.
There are also life guards on duty and flags to denote just how safe the swimming conditions are.
In the far south.
The following day we took a trip on the road that corkscrews along the coast to Puerto de Mogan.
It takes about an hour on a number 32 bus, and if you sit right at the back in the window seat next to the coast, you will have an exciting time as it swings round the corners on the high cliff road beyond Puerto Rico. (quite often you won’t see the road!)
As you get off the bus at Puerto Mogan there is a well stocked supermarket, but before you think of buying what you need for a picnic, stroll down to the waterfront or visit the harbour. You may feel that the location demands that you rise to the occasion and have lunch at one of the little restaurants.
The whole setting is reminiscent of San Tropez in the seventies. It is certainly worth exploring the picturesque little alleys behind the marina. Little white houses rise up the hill behind the town and seem to merge into the mountain. It makes for a very pleasant in which to enjoy a swim, or just to float and enjoy the view. It is a quieter world, quite a contrast from the bustle of Playa del Ingles (which of course has its good points too, particularly when it comes to night life.)
Bus Palmitos Park
Towards the end of our brief holiday after a short dip in the pool we nipped across the road to our now familiar bus stop and let fate take a hand by hopping on to the first bus that came along.
It was the Number 45 it took us on to a small road that led up through an ever-narrowing ravine.
Palm trees and the odd brilliant flash of wild bougainvillea appeared in the rough rocks above us. The destination was Palmitos Park.
This sub tropical oasis is home to thousands of birds, fish, trees and plants from all over the world. We ooh-ed and ahh-ed at the splendour of the Orchids all along the terraces and as we climbed gently up the valley the warm sun was tempered by a gentle breeze.
We marvelled at the plumage of the birds and sat on the hillside admiring the vast cactus garden
It is difficult to pick out a highlight but beyond the butterfly house, (the largest in Europe,) the flamingos and water gardens there was one of the best laid out and natural aquariums that I have ever seen.
The fish there seemed as friendly and a special show there was much laughter as parrots performed tricks and showed of their intelligence They seem to enjoy themselves and ham it up for the applause. It is located near the café at the entrance, so you can enjoy it either at the beginning or end of your visit.
A Capital Experience
Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.
We had now got the ‘bus bug’ and, forsaking the beaches, decided to tackle the island’s capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. This was our longest journey and we opted to stay on the vehicle as it travelled through the city and get off at the final bus terminal at Parque Santa Catalina. We relaxed over a coffee at one of the open-air cafes.
It was fun people watching, the area was like a giant living room for the locals and men sat at tables playing chess or dominoes while across the way a giant open-air cinema screen was set up ready for the evening
We explored the narrow streets and came out at The Playa De Las Cantaras. It is the citiy’s 4 km long beach. It has golden sand and is sheltered by an off shore reef. (A meal at a sea-front café there was the only failure of our visit.)
Back at the plaza we took an open top bus tour. As we moved off the commentary welcomed us to Las Palmas "the city with the finest weather in the world" and as if on cue we immediately felt a few spots of rain. Luckily this cleared away by the time we got to the end of Avada Jose Mesa Lopez, a long and elegant street full of department stores and international shops. Clearly a place for tourist arriving on cruise ships to flex their credit cards
At the top end of the city we paused for a view of the vast harbour area. I have to say that I was much impressed with the older section of the town and the brilliantly coloured homes.
The effect was as though a child had been let loose with a paint box.
To soak up the atmosphere of the place we hopped off the tour bus and wandered through the little streets to the area where Columbus once stayed. At Plaza De Santa Ana, amid statues of dogs we gazed up the Cathedral of the Canaries.
The abiding memory for me is of the coming out of the cool, narrow streets on to the pedestrian area of Cala Mayor de Triana’ and following the couples who walked over the beautifully tiled paving. The calls from lottery ticket sellers who sat at the little tables were almost melodic and somewhere from close to the Parque San Telmo drifted the sound of a flute.
Thanks to the local buses I was beginning to realise that there is much more to the Canary Islands that sun, sea and sand.