It was my first time on Gran Canaria. Although I knew it was going to be sunny and warm, ringed with sand and rocky cliffs and gouged with the remnants of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, I didn’t have any inkling how stunningly beautiful I was going to discover the island to be until I rode a mountain bike one morning from sea level to 1,100 metres.
Away from the coast you slowly climb impossibly narrow and twisting roads to stand facing stark outcroppings of lava weathered to craggy fingers topping massive layers of basalt dozens of metres high. A turn of the handlebars and you’re following a rocky ledge atop cliffs plunging 500 metres to the valley floor. Climb a little higher and you enter a pine forest. You stop for lunch with a view to another island more than 50km away, and suddenly realise the air is so pure, so fresh, you could be miles from anywhere.
And you are, because having left behind the walrus colony of package tourists and leather-tanned pensioners lolling around in their thousands down on the beaches, you’re up in the mountains with nothing to hear beyond the wind sighing in the trees like a distant river. Once in a while at the very top you’ll get caught in fog, a thick swirling blanket as the rising air chills, but it’s never there for long. I went up there for six days of biking spread over two weeks, and every day it just got better. I couldn’t get enough of the landscape.
Every morning I’d wake up expecting my body to tell me to just fall back into bed after the pounding I’d given it – and the bike – the day before, but I just had more energy. I just had to get back up there to discover something new.
Is it possible to fall in love with a place? To miss it so much after being away for only a week? I guess this first time was a short fling and destined to remain a sweet memory, but I’ll be back one day with the family. They should see this.
Here’s a sample of what I saw in two weeks on Gran Canaria.