In love with Gran Canaria

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.

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21 Responses to “In love with Gran Canaria”

  1. November 14, 2011 at 9:10 am

    I think it’s entirely possible to fall in love with a place, and I can see why you’ve fallen in love with Gran Canaria. Like I said, yours was a very, very different experience from the one I had there in one of the walrus colonies 11 years ago – I had no idea it was so beautiful! Great photos: is that second one a view of Tenerife?

    • November 14, 2011 at 4:44 pm

      The second one is indeed a view of Tenerife, Christie. The peak is called Tiede, Spain’s highest.

      And those birds! A hoopoe it’s called? It took me ages to get away that shot, fumbling with the camera…I didn’t know they were Israel’s national bird.

      Krista, there might be some similarity, because there’s volcanic landscape around where I grew up.

  2. November 14, 2011 at 11:23 am

    A hoopoe? Now I know where they go when they’re not being our national bird.😉

    Gorgeous scenery.

  3. 4 Krista Petrauskas
    November 14, 2011 at 4:11 pm

    I notice there are some similarities to the landscape in your banner to the Gran Canaria vistas , maybe echoes.

  4. November 16, 2011 at 10:44 pm

    How splendorous. you must have thigh muscles of steel to get that high

    • November 17, 2011 at 9:29 am

      It helps to ride every day, but really with a mountain bike the gearing is such that you can tackle the steepest hills in low gear without much difficulty. It’s more a matter of endurance when faced with a long hill at steep grade.

  5. November 19, 2011 at 8:28 pm

    Absolutely beautiful photos of a place that completely escaped me during my one stay in Las Palmas. I was traveling between Liberia and London at the time, and had been going mostly overland to that point. All I could think when I got to my hotel was – hot water?!

    The bird is quite astonishing – I’m glad to have a name for it. And while the landscape is stunning, I was quite taken with the photo of the doorway. And the whitewashed (?) buildings showcasing the bougainvillea.

    • November 20, 2011 at 7:42 pm

      Hi Linda,
      Does that mean you went from Africa by ferry to Gran Canaria and then onward to London – also by boat?

      The bougainvillea was taken at a pretty little place called Puerto Mogán. It’s rather touristy but does have its charm, including many flower-filled alleyways like this one. My friend says it’s nothing like it was when she first came to the island 30 years ago, but at least they didn’t over-build it.

  6. November 20, 2011 at 10:46 pm

    Oh, no. I traveled overland from Monrovia to Dakar, then flew to the Canary Islands, and flew from there on to London. Some friends did go all the way to who-knows-where farther north by Jeep, and then I think took a ferry. Something. But that’s so long ago those details are gone. I just know I’m never traveling by Mammy Lorry again if I can help it.

    I just looked at the photos again – it’s obviously a place to go back to, again and again!

  7. November 26, 2011 at 10:00 pm

    Wow, those mountain switchback roads are a serious cycling work-out! That island looks quite rural. So being a strong cyclist is important. Loved the flowering bushes and trellis arches in the town.

    • November 27, 2011 at 12:43 pm

      Some of those switchbacks just never seemed to end! But you’re right: if you’re not a strong cyclist, better to just pay for a day tour and let them drive you to the top. Anyone can coast down if they know how to use the brakes.

  8. November 29, 2011 at 6:00 pm

    Hah the photo of the four old men on a bench, that’s what I’d like to be with my three closest friends when I’m that age, I love photos like that. And photos of elderly couples holding hands.

    Always wanted to visit Gran Canaria and this post only wants me to visit more😀

  9. November 29, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    The pictures are stunning! That must have been one hell of a bike ride ha. Great description to accompany the pictures, I felt like I was right there-beautiful stuff.

  10. 17 Steve
    December 4, 2011 at 3:05 pm

    Stunning views dude! What a wonderful trip you must have had!
    You know, I’m getting a bit tired of people (in particular, here in Hamburg) talking about their holidays and how good the food, the beaches and their hotel were. They miss the beauty and peace of the nature around them. I don’t know why someone would enjoy being surrounded by pushy sales people trying to drag you into every bar/restaurant or sell you some of their cheap, copycat products.
    BTW, I enjoyed the evening at Scheune.

    • December 4, 2011 at 3:55 pm

      Hey Steven! It was good to see you again, too.

      Seems that’s all that most of them go to these places for, though. The beaches were pretty crowded, so were the restaurants and tourist bars, but as soon as you leave those areas, you have it pretty much to yourself. I bet the locals like it that way, too.

  11. 19 Anonymous
    January 21, 2012 at 1:01 am

    just been to gran canaria staying in puerto rico took binos to look for hoopoes not disapointed saw lots. but walking down to amadores beach a bird was flying towards me at eye level because i was still very high up at first i though a bird of prey but no i was amazed as a great spotted cuckoo flew past only ten feet away. on retuning home i checked out sighting thinking they must be common only no one seems to have recorded them. has anyone else seen them on gran canaria. mark nicholson liverpooi england

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