Friday, 2 May 2014

A Flavour of Gran Canaria. Canary Islands

A brief look at this idyllic island.

Although we have visited the Canary Islands many times - mostly to Tenerife but latterly to Lanzarote and Fuerteventura - we had never visited Gran Canaria. 

The island lies in the Gulf Stream off the west coast of Africa, south of Fuerteventura to the north-east and Tenerife to the north-west. It is rounder in shape than the others with all the valleys and rivers flowing out from the mountains high in the centre of the island. This makes for some dramatic scenery.
After looking at the description of our holiday experience and checking the layout on the Internet we eagerly anticipated our two-week relaxing stay at the Dunas Don Gregory - a beach hotel. This proved an excellent choice as it lay at the southern end of San Agustin with direct access to the long promenade which swept around the sandy bay onwards to the more built up Playa Del Ingles - so called as a famous English pirate was buried on the beach,( so we were told).


The weather was good to say the least. Strolling along to the northern end of San Agustin we came to a rocky coast where little crabs lay in the Spring sunshine. My husband, always keen to watch these, was busy snapping away.


As well as lazing in the sunshine and enjoying the all-inclusive hospitality of the hotel, we booked on a couple of trips so that we could see something of the island. Unfortunately, the excursion to the capital Las Palmas de Gran Canaria did not materialise but we did enjoy a full day tour to the interior of the island where we ventured high into the mountains.

Island Tour

Postcard by .EDICIONES A.M. A Murillo


Arucas and Rum Distillery

With an easy connection from San Agustin to the motorway we were soon heading north east towards Las Palmas. Skirting what looked to be a very busy city, we carried on along the north coast. Our first stop was  the Arucas Rum Distillery just outside Arucas (Arehucas). Faced with row upon row of barrels full of rum, we were amazed to see the ends of the barrels covered in signatures. Many were from famous people and dignitaries - even the King of Spain. After touring the various processes of bottling and packing we were led to the inevitable shop where a long counter was covered with bottles of all kinds of rum. I am not a rum drinker but did try the 12 year old one. Mmm. It was so smooth, so warming. Then we went on to banana rum and chocolate rum which I declined. Turning back for a sample of a normal rum, I was faced by a scrum of people with arms outstretched, reaching for the bottles which - by this time - had been left unattended for us to sample at will. The picture shows the process of rum making.

Soon we arrived in the old town of Arucas where we visited a very old church where silence was ruled to be golden. Afterwards, we found a coffee chop in one of the old buildings nearby. 

Teror

The mountains rose high as we traversed valleys along switchback roads. We could see Las Palmas in the distance from our viewpoints. Teror is a typical Canarian village with those fantastic ornate wooden balconies. Here I browsed in a gift shop which stretched rich back into the far reaches of the building while my husband waited outside in the fresh air.
The blog cover picture above is of Teror.

Valleseco

Climbing ever higher towards the clouds we came to our planned lunch stop in Valleseco. We had a choice of meals which our guide had related to us on the coach so that we could choose and she could ring ahead. There was some very good planning in our journey times as all day we found that our party was the first one at a stop so we were leaving as all the other coaches were arriving. Well Done Saga! Wine or other drinks were included with the meal and soon, replete and comfortable we headed further inland to the centre of the island.

Tejeda and Ayacata

The roads wound higher and higher providing an ever-changing scene. At some viewing points of nearly 1500 feet high you could clearly see Las Palmas. Heading south towards Ayacata, the Roque Nubio in the distance towered high into the sky. If it had been a clear day, our guide told us, we would have been able to see Mount Teide which dominates Tenerife. 

San Bartolome de Tirajana and the coast.

It was getting cooler now in the mountains as we made our last comfort stop. Then, our route took us south to San Bartolome as, gradually, we made a stunning descent down the mountains to the motorway,the coast and our hotel. What a stunning day we had had.

Puerto De Mogan

Our half day excursion to Puerto Mogan would follow the coast road westwards from San Agustin. This coast road ends at Puerto Mogan from where it turns north to follow the valleys and over the mountains to the west side of the island. Until recently the motorway ended at Puerto Rico further east but the new tunnels through the mountains has made travel much easier and was the route home.

However, early one morning, we boarded our coach to head towards Maspalomas from where we could see the sand dunes and the Faro de Maspalomas (Lighthouse). This coast road took us through the villages of Arguineguin, Puerto Rico with its busy harbour/port where, from our vantage point of the coach high on the road on the side of the mountain, we could see the many boats. Once in Puerto Mogan, looking back and upwards we could see how high on the side of the mountain we had been. Almost hanging off with a sheer drop to one side. It is a fascinating way to get a good glimpse of the coastline and geography of the area. 
Our guide gave us the option of heading off ourselves or following her to the harbour. Oh! What an enchanting place. There were many boats in the harbour and the bustle of market day did not detract from the tranquil scene. We were both entranced by the streets where walls and bridges across the streets were festooned with flowering shrubs of many colours as they rambled at will.

After enjoying a crepe (pancake) with ice cream at one of the many cafes we strolled through the market back to our collection point and a swift journey through the very long (2km) mountain tunnels on the motorway back to San Agustin for lunch. So if you think that the Canaries are all sun sea and sand - think again.

This is the last island which I will be including in Island Interludes planned for 2015 - until, that is, I stick a pin in a map after reading the frequent, enticing, Saga Holidays brochures which plop on the mat with alarming frequency, and say 'Let's go to .....

Rosalie xx