Gran Canaria 2020

Saturday- Out of the Blue

We were incredibly lucky to get another chance to travel before the end of this dismal year of 2020. Our planned 2 weeks of Asian adventure travel morphed into a week in Gran Canaria but even that felt like the height of adventure with all the hurdles to overcome. The biggest stroke of luck was that the Canary Islands came off the quarantine list. The flight with easyJet was still going, we still have covid antibodies and holidays were not yet an illegal activity.

The flight was almost full and interestingly mostly older folk of pension age. The early editions of the UK papers talked grimly of a possible further lockdown but we were undeterred.

The usual Dance of the Hire Car company where we contest the reality of what we are offered against our expectations of what has been booked. No way were we accepting a car that looked like a compressed hearse so we settled for a VW Polo with the promise of a BMW 2 series the following day.

We were met at the Filin building in Puerto de Mogan by property manager Pedro. Everything looked fine and Una realised she had stayed in another apartment in the same building back in 2008.

This apartment was booked on Airbnb and was a very reasonable price. We had lunch at what was in retrospect probably the most tourist- trap restaurant on Mogan seafront, the Blue Marlin. Though hard to complain with 3 courses of reasonable quality simple food for €9.99. We had gin and crisps in lieu of an evening meal and an early night to offset our red eye flight.

Sunday- Vamos a La Playa

Back up to the airport to swop cars but with only a lazy beach day planned, it wasn’t too much of a chore. The sheer pleasure of breakfast outside on a sunny terrace. The music on loudspeakers from the school opposite. Una’s Spanish teacher used to say that you will never forget the word ‘ la escuela ‘ because it is where the children squeal.

The chosen beach of the day was Anfi which has an interesting history. Built by a Norwegian businessman to resemble a Caribbean paradise. Gone are the aggressive time share salespeople and instead the beach goers seemed to be mostly locals. The hotel had a vaguely Cesar Manrique style but seemed closed up.

There was a beach club where couples were eating sushi and drinking cava. Steps from a bathing platform that was favoured by Fearless Pandemic Grannies.

The clear blue water was a cool 24C but once we braved the difference from an air temperature of 34C, it was lovely to swim in. It was great to see so many people of all ages all just enjoying life, no worries about covid. Couples, gay and straight. Mums in Brazilian thongs. Naked kids building sandcastles. Young people sharing a joint. Laughter all around. Like a slip through to a past time.

In the early evening we wandered around the PDM old town which is very pretty and we quite fancy an apartment there next time. David, the Dutch owner of harbourside restaurant Ahul, told us many are owned by Norwegians as winter holiday homes and rarely available. The light was lovely.

We had a cocktail at La Langosta on the beach front in Mogan.

A Mojito made by the Cuban owner. Fresh and natural ingredients, no nasty mixes.

This was followed by a fantastic dinner at Ahul which was creative and delicious food. We had a  bottle of Caldera, a local wine which was very smooth.

Monday- These boots are made for walking

We opted for the Bandama Caldera walk from the book “Walking in Gran Canaria“ by Paddy Dillon. This takes you up to the view point, around the caldera and then down into the centre. We skipped this last option to cut the walk to 5km and 2.45hrs with lunch and photo-stops. Although not long it felt quite a challenge at times. We did not meet any other walkers on the route apart from a picnicking French couple at the top viewpoint.

Back to base for a swim, shower and cocktail on the balcony. Our gin of the moment is Macaronesian Gin Premium White, a local option made with real Botantists if you believe the label.

A simple dinner after last night’s haute cuisine so we went to the bandstand square for an Italian at a restaurant called Clipper (which used to be a German run establishment with a quirky host). So many restaurants shuttered and closed. Several for sale. So sad to see the post apocalyptic world especially having seen the same area full of music and vibrancy in the past.

Tuesday – Flowers, fountains and fog

Today was a car touring day up to the northern towns of Firgas and Teror.

Firgas’s claim to fame is the fountains and the natural spring water which was central to the town’s growth. No apologies here for the Spanish marching in and displacing the indigenous people.

Next was Teror for a much needed lunch and coffee stop. The whole centre of the town is listed and you can see why with the very attractive and regular style of building with Canarian balconies. Everything was shut down for the siesta but even outside of that there were few people and we felt like the only tourists.

I persuaded Una that it would be interesting to drive down the central spine of the island rather than taking the main highway again. The scenario should have been stunning but the white clouds and mist put paid to that. Temperatures plummeted to 12 C and at one point we had fog lights on. The roads were fun though with lots of twists, turns and switch backs.

The clouds partially lifted as we descended from over 1700m and revealed a lovely vineyard against the dark volcanic soil. There were also a number of camp sites in pine forests near Llanos De La Pez.

As we got near the impressive Roque Nublo on the GC400 the clouds lifted further and we stopped to have a look at the valley views and rock itself.  The route down from here got progressively steeper and more twisty – at one point the car navigation system was just a mess of blue lines and we couldn’t see the route.

Back in Puerto de Mogan, we went to view the sunset from the rocks at the edge of the bay.

Dinner was with our friendly Cuban at seafront La Langosta, starting with his killer mojitos. Live entertainment was also provided by a busker. We chatted to other diners and there was again a lovely atmosphere, we have missed this in these horrible times. We treasure the moments so much when they happen. The complementary honey rum finished me off. A lovely evening.

Wednesday- A gorge and a cave

Half-way through the holiday and the weather has turned a little duller but still 25C. Today we wanted to do a couple of short walks to some caves and also a small canyon. We started at the Tobas de Colores Barranco de Las Vacas (easy enough to find on google) and parked at a small place on the side of the road. This is a popular Instagram location in pre-lockdown days and now was as ghostly quiet as the rest of the island. The gorge itself was like a mini Petra coming to a dead-end after less than 100m. I climbed up a wall but with the camera it wasn’t so easy coming down!

Further up the GC-550 towards Temisas at sign post 9km is a path up to the Cuevas de La Audiencia, Temisas – a set of pre-historic caves with various pits and chambers plus a few hundred metre drop down to the road far below.

On the way back we stopped at Playa Amadores which Una remembered fondly from over a decade ago. Sadly the sky was a little overcast and the beach very empty. We paid €12 for a pair of loungers and ate our late lunch. Una went for a swim. One thought for the day was just how much development there is in Gran Canaria. We heard the story of the corruption charge against the Mayor of Mogan. Is the pandemic going to reset tourism ? What will come back afterwards? Maybe there are too many tourist beds in too small a space and we need a reset.

Dinner in the harbour at Ahul again. Lots of chat with a couple from Dublin and another from Manchester. What fun to be sociable again and chat to new people.

Thursday- To the Lighthouse

Down to the Old Town as the morning sun position should provide a little more light in the alleys and the harbour . The bougainvillea is amazing all over the buildings.

Everything so well maintained but sad to see racks of curling, faded postcards and adverts for boat trips and tours long since cancelled. The desperation of the remaining shopkeepers.  Travel now seems sometimes like visiting a lost civilization and that soon creepers will be growing over things. People expect holiday places to be as they remember, like alternative worlds. And they are gone, shadows of their former selves. It is like everything is dying here.

After a lunch back at the apartment we drove up to Maspalomas to walk around the dunes and take that iconic photograph of the lighthouse. The 10km walk was a little tough going in the soft sand of the dunes and the heat.  At the far point we decided to follow some tracks made by people and leading to the beach. Coincidently there was a storm out to sea with fantastic dark clouds.

Maspalomas y Menos Palomas

Walk through the dunes…

After a quick turn around and a G&T on our balcony we went for dinner. This time it was quirky Mi Vida. A real burst of colour and joy. Being here is at times uplifting and joyous and at other times heartbreaking and sad. People are trying to be normal and have a holiday or make a living. They, like us, are not willing to let this pandemic define our lives and this year.

Friday – Zen and the end

After an annoying set of form filling for the UK border entry,  we went to the nearby Cordial Hotel Spa. Yes, a spa day in the pandemic era.  I’d booked a body massage and Una made full use of the various different types of pools and saunas. We had the place to ourselves for 3 hours. A luxury we won’t be experiencing again anytime soon. All for €25 each and €75 for the massage.

We had our final lunch on the beach front. this time an Italian restaurant with delicious garlic bread and a fresh salads. Run by an Italian.

We booked with our friendly Cuban for this evening and a final round of those lovely mojitos. Delicious food, the beach in front of us, a glorious sunset and a feeling of wanting to bottle it all and take it home.

Saturday- Back to the grey world

The Easyjet flight home. We wish we could have stayed for a month and envied those retired folk who were doing so. Maybe one year.

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