Gran Canaria Travel Journal

> Gran Canaria: chasing the autumn sunshine

09-11-2014 Leaving for a holiday as a family with two kids takes just a bit more of preparation and packing skills than a few years ago, when we could just toss some clothes and shampoo in a bag and were ready to go. It's quite a puzzle to stuff everything into the right bag or suitcase, since we're flying Ryanair and we've chosen for just one piece of check-in luggage. On the other hand are all of us allowed to take 10 kg of hand luggage for free. Unfortunately only two out of four travelers are able to carry this luggage and one of the travelers has to be carried herself as well..

10-11-2014 The joy about our advantage to fly from a regional airport, the short travel time, is ruined by the particularly unfriendly treatment of the employee who selects who is allowed to proceed to security check and who isn't. Even at a distance of over ten metres we're being yelled at in German.Boarding Ryan Air That we have to check in first. Yes ma'am, we did check-in first, but we're traveling in the luxurious position of having a toddler and a baby accompanying us and those are allowed two free baby items each and Rosalie is even allowed to have her own bag. However, the lady apparently decided to indulge her morning mood on us, because even before we are done talking, we get a new snub: we are not checked-in yet, because our baby items are not labeled. “Yes, but…” No, that's unacceptable, we have to get back to the check-in counter to get our things labeled. “Yes, but those labels have already been attached to the carrying cases that will be covering the luggage before being shoved into the hold.” That's not possible! “We beg your Pardon?” The labels need to be fixed to the items themselves and not to their bags. That the labels are invisible then is not important. The arguing goes on for some time, before the lady concludes that security will send us back and our flight will be delayed because of us.

So far the easy part of the boarding procedure. From now on we only encounter friendlier staff, who seem to understand that it's pretty hard work to unpack and re-pack the luggage of four people at the scanner. An hour later we slightly sweaty sit down in our seats, to entertain ourselves for the next five hours with nothing more but the crew, who try to sell scratch cards, perfume and trumpery to the retirees who surround us AND of course the "we're-on-time-like-the-other-98-percent-of-our-flights-jingle", that they save for the end.

Unfortunately Sixt doesn't have their office at the airport of Gran Canaria and they use a shuttle bus to take their customers to their office. This shuttle was supposed to be here at five, but we now know things like this work in the garlic countries, so we wait a bit... and a bit more...
With our amount of luggage we're not the first ones to sprint from the van to the counter of course, but as a consolation they give us an upgrade to an extra large, extra bourgeois family car.

Once we're on the highway, our phone call to the owner of our bungalow is answered in Spanish and when we explain in English that we're on our way they hang up on us. However, to our surprise there is someone waiting with the key fifteen minutes later and the super market is around the corner. We fix ourselves a quick meal and then we think it's time to call it a day. But Rosalie and Vera decide differently. The first one demands milk and the second is affraid to get back into her travel cot, after she rolled upside down in the thing, due to the strange tricks she did in it. Fortunatly we have only neighbours on one side and they're out.

Dunes Maspalomas

> first days in Maspalomas

11-11-2014 Vacation! We're totally in the perfect (slightly ... ) mood. By the end of the afternoon we go for a quick peek at both the dunes and the beach of Maspalomas. During our first activity of today we also run a competition to see who can spot the most anchors, tattood on upper arms, within five minutes. Not an easy one, since there is also a large range of carnival outfits represented at this place, in order to divert attention. Could it be because it's the eleventh of the eleventh? Probably not, it's probably one big party here for 365 days a year.

12-11-2014 A perfect day! A day at the beach near Meloneras, about fifteen minutes from our place.

> Coastline, cityscape and mountains

13-11-2014 On our trip along the coast to Puerto de Mogan we set eyes on what mass tourism has done to this island. Bay after bay filled with ugly concrete.Beach Puerto de Mogan “Such a lot of flats, they look like a pile” according to Vera, who begins a story about her wooden blocks then. Puerto de Mogan however is a wonderful surprise: a lovely little port town with an athmospheric promenade along the sheltered beach. We enjoy a picknick and build a sand castle here, before we return to our bungalow, this time by taking the highway; less concrete and more speed.

14-11-2014 Today we visit the Santa Maria Cathedral and Casa de Colón in the capital, Las Palmas de Gran Canaria. Then we stroll through the botanical gardens just outside the city for a while; these are the largest in Europe, with some giant cactae, a Bodhi tree and according to Vera “witch trees” (dragon trees).

15-11-2014 We follow a wonderful winding road, through several hamlets, into the mountains of Gran Canaria. The valleys are filled with palm trees and all kinds of fruit trees, like oranges, dates and figs, while the small farms are covered with Bourgainvillea. The road becomes steeper and narrows near Soria, a picturesque little village near two mountain lakes. We enjoy a picknick with a fabulous view, whereafter we continue along ever steeper roads, until we cross the highest pass for an amazing descend to Puerto de Mogán. The landscapes are breathtaking. In Puerto de Mogán we return to the civilized world, with its own branch of Veras favorite Canarian supermarket, “dinosaur-Walmart” (Hiperdino). We cool down in the ocean and build another sand castle, or somthing alike, to return back home afterwards.

Picknick mountain lake near Soria Puerto de Cruz Grande

> Beach and sand dunes

16-11-2014 While Vera and Peter enjoy themselves at the beach, Rosalie and Yvonne take it easy in and around the house. In the afternoon Yvonne goes out, armed with her camera, to the dunes of Maspalomas, an interesting place, where women can walk around all alone, without any risk. The only other visitors of this nature reserve are in fact male couples and nude elderly. The first are only interested in each other and the latter are already out of breath even before they're halfway up a dune. The dunes are an amazing piece of Sahara by the ocean, adjacent to the beach, which is a real meat market for previously mentioned groups.

> More charming villages and great mountains

17-11-2014 After a morning walk in the charming village of Agüimes we drive into the prettiest valley of the island: Barranco de Guayadeque. At the beginning the hills are scattered with cacti and a bit further on, where the hills are higher and the landscape more rugged, people are still living in cave dwellings. Unfortunately there are many clouds in the higher part today, so thirty minutes later we return to the coast, where the weather is still nice.

18-11-2014 Puerto de MoganFor today the forecast says it'll be raining. Indeed, when we're halfway to the wonderful, relaxing beach of Puerto de Mogán, the number of drops increases by the minute, until it's pouring when we finally got ourselves some tasty sandwishes for our planned lunch at the beach. We take shelter under a shed, where we consume our early lunch then. Meanwhile the street changes in a fast flowing river. Twenty minutes later, however, it's almost dry again. Under the guise of "we'll get wet in the ocean anyway" Peter and Vera optimistically continue their way to the beach, while Yvonne and Rosalie take a stroll over the many bridges of the marina and through the old fishing port. Here they obviously made a completely different choice back then, when tourism rose and the town hasn't sacrificed even the slightliest bit of its old charm. It's still a lively fishing village, where boats sail out in the early mornings, to subsequently sell fresh fish at the market, whereafter the nets and traps are being repaired.
The weather has been wonderfully cleared and much later than planned, we go home, all with a healthy tan.

19-11-2014 And there it is: the large amount of water from the sky, where we're been warned for. A typical take-it-easy-day, with a bit of shopping, some reading and not much more.

20-11-2014 TerorThe weather obviously changed and under a cloudy sky we drive to Teror, as they say themselvse the prettiest village of Gran Canaria. That is so true. A wonderful church on a picturesque village square, even older buildings on the surrounding squares and amazing wooden balconies are decorating colourful facades. We walk around for quite some time and picknick on the village square, while practising our favourite hobby when on vacation: watching people. When the sun comes out as well we're totally happy.
We also drive to Arucas, about ten kilometers further on. This was supposed to be a wonderful village too. It's not bad indeed, but it's a bit disappointing after our visit to Teror. The local playground is more attractive though, and in the wonderfully maintained park where we find it, dozens of beautiful butterflies are circling around, so according to Vera it's yet a great place.

21-11-2014 Once again we're heading to Barranco de Guayadeque once again and this time the gorgeous valley is lit by the sun every now and then, making the colours even more vivid. We see olive trees and almond trees, eucalyptus and palms and a large number of other trees. From here we take the mountain road to the white village of Temises, a bit of a disappointment after the praise in Lonely Planet, to Fataga. This is another truely wonderful place, with gorgeous flowers and murals on every corner and surrounded by rocky mountains, with great vistas.

> Another mountain tour

22-11-2014 Finally the weather is so clear again that we dare to go high into the mountains. On our way up we often see large amounts of mud and rocks on the road, as a result of the rain earlier this week. From Mogán we drive via Los Azulejos, a few waterfalls, coming down over wonderfully colored rocks, to La Aldea de San Nicolás de Tolentino. The road has many bends and at some parts it's fairly steep, but it also offers magnificent vistas of the coast. The village La Aldea de San Nicolás is something remarkable. The houses are dilapidated, the road surface is broken, the people are shabbily dressed and it all wouldn't look misplaced in one of the suburbs of a South American capital. We pass some very eccentric houses and vehicles, which would look better in a museum.

Near Acusa Near Acusa

Here starts the most spectacular part of our trip, a very tiring part too, over bad road surface, with declivities that even make Vera be quiet for a while and with sometimes every ten meters a new hairpin bend. The views are breathtaking and the wild nature is no less than some of the things we've seen in Kyrgyzstan. The vegetation between the huge rocks is slightly different here though: agaves, palm trees and various fruit trees and cacti. We see people living in cave dwellings everywhere and sometimes their gardens are even cut from the rocks.

In Artenara we stop for lunchen, quite chilly and with a firm breeze, here in the highest village of Gran Canaria. Next we stroll around a bit and we're surprised to find out that the same typical athmosphere that we know from Asian mountain villages is also present here. The smell of firewood from the ovens of the restaurants certainly contributes to this.
Via Tejeda and the Roque Nublo and Pozo de las Nieves, the tallest peak with over 1900 meters, we drive to San Bartolomé de Tirajana again; now we arrive from a different direction than yesterday. Today the landscape around this village is even more remarkable: a brightly coloured, double rainbow hangs over it. We continue our tour down, looking back again and again to that beautiful rainbow, which remains visible for quite some time. A great end of a wonderful day.

> The end of two wonderful weeks at Gran Canaria

23-11-2014 Today we say goodbye to our favourite beach in Puerto de Mogán and we have another delicious, large icecream in one of the many restaurants. Than it's time to start packing and to get to bed a little early.

Puerto Mogan24-11-2014 It's barely five a.m. as we reach the parking garage under the airport, to return our rental car. The signs aren't very accurate, really, and we can't find the right place. After the third round we decide to leave the car in a parking lot from another rental and we leave the key, as agreed, under the driver's seat. It is a good thing that we give up the quest, because when entering the departure hall we find out that our flight will depart at 6:25 and not 6:55, as we thought. When we also need to search for our check-in counter, bacause it appears to be the only one on a different floor and even the signs in the elevator send us in the wrong direction, we start to feel slightly stressed.
Since the elevator is way too small we have to take turns to get downstairs, where we reach the right desk, all panting. The athmosphere is not very pleasant here, as the lady behind the desk apparently is extremely strict about the maximum amount of kilos, even at this hour. The couple in front of us curse and scold, because they have 500 grams too much and so they have to open their suitcase again, to put on some clothes instead of having them sent to the hold. Therefore, there is a big smile on our face when we turn out to have more than two kilos under our max and security check is also not a problem. So we reach our gate right on time to board the plane. Meanwhile the Rosalie-siren sounds at an alarming strength, because she was waken up for a second time, now to go through security scans on mum's arm first and once more on dad's. At least twenty pairs of eyes are staring at us. “Row six, people, be careful where you sit”, is Yvonne's response.
The flight is an uneventful one, but our short night breaks us a bit when we don't find a single bagage trolley after landing, not even outside the airport. We're glad we have our stroller with us and after an extensive reorganisation we manage to reach our car with all of our luggage. When we leave the airport we quickly check our backseat: yes, even the two kids sit neatly where they're supposed to sit!”

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