A Coffee shop in Las Palmas Gran Canaria

Canary Island Hopping

November 8th to 14th 2006 Weymouth to Tinajo on Lanzarote

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Day 1 8th November Weymouth to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Alarm! But we were already awake at 3.30am. A brief scrabble in the roof was next to fix the heating. After a quick cup of tea we were off to Bournemouth Airport in the taxi. We can safely say that Dorset road systems are not stressed at five in the morning.

Check in was surprisingly straightforward, made easier by being among the first. Small airports are almost civilised. Silly questions asked, no we did not pack our own bags and yes we did fill our toothpaste with semtex. The tandem went via the large baggage scanner. The security man was not allowed out of his hutch. We didn't even need to lie about letting the tyres down. They were a bit serious at checking hand bags, and then we had time for a leisurely breakfast before boarding the plane.

You have to be getting on a bit when you start saying 'gone r the days' but we did. The tandem came off the plane damaged. Until only eight years ago we used to wheel our full sized tandem unwrapped to the check in. On every occasion it came back to us undamaged. This time the baggage handlers managed to seriously bend the front chain wheel and twist round the management's handle bars.

Among the crowds at the airport the management managed to sort it. He took off a crank and used it as a lever and hammer to persuade the chain ring to become more or less round. He did, however, forget to fix the handlebars.

Getting out of airports is almost always a pain and getting into town makes it worse. The management is no help when he insists on going cross country. There was very little traffic on the road he took which was hardly surprising as it soon became potholed and steep. Had he fixed the bars this would have only caused the stoker to grumble. As it was it caused us to tumble. No harm was done but he was only allowed one further deviation onto rough tracks before the stokers' union made the strongest representations.

We were forced onto the main road for a couple of miles. The hard shoulder was not too bad and were we to do this trip again there is a lot to be said for doing the main road to the edge of Las Palmas. As it was we took the ethnic hilly route inland to Telde and then the promenade into town. It was not all smooth going. A couple of workers who helped lift the laden tandem over some road works went away to repair their hernias.

We were lucky to stumble on an ethnic hotel in the centre of town right by the fruit market. Next door was a convenient and very nice Chinese restaurant after which we went to bed exhausted.

A lesson learned today is that the Spanish can build over roads more quickly than Google Earth can take pictures.

 A happy Stoker as she leaves the Isle of Graciosa

Day 2 9th November Las Palmas, Gran Canaria

Up bright and early the management was off to forage for breakfast. At first this was not very productive. The local shops were all closed but the streets were full of local life which entertained him until he got hungry. Returning to the hotel he wandered into the fruit market building next door. This was a revelation. It was packed full of fruit and veg and even to the colour blind it was a great sight. Some of the veg even he did not recognise. A few bananas later he was back at the hotel to wake the stoker.

Having breakfasted on the warm sunny balcony we were off on foot sightseeing. We crossed the footbridge over the busy coast road and walked across the immaculately coiffured beach. The sand was of course imported otherwise it would have been black. It was, however, so carefully racked that we felt guilty leaving our footprints.

We ambled along the prom before finding lunch. We were lucky to avoid tourist hot spots and hit upon a workers' café which is always the best place to eat in Spain. Good food, a three course meal with wine for about £5.

After lunch we made it to the old town and climbed the cathedral tower. It is just as nice as Prague here without being a tourist circus for stag and hen parties. We could, however, have done with a tram back to the hotel to collect the tandem.

Luggage loaded we were off to the ferry port for our overnight crossing to Arrecife on Lanzarote. Getting the tandem onto the large modern ship was the stoker's responsibility. The office bureaucrats trained in the Condor school of ferries were thrown into confusion. She solved the problem by ignoring the lot of them and cycling the tandem to the front of the vehicle queue. The working class loaders had no problem knowing what to do and the tandem was soon safely tied to a rail on the car deck.

We were surprised to be allocated a really big cabin with large windows right under the bridge. And all for the price of a steerage ticket on Condor. Having freshened up we went to eat. This was a mistake. As far as we could see this ship had only two crew on the public decks. One was the woman who had shown us to our cabin then disappeared and the other was the barman. A couple of beers and a sandwich and cake and we were back in our cabin, the management fast asleep.

Day 3 10th November Las Palmas, Gran Canaria to La Graciosa via Lanzarote

Being a bit bumpy on the sea the stoker took her sea sick pills. Unfortunately she ignored the wisdom of generations and took some new type which do not make you drowsy. If you are likely to be sea sick it is obviously much better to sleep through it. Anyway she was not sick but slept badly. This was not helped by the loud announcements and music when the ship put in for its scheduled stop in Tenerife. The management managed to sleep through it all and the stoker grumbled at him because his snoring kept her awake.

Disembarking at Arrecife was easy and we were soon on the coast road heading north. We breakfasted in one of those cafés frequented by the elderly confused from all over Europe who seem to have lost any real purpose in life. Still, it was nice in the sun and we would not have got scrambled egg anywhere ethnic.

Soon we were out in the volcanic countryside. At first we followed a route we had done on our folders from a cruise ship a couple of years ago. Then we were into new territory. The road was smooth, wide and empty but avoided villages. Getting off it onto the nice direct route included some unorthodox methods that would get you killed in the UK. Here the worst penalty for going the wrong way up a slip road was an extra bit on the distance.

We found a shady spot for lunch at a visitor attraction related to the late César Manrique at Los Jameos. We did not go in, being put off by the cost of €8 and the morbidly obese going in. This was a mistake. Apparently these tarted up natural lava caves are very well worth a visit or so the Rough Guide says.

We made it to Orzola in very good time for the large catamaran ferry to Isla Graciosa. We had time for a leisurely beer in the sun though it was a job to keep out of the wind which was now very strong.

Getting the tandem onto the ferry would have been easy had it not been for a rude, fat, stupid crew member. Fortunately for his own well being he did not understand the English visited upon him by the management. It needs to be said that everyone else we have spoken to has been helpful and friendly.

The short crossing was exciting. The ferry kept close under the 500 metre high cliffs but even so was assaulted by gusts of wind that took spray high into the air. She then ran across to the island harbour. We were met on the quay just as it got dark and followed a decrepit four wheel drive to our apartment. It was a job to stay upright on the tandem in the wind and impossible to ride through some of the sand which had blown onto the dirt roads.

 Calleta del Sebo, cowboy town, on the Isle of Graciosa

Days 6 and 7 13th and 14th November La Graciosa to Tinajo, Lanzarote

The wind is less. Well it would be wouldn't it. We loaded up and made our precarious way down the dirt road to the ferry. Wise to the ways of the fat fool on the boat we got everything offloaded and ready to go on. This morning he was almost human and squeezed a hand in a gesture that could almost be described as friendly.

It was pleasant in the sun. And rather odd as the bridge was entirely empty. The boat man was driving out of the harbour using the remote control, fortunately from the side deck not the quay.

Back on the mainland we had a steep climb in about 5km up to 300m. Quite enough for one day we thought as we descended gently to have lunch in a quiet village square. The other main protagonist of the stoker's union, not with us, cautioned against excessive references to hot climates. Anyway it was very warm and we are not fully acclimatised yet. More, possibly worse, was to come and all brought on by the management.

Due to poor map reading, which he blames on colour blindness, he had failed to notice our first serious climb of the trip. Long ago we had decided that we would only do one pass a day, and then only in the morning. Here we were in the afternoon sun zig zagging up to the highest point on the island at 600m. However, the road engineer was of the best, there was little traffic and the views were magnificent. It is only motorists who need to stop at view points. We had them all the way up and down and ever changing. Only another 10km of dirt road and we were speeding into Tinajo. We soon found our pleasant studio room beside the pool at Casa Tranquila. Chris Furly, the British expat owner, showed us in then directed us to the local café.

A good night's sleep still left us in need of a little rest and relaxation and contemplation of the north of Lanzarote. The first impression of a barren black wasteland was soon dispelled and one becomes sensitive to the changes in the volcanic scenery. The coast road vegetation is wild, unusual and green. Then there is the desert of Graciosa. Going south through the mountains there is much agriculture. The black, and we understand, fertile fields are neatly walled with black volcanic rock. The tilling done by tiny tractors would do credit to a Dutch farmer. From the high places one is surrounded by sea which looks so close it could almost be possible to dive in. Lower down volcanic peaks rise into the mist and give an uncanny, out of this world feel to the landscape.

Not a bad first week and we are looking forward to getting used to the weather.

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