Week 2 16th to 22nd December 2010

No adventures?

16th to 17th December 2010 - Las Palmas to Arinaga, Gran Canaria

A cargo ship over a period of time offers travellers an amazing sense of security. This is odd considering how hazardous the whole voyage appears to be to those sad health and safety people. Being suddenly deposited with all our luggage on the dockside was something of a shock to our newly institutionalised systems.

We bid our farewells to the captain and crew and strapped our luggage onto the tandem. Unlike Felixstowe dock, and our idiotic Royal Mail, the container port at Las Palmas has no problem with bikes. That is not to say that we were completely happy as we had no idea of the way out of the port.

It was just gone 10am and the temperature around 25 degrees. It had been quite warm on the ship for the last couple of days but the sea breeze and the ship’s speed always made it sweater weather. We cycled among the containers and massive cranes in the general direction of inland. The management avoided the many railway lines and eventually we found the gate.

Passing into Gran Canaria was rather like crossing a European mainland border. No one took any notice of us and our passports remained in the bag. It is a far cry from the time not so long ago when a six week stay in Spain required a visa. But then don’t some high Tories want to return to those days?

Once out of the dock gate we pedalled along as near to the water’s edge as possible. After about an hour we looked across the harbour and there was the OPDR Las Palmas happily unloading about a mile away. Perhaps Castro’s idea of taking a ferry to get off a cargo ship was not such a bad one after all.

Once away from the dock and in the busy large city we followed a wide bay on the pavement and then on cycle routes. As is normal in the more civilised parts of Europe no one gets upset when a sensible cyclist uses the pavement.

Just out of town we witnessed several policemen recovering a rather battered looking rigid inflatable boat over the black sand of the bay. Putting two and two together and making four we assume it was evidence of the Canaries boat people. Hundreds risk their lives each year to get into Europe from North Africa and many die in the attempt. Even if they make it here they have little chance of being allowed to stay. There are so few black people here that they stand out and are soon arrested.

Onwards and upwards we followed in reverse a route we had taken several years ago. This time at the top of a long hill we came to a two metres high Heras style steel security fence across the route.

 Recovering in the pool

We had two options. Find a way around it or retrace back to Las Palmas and take a long and enormously hilly route through the mountains. Never being ones to turn back we unhitched the luggage off the tandem and lifted everything over a concrete barrier onto the adjacent autopista. We then very quickly pushed it a hundred metres, facing the oncoming traffic, to the entrance to a works site. Fortunately no one saw us or cared as we sneaked through and found a tunnel serving the site under the autopista.

At the tunnel exit we found a very rough track which seemed to go in roughly the right direction. We pushed along it then joined a bypassed road leading towards an industrial complex in the coastal hills.

We came to a roundabout and followed signs for Maspalomas which is very roughly the direction we were going in. This took us onto the autopista, there being no alternative route. We are not sure of the legality of tandems on the motorway here but we had no choice.

We were very lucky. Firstly it was a long downhill which tandems do very fast and therefore it feels more like being “traffic”. Secondly the 630 metre tunnel we had to go through had a coned off lane for road works with none going on. We obviously took advantage of this.

Relieved at surviving, we exited the autopista at the first opportunity. We then had a very long pull uphill to our first hotel.

The Rural Hotel is like nothing else we have ever experienced. Just have a look at the photos here and on the photos page. The whole valley we cycled up is now a modern golf course for tourists. The greens were cut out of the almost desert landscape. On the valley edges on both sides were high rise residential developments.

The hotel was signed very steeply down from the road. We reluctantly lost height, burning the brake pads, and came to what can only be described as an oasis of palm trees. We pulled the bell pull at the huge wooden doors and the donging brought out Willan, the manager, who let us in. He had few guests and proudly showed us round.

Cycle touring for softies

The hotel, once a Jesuit monastery and farm, was in its own walled grounds. The building itself had been painstakingly restored and traditionally furnished. It has polished wooden floors and traditional Spanish balconies.

It may have cost slightly more than we would normally pay but we had the huge swimming pool to ourselves. We had free wiffy (wifi) in our room so could listen to the live radio reports of a UK and northern Europe gridlocked by snow. We can recommend this hotel to all golfers’ partners forced here by the obsession of their other halves to spoil a good walk.

Moving on from the oasis was not easy but we did eventually manage it. It was a big push up the hill back onto the road which in fact does not exist on our map. Having wiffy last night had enabled us to confirm via Google Earth that those avid Spanish road builders had indeed put in the link.

We progressed on to Telde but not without Willan catching us up in his car with a computer cable we had left behind. Service always counts. Telde is a large real town and it was fun to navigate through it, watching all the goings on even if there were many ups and downs.

Once out of town we progressed in the foothills of the mountains and parallel to the coast. It was a lovely ride but hard. The elevation was steadily up but there were a succession of downs followed by steeper ups as we swept into the mountain side to cross a barranco before climbing back out towards the coast. According to the GPS we climbed the equivalent of the Dorset Downs four times which is quite enough for softies.

 Rural hotel breakfast

18th to 22nd December Arinaga, Gran Canaria

Arinaga may not seem the ideal place for a lazy few days for softies. It is by the sea but not that far from the airport in an industrial area. The management had originally found it before we became softies and were looking for a one night stop on a circular tour of Gran Canaria a few years ago.

Several things influenced us in the plan to stay here. We had had some very pleasant email communications with Davy Jones Diving who found us an apartment. The other things were that the guide books said it is the best place to dive in Gran Canaria and the best coast for windsurfing. It also has some of the best cuisine. The coastal strip here is a paradise for ecologists. This all seemed infinitely preferable and more suitable for us than the holiday makers’ high rises further down the coast.

We arrived at Jorge’s very pleasant apartments mid siesta. Yet again we had not adjusted our watches entering a new country. The ship was on EU time which the management much prefers. The Canaries are on UK time. We woke poor Jorge with some difficulty.

The apartments are about 300 metres from the beach, supermarket and the town centre. There are great rocky beaches here and no one has bothered to import white sand so they are none the worse for being black. We didn’t have a sea view but a pleasant two rooms and a vast balcony. The tandem was stored in the vacant apartment next door.

Fortunately it would be too boring to relate all our doings in Arinaga. We went for walks on the cliffs and hills to the north in the near desert of this country park area. We wandered south on the tandem via wind farms and now run down poly tunnels to the international windsurfing centre. All this on quiet roads and tracks in sometimes too warm sunshine.

We liked Arinaga, an unashamed working town where we didn’t hear another English voice. Jorge was very kind to us and the people we met friendly as most Spanish are away from resorts. Jorge was very proud of his eleven new puppies, referring to himself as their grandfather.