Week 3 23rd December 2010 to 1st January 2011

Not even suitable for foot slogging softies

23rd to 27th December 2010 - Arinaga to Santa Brigida for Christmas, Gran Canaria

It is not to the detriment of Arinaga that we were ready to move on. For the management in particular to be happy in one place for this long is exceptional. We were pleased as we said our goodbyes to Jorge that the sky was overcast and the temperature only 22 degrees. The ride today promised to be hilly and a little less heat was welcome.

It is sod’s law with cycling that you go out against a head wind and it then reverses for the return trip. That is exactly what happened to us and all the wind generators ahead of us were going round anticlockwise at a rate of knots.

The management had a crafty plan to keep the climbing to a minimum. He would wander along near to the motorway and then go up towards Teldi at the last minute. In the end it may have saved us 50 metres of climb, but then for softies every metre counts.

It has to be said that we found this short distance tough. Some idea of what was involved can be seen from the picture. On the plus side the scenery was spectacular and the weather pleasant, and we did not really have far to go.

Our first thoughts as we approached our holiday house at El Caserio de San Jose near Santa Brigida were “not as rural as we had expected”. We were about 20km from Las Palmas in an affluent commuter area. Santa Brigida is near the head of a lovely valley with luxuriant vegetation and in a bowl formed by the high mountains behind. Houses, most of them rather large, are scattered along the slopes of the valley and up the mountain sides.

Our “not as rural as we had expected” fear was soon assuaged. Once through the electric gates we approached the old estate farm house. We were warmly welcomed by the Philippino staff who look after the three rural houses as well as the owners, their employers. The days of the Manuels of Fawlty Towers are long gone here. The Spanish, like we British, are far above such important menial work.

 The sun bathing lawn from our country cottage

Our converted traditional Canarian house was splendid. It has a huge kitchen and living room downstairs and a bedroom with four poster bed and a shower room up the stone stairs. The electric heaters kept it warm, not that much heat was needed. We had everything we needed for Christmas including a complementary bottle of champagne and a bowl of fruit.

Outside was a swimming pool and sun bathing area and in the main house a gym and computer area with wifi. The estate terraces, once a working farm, stretched down into the valley from our front door. We have been in more rural traditional casas but not with so many modern conveniences and these were very welcome.

On Christmas Day we took life very easy. We awoke to a clear blue sky and took a gentle walk around the estate. We managed four very pleasant Skype video calls, three to our families and the other with John and Liz Surowiec who just happened to be online in Australia. It felt strange talking and seeing them on the other side of the world at the end of their Christmas Day when ours was just starting. It was also nice to see everyone, particularly the children, as well as speak to them. When technology and gadgets work the results can be amazing.

The other two days here, Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, were spent exploring by tandem and on foot. Santa Brigida is a large village, almost a town, and we enjoyed walking around the old part. Even food shopping on Christmas Eve was not too bad. The Spanish, very sensibly, are far more laid back about the whole media circus than we are. Most of the celebrating takes place on Christmas Eve after work. Mind you they also have more parties at New Year and 6th January.

We cycled up to the nearby Caldera de Bandama, the crater of an extinct volcano. Of course these islands are all formed by volcanic action but huge craters like this one are well worth a visit. The management did venture a little way around the rim of the crater but it was tough going and to do the whole circular walk would have taken a long time. Having taken lots of photos he returned to the stoker for a picnic lunch on grass at the edge of the superbly sited Las Palmas Golf Club course.

Closed roads seldom stop us

27th December 2010 to 1st January 2010 Santa Brigida to Las Palmas, Gran Canaria and on to Morrojable, Fuerteventura for the New Year.

The ride from Santa Brigida to Las Palmas may be short in distance but it was high in skill and adventure.

We left Santa Brigida heavily overloaded. We had Christmas supplies that we were reluctant to leave behind but were heavy and took up much space. We never would have contemplated such a load before we were softies and we knew the ride had to be mainly downhill.

The management had craftily designed a route to avoid the roaring narrow main road all the cars used. Unfortunately this did not take into account descents which were so steep they scared the stoker. But her grumbles were all to no avail as the management claimed he could not stop the tandem for her to get off anyway.

The purpose of this violent descent was to get to the bottom of a barranco and then follow it down. This was all very well but did not take into account cliffs falling down. We came around a corner and were confronted by a very “road closed” barrier. Just past the barrier the cliffs which jutted above and over the road had fallen.

The alternative route promised a very steep climb out of the barranco and a route of dubious validity for a tandem. We took our chances and manoevoured the tandem underneath the barrier, quickly passing the danger zone. We knew we were ok because we were wearing cycle helmets.

For our affront to health and safety nurds we were rewarded with a very pleasant downhill ride through the valley. It was of course devoid of all motor traffic. Mind you it is yet another sign of the decline in Spanish building standards perhaps due to the recession but also to their new found affluence during the good times that the cliff had not been repaired.

Having negotiated the natural cliff fall placed in our way we now had to deal with the man made barriers. The Spanish are no respecters of people when a motorway is designed. Whole areas of habitation are cut off from services. The locals usually manage to find ways around this and the challenge for cycle tourists is to find the routes they use.

Two major systems of idiocy were crossed before we made the city centre. It did take us a few minutes to identify our apartment building. The front door was very unobtrusive but there was plenty of room for the tandem. The apartment is located near the beach, shops and cruise liner port but rather small and very badly equipped. It will do for two nights.

Our time in Las Palmas was spent wandering along the prom eating ice creams and buying the boat ticket to Fuerteventura. While at the ticket office we met a French couple from Chamonix and swapped blog addresses and travellers tales. They had been on the road for seven months travelling all over wider Europe with their son in a kiddy trailer and camping gear in a Bob trailer. We are sure they are not softies.

It was 5.15 when the alarm went off on 29th December and time to pack for our ferry to Fuerteventura. This kind of absolutely outrageous getting up time is of course totally unsuitable for softies. The trouble was there is only one ferry a day which leaves at 7.10.

We cycled through Las Palmas in the dark and even at this hour there were people about. Spanish cities seldom sleep. The 4km ride to the ferry had to be fairly rapid and the stoker always excels herself when there is a vehicle to catch. Our timing was perfect and we went straight on board the ARMAS ferry.

Compared with anything we have tried in the UK it is a very comfortable ship. There are quiet lounges for resting and we found one of these and napped through the three hour crossing.

 Amazing fireworks to welcome in the new year

Morrojable is by far the best place we have seen for a beach holiday on the Canaries. It has lovely white sands on the extensive beach and of the course the waves and tides which you would expect in the Atlantic. It also has a warm climate even for the Canaries with daily highs of 28 degrees while we were here.

The resort was founded by and is completely for the clever Germans who never miss a good beach. We were the only English people that we came across in our budget hotel. The upside is that we cannot of course understand any German when it suits us, so none of the normal things apply to us and we only need to communicate when we wish. The downside is that it is not really Spanish at all.

We think that the whole resort has come downmarket since we were here in 2006 almost to levels acceptable to the uncritical British package holiday maker. There is also only one crane working on a building site. All signs that even the Germans have not avoided the recession completely.

Sufficient to say that we did beach and pool type things and chilled out completely. This was particularly useful as the management had been feeling a bit under the weather for a few days and it gave him chance to recover.

The highlight of New Year’s Eve, after talking and texting all of the family, was a superb firework display. It was put on by a nearby hotel but the view from our balcony was so good that some of the display was scary. The sky filled with palm trees coming at you after a couple of drinks makes you want to duck.