LAS PALMAS, GRAN CANARIA

Today, we arrived in Las Palmas, on the island of Gran Canaria.

Our plans for the day were very simple, and had been hatched right back at the start of the year, when we came this way on our way towards South America. In January, we walked around the bay with Ian Butterfield, and vowed to repeat the walk on this cruise, with a view to circumnavigating the peninsula (or at least finding out if such a circumnavigation was possible sinc we’d only approached the path from one end).

This was always going to be no more than a half-baked plan, since maps told us quite clearly that a large portion of the area in which we were planning on walking, marked in red, is designated a military zone. In other words, despite our best intentions, we actually didn’t know how far we would get before meeting some sort of barrier.

The ship arrived in port at around about 8am. We were up and breakfasted by about 9am, and the three of us were on the quayside, heading for the town by about 9:45am, armed with nothing more than water and a steely determination.

It was a pleasant morning a we walked through the town to the bay on the opposite side of the narrowest part of the peninsula. Digital displays along the promenade told us that it was already 20 degrees; we expected it to get much hotter.

We followed the bay round, out of the town, to the area where we reached in January, filming and photographing, and enjoying the morning air. As we walked, we noticed a few caves up on the hillside, and several dusty footpaths heading up the steep slopes, and discussed the high probability that this might need to be our Plan B should we meet resistance on the planned route.

Sure enough, not far beyond where we reached in our last visit, we came to a place with barbed wire and a sign telling us, in no uncertain terms, that passing beyond it was forbidden. So we stopped, and took stock of the situation. The sign was old and badly worn – and barey legible at all. The barbed wire fencing was equally as old and very rusty, and passing through the large gaps in it would not be a problem. To compound our indecision, there were several people clearly visible on the foothpath beyond; mostly fit, young people – runners and walkers, although none seemed to go much further than an old building at the far end of the visible headland.

Eventually, after much umming and aahing, we opted for plan B. To continue onwards, and attempt to complete the circuit, back to the port on the other side of the peninsula -if indeed the path would allow us physical access, would mean a total distance of about 10 miles. There was a good chance that we might get as far as 6 miles around, and then find that we’d have to retrace our steps, which would bump up the mileage count even more so. Since we only had water and no food with us, this coud, potentially, be unwise…. so we turned our attention to the caves…

Our first task was to make height by following one of the dusty footpaths leading up the hill, where there appeared to be a small settlement. The climb took us a while, and when we got to the buildings we were surprised, but also pleased, to discover that it was a sizeable village. Even better… we found a shop in which we could buy food and cold drinks.

We sat on a bench and enjoyed our snacks while looking out over the view, before continuing on towards where we knew the caves to be. This meant climbing yet another hill, from which we were able to see right over the town below, and to the Columbus berthed in the port on the opposite side of the peninsula. Further, beyond the sweeping bay below us, we could see the distinctive conical shape of Mount Teide rising from the mist way off in the distance, on Tenerife, which is where we will be tomorrow.

Sadly, the caves turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. A noticeboard told us that there were signs of them having been lived in by the indigenous population way back in the day. Unfortunately, a barrier and accompanying signs prevented us from walking right up to them. mostly, as far as we could tell, because of the poor, eroded state of the path. We could also see, even from this distance, that the caves are currently occupied by squatters, with sheets hanging up at the caves entrance, and various domestic paraphernalia that basically disacouraged anyone from getting too near.

Our adventure continued as we followed the pathway down, back towards the town, as we found ourselves unable to find a satisfactory way to join the road we originally walked out on without having to hurl ourselves off a cliff or scramble down cracked, craggy slopes. At one point, we did find our way through a broken fence that led into what looked like the grounds of a school, but the gateway beyond appeared to be locked. And then it wasn’t – the gates were opened and several teenagers appeared to be passing through it… Ian made a run for it and got through without being rugbytackled to the ground or accosted by security guards, while Tracey and I retraced our steps up to the upper road and navigated our way around the obstacles, until we all finally met up again, tired and dusty, and ready for a celebratory ice cream on our way back to the ship.

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