Last weekend, Babu and myself set off on a little road trip to explore the area around the highest peak of Gran Canaria.
The island’s narrow country roads snake up, down and around the mountains, with cliff edge drops so high up that if you were to accidentally drive off of one, you would have time enough to text your loved ones before crashing to the ground below!
Day 1: We drove from the coast of Morgan and up into the mountains, close to the famous monolith Roque Nublo (cloudy rock), some 1,733m above sea level. We found a nice spot to camp and crossed our fingers and paws that no police or forest rangers would move us on (neither spotted us?).
We spent the afternoon chilling out, staring at the rugged terrain, listening to the wildlife and the occasional vehicle passing by. In the evening I watched a movie about a deaf women trapped in her house by a psycho killer prowling in the forrest grounds outside her home. Its no surprise that I slept intermittently that night!
Day 2. Happy to be alive and not carved into bite sized pieces by a crazed mountain man, we decided to enjoy another day in the same camp with its amazing views. I recently bought a pair of binoculars so I can track the approaching undead during an zombie apocalypse, but they also do a great job of armchair exploring the mountainsides and Spelunking* (not what you think, you filthy minded people!).
By late afternoon (18:00), the sun wasn’t so harsh, so Babu and I hiked up to the Roque Nublo, for a bit of exercise and to spend a moment with a lost friend who’s ashes were scattered next to a pine tree.
It was getting late by the time we got back to the van, so after a short drive we parked up for the evening facing the most amazing panorama of the mountains and tablelands, glowing orange under the setting sun.
I purposely watched a comedy that night and slept like a baby.
Day 3: Left the panoramic view point early in the morning before the hordes of tourists arrived in their droves. First stop Cruz de Tejeda, a spot obviously exploited to make some quick cash from the tourists I was trying to avoid. Locals were setting up market stalls and it was still quiet, the only tourist I saw was a fat man sitting on a poor donkey for that ‘hilarious’ holiday photo. Apart from that, theres a couple of restaurants, and a depiction of Jesus crucified on a cross engraved in stone. But it wasn’t a wasted pitstop, I found a public toilet!
Next up en route was the famous mountain village of Tejeda. Immediately upon entering I saw heaps of parked rentatrucks and overly confident people (not dawdling sightseeing tourists) dressed in cargo-pants with utility belts, a dead giveaway of those working in the film/tv industry! I knew Brad Pitt was on the island filming, and a quick look at the set design with its donkey (sans fat man) and an old car with Moroccan plates confirmed this was for his new film set in Casablanca, (although I heard locals dismissing these claims, as a set manager had spread the word that it was merely a insignificant British drama with no one famous at all. Clever chap). Anyways, I didnt hang out very long in the village, as I also look a little over confident and dont dawdle like a tourist, so got paranoid the crew may have thought I was paparazzi? We left without ever knowing if Brad Pitt, caught a glimpse of us or not?
With no idea where we were heading, we continued cruising along winding roads, Babu sitting upright in his copilot seat maybe trying to fathom how everything was flying past him without any movement from his legs?
The next village we stopped in was Artenara, famous for its cave dwellings. Its a tiny little village with a few bars, a church and a cave museum, but being as its the highest village on the island it has the most awesome views!
By pure coincidence (or divine intervention?) we ended up in the Tamadaba nature reserve, somewhere I had seen on photos but had never visited. It is an UNESCO protected area of 7,500 hectares of cliffs and mountains thick with indigenous Canarian pine trees, old and strangely draped with long strands of moss hanging from branches like horse hair. Green ferns (my favourite plant) grows wildly, and there are heaps of trails for hikers to explore. This my kind of forest!
We drove up to the reserve campsite to take a peek and steal some water for showering, but could not stay the night as I needed to apply online for a permit 3 days in advance. There were only two other guys setting up a tent (it was Monday), but knew the rangers would do their rounds later in the evening so decided to find a spot elsewhere. Eventually found a good parking area between the trees and stayed the night undisturbed.
Next morning after a 3 hour hike along a forest trail, we were visited by rangers who told me I needed to move, damn! They said I could park along the road (although my spot was only meters off the road in a safer place?), but staying overnight without permission was not permitted. They now had my van plates and personal details written down, and I was nicely warned that I could be fined if caught overnight camping again.
I guess I did well managing 3 nights with no hassle from authorities, but it still pisses me off that we are not allowed to park overnight in our vehicles. What difference does parking during the day or the night make? I understand not every person is responsible and night camping increases the risk of people making fires, but give the rangers night shifts too, they could probably do with the extra cash?
Anyhows, just after they left I got back on the road and headed down the mountain. I was a bit cheesed off coz Im a bit antiauthoritarian when it comes to matters involving what nature intended for us, but I was quickly distracted by the beauty of the next tiny village I encountered, La Hoya. Never had I seen on this mostly dry and rocky island, somewhere so rich with nature! Lush green pine trees covering a mountain against a bright blue sky, surrounded a man-made dam of crystal clear waters which had orange Koi fish (I think?) swimming in groups and presumably eating whatever to keep the water clean? It really looked like I had been transported to Canada, it was surreal!
And then we drove back to home base in the south of the island, for pizzas and beer with friends. The end 🙂
*Spelunking – a hobby of exploring caves (US).