Sunday, 30 January 2011
Its been a rainy day today so I have had plenty of time to prepare this new post. Bad weather doesn't mean no pictures however, since I have an inventory of photos from other trips to sample for your benefit.
Today's post is about a necessary, but often disappointing, aspect of travelling abroad, namely the choice of the right place to stay. As I already mentioned, I am spending my two weeks here in Playa del Inglès, one of those tourist places Spain has managed to stamp out of barren and unpopulated ground all over its coasts. The coastal region here in the South of Gran Canaria was to start with a barren desert-like slope, with only brushes and cactus to show for it. It took Franco to organise a system of man made lakes in the mountains together with tunnels and trenches, which rendered the desert arable. As result, huge tomato plantations were created, adorning the flats where hotels now abound.
So there was no cultural background or inheritance to guide the heaping of cement upon cement, in the sixties, to shape a tourist town where tomatoes used to grow, a town like many other tourist traps in Spain. Fortunately, nature blessed Playa del Inglès with a treasure that the Spanish authorities had the good sense to preserve: a kilometer wide stretch of wide and flat beach, flanked by a charming hillside of desert dunes, full of sand blown over from the Sahara, which is just some tens of kilometers away towards the East. The dunes were declared a protected nature area. This has the pleasant consequence that you can walk on the beach, for about 5 kilometers, seeing only dunes and forgetting that you are surrounded by a forest in cement, built to house yourself as well as the other thousands of tourist coming to this place every week.
More about the beach in a future post. This chapter is about housing. I am sure you start to understand that it is rather important to find a place here that lets you forget that you are staying smack in the middle of a tourist trap and that, at the same time, lies so close to the beach so that you don't waste a lot of time before pursuing your hiking pleasure on this unspoilt place.
I am happy to tell you that I found just that. A hotel that lets you believe that you are staying in a palm forest, albeit being placed in the middle of all the concrete ruckus. All the rooms face a grove of mature palm trees, which are surrounding some nice facilities, such as, a pool and pool bar and some bungalows for families with children. Only when you step out of your room on your way to the elevator are you forced to take a look at the town. By a stroke of genius, the architect let the hotel show only its backside to the town, the front with all the rooms and balconies are facing in the other direction, ultimately looking at the beach, if you care to lift your eyes above the palm crowns.
This hotel, by the name of Riu Palmeras, has been my trusted abode during essentially all my stays here in Playa del Inglès and I can but recommend it to others of a travel inclination similar to mine. If you would like to hear and see more about this agreeable place, why not have a look at a small video I prepared for this purpose. You can find it on Youtube if you click on the link below:
Saturday, 29 January 2011
The island suits me as well as I seem to suit the island. Thinking about it brings alive a lot of memories, both sad and happy, connected with the many trips I have made to this sunny place.
I visited Gran Canaria for the first time way back in January 1993. The intention was to relax after a craving professional year, spent in the Swedish Central Bank during the Banking Crisis, and regain my spirits after the sadly passing away of my former wife Alice. Unsurprisingly the visit turned out to be a rather melancholic one, passed in a weary mood and contemplations of happier times gone.
To get away from this, I partook in a bus trip across the island to get to know its interior. To my great surprise, the vehicle lifted us from the long sandy beaches way up into lofty heights, so contrasty to the desert like coast, populated as they were with dense green pine forests, protruding cliffs in burning red, blue lakes like pearls on a string and sparkling meadows interspersing it all. I did not realize then that I had been very lucky, witnessing the island after a prolonged period of rain, which had polished nature to utmost splendor. Never again have I seen the interior so beautiful as on that occasion, and the experience helped a lot to lift my depressed moods.
Whilst having lunch in a Parador (Spanish State Hostel) in the middle of the pine forests, I queried the bus driver and hotel personnel about possible hiking paths and tours in the interior. The answer was a total blank. Those were things unheard of by the Spanish operators. I deeply deplored this lack of initiative, had I not longed for polishing off my stay with a couple of days of hiking in this splendid surrounding?
You can understand why I wrote off the island completely after that, since trekking through foreign fields is my favored manner of getting to know the abroad. But ten years later, for one reason or another, I again made a trip to this Southern treasure, in January 2003. The town I stayed in, Playa del Inglès, had remained essentially unchanged, nothing new there. But there was a big change in organizing tours. Although Spanish operators still managed their bus tours as always, a new breed of entrepreneurs had entered the scene: continental youngsters, from Austria, Belgium, Germany and even Sweden had started touring groups that catered for the natural instinct to experience the island through trekking (and biking).
Since then I have been a regular visitor, travelling to Gran Canaria once or twice a year, and criss-crossing the island on foot and bike, until getting familiar with every nook and cranny of its mountainous interior. After about ten visits, it dawned on me that it was time to switch attention to other foreign places. Still, the old fascination lingered on.
Just after Christmas this year, I got an e-mail from Sandra Mäser, a trusted friend among the continental operators, telling me that there had been a prolonged period of rain on the island and that the island was greener than ever. Could it be that it would be possible to again experience the interior in all its splendor of yore, when I joined the bus tour many years ago? This was an opportunity too good to miss. I immediately booked a flight and, voilà, am on my way!
This answers the first question. As to the second, since I am expecting to see the island as beautiful as it possibly can appear, it is fitting that I should make an attempt to share my experience with my trusted friends all over the world. Let's hope that my expectations are being met and that we can witness, together, some "expeditions" into the interior with reasonable weather conditions, suitable to capture this enticing nature at its best. Let's keep our fingers crossed and hope for the best!