Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Agaete on Gran Canaria's rugged north coast

We could rent a car for only a month at a time so we had to make a return trip to the airport, which is just south of the capital Las Palmas. Once we had completed our transaction we decided to continue to the north part of the island. There was a highway most of the way.

The weather became a little cooler, and west of Las Palmas there were surfers enjoying huge rollers. There are thirty-three microclimates on Gran Canaria and we passed through a number of them. The hills were covered in low scrub and yellow flowers. Lining the road were huge hot pink bougainvilleas. Banana plantations were quite plentiful. Once off the highway, the road wound around before we arrived at our destination Puerto de Las Nieves, a picturesque fishing village on the north coast of Gran Canaria. Filled with charm, Canarian character and atmosphere, it has become a popular place to visit in recent years and has been renovated into an  resort, ideal for a day trip or if you want to go island hopping as the ferry to Tenerife departs from its harbour.

It was time for lunch so we headed to the Paseo de los Poetas, a promenade lined with seafood restaurants, craft shops and galleries. It totally catered to tourists and they were everywhere. I was beginning to find the restaurants touristy. I always got the feeling that the food or the service didn't really matter because you weren't going back. As usual there were tourists from Germany, the U.K. and all the Scandinavian countries.

After lunch we strolled along to the stone pier braving incredibly strong winds. At the southern end of this village we found the Dedo de Dios, God’s Finger. This is a 30-metre slender pinnacle of basalt rock rising out of the ocean, directly in front of the impressive cliffs, which are crowned by the Pinar de Tamadaba, an extensive pine forest. When Tropical Storm Delta hit in 2005, the Dedo was damaged but it still made for an extraordinary sight.

We drove further along the north coast to the end of a steep ravine – the Barranco de Agaete – with bananas, mangos, papayas, oranges, lemons and other subtropical plants and trees growing on its slopes. Here is the town of Agaete with its narrow streets and whitewashed houses surrounded by lush vegetation.

Many artists and art-lovers have made this place their home, which also explains why you can find many art galleries here. In the Plaza de la Constitución, we saw some attractive noble houses with carved wooden balconies.

Continuing along the narrow road we ended up in Galdar, which was the capital of the island before Las Palmas. It is rich in archeological sites. The Spanish founded the post in 1484. We parked in the town hall square admiring the enormous dragon tree, believed to be planted no later than 1718 and therefore thought to be one of the oldest on the archipelago.

The biggest attraction of Gáldar, however, is El Museo y Parque Arqueológico Cueva Pintada, Painted Cave Museum and Archaeological Park. Featuring many colourful geometric Guanche paintings, it was only discovered in 1873. After conservation works were carried out between 1970 and 1974, it was closed to the public in 1982 in order to prevent the paintings from being destroyed by the increasing humidity. It was subsequently re-opened in July 2006. Of course it was late in the afternoon by the time we arrived and was closed. What we saw from the outside looked quite interesting. The buildings were dotted between dark black lava rocks. It didn't look terribly inviting.

Eventually, we found our way back to the main north south highway, which was always crazy busy. We were glad to be back in our quiet enclave in Meloneras.

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