We reach the bottom of the crater where an old wine press stands, its sun bleached wood blistered and peeling. Picking our way across the broken stones of a derelict bodega and beneath the boughs of a spreading eucalyptus tree, we walk towards the finca.
“He might not want to speak today”, says Armando. “Sometimes he just growls and won’t have his picture taken.”
Treading carefully between the rows of potatoes and sweetcorn, I can see the bent figure ahead, his work shirt tucked messily into his trousers, one corner escaping ’twixt waistband and braces like an emblem to anarchy.
Armando reaches into his rucksack, pulls out a can of beer and extends his hand towards the old man. For a moment I think he really is going to growl, but recognition creeps across his face followed by the slightest hint of a smile. He takes the can, carefully places it on the ground in the shade of an almond tree and steps forward to embrace Armando.
200 years ago the Bandama volcanic cauldron brimmed with the fruits of a fertile vineyard, its red earth bubbling up between rows of tender vines and at its centre, an elegant bodega from which fine malvasía wines were produced. 200 years before that, its sheer, rock walls provided safety and shelter to the ancients, Gran Canaria’s original inhabitants whose cave homes are still clearly visible high above the crater floor where the kestrels ride the hot air currents.
Formed almost 2000 years ago when Gran Canaria experienced its last volcanic eruption, Bandama is the result of a magma chamber collapsing in on itself towards the end of a string of eruptive incidents in the area which created the Pico de Bandama, the 575 metre high cinder cone to the north of the crater. Today, Bandama is a rich tapestry of endemic plants growing amongst the remnants of the vines, and at its heart its sole sitting tenant, now 84 years old, still tends his vegetables and milks his goats.
With the sun reaching its zenith and the prospect of a long, lazy lunch looming above the ancient horizon, we weave our way through the wild lavender, yellow broom and agave spikes of the crater floor to begin our winding ascent back to the crater rim.
Hiking the Bandama Crater in Gran Canaria
Bandama Crater is one kilometre wide and some 220 metres deep. Walking from the rim to the crater floor takes about 30 minutes, is a medium level route and a good introduction to hiking in Gran Canaria. But the ascent is quite a thigh stretcher and there’s little shade so if you’re undertaking the walk in late spring or early summer, start out early to avoid the worst heat of the day.
Andrea (Andy) Montgomery is a freelance travel writer and co-owner of Buzz Trips and The Real Tenerife series of travel websites. Published in The Telegraph, The Independent, Wexas Traveller, Thomas Cook Travel Magazine, EasyJet Traveller Magazine, you can read her latest content on Google+