For anyone who revels in slow travel, pulling on the walking boots to hoof it across a sub-tropical island must sound like the perfect way to get to know a destination.
However, as we didn’t know for sure that we could find routes enabling us to walk from the hills above Maspalomas on Gran Canaria all the way to Agaete, there was a feeling of stepping into the unknown. There was also the thrill of pioneering. If we managed to join the dots then our friends at Inntravel might just have an exciting new walking holiday. If we didn’t, we knew we’d feel like abject failures.
A lot of planning had already gone into potential routes so we weren’t going in blind. However, what looks possible on paper and what you discover on the ground doesn’t always match.
Day 1: Getting to Know You
An existing circular walk around Tunte was a good introduction. Tunte sits high up in a valley surrounded by the mountains. On one side a sea of clouds threatened to encroach, but the natural volcanic blockade held them back, save for a few wispy fingers which spilled over like brew from a frothy cauldron. We basked in the warmth, enjoying a walking route which will astound anyone who thinks of Gran Canaria as simply a fun in the sun destination. It was a straightforward path with an overload of sweeping vistas. As our limbs loosened up in the sunshine our spirits were high. It was the ideal start.
Day 2: Across the Mountains
Our route started with an ascent that took us to the very top of Gran Canaria’s world. The views back south grew more impressive with every grunt upwards. As we negotiated stony trails under glowering ancient cliffs, it felt more like a savage frontier land where the original aborigines still roamed rather than a popular holiday island. The climb levelled out as we entered a pine forest where misty low cloud (bruma) filled the air with a sense of mystery and magic. New signposts seemed to offer better options so we took a chance and changed our route plans, descending to our destination, Tejeda, via a ravine at the head of a valley populated by a few sheep. The landscape changed again on our final stretch into town where we were welcomed by a vociferous frog chorus as we walked parallel to a gurgling stream. So far, so great.
Day 3: It Nearly Falls Apart
The remit was to come up with a new circular walk around Tejeda. Our map showed a trail that looked perfect… except it didn’t exist. Locals scratched their heads and shrugged when we pointed the path out to them on the map. By 11am we were staring at a ravine desperately trying to use Jedi powers to make a path appear. Nearly half the day gone and we’d been thwarted. This is when improvisation and a bit of luck is required. We’d spotted more new signposts the previous day and decided one had potential. A couple of hours later we stood, open-mouthed, on a mountain top plateau gazing across what could have been a lost world. It was compelling, slightly eerie and completely unexpected. It also was part of what turned out to be a revelationary route around Gran Canaria’s iconic Roque Nublo. Spirits were soaring high again.
Day 4: High Lands like the Highlands
The mission was to piece together a number of routes to join Tejeda with Fontanales. The map showed interlinking paths but our experience the previous day meant we didn’t take this for granted. An enthusiastic ranger at Cruz de Tejeda, which has the wacky air of a South American trading post, really got into the idea of linking up paths to find a route through to Fontanales. With his reassurance it was feasible, we set off. The route climbed through quite bleak and harsh surroundings, reminiscent of the Scottish Highlands, levelling out through fern-carpeted forests and descending past a moody volcano before the terrain changed to gently undulating emerald hills leading to Fontanales. Once again the landscape beguiled us with its constantly changing personality.
Day 5: Canine Capers
We were joined by a friend on the penultimate leg of our journey across Gran Canaria. Hada, Fermín at PosHada’s dog, decided she fancied an adventure so she got a blog all to herself.
Day 6: Sea Ahoy
Our walk across Gran Canaria took us to Las Longueras in Agaete. But we weren’t quite finished. Our final day involved researching circular routes near the hotel. It’s a beautiful valley which boasts the most northerly coffee plantation in the world. However, walking routes seemed either too long – Tamadaba National Park – or too short… except for one. A path snaked upwards to a ridge above the Agaete Valley, passing caves that were once homes to the aboriginal Canariis. From there it swung coast-wards, traversing hilly slopes populated by a colony of grasshoppers who hopped noisily through the grass as we passed. As we walked, the Atlantic grew ever larger and views along the coast revealed a proud and untamed coastline. Drawing ever closer to the coast we both experienced a rising surge of excitement. The route was completely different to the others along the way which was what we’d hoped, but what we hadn’t accounted for was the emotion it triggered.
With every step came a growing sense of completion and achievement. Clearly there was immense satisfaction of having successfully joined the dots from A to B. But as we descended from the Gran Canaria hills to reach the ocean at Puerto de las Nieves there was something else.
Standing on the edge of the shore, there was simply nowhere else to go. Neither of us had ever experienced such a feeling of absolute closure on a walking route before. It was the end of the line and that sensation was intoxicating.
Jack is co-owner, writer and photographer for BuzzTrips and the Real Tenerife series of travel websites as well as a contributor to lots of other places. Follow Jack on Google+