Archive for January 2020

The Great Escape – Las Palmas   6 comments

We felt like something a little different from sunbathing and walking so took a day out in Las Palmas, capital city of Gran Canaria and, surprisingly (to me anyway), Spain’s 9th largest city. We took the bus which took ages but wasn’t without interest.

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A little research told us that Las Palmas has a pretty fine old town and a nice beachfront. Only problem being they are 3-4 miles apart! We managed to negotiate the local bus timetables and found ourselves in the old town.

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As you can see it really is rather splendid if quite small and compact. The main area is called Vegueta and its wonderful collection of alleyways and interesting buildings, centred around the Plaza de Santa Ana and the cathedral.

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These statues are a tribute to the feral dogs after which the islands are named (not after the birds as I’m sure you all know)

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I loved this square and under a deep blue sky it was beguiling. So pleased that we made the effort to come down and take a look.

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We spent a very happy hour wandering the streets and finding many interesting buildings. A fine lunch followed in a local Tapas bar, one of the best meals of the trip (black pudding in filo pastry with a mango sauce – who’d have thought!)

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Another bus ride back up to the beachfront, Playa de las Canteras which was splendid. Enough life to be interesting without being too tacky.

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We took a walk to the north to look out over the more remote beach of Playa del Confital.

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And then a long walk back along the seafront, taking in the views and taking on refreshments in the form of ice cream, churros and of course the obligatory sunset beer.

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The bus service was regular (if a little chaotic) but it allowed us to stay right till the end of the day to watch most of the sunset.

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Well worth the effort to go and see it and something I’d want to do again when we hopefully return.

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The Great Escape – A Walk Around Tamadaba   9 comments

Our second mountain walk and we headed back to Tamadaba. We fancied a walk out to the end (or as close to the end as we could) of Risco Faneque, the right hand peak in the photo below.

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And a view from our visit up here earlier in the holiday.

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It was a bit hazier this time around, possibly a result of sand and dust that blows in from the Sahara from time to time. It was still warm and sunny though which is the main thing.

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It was further and more down hill from the car park than I thought and it took a while to reach the point of no continue. The walk through the pine forests was still nice with fire damage not as obvious here although in places it had made an impact.

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Spectacular views down the coast as always from up here.

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We reached another dizzying overlook before retracing our steps. I did have a look at carrying on but the scrambling was a little loose and obvious I was not going to make it to the very end, protected as it is by a significant rock cliff.

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We returned to the wooden platform overlook on the campsite for lunch. A really superb spot.

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To make a circuit of things we walked around the cliffs, through the picnic area and up onto Pico La Bandera.

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The southern slopes had been badly affected by the fire and this view would not normally be as expansive through the lush pine forests.

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A short break on the summit while I wandered over to look at the fire tower (hoping to climb it but it was, unsurprisingly, locked up)

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A short walk back to the car and back home to watch another sunset, a glorious one this time with the added cloud cover. Have to wait for another post for those images.

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Posted January 30, 2020 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain, Walking

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The Great Escape – Local Walk   6 comments

One of the things I always look for is somewhere for a short walk from our base without the need for a car. When time and inclination allow, just throw a pair of trainers on and head out on a whim. The cliffs and rock towers that overlook PDLN seemed to have paths (I’d seen people walking up there so we headed out to explore). A couple of shots over the port and the old town of Agaete on our way out of town.

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This rock pinnacle overlooks and dominates the port and we found a loose and sketchy path that went around it (we found a much better way to its base on our second attempt). It looked pretty impregnable from all angles although the younger me would have given it a go. I did see someone on the top at one point so clearly it is is climbable.

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A view over the old town of Agaete.

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A selection of sketchy paths gives access to either end of the cliffs. Views over to the Tamadaba National Park.

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And back over the port.

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As with all things Gran Canaria, the edges were precipitous. The edges were pretty loose as well which added to a sense of excitement. You could pretty much jump off the cliffs and hit the water!

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Always enjoyed watching the Tenerife ferries come and go.

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Paths were vague in places requiring a little prickly bushwhacking.

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Worth it for views as good as these though.

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Happy Hikers!

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An idea of the scary verticality of the cliffs.

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We did the walk a couple of times – these photos are a selection from both. We thought of coming up here to watch the sunset but it lacked the crashing waves and, more importantly, somewhere to buy a beer to enjoy it with!

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Posted January 26, 2020 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain, Walking

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The Great Escape – Cruz de Tejeda to Artenara   8 comments

After several days of generally taking it easy it was time to hit the mountains. We’d chosen a prefect day, cloudless skies and a crisp clarity to the air. We selected a long out and back walk between two settlements high up in the mountains, Cruz de Tejeda and Artenara. The route appeared to stick to the edge overlooking one the island’s deep gorges so expansive views were hoped for and delivered.

A brief stop for a couple of photos at the Caldera de Galdar with views out to Las Palmas.

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Parking up at Cruz de Tejeda had the fleeces out. It’s always a little chilly at 1600m this early in the day in winter! Immediately we had a steep climb out of the village and up to the edges where the views across the Barranco to Roque Nublo were stupendous.

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The path network in Gran Canaria is extensive and in most cases easy to follow and well signed.

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As with all the walks we’ve done, precipitous edges and sheer drops were the order of the day. Nothing dangerous but you do need something of head of for heights.

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One of the rare views through the trees, to the North coast and Las Palmas.

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The summit of Los Moriscos. Our path traverses a couple of hundred feet below the summit. Spectacular walking.

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Happy hikers enjoying the clear mountain air. A world away from grey skies, rain and floods back home.

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We eventually came out of the cool forest and back onto the edge again. Paths like the one below just ache to be walked and this one was simply wonderful. Tenerife and El Teide a very clear sentinel on the horizon today.

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Our target, the village of Artenara came into view. It’s the highest village worthy of the name on the island.

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A steep descent down a long series of zig zags led us down to the village. Our cunning plan was to have nice lunch at one of the restaurants. We’d driven through a couple of days back and it looked a splendid sleepy little village. However best laid plans can be foiled. It was New Years Eve and there seemed to be a disco in full flow in the square, complete with a crap DJ and Euro-pop music. It was astonishingly loud, so loud I had to put my fingers in my ears to get past. There were about 5 people dancing and the rest of the square, including the restaurants was deserted. No matter we’d chosen a place a short walk out of town. It was shut!

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Not fancying a lunch in an outdoor nightclub we revised the plan. The village had a well stocked shop so we purchased some supplies and headed out of town as quickly as we could trying to leave the din behind. It’s a lovely spot for a lunch, just avoid it on New Years Eve!

In the end we found a spectacular spot for an impromtu picnic and in many ways better than a bar lunch. It would have been handy to have taken stuff from home and avoided a couple of hundred metres of descent/ascent.

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In a spot like this it was easy to get back into the peaceful mountain vibe again.

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I’ve always been against out and back walks in the past but I’m slowly coming round the idea that the return journey can offer just as much variety. The views are similar but the change of direction gives a different perspective as does the changing position of the sun.

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Walking this path again, deep ravine on one side, cool forest on the other was a delight.

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Even though we were trying to take it easy, it was a long stretch and I had a hankering for a sunset beer. I pushed on back to the car to collect the others at one of the viewpoints and save a bit of time.

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Looking towards La Aldea.

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And looking back on our route before dropping to the car.

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A rare decent selfie!

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Magnificent day in the mountains of this sensational island.

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The Great Escape – Sardina and La Aldea   12 comments

A couple of days out to small coastal villages in the NW of the island. On Boxing Day, after a day of easy paced R&R in PDLN we felt the need to explore a little. A short drive up the coast was the village of Sardina so we went to take a look.

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A small village tucked right under the cliffs with a tiny beach, small harbour and a few restaurants. Clearly not on any tourist radar it was pretty much deserted save for a few fishermen and some SCUBA divers – its clearly a top place for such things.

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We had a very pleasant and quiet wander about, watching the divers, fish, crabs etc, waiting for the restaurants to open for lunch.

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The clouds that had arrived on Xmas day were beginning to disperse and there were some weird and wonderful effects in the sky. Other than one hazy day later in the week this was pretty much the last we saw of significant clouds.

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The building with the red roof was our choice for lunch. Understated and friendly we had a fine meal. Sardina is definitely worth a short visit.

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Along the coast in the opposite direction (after a hair raising drive along the coast road) is the small village of Playa Aldea. Not much to look at as you approach but after parking up, you find a charming small fishing village and harbour, backed by spectacular mountains.

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The beach, like all on the NW coast is pebbly but the water is stunningly clear.

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Like Sardina, its well off the tourist track, very peaceful and unspoilt.

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As we wandered along the harbour a local fishing trawler was landing its catch. A huge collection of fish, Moray Eels, Octopus and Squid. It was fascinating (if a little disturbing) watching them all bounce around as they were boxed off and shipped out to markets and restaurants. I saw it as a cue for lunch! There is a cracking little bar in the square by the beach and we had a relaxed and rather excellent seafood lunch in the warm sunshine.

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The afternoon was taken up with a swim/snorkel, sunbathing and for me and TJS a short walk on to the headland.

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The rest of the group taking it easy.

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These are dragon’s back of mountains that hold the attention back in PDLN. Wild and untamed with little in the way of paths or access.

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A view across town, towards the central mountains.

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And a last lingering look over the village, beach and towards to seriously wild and remote SW coast.

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The Great Escape – Pico and Caldera de Bandama   12 comments

As last year, TBFs sister was joining us for second week of the trip, requiring a drive out to the airport to collect her. An ideal opportunity for an early start and a morning walk. On my own as no-one else was keen to get up at 7am. The Bandama crater is a very popular spot and had a shortish walk in the guide-book and as it was pretty much on the way to the airport fitted in perfectly.

I was one of the first people there (the tour buses don’t arrive till later) so had the place pretty much to myself other than a few runners and cyclists.

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Being out so early provided glorious morning views and clear light and made for a superb stroll.

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Pico Bandama rises steeply behind the crater and as there is no path to the top the only option is to follow the road that spirals around the cone to the top. Slightly frustrating to walk but it was deserted and gave a chance to continually admire the 360 views.

Looking out to Las Palmas

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Out over the coast to Fuerteventura.

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And inland to the mountainous interior.

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Panorama shot looking inland

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And a view out to the stunningly situated golf course.

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It was chilly on the top so I didn’t linger and pressed on back down the road.

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And off onto the path the follows the loose rim of the crater all the way around.

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The sun continued to rise and shed light into the dark recesses of the crater. It was much deeper and more dramatic than I expected with some more exposed cliffs and edges within the crater.

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The rim was an easy walk though, albeit very loose and hard work on the ascents.

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Panorama across the caldera to Pico Bandama.

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Breakfast selfie.

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Looking back along the rim to the highest point.

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Steep climb back to the road and car.

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Looking out across the crater. I had hoped to hike down into the bottom for a look around but I ran out of time as I watched S’s plane come in on my Flight Tracking app – sad but fun.

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The first tee on the golf course – as fine a place as I’ve seen for a round with views like that.

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A fine walk and an airport pick up and back home in time for lunch and a lazy afternoon on the beach.

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The Great Escape – Tamadaba   12 comments

After a few days relaxing and winding down and into the holiday vibe we took our first little trip out. The mountains behind the resort in the photo below are the Tamadaba National Park. Only a few miles away as the crow flies but an hour and half in the car along the twisting and dramatic mountain roads.

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We took a picnic up and had to walk into the picnic area as it was officially closed. This area suffered a damaging and widespread fire in the summer and is only just recovering. They have spent a great deal of effort regenerating the pine forests so to see them so badly damaged was tragic. Nature is resilient though so hopefully it will, in time, recover its glory. These magnificent forests were a real highlight from last year.

The picnic area seemed to have survived pretty well and we enjoyed a feast in the warm and clear mountain air.

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We left TJF to play on her phone while the rest of us went for a short walk. There was a campsite nearby that looked like it might have some decent views so we went for an explore.

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This is the stunning outcrop of Risco Faneque – more in a later post.

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The campsite was also closed, not sure if this was due to the fire or time of year. It would be a magnificent spot to spend a few days, perched in the forest, high above the coast.

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We suddenly reached the edge of the campsite and these dramatic views opened out.

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There was a gorgeous wooden platform perched right on the edge of the cliffs.

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Dizzying views down to our base in PDLN.

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A ferry leaving the port for Tenerife.

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Outside of the Alps and Pyrenees, I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere with such a range of exposed and dramatic cliff edges. Everywhere we walked on both trips we were always finding spots like this to make the head spin and to tread carefully.

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It felt like you could almost step off and drop straight into the ocean. It was a wonderful spot and short walk that we had to ourselves due to the campsite closure.

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Distant views to the town of Galdar and its old cinder cone mountain of Pico de Galdar.

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On the drive home there was a dramatic overlook to the mountainous interior and the dominant Roque Nublo. You can see here the extent off the fire beyond the near trees with a slope of completely burn out forest. 😦

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A grand day out finished off with sunset beers by the pools 🙂

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The Great Escape – Home from Home   14 comments

I can’t imagine being in the UK at Christmas and New Year any more. What started as a one-off five years ago has now become a regular holiday for us. The discovery that not only do the Canary Islands have a warm and sunny climate in winter but, with a little effort, are stunningly beautiful, has seen us as regular visitors. I’ve come to despair of the retail and consumer frenzy that Christmas has become (hence the post title) and this is the perfect riposte. It should be a time to spend together as a family and that’s exactly what we do. I hope that we can continue for as long as possible.

I was late on the case with flights so affordable choices were limited dictating a flight from the distant Stansted (with my least favourite budget airline, Ryanair) at the ungodly hour of 7am on Christmas Eve. After leaving Yorkshire, picking up TJF at Doncaster and an overnight at the airport we were stood by the aircraft, waiting to board in cold, slanting rain at 6:30am. Whilst this is a far from ideal way to start Christmas Eve, it does deliver the stark contrast, 8 hours later, to be sat in warm sunshine by the sea!

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Even better – you can sit in warm sunshine by the sea with a beer! 🙂

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For this first post let me show you around our home for the trip, Puerto de las Nieves. Last year we stayed in Puerto Mogan on the SW coast but this year, it was full! We headed to the dramatic and rocky NW coast as we’d spent a couple of nice days out here and thought it would be an idea to stay here. It was a good call.

The views are sensational along the coast.

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There is little or no sand on this coast so beaches are rocky and pebbly. What PDLN has are man-made seawater pools, refreshed a couple of times a day by the tide – Las Salinas.

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It’s a fabulous place for a swim. Calm and clear at low tide, slightly wilder and rougher when the waves are up and the tide is in. This year the spot was further improved by the addition of a friendly little bar to supply a beer while you sunbathed or watched the sunset. We came down here most afternoons and evenings. The sunsets from here were immense but I’ll save that for another post later.

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This shows the pools in full tide mode, and to prove that the weather wasn’t always sunny! Although, this cloudy spell only spanned Christmas Day and Boxing Day and we never saw any rain!

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The views from here were always amazing although it was a bit more exposed to the wind than elsewhere so it could be chilly late in the day.

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There were some deep channels in the lava rocks and I enjoyed watching the waves bounce here and around the pools themselves

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The waves were often pretty huge and I loved just watching them bash the coast, I’ve always found that mesmerising. Here you could stand relatively close to some pretty immense waves without fear of a soaking or worse. A little compilation of video clips to give you a flavour.

We spent many, happy hours down here and it was favourite spot on the island by a mile.

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Back to the tour. This was our quiet little complex where our apartment was. Only saw sun for the first hour or so, but with so many sunny spots a minutes walk away, not a problem.

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There is a splendid seafront walkway with superb coastal views. PDLN is a small scale port with ferries across to Tenerife but nothing much in the way of traffic. This view along the coast to the dragons back ridges always held my gaze.

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Its a quiet and sleepy sort of place. Just enough shops and restaurants to make it feel lived in without any tourist trappings. It felt more like a real Gran Canaria place and we saw very few British people.

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View across the harbour to the town.

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Across the rooftops to the mountains behind.

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The small church in the centre of town.

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The pebble beach and row of restaurants.

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The large rock that dominates the harbour (although it didn’t appear to have a name).

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And the dramatic cliffs the provide a backdrop. Centre right in the photo you can see a dark rock shape. This is (or more correctly, was) a very slender and dramatic spire of rock called the Dedo de Dios or Finger of God. Alas, a storm knocked it over a few years ago so now its more the Knuckle of God.

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The beach is pebbly so they provide these areas of decking. If you can snag one (advantage of staying in the town) they are the prefect spot for relaxing, sunbathing or watching the ferry come and go.

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As its a pebble beach the water is crystal clear and teeming with fish, if a little tricky to get into the water.

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You could also swim off the harbour walls via access steps and this was TBFs preferred swimming spot (that’s her in the water in the middle of the photo)

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The ferry waiting to depart.

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And the sun-worshippers enjoying the, well, sun.

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The restaurants, seen below, were great, plenty of choice and loads of fresh seafood.

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Here we are celebrating Christmas Day lunch.

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And I think this was New Years Day lunch. Lemon wheat beer and crispy fried baby squid – perfect combination!

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We settled in to a relaxing regime of lazy days around town and days out exploring. More to come.

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Posted January 11, 2020 by surfnslide in Gran Canaria, Spain

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The Grey Before the Blue   8 comments

Work over for another year (and for a while for me) and that means it’s time to gather with old friends in Yorkshire for a weekend of laughs and wandering around under grey skies. Our second year at the Gearstones private hostel although our seventh year in this area. Including the Monday of a long weekend that’s 21 days and from memory we’ve seen decent sunshine 3 times! This weekend matched the trend with barely hint of the golden orb but no matter. It’s a weekend for catching up with friends and on that score another cracker.

First day we repeated what’s become a favourite walk around the area to the south of Ribblehead. Nice to walk straight from the door of the hostel.

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And over one of the rivers that eventually form the Ribble.

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A favourite walk apart from one section of exceptionally wet and boggy terrain near Nether Lodge. First time we’ve done this section in daylight. It didn’t help!

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Beyond Nether Lodge the area is packed with interesting stuff. The Gods Bridge on Brow Gill Beck.

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We took lunch here and set the world to rights on a range of topics. These are the parts of these weekends I enjoy, even under such gloomy skies.

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The top entrance to Brow Gill Cave.

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And the waterfall that feeds it.

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Onwards to Ling Gill Beck and its impressive gorge and valley (the gorge was in dark gloom and difficult to get a decent photo but trust me its impressive)

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The valley behind is equally stunning and an ideal spot for a sneaky wild camp if you could find a flat and dry spot.

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As we climbed out we had a glimpse of sunshine!

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For a few minutes we had some expansive blue patches and even some parts of Pen y Ghent appeared.

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False hopes though. Normal service resumed and grey skies were soon back and in full control.

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Decent day though in good company.

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Sunday looked a bit brighter and encouraged us to tackle Whernside from Ribblehead.

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There was even some watery sunshine to encourage us and the first hour of walk past the viaduct was thoroughly enjoyable.

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Even Ingleborough summit made an appearance, albeit briefly before retreating into the gloom.

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Settle to Carlisle line entering the tunnel through to Dentdale.

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Waterfall on Force Gill.

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Good weather doesn’t last long in Yorkshire though and soon the grey skies emptied their contents and the next hour or so was pretty wet and grim.

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The path-geneering up here made it an easy climb though and soon the summit was reached, enlivened by the presence of a very friendly and bouncy dog out on its second birthday walk.

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We managed to find a spot for a brief lunch before heading down towards the pleasant farmlands of Winterscales.

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Sadly the promise of a better day at the start was now completely broken by a spell of unrelenting heavy rain as we walked back to the car.

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By the time we reached the viaduct we were all soaked through but again an enjoyable day nonetheless. After a tough few months at work it was great just to be outside and spending time with like minded souls.

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As a final treat we got to see a sprinter train on the Settle Carlisle line heading over the viaduct. You have to take what pleasures you can in wet Yorkshire.

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Another excellent weekend that set us up perfectly for our main Xmas holiday adventure….

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