Mountain hiking is a popular activity in the Swedish sailing community of Las Palmas. Since many years, hikes have been arranged regularly on a voluntary basis by sailors who know their way in the mountains. During 2014 hikes were arranged more or less every week and I joined them as often as I could. I even lead some of them when none of the usual leaders were available. You start early in the morning with a quick walk to fetch a bus up into the mountains where the hike starts. We usually walk around 5 to 15 km but there are shorter hikes as well as longer. The tour normally ends close to a bus stop and we then go back to Las Palmas in the after noon.
Information about hikes used to be spread informally from mouth to mouth but in 2013 we created a group on Facebook (Långseglare på Kanarieöarna) that is now used to announce next weeks hike. The Facebook group is also used to publish pictures from hikes and a long range of other useful stuff. By the end of 2014 the group had more than 100 members and another 100 pending to join.
A quick and easy hike is the one from the little village Las Coloradas on Isleta, along the north west shore and back to the beach of Las Canteras in the centre of Las Palmas. Isleta was once an island separated from Las Palmas but is now more or less a part of the city. If you take a city bus up to Las Coloradas you can make this walk in only a couple of hours.
Another hike, relatively short and close to Las Palmas, is the one from the small village of San Andres on the north coast to the city of Firgas, known for it's good water which is sold in bottles everywhere on the island. On your way up to Firgas you have to pass a number of tunnels through the bamboo-like grass that grows here. This grass, by the way, is an excellent material for walking sticks.
Before we take the bus back to Las Palmas there is usually time for a drink on one of the local bars. You can see from the walking sticks that there are mountain hikers in the bar.
On most hikes you will see a lot of different plants and one of the most typical is the Agave. There are many sorts, the one above I think is Agave Americana. It's juice can be used to produce Tequila and other alcoholic drinks. It lives for about 30 years and then blooms once before it dies.
The flowers of the Agave Americana stretch out from a single trunk that shoots high up in the air.
Young Agave and ordinary Asparagus © Public Domain / PixBay.
It is interesting to note that the trunk that shoots up from the Agave Americana is very similar in shape to ordinary Asparagus, only much much bigger. According to Wikipedia they both belong to the same family of plants !
I think this is Agave Attenuata also called "Foxtail". It has a fantastic fruit that first shoots high up but then bends back down again. Two of them together can make you think about a well known American fast food chain specialized on hamburgers....
The Agave may look like a cactus, but it is not. This Opuntia however, with the typical fruits emanating along the edge of the big flat body, is a real cactus. Some of the Opuntias have fruits that can be eaten or squeezed to juice. (Prickly pear or Tuna in Spanish).
Almond blossom in February.
The Almond (Sv. Mandel) blooms in January/February. The flowers are white or purple. Some people say that one is the ordinary sweet Almond and the other is the bitter one but I'm not sure this is true. I have noticed however that the locals in the mountains sometimes place a stone somewhere near the base of a branch on a young tree to indicate it is bitter. After a few years the branch grows and captures the stone so it stays there forever as a warning.
In April, Broom blossom (Sv. Ginst) turns the hills yellow.
The Canarian flora is one thing I will never forget. There are so many beautiful species and there is always something you can see, all year around. If you want to see more of the Canarian flora,
click here for my collection of 101 plants and flowers that I have photographed during various hikes.
The canarians seem to be well aware of their fantastic nature and take well care of it. Many of the hikes go through beautiful nature reserves. One is the hike up to Pico Osorio in the park of Doramas. It starts at the old Finca Osorio farm, once owned by one of the most noble families in Spain but now a nature reserve and museum run by the city of Teror.
The hike leads to the peak around 300 meters high and up there is a small monument and sometimes also a book that you can sign to prove you have been there.
Down at the farmhouse you can visit the beautiful gardens and tree plantations. There are also animals.
Compared to the woods of northern Scandinavia the fauna is not impressing. The largest wild mammal seems to be the rabbit. There are no snakes but plenty of lizzards and also some birds including predators like the Peregrine (Pilgrimsfalk).
The native Canarian Guanche population used caves for living and storage before the Europeans arrived. The mountains are full of smaller and larger caves not in use any more. In some places caves are still used for living but with modern standard of course.
Hikes from Moya to Fontanales and Teror to Acusa Seca
You can find nice cave houses in Doramas on the hike from Moya to Fontanales. In Acusa Seca there is a complete village of cave houses and close by there are many abandoned caves that you can visit.
Many hikes are on high altitudes and the views are fantastic. In clear weather you can easily see mount Teide on Tenerife some 100 kilometers to the west. Two peaks that many hikers visit are Roque Nublo and Roque Bentayga.
Artenara to Cruz de Tejeda and the Bandama crater circle.
Tejeda to Roque Bentayga and San Bartolome circle.
The four hikes above all offer fantastic views over the landscape.
Pinos Galdar to Guia and Valleseco to Zamora.
Most villages have their own church and cemetery. Usually very well kept, even high up in the mountains in very small villages. On the two hikes above you will see very nice churches and cemeteries.
The south part of Gran Canaria is much drier than the north part where most of the rain falls. The character of the landscape changes dramatically from place to place. Green forests in the north and desert in the south.
There is more rain during the winter. In places with Pine forest lichen can grow on the trees, just like in Scandinavia. Sometimes it even grows on humans !
The city of Teror is a good starting point for many hikes in the north. Here are some of them.
Flora and fauna. Caves, beautiful villages high up in the mountains with fantastic views. Clouds, rain and water or desert. Gran Canaria has a lot to offer to hikers. Even the moon is different from home !
Alandia, our future home
In January 2014 we sold our home Lobacken in Nora, Sweden. We also left our apartment in Örebro to our sons. All we now have, except for Bird of Passage, is Tove's summerhouse on the island of Alandia in Finland. This is where we are going to live in the future but to make that possible we need to improve the standard somewhat. Heat insulation, better sanitary facilities, more space and so on. This we can do little by little, preferably at summertime when the climate on Alandia is nice and when it's too hot for sailing in the tropics. For this reason I left Bird of Passage in Las Palmas by the end of July and joined Tove in our summerhouse on Åland.
The house is beautifully located on a small promontory in Tengsödavik, northern Alandia.
A quiet place with wonderful nature.
Once near extinction but now recovered, the White-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla, Havsörn). You can see them most every day from our house. There is a lot of fish in these waters.
Our plan was that I would stay here for a month and then return to Las Palmas, both of us, to continue our sailing. Three days before our scheduled flight, Tove suddenly got very ill, needed heart surgery and had a stroke. She now required a lot of time for recovery so we changed our sailing plans and postponed everything one year. To begin with, we had to stay on Alandia for another three months.
I used the time on Alandia to work with the house and to cut down trees in our garden. This can be a delicate job. Trees don't always want to fall where you want them. Birch makes good wood for burning so I cut everything up in 35 cm pieces.
Splitting without a machine is tiresome. Good training for arms and shoulders though. I burned all branches and twigs. Made a good fire that continued until midnight.
One day when Tove was at the hospital for rehab training I made a visit to Sjökvarteret in the eastern harbour of Mariehamn. This interesting place is a mix of museums, shops, a shipyard and a living harbour. It grows every year with new activities mostly related to traditional wooden ships and ship building. Ships like Albanus and Linden were built here.
The Italian restaurant on the picture above was once a passenger steamship in regular traffic between Stockholm and Örebro. She was built 1900 in Stockholm and continued traffic until 1957. Since then she has been used as hotel and restaurant in various harbours, even in Örebro 1993-94.
This time in Sjökvarteret I found an interesting project in the boatyard. A relatively old wooden sail boat covered with stainless steel chicken wire! According to the people working with her she was one of the oldest of a kind but now so rotten she could not be repaired. To save her, the owner had decided to cover the outside of the hull in concrete. I have never seen this method used on a wooden boat before.
There are many old ships on Alandia. The one above is a bronze age stone ship in Grytverksnäset, close to where we live. It is 3000 years old and the largest on Alandia.
Back in Las Palmas
Tove's rehabilitation went very well and by the end of November her doctor said they had done what they could for the moment being. It was now okay to go to Las Palmas if she returned in six months for a check up. On the day of the start of the ARC Rally 2014 we were back in Bird of Passage. That was a fine feeling for both of us.
Las Palmas is a good spot to see some of the big Super Yachts. They come here into the marina ("Muelle Deportivo"), stay for a week or two and then continue, usually on their way to the Carribbean and usually only with paid crew. To the left above is Carbon fibre WinWin on her maiden voyage, a Baltic 108 built in Finland. To the right is the more classical style Alejandra. If you want to know more there is plenty on their websites.
Super yachts are big but even bigger are the old sailing ships that visit the harbour from time to time. Some of them are military training ships, like Falken below, but Gunilla above is run by a high school on Öckerö in Sweden. What a dream to be only 16 years old and sail the Atlantic on a real saling ship.
The Swedish navy has two identical school ships, top sail schooners Gladan and Falken. Each year one of them comes to Las Palmas to change crew. In 2013 it was Gladan and this year it was Falken. During their stay in Las Palmas they arrange so that you can visit them, meet the crew and have a cup of coffee.
The biggest of them all are the cruising ships. Las Palmas is a popular harbour for big cruising lines like German Aida, Swedish Fritidsresor or British Cunard. Sometimes you can see three or more of these gigantic ships in the harbour at the same time. One of the worlds biggest is Queen Mary II, 345 meters long. You can see her above entering the harbour in Las Palmas an evening in December 2014.
The weather in Las Palmas is usually very good but during winter it can be rainy and windy at times. This year we had strong winds from NW for a couple of days in December. The marina is well protected from swell but the sound when 20 m/s wind blows through one thousand rigs can be alarming.
We took a walk to the Canteras beach to see the waves breaking on the reef. It was not easy to get there in the strong wind and there was plenty of salt water in the air. We were surprised to see a couple of kite surfers in the water in these conditions. Later in the evening we went to Sailors Bar for a beer and then the sun roof blew apart.
There are quite a lot of Scandinavians in Las Palmas, not only sailors. This has made it possible to have a traditional Lucia celebration on the 13:th of December, much like the one we used to have at home. One thing is different though, there are two Lucia's. One from Las Palmas (to the left) and one from Sweden.
In the marina it has become a tradition to arrange a smörgåsbord on December 24. Everybody brings something to the table, a barbecue is lit and a lot of people, young and old, from different countries come to have a nice time together.
There was also time in December to do some mountain hiking. I really looked forward to this as it had been some time since my last hike. The picture above speaks for itself I think !