A Walk in The Clouds – Gran Canaria
Selected Blog from the Returning to Wonder Series – 2012 to 2017
I recently had the good fortune to spend a week holidaying and touring around Gran Canaria with Jana. We hired a car, which was the perfect way to see the island. I was taking aback by the huge diversity of landscapes on Gran Canaria. Within an hour’s driving, we passed from coastal beach resorts to dry arid desert dotted with cactus, to high alpine forests and peaks over 1,500 metres high, where snow occasionally falls in the winter months.
Gran Canaria is shrouded in mystery. Some believe the island to be the blissful paradise that the Greeks referred to as Atlantis and the Celts referred to as Hy-Brasil. Whatever about these myths, modern holiday makers flock to Gran Canaria in search of realisable ancestral dreams such as an abundance of sun, food, drink and entertainment.
Jana booked us into an eco cave for two nights, high up the Barranco de Guayadeque, an awe inspiring valley – surrounded on three sides by towering mountains. The vegetation was diverse and lush; cacti, palm trees, poppies and Canary Pines grew side by side. In prehistoric times, the original inhabitants, known as the Canarios, lived in caves and simple stone shelters along the walls of the valley. They buried their ancestors in inaccessible caves in the higher reaches of the valley, where they also performed sacred rituals.
We began our journey in bright sunshine but as we drove higher up the mountains, mist soon shrouded the upper reaches of the valley and swirled down the steep slopes as twilight approached.
I never stayed in a cave before, albeit a modern cave dwelling, furnished with mod cons. There was something deeply primal about sleeping within the folds of a mountain. I felt compelled to go for a night-time walk, just as the misty low cloud was clearing to reveal windows of sky, teeming with bright stars. I followed a path up the mountain and felt cool, misty air upon my face. I marveled to think of the ancient tribes who lived on Gran Canaria, a volcanic speck, in the vast blueness of the Atlantic Ocean, and what their lives were like. At that moment, the wings of a nocturnal bird of prey sliced the air above my head before landing on a tree further down the valley.
A fast moving haunting echo, then began bouncing around the high valley walls. It took me a few puzzled moments to realise it was the collective echo of barking dogs further down the valley, transformed into an otherworldly sound – like wind racing through a narrow tunnel. I could just about trace the road we travelled along, which abruptly stopped at the foot of a huge barrier of mountain.
For a moment, my spirit longed to climb up to the highest ridge of that immense mountain – to light a fire and to camp a night. To gaze up at theheavens with a similar tapestry of celestial stars to back home in Ireland. To breathe in the fresh air of a sister ocean; to fall asleep between earth and sky. The warm comfort of the cave and my beloved’s company also called and was where I gladly made my way back safely to, in that atmospheric valley of the ancestors. Gran Canaria was a pleasant surprise and somewhere I’m glad we visited.
The Returning to Wonder continues…