Having visited Lanzarote in December 1983 I declared the Canary Islands my number one place to go on holiday and so the next time I was booking a summer vacation I choose the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria.
It was May 1986 and this was a special holiday because since the last time that I had been away I had become a father and so this was to be the first of a sequence of holidays to Spanish islands in search of a beach, a swimming pool and a kids’ club.
Unlike Lanzarote, Gran Canaria had been quicker off the mark in terms of developing and encouraging tourism and hadn’t had the benefit of a famous architect like Cesar Manrique to protect it against unsuitable development so here were all of the things that I expected of a Spanish seaside holiday and we were staying in the tourist developed south of the island at the resort of San Agustin, part of the Maspolomas conurbation.
Gran Canaria was formed by a volcano that grew out of the sea and continued to spew enough lava onto the surface to break through the ocean and form an island. It is circular in shape with a mountain peak in the middle which separates the island into two distinct sectors, north and south. Viewed from above it looks rather like a beached starfish. In the north is the capital Las Palmas and there is a wet tropical climate but in the south it is dry, arid and desert like. I didn’t get to visit Las Palmas and I regret that now.
To be honest, it seems to me that there isn’t an awful lot to do in Gran Canaria (except go to Las Palmas) except lie around the pool, occasionally swim in the sea or find a bar or a restaurant for evening meal but perhaps I am being a little unfair.
Mid way through the holiday we did hire a car, a little blue Seat with an open top and on the first day set off into the mountains in the interior. This turned out to be rather hard work as the road swept in extravagant loops around deep valleys and gorges and followed a precarious route to the top. Actually, we didn’t get to the top because after an hour or so we got a puncture and I had to change the wheel at the roadside. We were high up and close to the edge and part way through the process the car started to slide off the jack and I wondered how I was going to explain to the hire company just how the car had fallen off the road and disappeared into a ravine.
That rather put me off driving in Gran Canaria and we sensibly abandoned the journey and returned carefully to the Montenego Apartments with its attractive little garden and swimming pool and we didn’t attempt anything so adventurous again that week and there were places to visit close by so we concentrated on these instead.
Next to San Agustin was the noisy 18-30 holidays resort of Playa del Ingles which was a bit too boisterous for us but just beyond that were the sand dunes of Maspolomas which, although not all that large provide a spacious and, despite the crowds an almost solitary contrast to the over developed promenades of the town and we used to like walking there and watching the camel trains taking people from the town to the lighthouse and return but mindful of how uncomfortable the camel ride had been in Lanzarote we declined to repeat the experience here.
Just around the coast a little, heading west, there was a new purpose built resort of Puerto Rico where layers of concrete rising up the sides of the cliffs like artificial geological strata have permanently disfigured what I imagine was once an attractive landscape.
Back towards the mountains of the centre there was a wildlife and bird park called Palmitos Park and we drove there one day to see the exotic gardens, the birds and the afternoon performing dolphin show but I don’t remember it being especially memorable. A few years ago the park was destroyed by forest fires on the island and a lot of the birds had to be released but I think it has reopened against since.
After the car had been returned without them noticing the punctured tyre in the boot we were once more confined to the resort area but there was one last attraction to go and visit which was quite close to our apartments so one day towards the end of the holiday I walked to Sioux City (not Sioux City in Iowa USA but Sioux City at Canon del Aquila in Gran Canaria) which is an old movie set from the days of the spaghetti westerns which had been transformed into a western theme park with cowboys and Indians, US cavalry and show girls in a succession of staged events and shows that were performed throughout the afternoon. It was entertaining enough but seemed curiously out of place it seemed to me.
And so the holiday came to an end and my assessment at the time was quite firmly that I didn’t like it as much as Lanzarote but having said that it didn’t stop me going back a couple of years later for a week away with my brother.
I am fairly certain that I wouldn’t go back again now.
You and the rental car adventures Andrew. I wonder if there is insurance for ‘ in case your car disappears into the abyss?’
Well, one thing for sure is that such an accident would probably be included in the long list of accident exclusions in the insurance policy!
Yes, FULL marks for your honesty in print, but ZERO for your morality in action.
You knew full well that it was highly unlikely that the degree of inflation of the car spare tyre would be checked before the car was hired out again. How could you have slept nights at the thought of the new hirers getting a puncture in the mountains late at night and then finding a spare that was kaput?
Throw in young kids, elderly relatives, inclement weather into the equation?
Surely the 60 year old Andrew would not do today what the 30 year old did? If the answer is YES, then all I can say is that your well-documented occasional misfortune at the hands of rapacious car rental companies in the intervening years, is pure KARMA, my dear friend!
Fine post from you though.
Actually, I don’t think I even pumped the tyre up when I returned it!
You are right about my thoughtlessness about future hirers. I always check the spare tyre before driving away. A lot of cars don’t even provide a spare tyre these days!
I probably would own up these days because 1) they have got your credit car details anyway and 2) I can afford it now!
We stayed in Puerto Rico once, it was enough, might be tempted to visit one of the swanky hotels in Maspolomas sometime though
I don’t think I would go back to Gran Canaria but I do rather fancy going to Tenerife and from there visiting the most westerly islands. Have you ever done that?
Shame you cut your drive in the mountains short – the views of the highest points are great. It’s a scary drive though – big buses do the trip on the twisty roads and I’m amazed there aren’t more smashes.
That was a good reason for abandoning the trip – that and the puncture!
I had a lovely day out in Puerto Mogan- have I got that name right? I think so. A lovely watery place with a nice harbour. 🙂
I always fancied Gran Canaria but never got there. Mind you, I didn’t get to Fuerteventura either even though it’s so close to Lanzascrotty.
In reference to your comment above, when we went to Tenerife (camping of course) we did visit La Gomera: http://wp.me/p2c8OG-5
One of our friends went to Gran Canaria and moaned about it ever afterwards due to their grotty apartment full of cockroaches. Perhaps that may have contributed to me never getting there.
My great grandparents on both sides were from there… I may have to take a holiday one day…
I had no idea the landscape on Gran Canaria was so diverse. Thanks!
You should try rating Gran Canaria on Yonderlist. Only takes a second, and we post links back to your site to give you traffic.
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It has to be weird to watch a Western “gunfight” in the Canary Islands. What movies were filmed there?
The only one that I can find if “Take a Hard Ride” (1975) with Lee Van Cleef but I don’t think that I have ever seen it.
It is a little bit of a blasted barren landscape but I loved the dunes and the size of Maspalomas, and of course the clothing optional signs which we scurried past!
On my blog I have my own car rental story from Corfu.
You have a great site by the way
I missed this first time around as I was on holiday. Rental cars!
I love rental cars!
Flat tires, engines wanting to blow up… 😀
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Okay, so I won’t go either Andrew! I’ve been to mainland Spain and Majorca but none of the other islands. You’ve reminded me of some of our hire car ‘adventures.’ Together with a language barrier it’s often not the best part of a holiday.
There are too many interesting places to visit on the mainland without going to the holiday islands. Car hire can be so much fun!
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Gran Canarias and thus Las Palmas offers very much to see and experience. I have been working there in 1969 and visited lately in 2017.
One interesting Place is Columbus Museum:
Vacation in Las Palmas 2
Happy and safe travels.
Not been there for a while so need to go back! Thanks.
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So, camels not be comfortable, eh? It don’t look comfortable when I see someone riding them. Good to know firsthand.
I can confirm that it is not the finest form of transport.
Sioux City seems a little dated. Still, if people like it, it’s their choice ultimately.
I checked and it is still there but currently closed to the public because of filming. A new 10 part series based on the adventures of Zorro. Always one of my favourites.
There used to be a western theme park near Ilkeston called “American Adventure”. My children worked there at school holidays. Long gone now.
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I’ve never fancied Gran Canaria in the least, and you have done nothing to dissuade me from that point of view!
I went there twice, 1985 and 1986. I haven’t been back since and have no plans to. There was a time when I quite liked the Canary Islands, Fuerteventura was my favourite.
Sioux City in Gran Canaria? That’s sort of hilarious, but creative and I might have wanted to take a look, too, as you did. What a variety of landscapes there and I appreciate the education.
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