One of the reps at Cordial Morgan Valle told us that driving in Gran Canaria was a lot less stressful than in the rest of Southern Europe, so we set off full of gung ho, armed with Google Maps in our hired Opal Corsa and headed inland.
The centre of Gran Canaria comprises a series of mountains with its own unique ecosystem and is known as a Biosphere Reserve and the only way is up … and up … and up.
The fine, state of the art, road system comes to an abrupt end at Mogan and, as you head up a mountain to your chosen view to die for, you start to wonder if you might die before you get there. It is not a leisurely drive, switching to automatic pilot is not an option for the driver and it’s best not to look down.
After you reach about 3000ft, the visibility is impaired by fine drizzle and you are surrounded by craggy, volcanic rock precipices, just a cat hair away from wheels of your hire car, which is the time you realise your passenger’s knuckles have turned white.
Wherever I am in the world, I have come to rely on my tried and trusted source, the Lonely Planet Guide, to recommend some bucolic scenery … AKA … off the beaten track. On their recommendation, we were headed for Aldea de San Nicolas to see some spectacularly craggy mountains. But, as we gingerly made our way up a series of steep hairpin-bends that form the majority of the narrow, single lane road, with precious few places that give you the option to pass another vehicle, we were beginning to think that maybe we had seen enough crags … with sheer drops … for one day, but turning round is not an option. You cannot see what is coming round the corners so, although keeping my thoughts to myself, I started thinking about various unhappy outcomes.
A: crash into an oncoming vehicle to avoid going over the edge
B: crash into the cliff face to avoid crashing into an oncoming vehicle
C: with the absence of crash barriers on most of the route … seeing the bucolic scenery on the rapid descent to meet our maker
We ended up at the dizzy heights of Mirador el Molato, at the head of the Barranco de Mogán ravine, which was a challenge for our Opal Corsa. I was complimented by a Norwegian tourist who arrived mopping his brow in his overheated rental car just a few minutes after us. As we admired the view together, which was stunning, despite the drizzle, he said that driving up had been a challenge and it had made him feel like a real man and outstretching arms towards me he said: “And you … are a real woman.” I’ve always liked Norwegians but, even real women, know when it’s time to go down again.
We encountered few hire cars on the way down, laboriously winding their way up to Mirador el Molato with their spaced out looking drivers and I really did feel for the ashen-faced real woman driving a Fiat 500, who had to reverse for me, on the cliff side, to stop my off-side front tyre from disappearing down a storm drain.
Gran Canaria is the keen cyclist’s heaven. They are everywhere, including the tops of mountains. Lycra-clad and all ages. Singletons, gaggles of them, showing no fear as they freewheel down mountainsides. The thing is that, as you cannot see what is coming round the next corner, I wonder if these kamikaze cyclists have some sort of sixth sense as they hurtle down the mountainside oblivious as to what obstacle might be round the corner. Predominately men, but there were a few women gracing the mountainous slopes at speed and I salute them, you are truly real women.
Once back at almost sea level, Google Maps saw us through to the very crowded Arguineguin where, in the absence of a parking opportunity we keep going on the GC-500 to Puerto Rico ‘the coast road’ which would take us on to our Puerto de Mogan base and my long awaited and large Tropical beer. Unfortunately, the GC-500 was agonisingly closed for maintenance just as the marina at Puerto de Mogan came in to view and we had to retrace many kilometers to find the right turning to take us the right way on the GC-1 and home to the most delicious beer I have ever drunk.
The following day we headed for Dunas de Maspalomas and Playa del Ingles, a mere 40-minute stress-free hop on the GC-1, very busy but stunning scenery and took in the new, but equally busy, resort of Meloneras on the way back.
So pleased we hired a car for a couple of days and after day one heading into the unknown, think maybe the rep was right, it is not as stressful as driving in most of Southern Europe.