THE LOST BACKROADS OF GRAN CANARIA
By Lina Bo
Pol Tarres and I are adventurers with experience. We’ve each taken numerous long trips visiting many places, so it was a great experience to ride together in Gran Canaria. I have known Pol for about a year, and we’ve shared several short rides together. But over four days in Gran Canaria, I got to know him better and discovered we are quite similar. We both don't really like to talk much when we ride. First of all, because sometimes the terrain is very hard, and secondly, nothing can replace the experience of pedalling in paradise, alone with your thoughts.
And of course the landscape on Gran Canaria influenced this desire to feel alone, the mountains were so big that we felt small. Of course, this is an amazing island where you can find all sorts of terrain, ranging from barren desert mountains that look like the Grand Canyon, to lush green vistas that resemble Colombia.
We stayed in Maspalomas and the first day we climbed a pretty famous Gran Canaria climb, from Arteara to Fataga, returning from another side though Santa Lucia. It was very hot that day and we all got a lot of sun, the proof in our fresh tan lines. The first climb was long: 45 kilometres with some very steep sections at the end. Also the road was pretty crumbled all the way up.
We stopped in a bar somewhere around 35 km in to buy some water, with a further 10 km to go on the climb. I was pretty tired already and my mind was all over the place. We continued climbing, and after 4-5 kilometres I realised I had forgotten to pay for the water. Oops! I felt bad, but I didn't want to go back down, only to have to climb the same 5 km again.
On the second day of riding, we encountered even more thrilling experiences. We were joined by my friend Pedro, who acted as our local guide for the day. Our first challenge was to climb Soría, a 20km uphill track with steep sections towards the end. We then descended to Mogán, where part of the road to Maspalomas was under construction. To get back, we had the option of taking a taxi on the highway, or taking a boat to Puerto Rico de Gran Canaria.
We opted for the boat, as it promised to be more exciting. As we embarked on the boat, the scenery was breathtaking, but our joy was short-lived as the boat suddenly broke down and lost control. It was a terrifying and amusing experience at the same time, as we tried to navigate the damaged boat, which collided with other vessels. Despite the mishap, we managed to reach the pier with the help of another small boat. Although we were hungry and tired, and had 20km left to reach Maspalomas, the adventure was worth it.
Maria joined us for the next stage of our adventure. Although we had planned to ride together from the beginning, Maria was not feeling well during the first few days. We started our route in the west, parking in El Cruz. The day was nothing short of epic as we rode 140 km and experienced three distinct landscapes. The first part of the route reminded me of a scene from Game of Thrones, with strong winds and small rocks hitting my sunglasses and hands. We braved the wind and made it to Agaete, where Maria decided to wait for us in the car as she was still feeling weak.
After lunch, we considered turning back because of dangerous winds, but we pushed on. As we ventured further into the mountains away from the sea, the winds died down, and the landscape transformed into lush tropical greenery, reminiscent of Colombia. We had planned to make a loop back to the car, but we decided to continue to Maspalomas, passing by a bar where I had forgotten to pay for water, which I promptly remedied. It was an unforgettable experience, crossing the entire island.
We had a short ride with Maria in the morning before returning to the hotel for lunch. Pol suggested we explore more routes for our final day, and I agreed.
We started our route late from Mogan, with the option of shortening it if we ran out of time. The first part of the route was awe-inspiring, with narrow roads and no cars in sight. We took our time, stopping at every corner to take photos. At one point, Pol suggested we take a shortcut, but when I looked at the road, I felt the original route was easier. We were wrong. The new route was steep, and without a GPX file, we were unaware of the four steep climbs ahead of us. We were unprepared, with no food, water, or lights.
When we reached the top of the last climb, it was already 7 pm, and we had a 25km descent ahead. As the sun went down, my phone died, and I could barely see the white lines on the road. I lost sight of Pol, and fear crept in, but I soldiered on, calling out his name. Eventually, we reunited, and we made our descent together, with me following Pol's white socks and boots in the dark. The last 6km were particularly daunting, but we made it back safely.