Sun Jun 19 2022: Second Summit: Rocks to Pines to Palms
It's the sun streaming through the blinds that wakes me up. So strong for this early in the morning? I'm still groggy when I grab my phone to check the time.
11AM! Holy cripes, we've both slept for over 12 hours! Turns out that we were not immune to the effects of jet lag after all.
I'm a bit upset we slept in - we've wasted almost half of the riding day. We hustle out of bed and quickly get ready for our second riding day in Gran Canaria. However, we haven't eaten anything in close to 18 hours, so we need to get food in us before we do some throttle-twistin'.
Neda checks the Internet and finds us a nice Argentinian steakhouse, it's a couple of kms away, so we ride over there. SO HUNGRY!!!
Moto-only parking everywhere on the street. I love Europe!
The restaurant was a quaint and cosy place; the smell of meat on the grill permeated the air which made us even more hungrier. However, our waiter was coughing up a fit, which gave us a bit of worry. I remarked to Neda: "We're so gonna getting the 'VID, aren't we?" It underscored how early we were crossing the Atlantic, post-pandemic. They had just lifted the travel restrictions and we were basically the first ones lined up at the airport...
Just so eager to hit the road again!
I really hope we don't get sick. That would suck.
The food took forever to cook. I checked the time and the daylight was ticking away from us. I was getting a little antsy. That's the problem with renting motorcycles, you're always trying to squeeze every second out of your rental. Never had that issue when we bought the bikes outright.
As if the waiter heard my thoughts, he brought out a huge platter of food as large as my head!
We may have ordered a bit too much...
Typical, ordering when you're hungry: our eyes were bigger than our stomachs. Delicious food - didn't taste like COVID at all! We had to pack up the meat and then make a quick detour back to our AirBnB to drop off a couple of lbs of cooked steak, ribs and sausages...
Looks like we're not going to have to cook for the next couple of days!
And then.... FINALLY, we're back out on the road! Only 2PM... 3 hour lunch. Jeez...
I think we've only got enough time to do one run up and down the mountain before it gets dark, so we settle on this route.
We ride the main highway south to the town of Telde, and then take GC-130 west up to the summit. At the bottom of the run, we pass a labyrinth of small towns, managing to get lost because I'm still not used to navigating with my phone. I find it so annoying not being able to scroll and tap the screen with my glove. We have to stop often so I can rip my glove off, mash at the screen angrily with my finger to try to figure out where we are and where we're headed.
I miss my GPS.
Finally, we clear the towns at lower elevation. As we make our uphill climb, the scenery around us quickly transforms to heavy forest as the twisty ribbon of road cuts through the dense network of pine trees.
Most of these trees have been replanted only in the last 70 years. When people first settled onto Gran Canaria, they gutted the almost 100,000 hectares of pine trees and palms to make space for agricultural use. The resulting wood was used to fuel sugar cane mills. At its lowest point in the 50s, only 6,000 hectares of forest were left.
Glad to see the pines are back once again!
Bike seems to be running a little lean..
About halfway into all the great curves in the road, the forest opens up to a huge crater to our left. This is the Caldera de Los Marteles. We stop to check it out and take some pictures.
There's another couple on a scooter also taking snapshots, so we ask them to take our picture. We have so few photos of the two of us together.
Posing with our sweet rides at the Caldera
I originally approached the couple and spoke English to them, thinking that they were also tourists, since they were taking so many pictures. They replied in Spanish that neither of them spoke English, so we reverted back to the Spanish we learned in Latin America at the beginning of our trip. I'm so glad we took the time to learn the language. It's spoken in so many places around the world and those lessons have paid themselves back in dividends, so many times over.
So it turns out that the Spanish couple actually live in Gran Canaria. That's cool, being tourists in your own town! We returned the favour and took pictures of them as well.
I talked to the guy about his scoot. It's a Honda X-ADV. Very cool looking. I read up on the specs awhile back, Honda intended it to be an Adventure scooter, rugged styling, long-travel suspension, wire-spoked rims. Although it's a bit heavy at 520 lbs though, if I were to buy a twist-and-go, this would be high on the list just based on looks alone.
We hike around the lip of the crater for a while. It's about half a km wide
The Grand Canary Islands chain was created by volcanic activity about 15 million years ago, but this crater is from a volcano that erupted a bit more recently, only 2.8 million years old.
The Gran Canaria couple wave good-bye to us as they ride off to do more exploring
Oooh, that dirt road looks enticing, too bad we're not allowed to ride it
Europe has some amazing scenery and terrain, but unlike North America, the population density is so much higher and what little nature and greenery they've managed to preserve is set aside for hiking and non-motorized use. It's disappointing from an Adventure biker's point of view, yet entirely understandable.
Speaking of the scenery, this side of the island is so much different than the western section which we rode through yesterday. The palettes of red and brown rocks have been exchanged for lush pine greens. It's a wonder to take in while on two wheels.
Neda is really enjoying the Desert Sled
She remarks that it's so light and easy to handle. I'm still getting used to the Africa Twin. Shift points and torque curve are very different from my GS, so I find I'm always a gear higher than I need to be when blasting out of corners. Still, it's a competent road bike, but with the top-heaviness of the larger Adventure Sports tank, I don't think I'd enjoy it too much off-road though. It's the same reason why I prefer the standard GS to the GS Adventure.
We reach the summit and park our bikes at the mirador at Mirador del Pico de Los Pozos de Las Nieves
If you ask most people from Gran Canaria where the highest point of the island is, they'll reply without hesitation, "Oh, that's the Pico de Las Nieves! You should totally visit it!". It is one of the most popular tourist spots on the island. However, it is not the highest point.
*THIS* is the highest point of the island: Morro de La Agujereada
It's a popular misconception. While only 300m away from the Pico de Las Nieves (Peak of The Snows), standing at 1956m, it beats Las Nieves by 7m...
Morro de La Agujereada behind us on the left and Pico de las Nieves behind us on the right
While we were hiking around the top of the mirador, we met some British tourists. They were surprised that we had come to Gran Canaria from so far. Out of curiousity, I asked them how much their flight was from London, and was dreading the answer: €30. I hated those British tourists like I've never hated anyone more in my life...
*sigh* the cab ride from our house to the bus station in our town cost more than that.
... and then... back on the bikes
We had to take a picture of this 270° curve in the road. Not because it's special, but because it isn't.
ALL THE ROADS IN THE AREA LOOK LIKE THIS! There are so many turns that keep going on forever, you seem like you're leaned over for an eternity. Then you straighten out and THERE'S ANOTHER 270Â° CURVE! GOING THE OTHER DIRECTION!
OMG! We're in twisty heaven on this island!
Why more people don't do more moto-vacations here, I don't understand...
Rest stop at the summit of the island
There's a small stone castle here, and we see a couple of motorcycles parked in the courtyard, so we do the same. We walk across the street to a cafe to grab a soda and people-watch.
This is the second time in two days we've passed by Cruz de Tejeda. The cross here marks the geographic centre of the island and there's a local saying, "All Roads Lead To Tejeda". Most of the roads up end up criss-crossing up here so if you're traveling up and down the mountain, your half-way point will always be Tejeda.
Cruz de Tejeda is a popular meet up spot, and that's exactly what we saw the entire time we sat at the cafe. Motorcyclists streamed in, in pairs and small groups, parking in the courtyard. Some placed their helmets at the foot of the cross for a photo opp. They picked up other riders and left to go back down the mountain in larger groups.
It was time to head back down ourselves. We've decided to take GC-65 towards the south-east corner of the island.
You can see the road we'll be taking through the rocky landscape. Amazing!
San Bartolomé de Tirajana
Along the way, we pass through this small, but picturesque town. Most of the stores were closed for the evening, but we bookmarked it as somewhere we'd like to visit again when everything is open during the day. With the island being so small, I'm positive we'll be back very soon...
Speaking of small island, guess who we ran into on the way down south? That Gran Canaria couple on the Honda X-ADV scooter! Looks like they're taking the same route we're doing today. We saw them taking more pictures by the side of the road so we honked at them and gave a huge wave as we rode by! Actually, I recognized the scooter before I saw them. So funny!
Stopped just outside of Santa Lucia for another picture break
The barren rock and pine trees have given way to palms everywhere around town! Feels so tropical!
I'm really enjoying GC-65. It's wider and the pavement is way smoother. The higher-speed sweepers feel a lot more tailored to this touring bike than the smaller roads.
Aw, the end is almost in sight
As we get closer to the shore, the winds pick up and we need to hang onto the handlebars with a death grip to avoid being blown off the road. What an amazing run up and down the mountain!
While riding the ATAS, for most of the day in the twisties I was never out of third gear - always downshifting to 1st or 2nd for the next and never-ending set of curves ahead of my front wheel. But now that we're back on the highway, we're able to stretch the bike's legs once again. I hit sixth gear and the lumbering beast feels like it's back in its element.
Actually, by "we", I meant "me". Neda is feeling the windblast on her Desert Sled and the air-cooled 70hp powerplant is working hard trying to keep up with the Africa Twin on the highway. Despite this, I think the Ducati is the better bike for Gran Canaria. The power and gearing are perfect for those twisty mountain roads.
Pro-tip for anyone visiting the island and renting motorcycles here: opt for a mid-size, light-weight bike, like the Ducati Desert Sled, shod with street rubber instead of knobbies. You will enjoy yourself a lot more than trying to muscle a heavy, high hp, long-wheelbase touring bike around the tight corners of the mountain roads.
Our high-speed highway reverie is rudely interrupted by the evening's rush hour. All lanes slow to a crawl. Wow, congestion here is horrendous after work. I can't believe that there are so many people heading into the city, I thought it would be the opposite way around with rush hour traffic heading *out* of town. Everyone's at a standstill on the highway.
Okay, not normal traffic then. Holy crap, doesn't look like anyone's hurt. So glad everyone made it out okay
And just like that, we're all doing 120 km/h again. One thing about the speed limits, despite Gran Canaria being a part of Spain, traffic is very un-Spain-like on the island. On the mainland, drivers are crazy, speeding, weaving in and out of traffic and generally driving like maniacs. Here, the drivers are so polite and everyone obeys the speed limit. Very unusual!
About 10 minutes before we enter the downtown core of Las Palmas, the skies begin to darken with grey clouds developing overhead. It's as if we passed an invisible barrier which keeps these perpetually stormy skies contained above the city. The weather patterns on the island are so predictable.
So I'm minding my own business, just standing around in the middle of the road, and all of a sudden, this motorcycle just whizzes past my right shoulder. Good thing I was wearing my helmet...
We had a bit of an late start today, but it was still a great second day of riding.