Ok, when I say “Gran Canaria”, what do you think of? Probably Playa del Ingles, loud English tourists, wrinkly German retirees, all day English breakfasts, Maspalomas beach, year round sun, good wine and food, even a cold Tropical beer. The extent of most people’s exercise on holidays there could extend to walking to the pub or shop, coupled with the odd paddle in the pool.
This year, I decided to explore the island a bit, so took a bike and went inland. I found the name of a few bike rental companies through Lonely Planet’s ThornTree discussion forum, and booked a guided tour on road bikes with Free Motion. They’re one of the biggest companies on the island, with over 300 bikes to rent. They have daily organised tours on road and mountain bikes, as well as quad bike rental and hiking tours. The bikes were decent Cannondale bikes.
The first day I took a 70km road bike trip with a group of 8, as well as our guide Victor. Victor was a serious cyclist in his time and has calf muscles the size of tree trunks. The route took us along the coast and then headed inland towards Santa Lucia. We climbed about 750m and the scenery was great. The valleys and cliff edges are pretty serious once you start climbing. The roads were winding but well surfaced. After a coke in Santa Lucia we headed back down, at speed – that was great fun, especially climbing through some of the mountain passes.
Day 2 I took a bike out on my own and did an 80km ride up to San Bartolome de Tirijana. This was a much tougher and longer climb of over 1500m. After climbing 500m I reached the plateau of the valley and thought it’ll be easy after this. Not so. While the views from the mirador were amazing, once I continued on up the valley I dropped down again so had to climb up through hairpin bends up to 980m at Alto de Fataga. It was tough going and was hard work, but worth it in the end. Once I got to San Bartolome, it was a sleepy town but made me forget completely about the beach and Playa del Ingles. The vegetation changes a lot, with loads of pine trees. The temperature drops a couple of degrees too. Ok it was still 20c +.
Day 3 I changed to mountain biking. This was way more fun, although tough work on the body as well. We did a 55km route up the valley to Fataga. The bikes were full suspension bikes and the trails were rocky, so we did take a pounding. The views of the valley and the Atlantic Ocean were amazing though. We passed through a number of fincas, where they grow oranges, tomatoes and even grapes. We passed over a reservoir, which was full as there had been a lot of rain lately. This meant we got wet later criss-crossing the streams on the way back down the mountain.
Funny thing is that there wasn’t one Irish or English person doing the biking on any of the days. It was 90% Germans, with the odd Dutchie or Scandinavian person. We even had an English guide one day, Jay, but even he gave all the directions/instructions in German, so I was trying to figure out links und rechts all the way through. I did learn the word for roundabout though, Kreisel.