Sunday, 26 February 2012

The sardine is toast

Carnaval is over and peace of some sort has returned to the anchorage at Las Palmas. Though there is always something going on - an Ultimate frisbee tournament on the beach, a fleet of children in Optimist dinghies and kayaks around the boats, a pair of swimmers muttering about freezing their cojones off, or a regatta of radio-controlled model sailboats, one of which bumped into our vessel yesterday and Jim sent it on its way. Unfortunately it was out of radio control range and had to be rescued by a bloke in a kayak.

Carnaval in Las Palmas is a serious partying affair with some parade or other going on all through the evening and night for several days, with only one day of rest in between. We chose to forego the main parade as we were going hiking early the next day, but of course we couldn't escape. The floats went right along the main road next to the anchorage and from about 9pm to 4.30am we heard the music blaring across the water. Strangely, they repeated the same song over and over again, the same one that had already accompanied every fiesta in La Gomera. We must have heard it about ten times that night. Any clues to its name and artist welcome - it's the last track on this youtube video.

The carnaval theme this year was comic heroes. When we reached the bus station at 7.30am after passing a smashed bus shelter and a discarded chest-piece, we found lots of jaded, spent-looking superheroes wandering about. However, we soon left the city and its debauchery behind and reached the chilly mountain heights, where a breakfast of goat stew fortified us for a long hike led by Uli, a German printer who has lived in Gran Canaria for 14 years and knows its trails very well. We headed down the valley to some caves once inhabited by the ancient Canarios who decorated the walls with petroglyphs. There are plenty of caves on the island and some of the them are quite deluxe with doors, windows and patios.

The entrance to one of the more deluxe uninhabited caves.
The main street in pretty and inappropriately named Teror.
As we descended we found ourselves on a field of pyroclasts with some mounds stacked up in places. We had stumbled into an ancient burial site in an archaelogical park which was closed for lack of funding to run it, a common problem with projects on the island. We wandered around the beautiful site, looked at some bones (which disappointingly proved to be reconstructions) in the burial mounds and then had to find a way out over the high wall and gate at the main entrance. Apart from a cactus injury sustained by Uli, we escaped unharmed.

Old water mill, with almond blossom. 
Ancient Canario burial chambers.
Scale model of  the site, showing all the graves.
The interior of Gran Canaria is very beautiful and, at least in the north, surprisingly green. We also rented a clapped-out Seat from a resident sailor one day to explore the island. It was the day after a snowfall, but luckily the mountain roads had been reopened.  We warmed ourselves with some Canary rum from the distillery in the pretty town of Arucas before heading for the lovely village of Tejeda, where we had to wait out a torrential downpour - the first proper rainfall since coming to the Canaries. Our scenic drive concluded in the not-so-scenic environs of Lidl and with a traffic jam on the motorway back to Las Palmas.

Tejeda, pleasant mountain town.
Yo ho ho and a barrel of ____! 
A Lidl moment, the first since departing Edinburgh...

The only Carnaval event we did attend was the 'Burial of the Sardine' (though strictly speaking it was a cremation), which is the finale. This year, because of the economic crisis, Carnaval had been curtailed by four days. The burning of a sardine effigy on a raft was preceded by a parade of the Carnaval Queen, the culture minister and the Senior Carnaval Queen on floats, accompanied by lots of men (and some women) dressed up as (rather kinky) widows grieving for the sardine. While the sardine smouldered away on its raft, thousands of people on Las Canteras beach, including us, watched a fireworks bonanza above it - no sign of crisis there.

Soon after our arrival in Las Palmas Jim noticed that a weld holding the support frame for the self-steering had pulled apart. The things that can break on a boat! Luckily, one of our friends here has a welding machine and fixed this problem without us having to take off the entire structure. Jim made some little reinforcement plates so that the weld is now stronger than before.

Noooo! Could have been nasty had the other end gone at sea.
Friend Ernst and his marvellous welding kit.
Better than new. The original join was a bit flimsy.
Now we are waiting for some wind to go east, which is not so easy in the Canaries, where it blows from the northeast nearly all the time.

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