|The Ballards - Spain Gran Canaria|
The largest of The Canary
Islands, Gran Canaria is an extinct volcano and popular tourist destination.
Being so far South, it provides year round warmth and strong sun whilst
retaining European (well, Spanish) levels of civilisation (so electricity
that works, roads that are tarmaced, drains that drain etc).
The island is divided by its central mountain range:
the prevailing winds from the North hit the range, are forced upwards
and drop their rain so the Northern slopes are well-watered and farmed,
whereas the Southern slopes and coast are arid.
Once off the motorway network which nearly (but not quite)
encircles the island the roads are narrow and very windy: making any sort
of distance is hard work. Rarely are you beyond 3rd gear as the roads
wind around the landscape, always heading up or down. Houses and trees
cling to precipices and there is little in the way of formal agriculture.
As you climb in to the mountains the rainfall, and thus the vegetation, falls away to reveal the naked volcanic rock beneath, reminding me a little of New Mexico with buttes and wind-scoured rock formations.
People do live up here, but it's got to be (outside the tourist season) a pretty hand-to-mouth existence as everything has to be trucked in, agriculture is pretty much non-existent and nothing much will grow.
Eventually you reach the Southern or Western plains and
civilisation peeps through, but you do wonder at the level of EU (read:
German loan money) subsidy required to keep The Canaries going out of