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).
In an alternate universe it belongs to Morocco and is a very different place...

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.
The main tourist areas are in the sunnier South of the island and it is interesting to sit in the sun on the Southern coast and watch the clouds hovering over the range to the North.
As you drive North along the East coast motorway the temperature drops and the humidity rises: by the time you are at the capital Las Palmas it can often be raining even when the sun is blazing down in the South.

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.
There are a lot of houses, and many of them are very beautiful, but you get the impression a lot are weekend/retirement homes, empty for much of the year.

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 tourist season.
Actually, I'm beginning to theorise that many tourist destinations are actually pretty economically deprived. That's an interesting thought.