Bananas, Badlands and Long Climb

Monday, November 06, 2017
Lomo Quiebre, Canarias, Spain and Canary Islands
 Sorry for not doing the blog for a couple of days but we have been up in the mountains, living in a cave and no internet access.
On Friday morning we had to hold our ears because of the noise excited schoolchildren were making as they left the science museum. In the evening, after Gill and I attended a fashion event in the city (we like to mix with the in crowd when we are on holiday) we decamped to a nice restaurant. In came 24 fashionable ladies (they had been to the same event) and the noise was equally bad, 24 highly excited women shouting at each other. Despite obviously taking great care in their appearance none of them, to my taste, was particularly attractive.
We have now left the big city, first stop was a nice town called Galdar just in time for the start of the annual Festival of the Banana. We were given bananas, there was a ceremonial cutting of bunches of bananas, some elderly ladies performed some sort of play about packing bananas then quite a large group of musicians and singers sang songs which we assume we're about bananas whilst eight couples danced in traditional costumes. No idea how they fitted in, perhaps they always turn up like the local Morris team.
After excitement like that we thought we had better visit a cemetery in The Badlands! The place is called Maipes which translates to badlands so named because the area is covered in volcanic pumice which makes growing any crops impossible. Between 800 and 1,300 years ago the local tribes used the area as a cemetery building chambers out of the stone with one or more bodies in each. There are almost 700 chambers in the area and there is a walkway around the site with information boards explaining as much as the archeologists know about them which is not a lot (their view not mine).
Some of the tribes lived in huts, others lived in caves. Some people were buried in caves, others in mounds but no one really knows if cave dwellers were always buried in caves and hut dwellers in mounds. What they do know is that people who were buried in caves were well preserved so the archeologists can deduce a great deal, however those put into a chamber made of piles of pumice where water, insects and small rodents could get in have all but disappeared, a few bone fragments bit little else.  They did not bury them with any grave goods so there are few clues to go on however when the Spanish arrived some of their journals report on the customs of the local population, before they were wiped out of course, and some of these described the building of the burial mounds.
It made for an interesting couple of hours before we climbed up into the mountains to our own cave which is at about 3,800 feet and in the clouds!
A great many of the houses in the mountains are cave based, the caves are not natural but cut using picks and shovels. Most of those in current use (there are thousands of them) have a couple of rooms built using modern methods in front of the cave and then the cave serves as bedrooms behind. Ours followed this pattern with a kitchen and bathroom in the front, a sitting room part outside part inside the cave and two bedrooms in the cave.  It keeps them nice and cool and they do not seem to be damp.
We visited a museum about the cave dwellings which was quite informative, although they did not mention if any collapsed.  A few years ago two boys were killed in Bridgnorth when the cave they were camping in collapsed, the locals had been doing the same for years but apparently the heat from their fire weakened the roof which collapsed whilst they slept. 
The scenery in the mountains of Grand Canaria is stunning, we have taken lots of photos to bore you all with when we get home. The sea mist comes in very quickly and you end up surrounded by cloud, a bit damp and cold, just like at home.
Today we decided to do a short walk recommended in the guide book, it said it would take 30 minutes of scrambling to a famous rock. We parked where we thought we were supposed to start, the sign said 3.5km to the rock, that would be just about possible in 30mins on the flat but the path went up hill.  Intrepid Brits like us are not put off by small details so armed with a bottle of water and two nice pastries from the local bakery off we went. Two hours later we arrived, hot and tired, at the top where at least 100 other people in flip flops, sandals and tee shirts were admiring the view, much like many who visit Snowden. It seems there was another car park much nearer the summit which we should have used. The views in every direction were stunning, even Mount Teide on Tenerife was proudly visible above the clouds. It was a great walk and we deserved the beers we drank on our return.
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2018-08-21