Sunday, August 24, 2014

Pico de Bandama and Caldera de Bandama

OK, time to resume some walk descriptions after a long break.

We haven't done a lot of walking here on Gran Canaria yet - partially because we arrived in summer, and the heat stayed considerable. Partially is due to the way the land lays here - the island is a lot steeper and more developed than Fuerteventura, so you can't easily see where exactly you are going and you are much more likely to encounter some sort of obstacle on your path. Those could range from a barbed wire fence and overzealous guard dogs, to quite unexpected (and, perversely, unfenced) drops.

Having said that, from the very beginning I was going to go up the little mountain that could be seen from my window. After a little research the mountain was identified as Pico de Bandama; it appeared there there is a (very large) hole in the ground called Caldera de Bandama next to it.

When you look at a flat map (such as googlemaps) of a steep landscape, you have no idea what time it'll take you to get from point A to point B. So my first attempt to get there failed spectacularly, as (it being holidays and all) I decided to take two whingeing teens with me. Bad choice. The problem was, we didn't start from the lip of the caldera, we started some distance off. We did get to the viewing platform at the edge, but that was all.

Next time I went, I went alone and I went up, i.e. to the peak, not to the bottom of the crater, logic being that when you go up first, you have to go down afterwards, which is nicer, in my professional opinion.

There is a spiral road going to the viewpoint on the top of the peak, and my (otherwise excellent) KOMPASS map shows that you should walk along it. Well, I don't know. I am usually against "scare the tourist driver over the side" attitude. The road, as Gran Canaria roads go, is not overly steep or narrow, but, being spiral against mountainside, doesn't give good visibility, and a driver coming around a bend and finding a pedestrian in his way could panic. So I sought and found a path that takes you two thirds to the top without being on the road. The last bit will be on the road, but only for a short time, and you can see that there is a fair amount of space on the side that cars don't use, covered by undisturbed pine needles.

The views from the top are to the caldera, the adjacent golf course (the greenest bits on the pics, of course), the vineyards; you can also see Las Palmas in distance.

Well worth the walk or short drive if you are not averse to this type of roads. The going up from Bandama village only took about 20 minutes with pictures being taken all the time, so it is short. If you do go on the footpath as I did, remember that opuntia cacti are bad news, they have a lot more small thorns that you can see and they can do a lot more damage that the other plants that are more obviously thorny.

Note1- I wanted to provide route maps but I didn't manage to conquer the new version of googlemaps. Basically, turn to the mountain leaving the village houses behind and to your right. You will see a path going up the mountainside on the opposite side of the road. After couple of meters up it forks; take the left branch, going clockwise re the mountainside. The other branch ends up in someone's private garden. The path will be forking a few times, but as long as you are going up, you are fine.

Note2 - ok, Kirill figured out how to do it, so the map is embedded at the end. 

Once the Pico was done, it took me a while to get to the caldera (hot! sure, downhill but then it's UP!), but I still went there for completeness' sake. The "official" figure that I saw is two hours to go up and down. I think it is too generous. It took me one hour thirty five minutes to go down, around the bottom and up again, taking pictures and pausing to drink water. The path is marked to the bottom, but not around, but it is visible and you can take it if you feel so inclined.

The path down (and then up) is in a reasonable state, although there were a few slippery patches of small stones, so be careful as you go. The path around the bottom presents no problems, but it doesn't give big shifts in perspective either.

There are a few eucalyptus trees at the bottom, which give very nice shade. There is also an abandoned farm. The pages I visited seem to insist that someone lives there, but I don't think so. All the buildings I was close to are completely in ruins; there was just one that I didn't come close to, but even there there were no signs of activity.

Below is the view from the bottom, from the side directly opposite to the Pico. You can see the spiral of the road leading to the top.

It's summer, so everything, or pretty much everything is dry and dead.

Those are, I believe, dried seedheads of blessed milk thistle. There were many dry plants of various types along the paths, and, once the winter rains come, there will be flowers, although it's difficult to imagine it right now.

Is it worth doing? Well, it depends. Unless you are heavily into rocks, maybe not, especially in summer. You can just have a look and take a few pics from the viewing platform or even from the road to the Pico. In winter, when the heat lessens and rain comes, it will be worth walking pretty much anywhere if you are into flowers - fora of Gran Canaria being diverse and full of endemics.

You can get to the Bandama village where both walks start either by car (well, obviously), or by 311 once-an-hour bus from San Telmo in Las Palmas (to Santa Brigida). Check the schedule on the company website It's worth noting that at the time of my going one out of two timetables  displayed on both sides of the road was wrong.

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