Sunday, January 04, 2015

Caldera de Bandama in winter

Gran Canaria received its share of long rains in the end of autumn - not as much as Tenerife, but sufficient for the local flora to wake up. It is not the time of most flowers yet, but the mountains look green and you can see the occasional splash of color here and there. Some of the early bulbs managed to finish flowering and wilt "when I wasn't looking", as I discovered in a local botanic garden. So now I am trying to go and check out what happens with the plants as often as I can.

I have already been to Bandama - down to the bottom, up to the small peak, round the lip of the caldera - but that all was before the rains, when pretty much everything was dead and baked by the sun. When I saw an "official" photo of the caldera on the tourist information site, I thought "crafty guys, they changed the color from dusty reddish to green".  I stand corrected - turns out, they have chosen a winter photo to illustrate the site. The bottom of the caldera is now an unbelievable green provided by the fresh leaves of oxalis pes-caprae (yep another invasive species that looks beautiful, same as lupines in Finland).

I stand corrected on more than one count - when I visited the place in summer, everything looked so dead, I was convinced that nobody farms anything there despite what various websites said. It turns out somebody does, but, logically enough, in winter. There are a few patches where some stuff is cultivated. The only veg I could identify were beans though.

Canarian Lavender is now in bloom, as are a few other things, none of them very showy.

Sweetly-scented Retama raetam is only just starting to open there. I am guessing that it opens earlier at sea level - they've been selling bunches of it on local markets for a while now and I was told that it is traditional bloom to have in your house for the winter holiday season. Mind you, it was a flower-seller who told me that and he obviously have a vested interest in me buying it, so a pinch of salt is in order.

Loved the artwork of bark beetles on fallen eucalyptus trunks.

Another discovery we made was a couple of caves and a barbeque place sort of half-way up one of the slopes. That is, there are hundreds of natural caves in the walls of the caldera - some small, some bigger -  but these two were cleared out, with the floor evened, and a couple of stone benches fashioned inside. A patio in front even has a water source - with no water. Not sure what the story is - maybe the barbeque place was usable a while ago and the caves provided sun and rain shelter. There is no pointer to the caves, so whoever they belong to probably doesn't want them advertised, so I wouldn't.

There were quite a few people around the caldera, unlike during my previous visits, and it makes perfect sense - it is a much more beautiful place to be in winter than in summer. The path to the bottom is now in a worse condition - lots of loose stones - but still not too bad. It is definitely worth a winter visit if you are into plants.

Caldera de Bandama at shutterstock

You don't really need a map for this walk, but I logged it in just to know the distance (one way) and altitude change - 1.28 km distance, 220 m altitude change. If you are in a hurry, you can get out of there in half an hour. Even faster if you run, but I don't do that :)

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