Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Gran Canaria, Barranco de Azuaje

A couple of weeks ago we went for a weekend break in Firgas, a small village inland from the north shore of Gran Canaria.

We were staying in a flat very close the center of the village (which is not hard considering the size of it).

It is a nice place, but be warned - precisely because it is close to the village center, Friday and Saturday nights are likely to be noisy, as people trample along the street outside your front windows to get to the bars and restaurants and then back again, talking as they tend to do (well they are Spanish, so they gotta). If it is just one or two of you, or even a family with one small kid you won't have a problem though - the bedroom is towards the back of the flat. I had to use the sofa bed in the front room of the house, that's why I could hear the street.

View across Barranco de Azuaje towards Moya

The main draw of the place is Barranco de Azuaje, a steep ravine between Firgas and Moya. The ravine is a nature reserve, containing the water source of Aguas de Firgas - my favourite mineral water. The information that I read on the web is somewhat confusing, as some pages seem to claim that there is always a stream running at the bottom of the ravine, and some that it is sometimes not there due to "water management" (well, I dunno, seems that if you manage something and it disappears your managing skills might not be that great). Anyway, it was definitely there when we were.

The town council website has a few walks listed and they looked short enough, so I wanted to attempt to do at least one of them with the kids. The route that we attempted involved going south from Firgas for a little while, descending into the ravine, following it north, towards the ocean, for a while, and then coming up again at the opposite end of the village. If you follow the link, you will see that you can do it in 2 hours and that the level of difficulty is marked as "medium".

It started well and easy enough and we went down to the barranco and started following a narrow path along its east wall. It was still spring, so everything looked very green and fresh, with some people doing something on not-what-you-might-call-horizontal plots on the opposite side.

I think we were walking for about 45 minutes, slowly because my kids don't do fast, when we came to a little natural obstacle course. First you have to scramble down maybe two meters, then you skip across the little stream and than you have to rope down* a big boulder - maybe three meters or so.  There seemed to be no other way to continue the walk.

Now, call me chicken (insert a chorus of "you are chicken!"), but I don't go anywhere new where I don't think I can get back the same way. So we turned around. The kids were happy enough to do so, but I still haven't seen any of the small cascades that the pictures suggested were there.

So in the afternoon I went again, this time trying to do the same route in reverse - coming down into the barranco at the north end of the village, close to the viewpoint looking towards Moya and Teide.
The path is much steeper there and in the afternoon is exposed to the sun, so it was not a wise thing to do, but I really wanted to find those cascades.

And I did find them. At the end of the descent I came to ruins of a hotel (it used to be a spa, but not any more - due to water management, probably). There are stepping stones to cross the stream to a cobbled path on the other side. I was surprised to discover a bunch of men sitting at picnic tables, playing cards and dominoes, but apparently this part of the barranco can be accessed by car from Moya side. Figures really, that there must be a road - you can't possibly ask guests at a spa to take the goats' path like I did.

I asked about the cascades and was told that they are "up that way, maybe a hundred meters or so". There was indeed a small cascade running into a pool of water and I spent a few happy minutes messing with the tripod in the mud. Then I had to turn and go back, as one of the kids was waiting for me halfway down the path and there is no reception at the bottom, at least not everywhere.

A couple of days later I came to Firgas once again with an idea to "close" the route - to come up to the same spot where we stopped when going down, to make sure I didn't miss anything and that there are no more difficult bits. This time I went further, and found a few more waterfalls - none of them very big, maybe a couple of meters tops.

And once again, I didn't manage to complete the route. The path is very narrow and slippery in places, so I chickened out once again, what with being on my own and all.

So. The route is a bit more difficult than I expected. Two hours estimated time seems wrong. There is at least one place where you have to rope down or up, depending on your direction. No mobile reception in places. Good news is that the most beautiful cascades are relatively easily accessible from the north entrance point. I advise to go in the morning, when the path is not yet exposed to the sun. You can then be in Firgas in time for lunch.

UPD 06/07/2015 : we finally "closed" the route. There are two places where you have to use the ropes (which are already there for you), but ropes are necessary in only one of them. This time there were four of us, so it felt safe. To my surprise, there was a bit more water in the barranco than earlier so it was more slippery. It took us three hours, not two, but, admittedly, we went very slowly. Our own recorded route - here

* I am not sure "rope down" is the correct term, but "abseiling" seems to involve more than just a piece of rope and I don't know any others, so it has to do.

Pics of inland Gran Canaria on shutterstock - here

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