Saturday, May 27, 2017

Playa de Güigüí, the secret beach

Impressive cliffs, right?

I suppose Guigui (pardon me for not going into all that umlaut nonsense from this point on*) is Gran Canaria's equivalent of Cofete beach on Fuerteventura. Although it is nowhere as large or as beautiful, it has one very important advantage - you can swim there reasonably safely without being swept into the ocean, never to be seen again.

One disadvantage (although it is debatable if this is indeed a disadvantage) is that Guigui is even less accessible than Cofete. There is no road at all; your choice is either walk or go by boat. Going by boat is expensive; plus, there is absolutely nothing at all on the beach, no bar, almost no shade in the second half of the day, zero, zilch, nada. And, if you decide to extract the maximum value out of the boat ride both ways and stay there for at least three hours you will end up severely sunburned and quite possibly really, really bored.

To be honest, the pure logistics of it seemed way too complicated, so I didn't even try to somehow get there on my own. I was really pleasantly surprised when on one of the excursions with Arawak our guide mentioned that they were arranging a visit to Guigui for the end of May. We were to get close to it by bus; walk to the beach; get transferred to Puerto Rico (resort, not island) by taxiboat and come back to Las Palmas by bus. I promptly booked all three of us. Sure, the price was twenty euros more than any of the normal one-day excursions, to cover the water taxi and the unusually long drive, but I figured that otherwise we'll never get there at all. And what if it was the most beautiful spot on Earth?

Pine trees casting shadows on morning mist - view up from a tiny place called El Risco between Agaete and La Aldea, where we stopped for breakfast. Bar Perdomo serves excellent tortilla de patatas.

So, off we went, first going though the relatively new tunnel to La Aldea de San Nicolas; under the cliff of Inagua and along the narrowest and windiest road I've ever been on a bus. The driver had to go back and forth to get through some of the curves, just to give you an idea.

View down into the ravine Barranco de Aguas Sabinas (or Aguasabinas, the toponyms in that part of the island are not very settled)
We got to Tasartico village (it is a very, very small village indeed) and walked a few hundred meters down the same road to where the path to Guigui starts for real (on the right as you look towards the sea, there is a signpost). Our guide gathered us around and told us that there was an ascent starting right here; after we come to the pass, it would be downhill all the way. Nice pep talk - as you stop to catch your breath and try to get at least some of the sweat  out of your eyes, you can tell yourself - soon, soon it'll be downhill all the way.

According to my recorder, that ascent is just over 400 meters; not too bad, right? But it was hot, sunny and quite steep, especially immediately before the pass. The group was large; the slowest people got to the top about half an hour later than the fastest ones.

Amazingly, although we started the walk quite early, about 10, we met two couples who were coming in the opposite direction, i.e. from Guigui to Tasartico. I can only assume they slept on the beach or somewhere in between.

A flat bit of the path.

After the pass, as foretold, it got easier, although more dangerous, as it usually is on the descents. A few people slipped and fell; fortunately, without any ill consequences. Loose stones and very fine dust are extremely slippery substances when gunpowder-dry.

Valley El Barranco de Guigui Grande. Large cluster of cactus-like spurge Euphorbia canariensis; botanical symbol of Gran Canaria.

The flora along the path was typical for arid areas of the island - Opuntia, Euphorbia canariensis, Kleinia, etc. In the valley Barranco de Guigui Grande grows a very rare endemic - Guigui centaury (or Aldea centaury), Cheirolophus falcisectus. Same as the Silver Tansy, it is an endangered species in the wild and is on the Red List. 

Guigui centaury.

When we eventually got to the bottom of the valley, we could feel the presence of water (although we couldn't see it till the very end of the walk) -- the vegetation changed, there were palm trees and even some reeds. By that time the sun was beating down on our heads the only thing we were looking forward to was a dip in the ocean.

The bottom of the valley. There used to be some cultivation there.
As to the beach itself - well; we lived for two years on Fuerteventura and are not easily impressed. As I said, it is bathable, which is a good thing; it is split in two parts; you can cross from one to another at the low tide. The taxiboat comes to the part that is closer to La Aldea, and the path comes into the other one, closer to Mogan.

The cliffs that back the beach are very impressive indeed though - tall and near vertical.

The taxiboat part of the excursion was arguably the most exciting. Unfortunately, I don't have any photographic record of it, because we put our cameras and mobiles into two large waterproof sacks (brought by our guides, bless them) before we got on the boat.  The taxiboat itself can't come right up to the beach - there is no pier or jetty. So they hook a cord to an inflatable dinghy; put the bags/backpacks/people who do not wish to swim in the dinghy, pull the dinghy up to the taxiboat and unload the contents, whatever they are, into the taxi. Unfortunately (or fortunately, depends what you look for - comfort or excitement) the ocean wasn't smooth, so the transfer wasn't either. Everything that was not in the waterproof bags got soaked through; some people who didn't originally wish to swim fell into water; everybody or nearly so ended up riding the bus back being somewhat wetter than was comfortable. (Kirill thought that by not swimming to the taxiboat he wouldn't extract maximum value from the excursion. So he was swimming alongside the dinghy.) The owner of the taxi boat told us that when the ocean is as bad,  they don't take people to Guigui; but our excursion group was booked well beforehand and he couldn't back out of it.

As far as I understood, at least one of the organizers was really nervous about the whole affair up till the last moment (that is, when on the bus from Puerto Rico), because they've never done it before and were afraid something will go horribly wrong; but I think they did as well as it was humanly possible. They prepared to the maximum, they instructed us correctly, and the state of the ocean they couldn't influence.

I reckon  it was All in all, a 100% successful trip! (And we didn't even lose anybody or anything, well not to my knowledge) .

Normally, when going with Arawak, I wouldn't publish the routes - I don't want them to lose their livelihood. But I was told that this one is "the usual one, the one that everyone takes"; plus, it is quite well signposted from Tasartico, so there is no harm showing it here.

Distance: 6.32 km
↑ 422 m
↓ 643 m

* They don't know how to spell it either. Apparently one of the used spellings is Guguy; I am sure other variations exist.

More photos of hiking on Gran Canaria.

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