Sunday, September 29, 2013

The Saturday Evening blogPost: The off-the-beaten-path Travel Log, Gran Canaria

It was 1988 and I was teaching at an international school in Salzburg, Austria. It was late May, and school had just ended for the year, meaning that the traveling season for my fellow teachers and I was just beginning. My friends Bill and Chief and I had been planning to hike from the Italian/Austrian border, across the spine of the Austrian Alps, to the German/Austrian border, staying at Alpine Mountain Huts at night. I had been looking forward to the trip all year, but when it arrived the weather forecast was a deal breaker: cloudy, raining and cold. So, we improvised, and rode our bikes downtown and found a travel agent offering last minutes deals on trips that other people had already bought and paid for and then cancelled last minute.

A few hours later we were on board a plane for Las Palmas, Gran Canaria. To be honest, I had never even heard of the place, but it had been a dreary spring in Salzburg, and the travel agent had promised us sunshine (or that's how I translated his words, although my German was never noted for its accuracy.)

The trip started out great. We had a chartered aircraft, (SpanAir--which we called SpandexAir) and we arrived on Gran Canaria right on time, whereupon a bus brought us to our little Villa on the eastern shore of the island. So far, so good. And it was sunny, I will say that, not a single cloud marred the skyline. The problems started shortly after that when we went to the beach. Although we had seen a steady stream of pale Northern Europeans head in that direction, we couldn't actually see anyone on the long strand of beach. And as soon as we passed the protection of the thin line of cement buildings that comprised the town, we saw why.

Or, rather, we felt why. It was the wind, which raged across the Atlantic and pelted us with sand and beach detritus. It was the equivalent of full exposure inside a sand blaster, but we had invested a week's time and two weeks' paycheck into the trip so we kept going. It quickly became apparent why no one was visible. As we advanced we happened upon them, the foxholes that had been dug into the beach to protect the sunbathers from the artillery like effect of the wind blown sand. We stayed for a short period--none of us had an inclination to dig and the bunkers were all occupied--and then went back to the villa.

There was a cement courtyard in back of our villa which was protected from the wind, and we thought we would catch some sun there, with a lovely view of the garbage collection area. But, as I said, the courtyard was protected from the wind, leaving us with no defense against the equatorial sun, which beat down on our heads and radiated up from the cement floor. (Perhaps they should have planted grass to absorb the sun?) In less time than I have spent writing this paragraph--and you can tell by the writing it wasn't very long--we were forced inside by core temps rapidly approaching temperatures incompatible with life. We went inside and turned on the AC.

I am going to end here in the interest of keeping you on the edge of your seat. But keep in mind that this trip remains one of my favorite trips ever, and I will explain how we snatched victory from the jaws of travel defeat next SEbP, which comes out, as you would expect, next Sunday afternoon. Thanks again for your time and attention, and please visit my AUTHOR WEBSITE.