The small town of Aguïmes is situated in the south, land inwards, and away from the tourist crowds. It’s quiet in the historical centre, with its colourful streets, sculptures and even poetry on the walls. There’s a beautiful poem by a certain Joaquin Artiles, called ‘A pulso lento’. Even though I don’t speak Spanish I understand the meaning of it, if not word by word, I get the essence of what he wrote just by walking around here.
The square in front of the church of San Sebastian where the locals meet, the bar with delicious fresh orange juice for a fraction of the price they charge you in the tourist areas, … We take the time to visit some craft shops. First stop is the workplace of a man making ceramics. He welcomes us in his workshop and tells the story of his craft. It’s in Spanish, but we understand each other. He learned the old techniques as a young boy and many photos from ancestors hang on the walls. It takes time and patience to do what he does, rubbing the material until it shines, there’s no oven involved here.
Next stop is a shop with leather bags, painted stones and some jewellery. And here too lies a story. The owner is an Italian who moved to Aguïmes to escape busy life in Italy where he worked as a graphic designer. He and his (also Italian) wife now run a little shop here and 3 days a week he also works at the airport. “I turned 40,” he says, “ and I wanted a different life. The first year here wasn’t that easy. The locals call us los Italianos.” I have sympathy for his choice to start a different life, a pulso lento, but I can’t help feeling this would be a bit too slow for me, away from family and friends. It’s a beautiful town, but not many tourists come by. Not good for the local economy, but at the same time that’s what the charm about this place is, it’s quietness.
Close to Aguïmes is the drive through the Barranco de Guayadeque, a deep ravine that has been classified as a natural monument for its archeological value and endemic botanical species. This is where the aboriginal Canarians lived in caves before the Spanish came. There’s an Interpretation centre at the start of the route that explains more about life in the ancient days, the findings in the area and the eventual colonization. Even today there are people living in caves along the Barranco, with a bit more modern comfort, but nevertheless in a very desolate area. We have a stop and wander around a path leading to some modern cave houses. Looking up to the rocks you can see many caves, not reachable for us, but once the home of real people who lived here for centuries by the grace of nature until their way of life was violently disrupted. I regret not being able to see a proper archeological site, but it’s an impressive surrounding, well worth a visit.
There’s only one way in and out of the barranco, so we drive back to the direction of Aguïmes to head higher up this time to Santa Lucia. From the ravine we go to high winding roads with stunning views. This landscape is called cumbre, at its highest point reaching up to 2000 meters. Away from the tourists by the sea, life is still quiet and traditional here. A lot of locals still live from the land and village life stretches from their fields and homes to the pub on the central square.
Santa Lucia has about 1500 inhabitants, the road leading up to this place is very well maintained, still the masses don’t come here. Well worth a stop in my opinion is the site of La Fortaleza Grande just outside the village. There’s no organization around this place, it’s even quite impossible to park on the very rocky ground, but the sensation of stopping there and walking around all alone on this place of historical significance is very special. In fact, la Fortaleza is a rock formation shaped like a fortress, which was where the Guanches (aboriginal inhabitants) made one of their last stands. Legend has it that in 1483, many Guanches refused to convert to Christianity and instead threw themselves off these rocks to their deaths. There’s no explanation on the site and I’m sure some tourists instantly turn their car when they see there’s ‘nothing’ there, but to me it was worth the stop.
Real close to the Fortaleza is a look-out point over the Presa de la Sorrueda, an artificial lake surrounded by palm trees. Not too much water in there, but still a pretty sight.
Police escort for two desperate foreign females
In Santa Lucia we buy some freshly baked bread for breakfast the next day and then drive our way out of the cumbre, back to Firgas.
From the blue skies we’re heading towards dark clouds and by the time we’re nearly home a mild rain comes down and mist surrounds the mountains. It’s Friday evening and we notice an unusual amount of people and cars in the street. When we’re about to turn into our street we stumble upon a road block and a police man directing people away. We open the car window and in broken Spanish we try to explain that we really have to get through. The police man at first doesn’t really want to listen; He nods and tells us to turn around. Apparantly there’s a car race (what the hell????) and no traffic is allowed all along our road. He can’t tell us when the road will be cleared again. Maybe around 11 p.m. or maybe not at all.
We have to play the part of desperate foreign females in order to make him listen. Somehow we are able to communicate that our finca is just 300 meters away. Under escort of a police car we’re finally allowed to drive the last few 100 meters to our house. The road is full of locals walking towards a meeting point and they look curiously at the car coming through. Luckily we’re able to park across the road again and there’s nothing left for us to do but follow the locals and find something to eat within walking distance. About 1 km from the house there’s a restaurant and masses of people are surrounding it and ordering drinks and take-away at the counter. We force our way through the masses and somehow get hold of a table. I’ve never been so happy to get warm bread with aioli as appetizer! It’s clear that this is a huge event. Apparantly it’s ‘The Rally de Canarias’, the biggest car race, it takes several days and runs right by our front door – in a matter of speaking.
By the time we get our food, everyone is outside and we hear ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’ as the cars race by on the dark and misty winding roads. It’s crazy. Walking back to the house after dinner, we see cars parked in the strangest ways. And we got stressed over driving the car backwards out of a drive way! The Canarios clearly don’t get stressed about parking at all, hence the damages we see on most cars ☺