If you like driving and riding a push bike, let me introduce you to your new nirvana.
It’s called Gran Canaria, the biggest of the Canary Islands that sit in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Morocco. If you, like some seemingly normal people I know, erupt with an explosion of enraged spittle whenever you come across a cyclist on the road then it’s probably best to steer clear because they are everywhere.
The Canary Islands are favoured by pasty Germans and English desperate to see the sun and want to a) slump on the beach until they are close to crackling or b) go for a bike ride without getting rained on. Keen peddlers also love the wonderful twisting roads that snake upward and make for great hill training. So be prepared to see many Lycra-clad bodies, some pleasing to the eye and some that cause the kind of optical trauma that can last a lifetime.
The same roads that make for great cycling are also fantastic for driving.
Many of the speed limits are 40km/h up in the hills, but as Gran Canaria is a Spanish territory, the whole speed limit enforcement is a little bit lax, especially during siesta time. The important thing is to drive slowly when you can’t see ahead of you in order to avoid collecting cyclists.
Rock doctors reckon these islands were caused by volcanic magma that cooled and left this island that peaks in the middle. The roads around the outer of the island are flat and fairly dull, linking gargantuan holiday resorts that sit within waddling distance of the beaches. All the good roads run up into the centre of the island. These are truly wonderful stretches of black top, arching back on themselves in an attempt to beat gravity and make it up the mountain.
The rental cars are most likely to be limited to European Noddy-mobiles with tiny engines, but the roads are so twisty they will still be fun. I don’t mean to name drop, but I managed to snap up a Porsche 911 cabriolet when I was there and it was glorious.
The Porsche is too much car for these roads, especially with all those treadlies about, but it’s still an absolute blast.
I had agreed to write a story that included taking a bike in the back and riding part of the way across the island. Unfortunately, this part included a significant uphill section that made me pant like a Labrador on a hot day. But I can tell you that if you’re after some hill training, it is absolutely perfect. If you’re as slow as me on the bike, you’ll have a lot of time to take in the scenery, which has a barren Middle Earth theme, garnished with the odd cactus grouping and lots of rocks.
There are very few trees, which probably explains why after two days I was yet to see an actual canary in the wild. I thought there would be great hordes of them – so many that I’d have to stop every now and then to scrape canaries off the front of the Porsche – but they were nowhere to be seen. Not even on the beach, although budgie smuggling appeared disturbingly rife.