Last day. Very hot. We went this morning to the Parque Palmita, which is up a very pretty protected & unspoiled valley, and is a cross between the Eden Project & Howletts. €30 each to get in, and beautifully kept… Masses of trees, palms, cacti, orchids, bougainvillea etc and rare and/or endangered beasts in pens – storks, caimans, lizards, gibbons, parrots, butterflies, fish, even dolphins. The free-flight display of eagles was wonderful – they went far out of sight, engaged with a wild eagle, eventually came back to home comforts.
The drive back down the glen was enlivened by a near punch-up between a bus driver ( in the wrong, we thought), and a taxi driver. It involved an awful lot of people standing in the road arguing, and lots of arm-waving (palms upwards).
Lunch just now was in the fishermen’s caff in Arguineguin, which we like because it seems to be at least partly a real place. Fish, salad, agua con gaz, €31.
Altogether it’s been a nice little break. Too many houses, too many valleys stuffed with buildings when we crave ‘nature’ and solitude (I know, I know…). But friendly, with this amazing landscape and more than everything else the astonishing history.
The N African people who settled here 2,500? years ago must have been like pioneers settling on Mars. They had some knowledge, some skills, but basically they had to rely on the resources of the islands – ie. not much. No metal. No horses. No backing. No trade. No technology other than what they could create for themselves – and no access to change, politics, development…. They used caves, the rocks, woven rushes and grass, such fish as they could catch. They divided the management of the lands into tribal areas, and built roads which lasted a thousand years…. Must have thought they owned the place. When the church/colonisers/explorers/slavers arrived from Europe in about 1478, it took less than 5 years for the whole lot of them to be wiped out… There is a haunting myth that somewhere, up in the impenetrable heights, a small group of them survive. (I don’t think).
They made remarkable images of a mother goddess, or fertility in the form of a female… Here on Gran Canaria they made little hand-presses, carved or moulded with geometric designs, and the museum shows these used to print patterns into the human body. There is an insistent pubic triangular design, a concentric half-H which looks like a woman’s thighs, and an intricate interlinked diamond design which reminds me of the ‘hooked diamond’ found across the entire pre-Islamic world, as a rug-weave emblem (meaning ‘the life-giving vagina’).
The colours used in the cave-painting, and on ceramics and stone-ware were red, white, black and ochre.
Their dead were mummified in dry caves which were plundered in the 19th C so that the museum in Las Palmas has a truly vast collection of skulls, skeletons, mummies, etc. Those on display seem to be mostly the males which presumably reflects the instincts of Victoran academics. They were tall, slender, with good teeth, and could survive trepanning. So, not bad for a people who emigrated to the Stone Age, only to be obliterated in due course by Christians. The whole of the landscape is haunted by them.
Now it’s hot, sunny, breezy, quiet. We’ll go in search of a working wifi shortly, as it’s crashed again here in our ‘village’. The Guanchos didn’t have the internet…..