Gran Canaria and the Guanches


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Europe » Spain » Canary Islands » Gran Canaria
June 17th 2017
Published: June 18th 2017
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Las Palmas 16th June

Gran Canaria is (another) volcanic island with deep valleys, volcanic cones and a picturesque landscape.



The main city and heart is the port and capital Las Palmas, we were here back in 2004 and could not recall what wedid!!!!



Must be old age setting in.



Gran Canaria is one of the most popular islands in the Canaries, mainly because of sandy beaches, the landscape is probably less dramatic than its neighbours such as Tenerife and Lanzarote but its place in history is right up there!!



Pause for history lesson.



Originally the islands were the thought to be the last vestiges of Atlantis but recent discoveries suggest that they have been inhabited since the Bronze Age.

The original inhabitants were the Guanches, a native race who for years resisted the Spanish from conquering them.



These Guanches were native to other islands on the Canaries but as I write later, some of these natives still live in Caves up in the Guayadeque ravine which we visited on our tour.



Following the conquest by the Spanish of the Guanches, and the founding of the city of Las Palmas, the island was used as a base for conquering the Guanches on Tenerife and La Palma.



In 1492, Columbus set sail from here for the New World on his famous voyage of discovery, and later Las Palmas was used to resupply Spanish Expeditions to America.

Towards the end of the 16th Century the Spanish fought offattacks by the British and the Dutch.



Gran Canaria only figures latterly in world history in that the Captain General of the Canaries in 1936 was one Generalissimo Franco who gathered his officers of the garrisons on the Islands on the 17th July for the National Rising which started the Spanish Civil War.



History lesson Over!!!



Two destinations today, the Botanic gardens and caves up in the Guayadeque ravine - see it all comes together!!!





The Botanical Garden Viera y Clavijo is located in the northeast of Gran Canaria, in Tarifa Alta approximately 7 kilometres south of the capital city Las Palmas.

Establishing this botanical garden was the life work of the Swedish-Spanish botanist ErikSvennson(1910–1973) he devoted many years to searching for the optimal site, one that could successfully accommodate as many as possible of the highly diverse plant species of the Canary Islands. He finally settled on a steep slope of the Barranco de Guiniguada in the vicinity of featuring a waterfall and shallow caves in the cliff face. Work on laying out the garden began in 1952, and the Jardín Botánico Canario Viera y Clavijo was officially opened in 1959. Svensson served as its first director. Following his death in a traffic accident in 1973, David Bramwell was appointed his successor in 1974.



The garden comprises approximately 27 acres (10 hectares), on which approximately 500 plant species endemic to the Canary Islands are cultivated. Important divisions are the "Garden of the Islands" (Jardín de las Islas), the "Garden of Cacti and Succulents" (Jardín de Cactus y Suculentas), where approximately 10,000 cultivars of succul are on display, the "Macaronesian Ornamental Garden" (Jardín Macaronésico Ornamental), and the “Hidden Garden” (El Jardín Escondido) with greenhouse. At the "Fountain of the Wisemen" (La Fuente de Los Sabios), botanists who discovered and described the flora of the Canary Islands are honored.

In 1983, the garden established a seed bank for the roughly 400 tree species endemic to the Canaries.

A germ plasm bank was subsequently established as well. A great number of species have been identified and described by botanists associated with the garden over the past several years, and the garden contributes to species preservation programs through its research work.

We only scratched the surface of these gardens, because of time restraints and probably the type of tourists we are i.e geriatric!!!

The tour only took us on to the lower levels on even ground and the pace was painfully slow, you have to move at the slowest pace.

It take at least a couple of days to cover the gardens and still you would miss areas.



So after only an hour we were back onto the next stop which was some distance away.









The Guayadeque ravine, in Spanish Barranco de Guayadeque, is a ravine-type valley located on the near Ingenio and Aguimes.
One of the largest ravines on the island, it is notable for its archaeological remains and for its valuable endeies of flora and fauna - the latter including one of the largest lizard species. It is also notable for the large quantity of cave houses that it shelters, including a hermitage and various restaurants dug in the rock.



The site used to be the most populated valley on the island and contains hundreds of caves. All these people who lived therein have left many mummies and other burial remains in some caves, well guarded by the difficulty of access of the caves they were left in.[These caves include Labour cave ("Cueva Labra"), Numerous caves ("Cuevas Muchas"), Canary Cliff ("Risco del Canario"), Vincent Cliff ("Risco Vincentico"), Black Cliff ("Risco del Negro"), etc... The ravine is thus among the most important pre-historic burial ground of the island.

The caves were then used as dwellings, food storage and for fertility rituals. Sometimes burial caves were reused, in which cases special care was taken to protect the skulls with stones and, in Guayadeque, covered with animal skins or covers weaved of reeds.

The 19th century saw much devastation from grave plundering; many items found on the site found their way to the Canarian museum of Las Palmas, who bought them. Subsequently, le site was designated as a nature reserve to stop the plundering and other damages.

The importance of water courses through the valley is shown by the many remains of water mills.



A museum has been built, the Guayadeque museum, a Centre of Archaeological interpretation. It houses an exhibition on human activities in the valley, going back to pre-Hispanic times.

This was our first stop and it introduces you to the flora and fauna of the ravine as well as the way the Guanches lived





The ravine is home to more than 80 endemic species, notably lizards, the largest species of lizards in Europe and Africa that can reach 80 cm (31 in) in length, endemic to the island.



We didn't see any!!!



The vegetation include woodland and vegetat both meeting on the steep slopes and many other plants endemic to the island.



Our next stop was a small hamlet, the population of Guayadeque valley is reduced, but clusters remain. One cluster is Red Cave, a small hamlet that owes its name to the colour of the stone. The other is "Las Tierras Mountains", the site of Los Marteles , site of the Saint John-the-Baptist hermitage.

In both clusters services, restaurants, souvenir shops exist and one can savour a wine typical of the area, as well as fried pork meat and the famous Canarian potato.

We were invited into one of the homes, all mod cons, runnin water, electricity the lot. There are even some caves for sale!!!

About 60-70 thousand euros a pop!!!

The church is in a cave and in the bar hams were hanging frion the rafters!!




Guayadeque valley was listed on June 21, 1991 as a Spanish Heritage site as a Site of Cultural Interest.

Our third stop was for refreshments at a restaurant at the head of the valley.

Another cave enlarged and a great restaurant - this was a full lunch Tapas and all the trimming. Washed down with jugs of Canarian wine.



Following lunch a tasting of the local Honey Rum!!!



Now I know what all the beehives in the valley were used for - and the sugarcane.



All in all a good tour and cheers to the Guanches!!!!


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