Fuego

There were some huge fires on Gran Canaria recently- the biggest in Spain this year by a huge margin. As soon as I got back here, the first thing on my agenda was to go and check out the damage.

I came to love the north of the island over many long kilometres these last few years, and I was devastated to hear this area had been ripped through by such a blaze. 12,000 hectares had been affected, making it larger than the next three largest forest fires in all Spanish territories this year combined.

It was uncontrollable for several days before the winds became favourable and allowed the fire extinguishing efforts to succeed, but not before leading to the evacuation of 10,000 people. What was ultimately a trifecta of infernos was unfortunately at least partially due to human misdemeanour- accidental and pyromaniacal.

There are many unique floras on Gran Canaria, and while the tall pines with their thick bark are very fire resistant, the smaller plants are more affected and whether these or others rise out of the ashes remains to be seen.

I made my way via Ayacata to the village of Tejeda, and here the first burnt aromas filled my nostrils. At first glance I told myself it must surely just be the low morning light that left the landscape looking so dark, but all around the picturesque town had been scorched black. Taking in the loop past La Culata before continuing to Artenara revealed occasional spots that had been spared the fire's tongues, but also many wooden guardrails that had been stripped of their cladding, leaving only metal skeletons exposed.

From Artenara towards the Tamadaba national park the roads were obscured by thick blankets of fallen yellow pines needles shed by the charcoaled trees, and the Tamadaba national park loop was still closed entirely.

Heading north and descending past the series of reservoirs near Lugarejos, the true scale really hit home. The rising Tamadaba national park above was an autumnal mix of dead leaves from afar, a haunting black mortuary up close. The undisturbed water of the reservoirs provided an eerie contrast to the chaos that had been wrought here. Agricultural land had been wiped clean, yet in some places phoenixes of green were already sprouting.

I continued my survey through Fagajesto, Valleseco, Firgas, Moya and back up to Fontanales. Between the former pair, the damage was so extensive that it was a sight in monochrome: huge areas where everything in sight was black: the road, the road markings, the road signs, and all remains of vegetation.

I was very relieved to see the fire had spared the latter towns, but at this point I also came into a slight misty rain. Wearing only shorts and short sleeves, I decided to abandon my plan of continuing the recce through Agaete, La Aldea and Carrizal de Tejeda, and came home through past Montañón Negro and Pico Las Nieves.

Montañón Negro is a natural feature that was once unique for its smooth black volcanic slope, but now has competition from all of its surroundings. Again, the damage is quite marked between the mirador de Pinos de Gáldar and Cruz de Tejeda. Reaching Pico Las Nieves (the highest point of Gran Canaria), the findings were much more positive, the usual green pines stretching far and wide.

There truly is a monumental change in the landscape of the north, but the change brings a unique beauty of its own. I'll be making trips up there as often as allows to track the progress of nature's regenerative powers, and some of the tours we offer with Life On 2 Wheels would also take you through this bruised but not broken swathe of land if you fancy a look for yourself! Check out our tour program.

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