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The Barranco de Guayadeque

We had a lot of fun in the Canary Islands, but when I think back on our trip, one mental image will stand out more than the rest: the Barranco de Guayadeque. And as usual, the sidetrip we took while on our way to somewhere else grew to outshine our original destination.

Our guidebook had mentioned the Barranco de Guadaque but I hadn't thought much about it until a Spaniard I was chatting with mentioned it in passing. It was on our way, not far from the colonial village of Agüimes where we'd stopped to explore. The sun was well on its way to overhead, and we'd be looking for lunch for the kids before much longer.

We found our way through Agüimes to the back side of town, where a single, little paved road led up into the mountains. Gran Canaria is a volcanic island with a mountainous center and deep gullies that carry rainwater out to the coast. Guadadaque was one of them. We were practically the only ones on the road that morning, and I couldn't tell you why, but it gave a sense of loneliness to the place where the island's original inhabitants had found shelter, either from competing tribes or from European discoverers. The basalt rock was riven with fissures, overhangs, ledges, and pockmarks, and the Guancho people who'd taken refuge there built whole villages out of the cliff face. It didn't take an expert climber to realize the hills must retain lots of secrets to this day, and it would take a lot of rope and armstrength to discover them.

Valentina was most struck by the mummy in exhibition in the Interpretation Center at the mouth of the gulley. The man had probably fallen, they explained, and broken his leg. Later complications led to his death, and his mummified body was found in the 18th century by Spanish explorers. This is as close to death as my four-year-old had ever been, and it struck her. She spent the rest of the morning asking us questions: Why had he fallen? Was he looking for a sheep? Or a cat? Had the cat fallen too?

Lunch time, and we found it in a modern little restaurant hewn out of a cliff hollow at roadside. The walls were rough-hewn, and obviously a lot of work had gone into fitting in a kitchen and bar. We took a table outside on the deck under the heavy timbered roof, and were served a plate of dried meats, cheeses, fresh olives in oil, and the island's specialty: papas arrugadas ("wrinkled potatoes") served with sauces of garlic, turmeric, tomato, and pesto. That place must be something special in candlelight, with stars overhead visible only through the gap between canyon walls, and the stillness of the valley night. As it was, the kids were restless, and after our meal we pressed onward: back to the modern age of rented cars and superhighways, a long way from the simplicity we glimpsed in the Barranco.


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