Taking a bus from the relative tranquility of Las Palmas, in the north of Gran Canaria, to a place called Masapalomas, in the south, we discovered a weird subculture of sun worshippers living there, hundreds upon hundreds of them, who seemed to like nothing better than carving out hollows for themselves in the gritty sand, with high backs topped with flat stones collected from the beach, which they sat in all day long, for protection against the wind, while basting their skins with oil, to toast themselves more effectively in the sun.
They were mostly German, invariably naked, unusually gaunt looking, and they took particular delight in rising to their feet every so often, scratching in various crevices and folds, while leering around them, then strutting towards the sea and congregating there in small groups, splashing each other with water, before returning to their private hides.
One particularly foul image etched itself on my mind, of a new arrival who had yet to acquire the skin colouration of a wildebeest, but who already had the untypical bulk and width of an elephant. While we were hastily passing behind her, she chose to bend over to pick something up from the ground, and for reasons known only to herself, she decided to stay in that position for as long as it took us to get by.
With a body the colour and consistency of boiled dumplings, and a complete lack of shame in exposing it in intimate detail to all and sundry, I felt she could only have come from lower Bavaria; and judging from the state of her buttock cleavage, with its attendant thigh jowls hanging freely, in loose, flaccid folds, her diet must have included more than its fair share of fatty foods.
The dunes further inland were staggeringly beautiful, if somewhat marred by the repeated appearance of naked strangers hoving into view after each crest we breached. From every vantage point, they could be seen, like wandering hermits, crossing the tracts of windswept sand, pendulous breasts and sagging genitals swaying gently as they walked.
The wind was insanely strong, gusting continuously, and there were a few kite surfers about, in wetsuits rather than naked. The sea was rough, neither warm nor cold, reminding me of a good day at Bracklesham Bay. As I was changing into my swimming attire, clumsily hiding behind a towel, I asked my companion to check if anyone was watching, not wanting to upset the delicately nurtured with a glimpse of my own base flesh. She chortled, pointing out that there were a couple of dozen naked strangers on every side of me, probably wondering what party trick I was playing.
The first pension we stayed at, in Las Palmas, was fine until we discovered on the day they thought we were leaving they had remade the beds for the next visitors using our old sheets! This made my companion as certain as if it had been written in stone that these same sheets had been on the go for a while, that we were far from the first to sleep in them, and that we had probably already caught some hideous disease, such as leprosy, from contact with them.
The second pension was in a tourist enclave in the south of Tenerife. This was as large as a small city, a place of lush lawns and prefabricated living that sat uneasily within its dessicated surroundings of many square miles of infertile, volcanic ash. It clearly represented the collective idea, shared by a certain segment of humanity, of heaven, along the lines of a concensual belief system territory, more readily found – so the seers tell us – in the fourth dimension.
Constantly agreeable, balmy temperatures, a plentitute of adequate accomodation, an endless supply of undemanding eateries, congenial, likeminded companions, daily tabloids from Northern Europe on sale everywhere, and perhaps most importantly, no need to have to speak Spanish at all, this place was homelier than well worn carpet slippers. The neon sign above one garish enterprise pithiy summed it up: ‘British atmosphere’, it proclaimed, as if, having come all this way, the average visitor would long for nothing else.
Our sleeping quarters were in the least favourable area, housing those who kept this slice of Paradise functioning. It featured one bathroom for ten rooms, which was situated right next to the shoebox the bloodsucking fiends were forcing us to pay for. I sat listening to what sounded like a succession of people using it, including what I supposed must have been a very hairy legged lady wielding her defoliator for a good hour.
Eventually, I negotiated a slot, but found the bathroom unusable: the hairy legged lady turned out to be another Bavarian, a bloke this time, who had been shaving his head and managed to leave most of the hair smeared around the place, along with gallons of water. I had a vain stab at taking a shower with the hand held French style spray device, before having a piss in the sink – the toilet was a no go area – and slinking back to our ‘room’.
This was a space with a couple of free-standing shelves in it, masquerading as beds. We had a small window, which was thoughtfully barred, as it opened onto a sitting area belonging to the Bavarian. I grew to loathe him in am amazingly short space of time. He seemed to delight in opening and shutting his door endlessly and noisily for no purpose I could discern other than to make yet another trip to the bathroom to despoil it even more.
Two or three times, when I had heard him flush the toilet, open and close the bathroom door, traipse down the corridor, and open and close the door to his own lair, I had peered out, to see if the passage was clear, and there he was, already on his way back, his cringing form topped by a glistening dome I could happily have split open with an axe.
Even in the middle of the night, I could still hear him coming and going, as I rolled this way and that, on my far too firmly sprung cot. By the morning, I was exhausted. We left at daybreak, and lo and behold, there he was, fiddling with his blasted door lock, en route to the bathroom, again.
We had an early morning swim, to wash away the memory of an infernal night, before heading off to Peurto de la Cruz, in the north of the island, where we found a far more acceptable place to stay, with an en suite bathroom and clean sheets.
Tenerife and Gran Canaria are agreeable spots, both of which I heartily recommend to anyone wanting to spend some time where the temperature is guaranteed to stay within the 18-23 degree range, day and night, year round; but I feel I must warn those who have a temperamental aversion to seeing people wearing socks with their sandals, or possibly worse, utilising the latest in sprung technology trekking poles, even when traversing flat ground, in town and on beaches, to steer clear of the Canaries, because both these practices are so widespread to almost be considered normal.