Sunday, 20 March 2011

Vagabondrunning Gran Canaria Part Three: Morro de Santiago-Analysis and Realization.

The meal at the restaurant at Ayacata really hit the spot-a starter of parma ham and tomatoes on bread,drizzled in olive oil,and a main course consisting of a seafood pasta dish. The restaurant was a popular stop over point for coach trips,delivering hikers and mountain bikers to the nearby peaks,for road bikers who stopped for a drink and the hordes of,mostly old tourists in their hire cars.I had sat outside several days earlier,on the return leg of a recce down to San Bartolome. A coach had pulled up and the tourists descended and took photographs of the canyon scenery.After several minutes they got back on the bus and they were off.This,to me,emphasized the dramatic disparencies between my holiday experience and theirs. They were staying in warm hotels,traveling in luxury coaches and taking pictures of the 'oh so beautiful scenery.'They were enjoying what I considered to be 'beauty in a bottle.'For this they were paying a premium.I wasn't. I was living in the heart of the beauty. I was experiencing the elements first hand. It wasn't always comfortable,or enjoyable.Sometimes the hardships blurred the perception of beauty,but when things were right-that odd moment of stillness,of quiet,when one could truly take in the majesty and soul of the surroundings,nothing else mattered.



The next campsite was 'Morro de Santiago',only 2/3 miles down the road from Ayacata along the main highway towards San Bartolome.I had read a comment on some travel blog that the campsite had a source of running water,but during the previous week at Las Ninas realized that I had not actually verified the facts with the information available on the government website on camping provisions on the island. I had no access to the web,no phone and no electricity so one overcast day decided to run to the campsite to check things out and put my mind at rest.That particular morning the weather was passable at Las Ninas, but,as I climbed the highway to Ayacata I quickly became enveloped in cloud.I had contemplated doing the run in shorts and t-shirt, but opted for tights and a waterproof top which I had tied around my waist.I was thankful for this when ,around 3km from the top off of the climb I gradually became wrapped in a blanket of fine drizzle.I made it to the road exit to the campsite,where a sign pointed to the direction of the site and gave the distance to it as 200m.The road forked off in 2 directions,so I decided to take the bigger of the two roads and headed up ,maybe 400m.On seeing no sign of a campsite I jogged back down and took the other fork.After approximately 100m I came across a clearing.That was it-just a clearing-no facilities,toilets,burners or water,at the top of a hill.My heart sank.Why hadn't I done more research? There seemed to be evidence that camping had taken place here,but,in the cloudy wetness,I barely wanted to contemplate spending any period of time here.I walked back down the hill throughly dejected.As I reached the fork again I looked again at the sign and decided to give the larger road another go.Again I jogged up the dirt road and after about 1km,I rounded a corner and was greeted by the sight of the official campsite,complete with water and toilet provisions.The road signs on the island seemed to be so precise in their accuracy.I guess this was just a lesson in not to take anything for granted.



Morro de Santiago was situated,perhaps,5oo/600m higher than the previous site,which afforded it magnificent views,both towards the inland areas around Roque Nublo and also towards the coast in the opposite direction.The cloud and rain,however,over the next few days put pay to this.I spent the morning running exquisite,rocky singletrack from Cruz Grande down to San Bartolome,to restock supplies,and the afternoons checking out the trails surrounding the reservoir 'Presa le Chira', 5km below the camp at the base of the valley.The first few days were great.The campsite was quiet.I was the only person there.I didn't see a single person there ,day or night, for the first 3/4 days.- enjoyed this at first -finishing runs,strip washing,just wandering around as if I owned the place.However this solitude,combined with the poor weather gradually began to take its toll and my moods began to darken.I was lonely.I mixed with a few folks in town in the mornings,but for the remaining time I was alone.


I had always had a romantic ideal.I had read about people who had retreated from society,people like the Barrowdale Hermit,and felt a kind of envy,that living life essentially cut off from civilization would be a good option to take.It would mean less stress,less pressure to live up to any expectations,would be liberating.I have always been a person comfortable with being alone,never feeling the need to have a vast circle of friends and can easily wile away lazy days formulating dreams and schemes.However this was different.In my home enviroment I had the choice to be alone or mix with friends and family,where as here I didn't.I had no friends here-nobody even knew - was here.


My thoughts became preoccupied with Chris McCandless.Chris was the subject of a best selling book and big screen movie ,a man who had ventured 'into the wild' in Alaska,eventually dieing through bad luck and bad preparation.He was a top grade student and a promising runner,who seemed to develope an unease with the modern world.Issues such as materialism,racism and the such troubled him.The whole world and its injustices seemed to start to trouble him.I acutely identified with this.I,d given up my car several years early in pursuit of a purer,greener life and now had given up my livelihood.I saw conflict in everything I did or wanted to do-the double standards that I displayed in flying to this island being one. My personal life over the last years had been problematic.I was unhappy with everything,including myself.I couldn,t work out if my being unhappy clouded my judgement on everything,resulting in me rallying against them,or if these things were making me unhappy in the first place. I often thought of a scene in the film where Chris is stranded in the bus,cut off from safety by raging spring rivers.He seems to have a revelation that the important things in life are family and friends.They provide the key to true happiness.I had ample time to think,perhaps too much. I missed my son-felt selfish for being away for six weeks,essentially for my own pleasure when I knew he was missing me.I thought of relationships,mainly within my close family that had soured over the recent years. I realized that again the cause of this was perhaps jealousy,longing and deep personal unhappiness. I thought of the meditative term ' Take in the bad,give out the good.'I had been taking in the bad,and the good,but had only been giving out the bad. It had been a drain on people to be near me-my constant rallying and restlessness driving all moods darker. Mostly I thought of love.I realized that I needed love,needed to embrace it,not push it away and realized that I wanted to give it out-wanted to be a nice person to be around.I came to the island to run,but running wasn't important-not in the grand scheme of things-just as most things like success,possessions,careers,whatever weren't.I realized the most important thing was love.


The weather continued to be unsettled.After 3/4 days of intermittent low cloud,cold temperatures and rain,combined with my increasing loneliness,I began to feel totally miserable. One morning I woke up,took out my journal and wrote down the number of days I had left until the date of my return flight. I counted the days and felt despondant and for the first time unmotivated since my arrival. I contemplated going back to sleep for a few hours and just doing one longer midday run. As I lay down and closed my eyes I was struck by the thought-this trip was not some sort of test or punishment-there was no reason why I had to stay six weeks.I decided to cut down the trip duration to a month. This trip was supposed to be enjoyable, a pleasure.I instantly felt better,rejuvinated.I would get two runs in today and tomorrow would have a day off,go to Las Palmas,change flight dates and have a little downtime. The trip to Las Palmas was an enjoyable diversion.I caught up with some emails,changed my flight and bought a book,the thickest I could find in the bus station newsagents-'The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.'The brightening of my mood was accompanied by an improvement in the weather. I was still the only person on the campsite,but was visited by the Ranger every morning. The Rangers at Las Ninas had been abrupt and unfriendly. This man was different,quiet and bearded, and very helpful.Although his grasp of english was basic he managed to point out on my map the off road paths that I could run that day. His knowledge of the area was extensive. One morning I returned from another jaunt to San Bartolome and saw him stood on the egde of the plateau just gazing at the view. I walked the quarter mile upwards to my tent and when I turned back he was still stood admiring the view.The sight of him gave me some peace and made me hope that I would eventually find some sort of vocation I would love as much as he obviusly did his. The running around the site was good with a multitude of dirt paths and rocky single tracks mainly eminating from Cruz Grande. I once again had a spring in my step. I was enjoying the present more and also looking forward to Visiting an area that I had been told was a mecca for trail running-miles and miles of single track through the beautiful pine forests of Tamabada.

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