Trip Stories

El Albercon – First HelpX Mission (D51 to 58)

January 28th – February 4th

It was already dark when we arrived at the restaurant El Albercon of La Aldea. We were welcomed by Mathieu, a very sympathetic, crazy and funny French guy who had about the same age as us and who was siting at the bar checking his E-mails on his computer. Then we met Juan, who showed us our room for the week.

Here is how days were organised during the week : We were beginning the day around 8am with a fresh fruit juice and a coffee. Then we were beginning to work. The HelpX mission was very interesting because the Tasks were diversified and changed everyday : picking potatoes out of earth, pilling and cutting vegetables, cooking, moving red bricks for the construction of a bread and pizza oven, serving at the bar, washing the floor, feeding the animals, collecting the eggs… In the middle of our daily tasks, Juan was cooking an omelet which he was serving to us with some bread, butter and cheese : a copious breakfast. He was also preparing a huge pot of stew with meat and vegetables for several days in which we could help ourselves when we wanted. After our task we were free for the rest of the day.

The restaurant had its own garden from which were coming part of the fresh products served at the restaurant. There were Chicken for the eggs, pigs for the meat and goats for the milk. It also had a cactus garden at the front, with many species of cactus, which was mainly to attract the tourist, but from which we sometimes were able to collect cactus fruits from time to time. The main room had a bar with a beer pump from which the beer was German. Because Yes, Juan was German. He arrived in Canaries at least 30 years ago when he was trying to avoid the military service. He had first settled in a small sophisticated wooden hut, that he built himself. He did different kinds of jobs during those years. Recently he had acquired the restaurant. He was a hard worker never counting his hours, which made him not so available for us, but he was really sympathetic and concerned by the fact that we had a good stay. He allowed us to pick fresh fruits and vegetables when we wanted (trying to be reasonable indeed). An there was a lot of fruits : diverse species of orange, goyave, mini banana, cactus fruits … We could also take beers that we were supposed to pay a reasonable price at the end of the week, but he refused our payment. Mostly we were speaking in Spanish because I was asking him to do so in order to improve my knowlage of the language. But sometimes, when I really couldn’t understand we were switching to German or English.

He organised hikes monitored by Mathieu in order to let us visit the region during the afternoon. One day he fully freed us and asked Mathieu to go with us into a protected natural area close to la Aldea. First we hiked up in the mist until a pass. Then the landscape cleared itself slowly and let appear a beautiful panorama of very green mountain with ocean ending in the ocean. In the background we could even see Tenerife.

Mathieu knew almost everything about the vegetation growing there, mostly about the cactus. Later we passed by one of the only houses of the parc. At this moment in began to rain a lot. The couple living there, who were friends of Juan and Mathieu, invited us to take a tee until the end of the rain. They told us how they were controlled and hadn’t the right to grow what they wanted . They were limited to the existing plant in the area or plantation with eating purpose. There house was only accessible by the sicking tracks, so when they were moving to the city, they were riding there horses and transporting stuff with their donkey. It was hard for us to imagine those animals walking on this type of technical tracks. Eventually we arrived to la playa de Guigui : a black sand beach between to cliffs which was accessible only by hiking. It’s quiet : we were almost alone there.

Then we continued our trip, but that’s when it got complicated : we had no more water and now the sky was cleared of any cloud. The sun was hitting really hard and the closer village from here where we could find water was not so close at all. After a pass, the vegetation changed totally. Most of the plant with leafs disappeared, letting only the cactus and leaving the orange stone appear. It reminded me a bit of the Canyon in Tinghir. Once again the landscape was awesome with its ocean’s background, making me forget the thirst for an instant.

At some point I accelerated the pace and took some advance on the other, and finally begun to run : some good cross country running, it felt really good to make some exercise again. It took me about an hour to reach the village. A bit before it I crossed the path of 2 grils who gave me one of their bottles, which was quarter full and indicated me the direction of the village. Before arriving there I already had drunk the whole water and was looking for a store or anything else where I could get water. It seemed deserted but eventually I found a guy, who was about to leave and seemed a bit angry. When I asked him the I could buy water, he took my bottle and filled it at his place. Then I ran back to the other who were still on the way to the village. They had found some cactus full of fruit and had voraciously eat all of them to hydrate themselves. Once back to the village, we expected to hitchhike but no cars seemed to leave it. Otherwise Juan had told us we could call him and he would come to pick us up but we had no network connection. Therefore we walked up the hill along the road for 7 additional kilometres without seeing any car going in the right direction. We finally reached the intersection with the main road. It was in a pass, the wind was extremely strong, lot of cars were passing but none was stopping for us. When eventually we abandoned the I idea of hitchhiking and called Juan (as we just had network connection again) 2 Swiss girls stopped and took us back to the restaurant.

During this week we also had the opportunity to visit the place where Mathieu was living : the sophisticated hut where Juan had lived years before. He had just done some modification to improve his life conditions and there were still a lot to come. But mostly what he had done was to plant different vegetables and cactus. Her had brought seeds from a bit everywhere in order to grow species which we couldn’t find on the island. He arrived to Canaries and settled there several months before after a failed attempt to develop an insect farm in Mexico for nutrition purpose. He had left the comfort of the big towns to live of simple things there really close to the nature. He seemed to blossom with this life.

In the Middle of the week we received a call from Bruno, our ex-captain, who found an other captain looking for 2 crew member in order to cross the Atlantic. We refused the offer, considering the fact that we already told Xavier we would cross with him.

A detail which is not so nice inside Gran Canaria are those huge abandoned greenhouses with pieces of plastic flying to the wind.

At the end of this week, after saying goodbye to Juan and the other employees of the restaurant, Mathieu brought us back to Las Palmas with his car, passing by the northern coast roads. There we visited the Casa de Colon, a very interesting museum which was retracing the 4 expedition of the well known navigator who had discovered the America. After saying good bye to Mathieu we took a bus to reach the airport and spend the night sleeping uncomfortably on the sits of the main hall.

Recap of this week :

  • Again some exceptional encounters
  • First volunteering of the trip
  • First try with HelpX
  • Some some hikes with awesome landscapes

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