Monday, May 04, 2009

Sands of the Saharas




















At Playa del Ingles you quickly discover that the Sahara desert is close by. The resort has its own private desert, and you may even ride a camel there, if you want…..


The first time I visited Playa del Ingles, I was fascinated by the large desert that covers the central part of this resort. It is, in fact, a nature reserve, and when you walk through it, leaving the busy city behind, you feel moved far away, to the heart of the African continent.

You enter, either by walking along the beach or through the gate by the Riu Palace hotel. This large, white luxury resort overlooks the desert below as an Arab mansion.

You step down a rocky path, and suddenly you have the smoothest, finest warm sand between your toes, and a view to elegant sand dunes with the blue sea in the horizon. The sand is surprisingly fine, and you have a hard time walking it as you glide into it for every step you take.

The vegetation here is adapted to the harshest conditions. Small succulent plants that conserve every drop of water available in these inhospitable conditions.

Cypresses or conifer trees, low, with dark green brown needles that struggle to survive in the scorching heat, and on and off you see a palm tree. Then you really feel you are close to an oasis in the Sahara Desert.

If you are lucky, you might encounter camels, that take tourists for a ride through the dunes. I personally think that this would be over the top. I’d rather take a camel ride when visiting Tunis or Morocco, where these animals are vital part of the culture.

I personally enjoy walking through the dunes on my way to the wide beautiful sandy beach that awaits you on the southern tip of Gran Canaria. You stop to take a look of the flora that grows by your path. What conditions they live under and how well adapted the different species are to live here, under the hot North African sun.

It is reassuring, though, to know that behind the dunes you will find a bar, where you can be served a freezing cold beer after your walk through the dunes. That is the best end to any desert experience.

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