This walk through the Barranco de la Virgen ravine was chosen because even though it’s one of Gran Canaria’s largest ravines, it remains unknown for many hikers. The aim of this description is to encourage nature lovers and everyone who wants to learn about and discover mostly untouched environments to go on this walk, which is suitable for anyone who’s used to hiking.
The laurel forest that once covered this area was destroyed to provide fuel for the sugar mills and obtain more land for crops. In the 16th century measures were taken to preserve the wealth of flora, but pressure from tenant farmers and landowners led to the destruction of the Doramas forest. The area is now known a Doramas Rural Park, named in memory of Doramas, an early indigenous chief.
An exuberant past in a dreamlike setting
Barranco de la Virgen is in the west of Valleseco and is home to relict fragments of the laurel forest of Gran Canaria, known as Selva de Doramas (Doramas Forest) and praised in the work of literary figure Bartolomé Cairasco de Figueroa.
The following excerpt from the journal of English writer and traveller Olivia Stone, who visited the islands in 1885, attests to the exuberant past of the ravine.
Mrs Stone had been in Gran Canaria for two months when her expedition set off for the town of Firgas.
Breakfast over, we are again in the saddle, on our way to the Barranco of the Virgin. The path is rough, even dangerous in places, but the glimpses of the loveliness of the Barranco revealed by each turn of the road fully compensate for the fatigue of the travelling. Speaking broadly, the barranco consists of a long valley, more or less straight, leading up from the sea, and then of two branches, or fork-valleys, which wind about in a serpentine fashion. Everywhere the valley is wide and deep. The higher slopes are gradual and cultivated; the lower depths are precipitous and wild. The actual bottom, just now occupied by a deep, rushing torrent, is at places enclosed on both sides by sheer rock, over which are clustering masses of green foliage and festoons of beautiful trailing plants…. Descending by a tortuous path, our horses at first refuse to enter the swiftly rushing, muddy torrent, for they are unaccustomed to such a sight, and when at last we overcome their reluctance, the water rises as high as their shoulders, so that we have to hold our legs up to prevent getting wet. From the other side on looking up we see a long, attenuated waterfall, entirely surrounded by the most vividly green vegetation that can be imagined. ….the bottom of the gorge is broad, gently inclining on either side of the stream for a considerable distance, which meanders, with countless windings, over its rocky bed, amongst the gigantic stems of the trees fringing its banks. Delicate ferns and bright green grass form a soft and rest-suggesting carpet
A captivating autumn landscape
In her journey through Gran Canaria, Olivia Stone discovered the landscape of the foothills in Valleseco, Moya, Teror and San Mateo. At the end of summer, the leafy vegetation in this area is more reminiscent of continental Europe than these islands in the Atlantic. The beauty of Gran Canaria’s landscapes captivated Olivia Stone when she returned from La Aldea via La Caldera de Tejeda. In her journal she described the beauty of the higher part of Valleseco in these words:
The blue sky, hot sunshine and bright verdure suggest summer… while here… it is November, that month of damp and fogs.
An exceedingly lovely bit of giant rocks and greensward meets us as we round a curve, still further intoxicating us with the joy of existence. A little ridge we cross next, and beneath lies another valley, through which a stream wanders, the green hillsides being covered in sheep-tracks. We are reminded of bits of Derbyshire. Flocks of sheep and whole hillsides of sweet, short grass are to right and left…
The scene might have been English, save that the front of the house was hung, and the ground around covered, with rich golden maize. Bracken, too, helped the delusion, but an eagle soaring overhead, not so common an object at home as it is here, dispels the delusion.
Autumn in Gran Canaria passes mostly unnoticed, but by visiting spots as remote as Barranco de Crespo and Barranco de La Virgen, and in general the higher part of Valleseco, we can discover the range of colours of the deciduous trees that grow there. Their symphony of colours marks the arrival of autumn. Chestnuts, walnut trees, poplars, oaks and banana plants decorate the autumn landscape and even though they’re not natives, they put on a great show for hikers in autumn.
Deciduous trees shed their leaves when the cooler weather arrives and daylight hours are shorter, recovering their splendour in spring. These wide-leaved trees prepare for leaf loss a few weeks before the onset of autumn, when the ducts connecting the leaves to the rest of the branch become obstructed. As the cool weather sets in, the wind and rain do their bit to make the trees lose their leaves.
Because of the weather conditions during this season, trees don’t absorb nutrients from the soil. They don’t photosynthesise adequately and the water they lose can’t be replaced. During this time, trees enter a winter rest phase.
The walk begins:
After this stroll through the past and present of the Valleseco area, it’s time to start walking. You can check the times of the buses that go right to the centre of Valleseco. The town hall tourism office in Valleseco has been very active in recent years setting up a hiking programme. The aim has been not only to provide information about the richness of the borough’s natural environment, but also to encourage the local population to enjoy hiking and discover the natural area.
Ruta: PR GC 05: Desde Valleseco a Valsendero
Valsendero es un pequeño pago perteneciente al municipio de Valleseco, y se sitúa en la cabecera del Barranco de La Virgen, en la confluencia de los tributarios, Barranco del Anden y Barranco del Pinillo. Estos dos son los cauces principales del Barranco de La Virgen que uniéndose al Rapador formarán, más abajo, el Barranco de Azuaje, que finalmente desembocarán en la mar, a la altura del caserío costero de San Andrés.
Se comienza a caminar en el mismo centro de Valleseco, cogiendo rumbo S-SW, subiendo por las callejuelas en dirección a la parte alta del pueblo. A la derecha se coge un trozo de camino que enlaza con la carretera general que conduce a Lanzarote y Artenara. Se cruza y se toma la ascensión a la Montaña de Cruz del Siglo, en la cota 1.100 metros de altitud.
Después un trozo de asfalto a la izquierda para conectar con una pista de tierra que nos permite asomarnos a la cuenca del barranco de la Virgen. El descenso es pronunciado y atención con las rodillas. Es una bajada fuerte con firme irregular que desemboca en las proximidades de Valsendero.
En este punto, las opciones para seguir caminando son múltiples, igual que para regresar a casa tiene la opción del transporte público que llega hasta el mismo Valsendero (buscar horarios ya que la frecuencia es muy baja).
Pero si opta por seguir caminando puede ascender por la pista de tierra de la Finca del Pinillo y llegar a la carretera de Artenara, en la zona de Cueva Corcho, o bien descender el cauce, en este caso por la carretera hasta enlazar con los caminos que asciende a Carpinteras y el Molinete para retornar a Valleseco. También, y utilizando el camino de Vueltas de Acero, acercarse a Moya, o seguir el cauce del barranco y llegar a Las Madres y Firgas. Son muchas las alternativas que tiene el visitante cuando llega a Valsendero, imposible de detallar en este corto espacio. Pero, tiempo al tiempo, todo se andará.
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