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Bananas about La Palma

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After the experience of The Three Degrees in Sorrento, we had decided that all we needed was a place somewhere, far away from any other tourists who could annoy me. And Easter would be a good time to come, wouldn’t it, for some early springtime sunshine?
So we took a fly-drive holiday to this Canary Island with an all-round ambient temperature of 70. Needless to say, things did not go according to plan. The following is an extract from one of our expeditions.

When the Spaniards came in the 15th century they found a people still living in the Stone Age.  They proceeded to “civilise” them by turning tribe against tribe, though apparently more Guanches died from the diseases the Spaniards brought with them than from conflict either with them, or their own kind.

They didn’t have a written language, as you might expect.  It would be bit hard to chisel all your words onto stone, though the Flintstones seemed to manage it as I recall. And just think of the postage when you sent a letter, but they did leave some petroglyphs behind, and that is what makes this cave so special.

The petroglyphs are supposed to be on three boulders that are strewn randomly around the entrance to the cave.  I can see none on the first, some faint marks on the second –  swirls and whorls like great, prehistoric fingerprints, and on the third, more clearly defined, white lines and circles.  Nobody knows what these strange symbols mean and it is doubtful if anyone will ever unlock the mystery as they are just being left to weather and become even more indecipherable.  Perhaps they don’t mean anything anyway – perhaps it is just artistic expression, like abstract art  –  or they just did it for the hell of it, chiselling away to pass the time, while the women, as usual, got on with the work.

It is not just a cave though. There is a nature trail as well, with boards to tell you what you are looking at –  except a lot of them are as badly worn as the petroglyphs, or covered in guano.  Here we can look down on the intriguingly named Dragon tree, a species peculiar to the Canaries, and to my mind, just plain peculiar, with branches which defy the law of gravity and grow straight up with a topknot of spiked leaves like a punk’s hairdo.  I am sure I have seen miniature versions of them in garden centres.  The Guanches used its sap, which they called “dragon’s blood” to heal wounds.  Interestingly, the sap turns red in contact with air.  So how did they know when the bleeding stopped?

Another interesting, but rather other odd thing about these trees is they don’t have rings, so you can’t be sure how old they are.  If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I think I’ll come back as a Dragon tree.  No pining about lost youth: you could pretend to be any age you liked and just stand around sunbathing all day and have a shower (whether you needed it or not) on the whim of the weather.  And it would be great to avoid all that stress about the birds and the bees, having to find a partner and reproduce.  As long as you remained an upstanding member of the community, you wouldn’t have to do anything - they would come to you.

Here is another indigenous tree – the Canarian pine with its long needles that the Guanches used as a mattress.  There are masses of them lying about. They are named needles, appropriately enough.  They are brittle and sharp and I wouldn’t have thought the ideal bed companion.  As the husband said when he discovered that his wife had been sleeping around with his superiors at the office: How could you sleep with those little pricks?

No doubt about it, I’ll come back as a Dragon tree, if that is all right with you, Brahma.  And if you don’t mind, I’ll skip the promotion for being so perfect this time around (I just can’t help it) and step down a few rungs on the evolutionary ladder and just hang about here for the next few hundred years or so.


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