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The International Writers Magazine:Canary Islands

Cueva Pintada
Patrick Radford

Twelve weeks of hitting the beach, boozing for England, shagging anything that moves and spending my days in a quaint "Spanish" bar called "The Lion and Unicorn". That’s exactly what I was looking forward to when I received the email that confirmed my place on the Leonardo da Vinci project to Gran Canaria.

To my mind, that’s what the Canary Islands consisted of, an extended Britain, albeit one with a friendlier climate. What I have found in Las Palmas (the capital of the island) could not be further from this Club 18-80 nightmare. Granted, my skin is now nearly approaching the tone of a living man, but I have also found a place laden with warm and charismatic inhabitants and a world of cultural identity. This is what I have found especially in my new place of work, the museum and archaeological park La Cueva Pintada (The Painted Cave), in a picturesque Spanish town called Galdar, only 30 minutes north of Las Palmas.

Imagine a Native Canarian village, complete with a system of artificial caves containing beautifully preserved 12th century rock paintings, all contained within the grounds of an _ber-modern museum. A far cry from the "ALL YOU CAN EAT ENGLISH BREAKFAST" signs I had come to expect from tales of Canarian debauchery (if that’s what you’re after, try the appropriately named Playa del Ingles in the south of Gran Canaria).

OK, let me tell you about my first day. I was treated to a full tour (as well as over 30 names of staff to remember). I initially decided to brave the Spanish tour, later wimping out and asking for English instead (they also speak fluent French and German if you’re so inclined). We began in the reception of the building where I was given a brief explanation of the museum, before being shown a jaw dropping 3D film, explaining how the Canarian natives may have lived at the time of Castilian invasion.

This was followed by the guide showing me around the permanent exhibition room, which demonstrated a host of native artefacts, (restored ceramics, mysterious idols to name but a few), which demonstrated Castilian influence. In the second film of the tour, I was shown the evolution of Castilian Agaldar, and the discovery of la cueva pintada. The film ends with the screen being lifted to reveal the awe inspiring sight of the archaeological deposit of Agaldar in all its splendour.
Now when I use the words "awe inspiring", I mean them in the truest sense. I really did feel emotions of wonder and excitement. It was a huge privilege to be able to walk through Agaldar, on a huge footbridge, from where one can appreciate the deposit close up. All the while, the architecture and social mechanics of this ancient civilisation were expertly explained by my tour guide Carlos, who’s English puts mine to shame.

However, the real pleasure of the visit was its namesake, La Cueva Pintada. With the aim of preserving the caves, you enter via an immense glass bubble, which offers panoramic views of the whole cave. The beauty and mystery of the geometric drawings really does have to be seen to be believed, words do not do them justice.

And this is where I’m to work until mid July. I’ll be honest, if I’d had a choice of where I’d be working before I came out here, I’d probably have opted for bar work at "The Lion and Unicorn". Now my eyes are opened to what a rich and precious culture Gran Canaria and the Canary Islands posses.
© Patrick Radford June 2008

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