Almendros Apartments May-June 2004

Nick myself and Martyn drove down to Horley, just outside Gatwick on the Sunday. Our flight was Monday morning but we really didn’t want to get up early so decided to book into a guest house for the night. Typically, the journey was not without delay, British roads being what they are. The M25 had the speed restrictions in places way too early which caused traffic problems itself then the M23 had problems so a further delay, we were so glad we didn’t have to face all that on a deadline!

We have stayed at the guest house several times before. It is typically British in that I felt as though I was visiting a long last aunt and uncle that barely knew me, yet, out of some sort of family obligation, were obliged to accommodate me. The couple were reasonable, as long lost and not very interesting relatives go. He kept himself to himself, probably keen to watch the cricket, she was friendly but with a smile the sort I would expect to see on the face of an air steward when greeting passengers. Genuine in that, you’ve paid your money and this is what I have to do kind of a way. The room itself was reminiscent of my grans. I was half expecting to see a clean pair of flannelette sheets in the cupboard and a pair of huge knickers in the drawers. As with many UK guest houses, this one showed the signs of many years of modifications to comply with new regulation so nothing really matched anymore. The door was nigh covered with warnings, regulations and a map guiding us to the compost heap in the event of a fire. I am not sure but there may have been a warning on the bathroom door ‘Water may be Hot’ or ‘Do not Place false teeth in the lavatory’. Suitably refreshed with the supplied dried essences and boiled water we decided the best way to spend the remainder of the evening.

Our first port of call was the local pub where we partook of their food and multitudes of beverages whilst evaluating the relative merits of the waiters and bar staff. When filled to the satisfaction of all we went back to the guest house and proceeded to ‘exercise’ to lessen the load of our feast and to examine, in great detail, the ability of the beds to withstand sustained bombardment from various directions. Following our study session, we retired for the night having set various mobile phone alarms in order to cover ourselves against one not working.

Next morning at seven something o’clock we went down to the first over indulgence of the holiday that was our breakfast. Several months of dieting were already fast going down the toilet one way or the other. Now, normally, breakfast is a bowl of weetabix with a few grains of sugar and a dollop of milk. Somehow, my logic dictated that I needed to eat more; after all, I was not now going to eat until I was in the air and everyone knows that nothing a person eats when flying will do any good and certainly does not contain anything that will put on weight. The logic of that being, an aeroplane needs to be carefully balanced; therefore, they can’t have the weight of the passengers constantly changing. One major problem with that theory being, if the weight of passengers must remain the same, why have a loo on the plane?

Everyone also knows that when a person is about to embark on a long journey the need to urinate increases in direct relation to the closeness of departure. Thus it was that the drinking of three cups of tea was a mistake! Even the several slices of toast was unable to soak up the excess and far too many visits to Messrs. Armitage and Shanks were required.

The nice man at the guest house then drove us to the airport in his ageing Mondeo estate that he managed to get speeds from I am sure the manufacturers had not envisaged when they designed it. I should have been concerned when he encouraged me to firmly wedge in the suitcases to the boot.

All was smooth at the airport until I got to security and the buzzer went off. I was somewhat concerned as I knew I had nothing metal on me, I assumed it was probably my hearing aids. This nice man examined me closely which was not so terrible, somewhat disappointed that he didn’t think of me as more of a risk and decide to do a more thorough job, he let me pass through. Once ‘Air Side’ we settled for a short wait with a coffee and a pee but not in the same cup. The lads went for their pee when the fire alarms sounded. I was somewhat hoping this was one of those ‘please ignore the alarms’ thing but it wasn’t. There was an announcement that this was not a drill and we were to evacuate. I was half expecting one of those coded enouncements that such places inflict upon us so as not to create panic … ‘Could Inspector Bomb please come to the main departure lounge’.

The lads came out but left in the loo some poof that had just sat down to deliver his contents.

Reunited we left the terminal (I hate that word) and walked for some distance to the muster station. We trundled through corridors, up stairs, down stairs, across the roof where mere mortals seldom tread reaching our destination some 15 minutes later. No member of staff was anywhere to be seen and we waited some time before a very nice man joined us with multitudes of congratulations on our intelligent observation of the fire procedure and our diligent following of the written instruction to ‘head this way’. Sadly, we were now ‘Land Side’ which meant another visit to passport control and security. Now, we have all seen ‘Airport’ on the television, we know how much practise that do for these things and how they have it off to a fine art getting the airport back to normal again. Well, we may have been watching but clearly none of those that are responsible for doing things such as this were! Two security posts had now closed; there were no staff that had any power to do anything guiding people. We spent twenty minutes in the wrong queue before we got close enough to the front to see what queue it eventually snaked into. With the time now many minutes past the time we were due at the gate and with no movement of the queue before us, we joined the back of an even longer, yet faster moving queue.

Thinking back to my previous passing through security I was prepared to be examined in close detail when the buzzer sounded and the lane we had chosen was now near the front. I approached the arch and nothing, not even a pathetic blip was heard. The only thing I had done was to drop my own little message in the porcelain telephone Air Side and I am quite certain I had not heard the clink of metal hit the pan at any time. It is a mystery to me just what I had lost that had set it off before!

Once through this nightmare of British organisation we now had a run for our plane which was meant to have left some 20 minutes hence. We made it, they had delayed all aircraft waiting for stranded passengers, we got the impression that a great many people stayed in the loo with that poof as our flight was packed when we arrived.

Gatwick crisis over we head south for Westerly cost of Africa, just off from Morocco. The weather on the flight was not good for viewing and our approach into Gran Canaria was an instrument only affair. Occasionally the pilot dropped us below the low cloud covering to get a bearing but only short glimpses before he piled back the power to the engines and rose us back up above the clouds once more.

We’d done our homework and knew that cloud in the north of the island was normal and nothing to be alarmed about. There was rarely cloud in the south. Of course, we also tried to ignore the fact that the airport is not exactly north but more midway between the two. When it started to rain we were still not bothered, it would get better. Sure enough, when we got to Playa Del Ingles it was better but only just. There was more blue sky and it was hot, around 26° but there was some ominous clouds that were simply not far enough away for our liking. On that first afternoon we sorted out our priorities and headed for the nearest bar for a beer or two and then off to the sand dunes, one cannot say that we are in Playa without doing the dunes. It was deserted when we arrived at hut 7 which signifies the gay area of the coastline. We were surprised by that but also seeing hut 6 behind hut 7 whereas it should have been some half a kilometre further up the beach. Apparently a violent storm had displaced many of the huts (small beach bars) and many were either missing or in the wrong places, clearly the gay one was made of stern stuff! It is somehow idyllic to be so far from civilisation, miles from home without a care in the world, shame how these things never last.

On our walk back, we stopped off for a beer at a nearby bar. We had to have San Miguel though it was not cheep, very refreshing it was too.

Back to the accommodation and unpacking then off for a meal.

Meals in Playa Del Ingles can vary tremendously in quality if not in price. What we had previously discovered was that the better establishments were those that required no advertisement. Too many of the others employed hard sell to gain custom and we found them to be all too often, substandard. One exception to this rule would be the Miramar in the Yumbo centre. Both Martyn and Nick had expressed an interest in sampling some ‘delights’ of foreign places in the culinary department. The very best solution to this curiosity was Paella. Neither the lads are favourites of seafood, less still those that don’t look too pretty. I was proud of the pair of them from trying the dish, without complaint and even having second servings.

Having eaten far too much and in danger of seriously undoing our belts, we headed off for a walk into Maspalomas and the Faro 2 shopping centre. On the way there we discovered that we were in need of a pee, probably still trying to extract the several cups of tea we had at the guest house. On finding a quiet spot, off the beaten track, we let it all flow out. We could not help to notice the luminosity of Nick’s green pee; it looked like nuclear lime juice. This, it is sad to say, was the first sign of things to come.

Faro 2 is not that large a centre and is aimed almost exclusively at the straight German market. With shirts starting at €70+ we were not going to be extending our wardrobes any time soon. We may have liked to examine some electrical items more closely but found again that the hard sell tactics were too off putting to bother.

We spent a lovely first naked day at the gay beach admiring our neighbours with carefully chosen mirror sunglasses and attempting to take pictures of the general surroundings that naked men just kept getting in the way of. Honestly, some men just have no consideration. This was Martyn’s first experience of naked swimming and he appeared to enjoy it very much. When he swam on his back it was reminiscent of a submarine with periscope raised. The water being somewhat cold, the said periscope was never raised too much above the surface.

Seriously concerned that we may get burnt, we spent many moments melting cream into each others bodies in a way that would be scorned on a straight beach yet seemed perfectly natural here. Despite this, we all managed to ‘catch the sun’ on the walk back to civilisation and the straight world later in the afternoon. The beers that awaited us at the end of the trek were most welcome and evaporated soon after making contact with our lips.

On the Friday we had rented a car and driven to Palmitos Park, a botanical theme park a few kilometres outside the town. The beauty of the place is such that it quickly becomes commonplace and it is easy to rush around missing many of the things on offer to see. Perhaps it was only on seeing the pictures upon our return that we had realised the wonders that were there. It never fails to amaze me though that a place claiming to be protecting wildlife would put on a show with performing parrots. These beautiful creatures surely deserve a better way of life than riding a bicycle along a rope will ever give them.

Sadly and most annoyingly, it was around this time that I discovered things were not quite right ‘down below’. Within hours of my first discovery I was experiencing pain in a way I care not to repeat whilst performing the most basic of bodily functions. This took several days of pain and an embarrassing visit to a doctor to remedy and really put a dark cloud over what we had hoped to be one of the major events of the holiday.

During the time we had the rental car we tried to get in as many trips as possible. We spent many hours trying to find a shopping mall and then, when found, wondered why it was that we wanted to go there as we didn’t really have anything to shop for. I guess it was one of those things that seemed like a good idea at the time.

Another and infinitely more interesting trip was to the highest point on the island, Mont Nueblo. Upon our last visit, we assumed we had got quite close to the top but, in fact, we were not even close. This time we were determined to get as high as a person could go without climbing gear. The air got quite thin as we approached the summit area and my throat was hurting. The view ascending had been incredible but not really prepared us for the outstanding view from the top. We tried several attempts to get a picture of all three of us together with the use of assorted red rocks and a camera, had this been a challenge on the Krypton Factor, we would have failed miserably. Our saviour was in the form of a jolly friendly German chap who may well have been chatting us up but was prepared to take a picture all the same. I somehow got the impression he spent much of his time on the mountain doing much the same thing.

On walking round the high point with sheer drops to the side, I was amazed to see families having a picnic on the edge of cliffs and their tiny offspring running around as though they were playing on the front lawn. There are some things in life that are just too painful to watch and this was one of them. One other was Nick and Martyn manoeuvring around the cliff edges in order to get a better picture. Now I can do that myself but those that I care about really ought to have the decency to stand well clear of danger!

Our next trip was to Aquasur, a water park near Playa Del Ingles. This was great fun though, somehow, Nick always chose the slow chute to ride. We concluded that the speed of the chutes must have rotated at intervals throughout the day and Nick was just unlucky to have always chosen the one on ‘slow duty’ for that moment. I have to say, it was fun to see Martyn’s Speedos retreat to a place they should not have been on one of the faster slides. Martyn is also aware now how impractical arms are as brakes once the downward journey had commenced on water slides. But then, I am still at a loss to know what the guard thought Martyn was supposed to use when he blew his whistle and ordered him to stop. I am convinced that the damage to arms was greater than that to the most likely empty water Martyn would have hit at the bottom.

There is a certain walk that develops at water parks in hot countries. It is a little like a chicken trying to escape from an oven and is really very amusing. I am not saying that the ground was hot but when a group of 20+ holidaymakers entered the pool at the same time, a fair proportion of the water evaporated into steam.

Our friend Martyn was a willing, if forced, volunteer upon the stage at Pub Nestor to assist with a drag act. Sadly, when she through her ‘baby’ at Martyn to catch he missed and his WKD proceeded to soak me and I spend a sticky fair while waiting for me to be able to slip quietly unnoticed into the gents to clean up. Martyn, meanwhile, managed to acquire a replacement beverage courtesy of the management. On another night I had a slight accident with a beer glass when it slipped from my firm grasp and landed on the table. I managed, with superior reflexes, to catch it with barely a drop spilled. What it took me some time to notice was that the stem was now naked of a base and I had no way of putting it down. Not that this is much of a problem with a beer anyway. However, the management insisted on replacing it with another after I had finished the contents and I was not about to argue.

Some meals were noteworthy. There was the salmon at Emilio y Miguel’s. At €11 it was a total bargain. I don’t think many visitors to Playa Del Ingles, one of Europe’s premier gay destinations, would admit to having enjoyed fish on their holiday but we certainly did! To finish this off we had a banana flambé. How any one dessert could be so wicked yet wonderful is beyond me. Our meals at Merlin’s were also worth a mention. Not so much for the food itself, good though it was, but more for the attentions of the staff and management, it was difficult, in fact, to leave. One last establishment we cannot leave out is the Restaurante Chino just opposite the Yumbo. The food is not much better than can be had in many of the Chinese foot eateries of the resort but the boys, oh the boys! I have no idea who does the hiring and firing in that place but the man has taste.

One final trip in the car was to circumnavigate the island. Martyn chose to sit in the rear of the car which later proved to be a mistake as the winding roads of GC makes many rides at Alton Towers seem quite mild. One piece of mirth worth mention is the totally ridiculous sound of the emergency vehicle sirens they have on the island. It was like having Jimmy Saville trying to pass us … now then, now then.

The views were stunning but not worth the effort, certainly never to be done twice. By the time we got close to Playa again, I don’t think any of us were very enthused to do more sightseeing. We did visit Puerto Mogan which is very picturesque but somewhere I can imagine gets terribly dull after a day or two. Puerto Rico was next on the list but none of us had the spirit for it, we were far more interested in spirits of a quite different kind.

The two final trips with the car, one that I have to say had the style of a tortoise the power to match, were a visit to what used to be called Faro 1 but now has a totally different name, we identify it as ‘the place with the turd’. The other trip was back to Aquasur. This time, with delicate areas still most uncomfortable, I had to be more careful what I rode, after all, this was just about all I could ride at this stage so I had to make the most of it. ‘The Place with the Turd’ was like all other shopping areas on the island, full of hard sell, tack and coffee bars. What it is also full of, quite literally, is shit. Some no brained individual some time back decided that an excellent marker for the public toilets was a two storey, permanently moistened turd. True, and with my eternal gratitude, they did refrain from adding full realism to the thing but I mean … a giant turd, whatever next? On second thoughts, perhaps we best not go there.

Much of this part of the holiday was spent doing typical holiday things. You know the sort … on the beach still trying to decide how to get a photo of the naked guy across the way (replace guy for girl if that is your thing), better yet, how to get to talk to them. It is about having copious amount of alcohol and associated food stuffs, walking, tanning and general jollity.

On June 1st the three of us decided to take a walk across the dunes after a large meal and walk of some of our excesses. It was quite early, around 8pm when we set out. To cut a long story short, we were mugged by a man armed with a knife. He didn’t get a lot, around €60 and the important thing was, we were all able to walk off in one piece. We did the right thing and called 112 (The international 999) but, contrary to what was promised, could not find any operator that spoke English so we had a very scary walk back to civilisation and were glad to acquire some more cash to purchase a few beers. Later that evening we had to get a cab to the police station to make a statement which took some time. In the evening and late into the night we sat a little stunned getting increasingly merry.

The following day, we were visited first thing by a couple of hunky special branch guys who asked us to accompany them to the station and showed us some pictures, one of which was our attacker. It appears that our description was good enough for them to identify him and he had already been arrested by the time we got to the station. We had to make another statement and sign 7 times but that was an end to it! We have to say that Ray, our holiday representative from Respect was wonderful, we couldn’t have got through it without him. As for the British Consulate, forget them, they are no more than a citizens advice bureaux and not very good at that either.

Three days later it was my birthday and we had arranged to do a catamaran trip with some other men and ladeez. We chose the one organised by Pub Nestor as it was longer but I am sure that the other two trips were equally worthy. One other was arranged at the Almendros and the other at the Ibiza Bar with the advertisement in the loo, somewhere I have often thought was an excellent source of advertising, after all, and we all need something to read. During the trip I was treated to some parascending and the controls of a jet bike on which I was reminded that I could sometimes let go of the throttle! Many times I tried to catch up to the lesbians on the bike in front but they cheated and cut corners. I was impressed that some of the camp queens as seen previously at the pub were really good fun to be with. I must make a note to myself, do not prejudge! A wonderful day indeed, I could not have asked for a better birthday. The only glitch of the day was when, through a breakdown of communication coupled with a forgotten realisation that nothing arranged by poofs ever leaves on time, Martyn left Nick and I to have a coffee alone without leaving us with any money to do so. I guess he saved me needing the loo on the journey so no harm done! That evening, and after several hours to sober up, we were back at Pub Nestor and they treated me to a complimentary liqueur served with a sparkler and an accompaniment of ‘Happy Birthday’ across the PA system, a lovely gesture I thought. This was sickeningly embarrassing but lovely all the same.

The following day I had my second treat. A lady came to our bungalow to give me a back massage, a facial, head and scalp massage and reflexology, a two hour period of indulgence just for me. This would have been all the more wonderful had there not been a tear in the massage bed which caused considerable discomfort to me and completely detracted and spoilt many aspects of the experience. It is difficult to relax when there is pain involved as many gay men will tell you. Should this be read by them, perhaps, when I return to the Almendros later in the year, around October, they may want to offer me some sort of freebie? OK, it was worth a try, you have to give me that much.

I discovered one thing on this holiday and that is this … I have 4 kids and long to be able to do some serious shopping on my own without constant pleas for expensive items they just must have (I have no idea where they get it from). Sadly, what I noticed when I had the chance to shop on my own is that I just can’t be arsed. Love spending money but when the challenge of finding the time and the space has gone it just somehow seemed as exciting as doing the weekly shop at Tesco.

On our last day we forced ourselves to do some naked shots on the dunes and these can be seen on respective gaydar profiles, you will need to contact us for the details of those!

Coming home was a dream if we ignore the minor hiccup when we discovered we were not booked on to the flight, quickly sorted with a few phone calls! Oh, and Las Palmas airport has just about the worst coffee I have ever tasted. Unless you are very used to caffeine, it is best avoided.

As a special request, if people cannot go on holiday and be suitably chilled afterwards not to feel the need to incessantly complain on the way home, could they please stick to Bognor, that really is a holiday destination worthy of critique.

Gran Canaria is one of those places that just have to be returned to. I guess there is always going to be something (or someone) we wish we had done. I will be back again October 2004 all things working as they should.

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