I rented a three-wheel scooter for a grand island adventure on Gran Canaria, with spectacular stops and mild regrets.
Our three wheeled moto
While Gran Canaria has a great bus system which we used extensively, we knew there were several spots that would be difficult to get to without our own transportation. Additionally, I’d read that parking can be scarce at some of the hiking spots. I decided to rent a scooter in Las Palmas. The rental service I used allowed me to filter by actual scooters I could rent with just a normal driver license, and I found one that was powerful and bit more expensive. I was mildly confused because I thought only lower powered scooters would be available to a non-motorcycle-licensed driver like me. I should note that I drove scooters extensively throughout Vietnam and felt up to the task.
When the scooter was presented to us it all became clear: I was renting a Piaggio MP3, a special heavy scooter with two front wheels. I suspect this three wheel configuration allows them to bypass the normal rental rules. I can see how this would be a great scooter with experience, but man was it hard to get used to. And I had to do that fast: small mountain roads, plenty of traffic, major tight switchback climbing and descending. The hardest part was getting it stable for parking and restarting, a concern that appears to be shared by many after reading some scooter forums. It has this lock-stability mode for parking and getting off, but it doesn’t like to disengage it unless the bike is stable – I guess that’s OK. But stabilizing before restarting was a struggle, and there were a few times where we almost dropped the bike over sideways. It was a beast to manhandle.
Alley in Firgas
OK, back to the tour. It was amazing! Our first stop was in the quaint town of Firgas, one of the mountain towns with a fresh water source. This shows up in some amazing fountain works in town, plus all the trucks you see driving around carrying bottles of Firgas water. Most of the municipal fresh water supply comes from desalination plants with a fairly icky taste. We loved the steep alley display with relief maps and crests of each of the major Canary Islands.
I was so focused on the road in front of me that it was hard to see the many wonderful views as we passed through the mountains, but I could take a bit of it in through my peripheral vision. One of the prettiest towns was Tejeda, a popular tourist day visit spot. This was also our first experience cruising the scooter through what appeared to be a pedestrian-only main drag (it wasn’t).
Near the Roque Nublo peak
We did one hike and climb up to the Roque Nublo peak (rather, just shy of it), the third highest peak (by a tiny margin) on Gran Canaria. The trailhead indeed would have presented parking challenges for us in a car, but I suspect that a short wait would have allowed us to park. While there were great views from the peak, the air quality on Gran Canaria was poor during most of our visit, presumably because of the sand and dust blowing off the Sahara a short distance to the east.
Julie perched in one of the caves
I think the highlight of the day was the hike to and visit of the Cuevas de la Audiencia. The hike went through arid desert terrain reminiscent of Utah and Nevada, with lots of cactus and yuccas. What a payoff with the caves! You walk through a tunnel that reminded us of a passage tomb, only to find yourself in a honeycomb of caves perched at the top of the cliffs overlooking the road we had just ridden on. Incredible views, with some holes in the ground dropping 200 feet or so to the desert below.