A bench full of Pine Cones.


Relive Luke GJ Potter’s final two days in Gran Canaria just before Christmas. He was sent on an errand to the top of a Volcano for a last minute Christmas Present. He made a rookie mistake after dinner that left him in a spot of bother at the airport.

There’s a quiz at the bottom, comment below on the number of correct answers you got.


Strava Ride: Gran Canaria Day 9: Gran Fondo Pine Cones. 97km, 2,500m, 6 hours.

Photos of the trip: Gran Canaria 2019.




It all started with a Photograph

On the seventh day of my second annual trip to Gran Canaria, I went to the Pico de las Nieves, I took a photograph of a bench full of Pine Cones and sent it to my mother. The pine cones at the top of the Volcano are massive. Little did I know that she wanted pine cones to spray paint them for Christmas decorations. Cue days of her badgering me about getting her Pine Cones. 


My track record of Christmas Presents isn’t exactly stellar… I got my Dad a can of WD-40 one year in my mid-twenties.


I decided that I would get the Pine Cones. Pretend that I didn’t get them and surprise her on Christmas morning with them. That was the plan anyway.

Did I have a Dedicated Pine Cone Carrying Case of Epic Proportions?

Two days later, I set about my task. To cycle from Maspalomas 44km north and back seems easy enough on 2D Paper. But when you add the third dimension, it’s from sea level to almost altitude, 0 meters to 1,915 meters. There’s also some false flats and down hills, so add extra meters.


My body shape was another thing counting against me. A Winter of preparing to host the Leinster CycloCross Championships and organising the Leinster League of CycloCross left me looking like a 28mm tyre on a 19mm internal diameter rim. Comfy to ride on, but pudgy.


I was an hour later leaving my house than I intended. Not because of my usual stomach problems, but because someone uploaded the “My Chemical Romance RETURN” gig to YouTube. I am rather partial to My Chemical Romance. Their first two albums are belters. The concept of the twisted love story told on the second album, “Three Cheers...” would have Shakespeare and Marlowe very jealous. But you can look that up on Genius.com later. Link: Three Cheers for Sweet Revenge.


After my porridge, sunscreen application and Emo Disco, I was heading north on the GC-60.


At the last coffee shop before leaving civilization, I noticed a crew of Boy Racers. The lead guy was bald and wearing a tank top. He had clearly watched one too many Fast and Furious movies. A few minutes later, somewhere between the cemetery and Mondo Aboriginal they caught up to me. I could hear their Back Boxes and Spanish EDM Music. Luckily enough, I had a paved storm train to ride in, to be safe. At Mondo Aboriginal, a flower garden essentially, they had a breakdown. I was back in the lead. I crested the viewing point and kept rolling over the top. Then through the wind in my ears, I heard them coming again. They made the pass in what was probably the highest risk-reward section of the island. A narrow, twisty section of road, a barrier was all that was stopping them from head-oning another car and flying down the cliff face.

At the foot of this descent there’s a Camel riding place, and it’s the start of another climb. I met a couple with sticks protruding diagonally from their bikes. They were to remind drivers of the 1.5 meter rule. I also helped stop a car from running over a Russian lad’s phone. He was doing some dumb stuff on the descent and dropped his phone. A car was coming straight for it. I put all my years of Orwell Club League Marshalling to use.


I was making good time, and didn't stop in the first village. In my previous ride I stopped here and refilled one bottle and drank the rest of the 1.5L bottle. But this made me slow and bloated. My first stop would be for lunch at San Bartolomé, 25km up from Maspalomas. I really enjoyed the owner of the restaurant, as he won me over 12 months previously. The first time that I met him he was screaming into my face about “Olive Oil, from right here in GRAN CANARIA”, then two minutes later he was helping some motorcyclist who had his bike fall underneath him. Most women will agree that I don’t have the worst taste in men.


After my bocadillo, I topped up my bottles and set about riding to Ayacatya. The scenery on this road is super nice, as you can see so much. Including the Ice Wall that surrounds the Flat Earth. I didn’t let the view, or my bellyful of bocadillo slow me down on my Pico Pine Cone Quest. As soon as I could I was back eating on the bike, shoveling Sugar, in various guises, down my gullet.


Over the course of the week, I saw a Mitcheton-Scott Rider around the island. I thought it was Lucas Hamilton, but it was Edoardo Affini. We had some banter on Instagram about my mistake. I saw him again as he was descending.


In Ayacata, the road in the village is flat, but you need to build up speed, as there’s a road up to the Pico begins and it’s 15% for a very long time. It actually goes 0% to 15% immediately. I had been riding for 3 hours and 40 minutes, covering 37km. Much of my strength deserted me on this section of the climb. I needed to stop lots of times. It took me another hour and 40 minutes to ride up the remaining 11km. I didn’t see all that much during this time. Except stopping off for a can of coke at the viewing point. My knee was starting to bother me, and the slog up from the viewing point really made the patellar tendon ache.


I passed the camping ground and wanted to stop there to pick up the Pine Cones and turn around. But I wanted to get to the top of the Pico more, as I needed to take some selfies in my Orwell kit with Mount Teide, on the neighbouring island of Tennerife, in the background.


This was all accomplished. The top of the mountain is always cold. Even when you’re working hard to reach it you still get cold. I had to fully zip up my jersey to keep warm. Then at the top, you need to wrap up really well, as descending at a speed of 50-60 km per hour in 10 degree weather has a massive wind chill.


Lo-and-behold, at the top of the mountain, sitting on top of an Armco barrier, was the biggest Pine Cone ever. I planned on using my beloved Handlebar bag to transport the Pine Cones back down the mountain, but this one was too big. Bugger.

The Pine Cone was too big to fit in the Handle Bar Bag.

Was this the end of my mission?

Was I completely without a dedicated Pine Cone carrying case of epic proportions?


NO! I brought a drawstring backpack. I bundled this Pine Cone Muchos Grande into it and set about heading back to Maspalomas. I stopped off at the Camping site to find the bench with all the Pine Cones on it. I bundled in three more big Pine Cones into my Epic Pine Cone carrying case, aka a Wicklow 200 drawstring backpack.


I really struggled with the false flat and uphill sections on the way home. My knees were screaming in pain after nine days of riding, mostly uphill. I didn’t really have a choice but to grit my teeth and bear it. Because the scariest part of riding up and down to and from the Pico is that you’re racing the sun. The island is essentially like a Starfish, in the way that it’s Mountain Ridges are. The Sun starts to dip behind the West Ridge and casts a very long shadow over the valley to the Eastern ridge of the valley where the road is. This shadow quickly turns to darkness. Combined with Sunglasses it is a recipe for disaster in low visibility.


You’re OK once you get back to the Viewing Point above Mondo Aboriginel, as from that point the ridges disappear and you have another ninety minutes of daylight. The 44km descent was pretty boring, as I was really good at descending now. No exciting late braking and last minute life saving turns, which generates a real buzz with the adrenaline.


I got back up the climb from the Camel farm to the Viewing Points and took a massive sigh of relief. I rolled back into Maspolamas back to my rented bungalow. I took a shower and went for dinner in my favourite restaurant, Chez Luigi to get a Pasta Arrabiata.

The Morning After the Night Before

8AM, I woke up and, oh boy, was I in a bad state. My head was aching and my stomach was in ribbons. Even my hair was sore. Classic Hangover signs. Only this wasn’t your run of the mill hangover. I had accidentally drank a glass of wine at dinner. And a second one, and half a liter bottle of Peach Schnapps 10%, and four pints of “Guinness”. Due to being a bit dehydrated, I ended up having a Blackout. Rookie Mistake. The hangover was preventing me from standing up, as it made me dizzy.


I hadn’t packed my suitcase or my bike. My taxi was due at 9:40AM. Packing was an extremely hard task. I tried to sip some water and pop a few Nurofen, but these were quickly evacuated from my body. I was all packed up and with 10 mins before my taxi, I took one last trip to the bathroom.


I was thankful that the Airport is about 25 mins from Maspalomas. The Las Palmas airport is terrible for over sized luggage, as you need to wait at the door until the man comes to pick up your bike bag.


The airplane was very empty, so I used a three seat aisle to have a few sleeps on the way home. I woke from one of my sleeps in a panic, when I packed my bike, I didn’t remove the pedals. I was so worried, my wheels might have holes punched on them. Luckily enough they avoided this.


I awoke from another nap with an excellent idea on what to do with the Pine Cones… La Búsqueda del Tesoro para Conos de Pino...

Christmas Eve Pine Cone Treasure Hunt

Photos from the Treasure Hunt.


I drove back to my home house in rural Galway on Christmas Eve. I still wasn’t in a good state. As I get older, my hangovers take longer to recover from. I went to my room and packed the Pine Cones into gift bags. Then I wrote out clues in poetic riddles. My mam was walking all over the house when she was preparing the dinner for Christmas Day. I needed to stash the Pine Cones in the locations on the riddles, it was proving hard. My cousin showed up to the house to pick up a Santa present that my mam painted for her child. They had tea, and this allowed me the opportunity to layout the Treasure Hunt.


I presented the first clue to my mam and the hunt was on ...once she put on her glasses to read the clues. I’ll be honest, this took the guts of twenty minutes for them to complete it.


You can play along at home dear reader:


Riddle 1:

It was a long flight, and I need to rest my head,

Can I have a sleep in an empty bed?



  1. Mark or David’s room,

  2. Mam and Dad’s room,

  3. Luke’s room.


Answer: 1. Mark of David’s room. Highlight, or long press the text to reveal the answer.


Riddle 2:

That was a nice sleep, but my hair is in a mess, I’ll need it tame for the duration of my stay,

May I borrow some hair spray?



  1. Bathroom.

  2. Mam and Dad’s room.


Answer: 1 Bathroom.


Riddle 3:

With my hair looking fresh, it’s time for me to meet my friends,

You can find me with Apple, Banana and other loose ends.



  1. Main Kitchen,

  2. Back Kitchen.


Answer: 2. Back Kitchen.


Riddle 4:

That was a nice party, but what a bunch of fruit loops they are,

You can find me in the same place as the tagline for the supermarket Spar.



  1. Sammy and Buddy’s Kennel,

  2. Under the Tree.


Answer: 2. Under the Tree.


Did you guess as many correctly as my mother and cousin?

SherLuke Holmes’s mother, with all four pine cones.