Man-boobs and dodgy tan-lines in Gran Canaria
Not really a word I expected to be tossing around on an all-inclusive package holiday to Gran Canaria, but here we are.
I’m watching two Spanish men – one probably in his 60s, the other late-40s. They’re taking turns to luge themselves down the water-slide, gleefully cannonballing into the sedate swimming pool of the Hotel Neptuno.
It’s a hotel with a no-children policy, but the thrill of a water-slide on a hot day is ageless.
I didn’t expect to be here. Not so much in a fatalistic: “How lucky I was to survive the Covid-19 pandemic” kind of way, although there is that. I really hadn’t expected to travel beyond the M25 for at least the remainder of 2021.
Beyond the actual restrictions, which – touch wood – are easing off across Europe, the thought of trying to navigate the shifting sands of international travel in a post-pandemic world had led me to conclude that there would be no European mini-break for me this summer.
Not that a summer holiday somewhere on a beach in Europe is some kind of inalienable human right, but it’s just kind of how the UK seems to work – a mini-break on the Mediterranean is much easier to organise than a few days in a cottage in Cornwall.
“Summer is the best time to be in London!” I convinced myself. Who needs to lie on a beach drinking sangria, right?
But then, out of the blue, someone booked my apartment through Airbnb. I’d forgotten to align my Airbnb calendar to my homebody plans for the summer.
Which brings me here, sitting pool-side at the Hotel Neptuno in Playa del Ingles. Watching middle-aged Spanish men as they fill the air with the joy of a water-slide kersplunking them into the cooling waters of an adults-only hotel pool.
I booked this trip through Tui – they’re big operators. Or, at least they were – their aggressive marketing seems to suggest that they’re pretty keen to put bums on seats, or whatever the travel jargon is for needing to shift some units.
I’ve travelled with Tui before, and it’s always gone smoothly. An added incentive was that I had a credit with them from a Covid-cancelled trip from about a year ago. It felt like a bit of efficient housekeeping to tidy up some of those loose ends.
This is my third visit to Gran Canaria, but I haven’t been here in August before. It’s hot. Like, really hot.
Although the Canary Islands are part of Spain, this archipelago is a long way from the mainland – it’s just off the Atlantic Coast of Northwest Africa.
The Canary Islands are volcanic – formed of black rock. The stunning beaches of Gran Canaria have been created from the sand of the Sahara desert, blown across from Africa.
I’m used to hot. I grew up on a farm in Pine Grove East – the flat, grain-growing plains west of Echuca, three hours north of Melbourne. But the hot, northerly winds of Pine Grove East have got nothing on the baking heat of Gran Canaria in August.
I’ve already managed some unflattering tan-lines. Not that I’ve been lying in the sun – hello, Australian, I know about skin cancer. But by about lunchtime on my second day, my chest was glowing red except for two pale white crescents beneath my boobs.
I’m a man. I’ve been going to the gym. But trying to describe my chest as over-developed pecs is a bit of a stretch. I’m not proud of it, but I’m in my mid-40s and I’ve got man-boobs, now accentuated by unflattering tan-lines.
Not that I’ve managed to build much credibility in the few days that I’ve been here. On my first day, I slid down the stairs. My flip-flop somehow lost contact with the polished stone. No injuries, apart from a bruised butt and a bruised ego. It really wasn’t the entry in to lunch that I’d envisioned.
I’ve been making the trek to the beach in the late afternoon, in the vain hope that maybe the heat of the day was on the wane.
To get to the beach, you have to walk through the rolling dunes that separate the coastline from the island’s hotels. I am literally trekking through the sands of the Sahara to get to a gay beach.
The pleasure I feel when I’m finally able to immerse my sizzling body into the ocean water is, I imagine, something akin to religious ecstasy.
The beach is clothing-optional, but my dreams of a glowing all-over tan are being aggressively undermined by my man-boobs.
I didn’t expect to be here.
I didn’t expect to be queuing up to take a turn on the water-slide at an adults-only hotel in Gran Canaria. But you’ve got to embrace joy wherever you find it.