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Salto del pastor (Shepherd’s pole vaulting)

Salto del pastor (Shepherd’s pole vaulting)

The unusual mountain landscape of the island of Gran Canaria obliged the inhabitants of rural areas to develop special means and techniques for moving about in difficult terrain and negotiating obstacles, which included large ravines, steep rocks and cliffs.  El salto del pastor (the shepherd’s leap) was born from this need.  The technique involves the use of a long wooden pole (which is called a “garrote” in Gran Canaria), to which a metal point is fitted (known as the “regatón”), in order to make it easier to move up and down hills, slopes and steep rocks, to leap across ravines and trenches and to scamper up slopes with the aid of the pole.

The usual method of using the garrote is to place the regatón firmly in the earth at a point below where one is standing, after which one jumps and slides down the pole to negotiate the steep drop, repeating the leap and slide as many times as is necessary to reach the bottom of the ravine.  However, it must be pointed out that there are many other types of leaps, depending on the nature of the obstacle that needs to be cleared, some being so dangerous and fraught with risk that they have given rise to beautiful legends, such as “salto del enamorado” (the lover’s leap) and “salto de media luna” (the half moon leap).

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