The games of the wind
We flew BA Gatwick to Arrecife hopeful for some winter sunshine. Usually on such trips we arrive in the day time into a different climate from the start but as it was 7pm there was not that same sense of a change. Moreover, it seemed to be rather a fight to land the plan smoothly and even by Lanzarote standards it was more than a little windy.
The hire car was of the battered and bruised variety and came with a handy booklet containing photos of previous injuries. Still, it was functional and all we really wanted then was a quick shop and find the villa. The nearby Mercadona had strangely depleted shelves but we got what we needed and headed to Playa Blanca.
The wind seemed to pick up as we drove across the island. Little did we know we were lucky to have even landed. A massive Saharan sandstorm locally called a Calima was sweeping across the Canaries. The worst in 17 years. We just thought it was fairly breezy and perhaps normal for the time of year and went to bed in the villa Azelea oblivious to the extent of it.
A Calima is not a Calamity
We realised when we got up that the sky was a weird orange and all our outside furniture was covered in sand. A strange peach coloured fog meant we could not see the local volcanoes nor Fuerteventura island opposite. The local news said that Carnivale celebrations were cancelled, flights delayed or cancelled and people were advised to stay indoors because of the sand particles and poor air. Not a day for breakfast outside, local walks or beaches so we decided to head north and do some of the cultural sights.
First stop was Fundacion Cesar Manrique. A beautiful house though most of the artist’s paintings which used to be here has been replaced with a temporary exhibition celebrating his life and loves. More photos of his naked backside than anyone needs to see. The artworks were apparently on loan in Spain.
Next the village of Arrieta for a fish lunch outdoors at Restaurante El Charcon on the harbour next to the Casa La Juanita (The Blue House ). It was a pleasant way to while away a few hours people watching under the weird skies. Locals fished and kids jumped into the sea from the harbour wall.
Jameos del Agua is a concert hall in a lava tube plus a couple of bars/restaurants and a Manrique designed pool much replicated in the island’s hotels. We spent some time getting a good look at the famous blind crabs and due to the Calima it was pleasantly quiet.
Time to head back. Playa Blanca weather was worse than the north with a real sandy gale blowing so we stayed inside and caught up with the news etc rather than using our pool. One challenge was getting the English owner of Villa Azelea to pay for cleaning up of all the sand . A very poor customer service attitude and we remained firm that we would not pay extra or do the heavy outdoor cleaning work ourselves as she had suggested.
Dinner at Liken in the Marina Rubicon once we figured out how to walk there. Good selection of wine ; we had a red from northern Tenerife and Spanish gins (in huge measures). Friendly staff and good food.
Return to Fire Mountain
The forecast today was more wind and sand so another day out in the car.
We had bought the six sights combination ticket so decided to do the Timanfaya National Park. I have done it before and think it fairly skippable but it was not a day for walks so off we went. There was still a longish queue to get in. The bus trip itself was vaguely interesting but not as good as the volcanoes of Iceland. We looked at the chicken on the rack over the live volcano and the demonstrations of bush burning and steam shooting. Enough and time for lunch.
A picnic in the laid back village of La Santa. Plenty of sporty folk cycling, running and surfing. We ate our sandwiches and watched the surfing lessons from benches on the promenade.
Dinner at Casa Carlos which is a short walk down the hill. Full of English and Germans. Prompt service and very good fillet steak.
Among the Zocos
The Calima was gone. Pebble dash sky and already 25C by 10am. Time to get on the walking boots.
We drove just past Uga where there is a walk up 500m vertical to the top of an old volcano. The ground was black volcanic ash radiating the now 30C heat. We were surround by thousands of zocos sheltering the grapevines almost as far as the eye could see. Along the valley floor and up significant parts of the volcanic cones. The zocos were black and quite deep – some at least 2m and quite hard to get back out of which I discovered when a napkin blew off our lunch and I had to capture it.
The views from the top went from coast to coast, if a little wind swept. Great views across to the fire mountains but a bit hazy. Picnic lunch on the way down when we found somewhere out of the wind. Managed to get through 2 litres of water.
After the walk we continued the same road through the vineyards. Some of the bodegas were either packed with tourist coaches or cyclists having a pit stop. We eventually stopped at the Museo del Campesino, an agricultural historic museum with artisanal shops.
Walked down to the Marina. Stopped to take a look at the Vulcan hotel. It is said that Lanzarote is an architects’ playground and there are certainly some mad examples. They love a living wall and an interior meandering stream. Poor Cesar Manrique must be rotating.
Dinner at La Petit Marmite.
La Graciosa island life
A very early start to catch the first ferry to La Graciosa from Orzola at the other end of the island. Una was a bit concerned about how rough it might be given the huge rollers we had seen earlier in the week. It was interesting but not exciting.
La Graciosa is the land that time forgot. A small strip town with sand roads much like Isabela in the Galapagos. Only one open café so we joined everyone else for a coffee and toastie before heading off down the coast to the main volcano.
The last few houses as you leave the village are decorated with various items from the sea apart from one which had a large real macaw.
The walking was a bit slow in the sand but we had good views of Lanzarote and a varied shoreline. Lovely soft white sand around a number of curved bays.
We got to the foot of the yellow volcano and nominally there is a path which we were originally planning to talk which looped around the volcano and further along the coast until heading back to town. However, the foot path on the base doesn’t exist unless you count a cut out from the base of the volcano on slimy rocks. There is a path on the right hand side. Amusing to watch the ‘Gramers strip down to swimwear to get their shots.
We stopped for lunch at a restaurant with soft seats and a good line in local potatoes, beer and tuna croquettes.
On return we went to the Mirador del Rio overlooking La Graciosa. The view is fantastic and we had great reflections of the sea.
As the light was quite good we decided to stop at the Janubio salt pans off the main road at El Golfo. The best spot was parking on the side road heading back towards Playa Blanca where we could overlook the salt pans with the light in the right direction.
First stop was sleepy Teguise, the old capital of the island. Boutique shops and a stop for coffee and cake in a sunny square
Una wanted to visit her old holiday haunts around Costa Teguise and we eventually found Playa del Jabillo. They say you should not go back. What had changed ? Beach erosion on Playa de Las Cucharas. More down-market British orientated bars and cafes. Development and all inclusives had spoilt the area somewhat. But the pretty Playa del Jabillo was unchanged and had a new generation of darting fish for snorkelers to tempt with bread.
Una insisted we visited the Melia Salinas which had a pool designed or inspired by Cesar Manrique.
On north through the pearly gates archway from Costa Teguise to the Cactus Garden. This had some amazing cacti growing in a series of concentric circles around the basin and the windmill.
Dinner was the Petit Marmite. The staff were very friendly and offered us an after dinner drink. The first night was a shot. Tonight, it was a tumbler full of rum!
Usual walk home. We discovered today that the cinder field in front of our villa is designated as green belt!
We had a whole itinerary mapped out today to close off the various points of interest we hadn’t already done.
First stop was a rather busy Vulcan El Cuervo walk of around 4km into the caldera of an old volcano. A couple of lava lizards and various shrubs, some in flower, made it greener than much of the landscape.
We made a little detour after the walk to the El Grifo winery which is quite well known on the the island and has been going since 1725 . We’d missed the guided tour but opted for the 3 taster glasses of wine each – sadly I was driving so could only take a small taste of each. Best consumed on the island but drinkable.
We wanted a coastal view for our lunch stop so chose El Golfo.The town is in danger of being demolished as a new law forbids buildings on the shoreline. Lots of cafes. The green lake is a bit meh. But the rocky beach great for a picnic and watching the rollers come in.
We then continued along the coast passing the Los Hervideros which were a little quiet as the sea wasn’t rough enough to drive the water up the cave system. We wanted to buy some of the interesting Janubio salt so stopped at the Salinas again. Sadly you can’t walk across the salt fields but we again parked at the top of the cliffs for spectacular views. Best done after 3pm to get the light in the right direction to enhance the natural colours.
We’d had enough of the heat, sun and walking at this point so headed back to the villa for a swim.
Dinner at Restaurante Coentro which is run by a chef trained at the famous El Bulli.
We thought we’d have a change from walking and driving and explore a bit more of Playa Blanca. The Saturday market was on with various trinkets and local sellers. We also managed to stock up on summer clothes for me and some aftershave. We’d researched which shops sold fakes after hearing a discussion about the fake alcohol brands you can get. Same applies apparently to perfumes and electrical goods. The goods in Fund Grube are meant to be real. There was an excellent guitar player outside a bar so we stopped for a cortado and beer. Yes, an odd combination!
Una got brave enough to swim at Playa Dorada beach in the chilly but crystal clear water. We had cocktails on our balcony over-looking the supposed green belt. Though we now had clear views of Fuerteventura.
We went back to Liken and they still had some of that red tuna left as it was offered in half a dozen different ways. Accompanied by the local Yaiza wine in the snazzy blue bottle. We got talking to a vivacious British pensioner couple who were a hoot.
For our final taste of sunshine and beach we drove up to the La Famara beach which seems to be a training ground for surfers. A strong coffee before walking part of the windswept length of it. One other place we haven’t been was the Lagomar Museum supposedly owned and lost by Omar Sharif.
However, the car developed a puncture and we detoured off to the nearest garage. One was seriously soft but must have been a slow leak. Una’s Spanish was just about adequate to figure out the car manual. We stopped back in the agricultural museum for tapas lunch on a baking white terrace on green chairs.
Car hire return was simple and we arrived far too early but didn’t want to risk a blow-out on the mountain roads.
A great, restful, sunshine (and sand) filled holiday and we’ll be back to do more of the many walks on the island. Food and wine is good value and the scenery stunning in a bleak volcanic sort of way. Friendly people. Plenty of things we didn’t manage to do this time. Even though this was Una’s 7 th visit.