Tag Archives: car hire

Postcard from Lanzarote

Lanzarote Postcard 1

What now seems an awful long time ago I used to like going on holiday to the Canary Islands, that agreeable part of Spain which is located just off the north-western African coast and in December 1983, before I was even thirty years old, I flew to Lanzarote with a group of friends with the intention of having a pre-Christmas party week in the sun.

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Travels in Spain, Driving Challenges

Small Spanish towns can be quite charming but sometimes they can present a serious driving challenge.

One time we were in the town of Carmona in Andalucia and arriving at night time were looking for our hotel. I took the correct turning through an imposing medieval fortress gate and into a labyrinth of confusing narrow streets.

This was a big mistake because the road climbed up a narrow cobbled street barely wide enough for the car to pass and then seemed to abruptly stop at what looked like a pedestrian alleyway. There was an elderly Spanish couple out strolling so we asked for help and after they had studied the map seemed to suggest to us that we should carry on down this narrow path. We were not convinced and asked for clarification and the man, who spoke no English and was not terribly useful, was determined not to let his wife, who could speak a little English and was a lot more helpful, have her turn with the map.

Anyway, while we were debating the situation another car pulled up behind and seemed to be heading in the direction of the alleyway so this was a clue that that was indeed the correct way to go. As we pulled away the woman looked into the car and in a genuinely caring sort of way said ‘Be careful, good luck’ and this parting comment filled my cup of confidence full to the brim.

We set off and it soon became clear why we needed both precision and good fortune because if we had thought that the previous street had been narrow this one made it look like a six lane highway! First of all it was necessary to negotiate a dog leg gate that was barely wider than the car and we all had to collectively breathe in so that we could squeeze through and after that the street narrowed down still further and I needed keyhole surgery skills to manoeuvre through 90º bends and past carelessly parked cars and iron bollards strategically placed to impede at every turn.

Going forward was tricky and we were making slow progress but what really concerned me was the possibility of reaching a dead end and having to reverse all the way back because that would have been impossible. Finally however we came out into a square (that was actually a circle) and by luck we had found our hotel.

I returned the next morning to take these pictures.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Adventure

Naxos Terror Vehicle

Terror Drive in Naxos

This morning we had to come to terms with our rash decision of the previous evening and after breakfast on the terrace we set out for a planned full day drive in our hire vehicle.  This wasn’t a regular car or a jeep or even a quad bike but rather a sort of easy-rider roadster dune buggy.

It looked cool and it looked fun but this was to be a full day of terror.

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Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Fire Mountain, Lanzarote

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited and having completed that I thought I might come up with a personal alternative twelve.  The original twelve quite rightly included Mount Tiede on the Canary Island of Tenerife but, at number five, my alternative is Fire Mountain on nearby Lanzarote.

In December 1983 together with some friends I had a holiday on the island  and on a day trip out visited the volcanic National Park called Timanfaya.

Lanzarote Fire Mountain

After a couple of days of visiting the beach and sitting around in bars we decided to do some sightseeing around the island so we walked into the commercial area of Puerto Del Carmen where we were staying and found a car hire office with the sort of prices that suited our budget – cheap – and you only get what you pay for of course because being at the lower end of the scale we were allocated a clapped out old grey/blue Daihatsu Jeep which despite being worn out seemed perfect for what we had in mind.  First things first though and after taking possession of the rattling bone shaker we had to quickly find a fuel station because the fuel indicator was hovering somewhere just below empty!

The weather was poor that day and thick clouds kept racing in from the Atlantic Ocean, mostly steely grey but sometimes black and ominous and bulging with moisture which promptly fell as heavy rain as soon as they crossed the coast and raced inland.  After breakfast we pulled on what we thought might be suitably warm clothing and headed off in a northerly direction to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.

The temperature was comfortable by the coast but it soon began to plummet as we drove into the interior of the island and started to climb and we weren’t prepared for that and it wasn’t long before we began to regret not bringing even more clothes along (or even the blankets from the beds in the apartment) because it was soon very, very cold indeed with frequent rain squalls and a stinging wind that lashed our legs and faces.

As we had a four wheel drive we thought we might test its capabilities so rather than follow the tarmac highway we went off road and tried to plot our own course.  We got hopelessly lost of course and at one point came across a surprised islander, a whiskered old lady in rusty black clothes, and asked for directions to the park.  I can’t be sure but I think she said that the sensible thing was to go back to the main road because this was safer and even though she was quite insistent about this we ignored her advice and carried on along a boulder strewn track that tipped and lurched the vehicle for the next few kilometres until eventually we came to the boundary to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya marked by a sign carrying the mischievous El Diablo (The Devil) logo.

The emblem of Lanzarote is a demon because the early settlers interpreted their first experience of a volcanic eruption as the work of the devil.  It was so cold today that we would have welcomed some sort of volcanic activity I can tell you!

We arrived at the visitor’s car park and that was as far as we could drive into the park and there we tagged on to some coach party trips and watched several demonstrations by a sun gnarled old man with a face of leather and knotted hands of ‘how hot’ the area is because temperatures just a few metres below the surface here reach between 400°C and 600°C!   First of all he threw dry brush into a harmless looking hole in the ground and it immediately caught fire, while water poured into a bore hole erupted seconds later in the form of steam – like a mini-geyser and he finished this off by demonstrating a natural gas vent that doubles as a BBQ!

There was a coach tour into the National Park and around the volcanic craters but instead of the comfortable seat option we choose an alternative camel ride which involved a thirty minute circuit of the craters on a form of transport that even made the Jeep seem comfortable!

To be honest we were glad when the camel excursion was over, it might have been the preferred transport option of Lawrence of Arabia but we were just pleased to get back to the Daihatsu and drive away in a westerly direction.  We were making our way now towards the old capital of the island called Teguise where islanders used to take refuge from the coastal storms and from pirate raids and had built themselves an impressive fortress at the highest point with commanding views over most of the island.

This was the Santa Bárbara castle and it turned out that only that year there had been a complete restoration by the Fine Arts Association and on account of being some of the first visitors to the restored attraction it had a most non–medieval feel about it but having paid the entrance fee we visited the museum and wandered around the castle walls until we collectively agreed that it was time to leave and make our way back through the island capital, Arrecife and back to the relative warmth of the coastal strip.

It was still quite early and I innocently asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day?  Richard gave me a withering look, rolled his eyes skywards and said ‘have you got no imagination?’ and we spent the remainder of the day in the comfort of the bars of Puerto del Carmen.

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Other posts about Volcanoes:

Mount Vesuvius

Yellowstone Park

Iceland

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Alternative Twelve Treasures of Spain – Cofete Beach, Fuerteventura

Cofete Beach Fuerteventura

The “Twelve Treasures of the Kingdom of Spain” was a contest/poll that was conducted by the Spanish Television Company Antena 3 and the radio broadcaster Cope. The final results were announced on 31st December 2007.  I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the eight out of the twelve that I have visited and having completed that I thought I might come up with a personal alternative twelve.

Included in the winning list was a beach – La Concha in the Basque city of San Sebastián in Northern Spain.  As I said before this surprised me because even though I am not really a beach person, I get quickly bored –  in selecting a favourite beach in Spain this would not be it!

I have narrowed my personal favourites down to a top five – first, Benidorm with its wonderful three blue flag beaches, Mal Pas, Levante and Poniente, second the endless windswept sand dunes of Maspolomas on the Canary Island of Gran Canaria and then another island, Menorca in the Balearic Islands although I’m afraid that I can’t be specific.  Second in my list would be the wide-open Atlantic beach at  Corrubedu in Galicia but for my very favourite I am back to the Canary Islands  and Cofete beach on Fuerteventura.

Bikini Girls

Cofete is a small village in the south-western part of the Jandia peninsula in Fuerteventura and nearby it has a sandy windswept Atlantic facing beach that is about five kilometers long so gloriously empty that every person on it gets about a thousand square metres of  space all to themselves.  The relentless surf pounds the beach and smashes the sand and the place is not really suitable for safe bathing and the advice is that you shouldn’t really swim here unless you are Sharon Davis or Mark Phelps because of the high waves and the strong current and the danger of being swept out to sea with nowhere to go but North America!

Cofete Beach

There is something curiously mysterious about it, deserted, solitary and lonely and brooding away in the background are the eight-hundred metre high wilderness mountains of Jandia that seem to separate it from the inhabited holiday side half of the island with its safer but busier tourist beaches.  The weather is almost constantly breezy, the waves are always mountainous and the beach appears breathtakingly eerie but nevertheless beautiful.  There are never many people on the beach because it is so inaccessible and there are no lifeguards to rely on in an emergency.

To get there it is necessary to drive over twenty kilometres of exhausting pot-holed track that in some places only allows for single file traffic.  Some of the passing places have steep drops to the side, and the journey can only realistically be tackled in a jeep or four-wheel drive vehicle and believe me it is a really uncomfortable journey, but one worth making nevertheless.  The route there goes through the very pretty Punta Pesebre, the Playa de los Ojos (Eyes beach), which is difficult to access, and the fishing port of Puerto de la Cruz before the lovely Playa de las Pilas.

At the end of the unmade road the little village of Cofete is a collection of shacks built from driftwood and materials washed up by the waves and most are only lived in at the weekend.  At the end of the long ash choked track there is a simple but welcome bar where a cold beer cuts through the dust in the back of the throat and prepares you well before going to the sea to wash off the dirt from the journey.

In a separate poll the travel website TripAdvisor has compiled a list of the top ten beaches in Spain for 2013 and both the beach of La Concha in San Sebastián and Cofete beach on Fuerteventura are included although neither of them make the top spot.  La Concha is third and Cofete makes sixth place.  The winner in this poll was Playa de las Catedrales at Ribadeo in the Northern Province of Galicia.

Fueteventura

My Personal A to Z of Spain, F is for Fire Mountain, Lanzarote

In December 1983 together with some friends I had a holiday on the Spanish island of Lanzarote in the Canary Islands and on a day trip out visited the volcanic National Park called Fire Mountain.

After a couple of days of visiting the beach and sitting around in bars we decided to do some sightseeing around the island so we walked into the commercial area of Puerto Del Carmen where we were staying and found a car hire office with the sort of prices that suited our budget – cheap – and you only get what you pay for of course because being at the lower end of the scale we were allocated a clapped out old grey/blue Daihatsu Jeep which despite being worn out seemed perfect for what we had in mind.  First things first though and after taking possession of the rattling bone shaker we had to quickly find a fuel station because the fuel indicator was hovering somewhere just below empty!

The weather was poor that day and thick clouds kept racing in from the Atlantic Ocean, mostly steely grey but sometimes black and ominous and bulging with moisture which promptly fell as heavy rain as soon as they crossed the coast and raced inland.  After breakfast we pulled on what we thought might be suitably warm clothing and headed off in a northerly direction to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya.

The temperature was comfortable by the coast but it soon began to plummet as we drove into the interior of the island and started to climb and we weren’t prepared for that and it wasn’t long before we began to regret not bringing even more clothes along (or even the blankets from the beds in the apartment) because it was soon very, very cold indeed with frequent rain squalls and a stinging wind that lashed our legs and faces.

As we had a four wheel drive we thought we might test its capabilities so rather than follow the tarmac highway we went off road and tried to plot our own course.  We got hopelessly lost of course and at one point came across a surprised islander, a whiskered old lady in rusty black clothes, and asked for directions to the park.  I can’t be sure but I think she said that the sensible thing was to go back to the main road because this was safer and even though she was quite insistent about this we ignored her advice and carried on along a boulder strewn track that tipped and lurched the vehicle for the next few kilometres until eventually we came to the boundary to the Parque Nacional de Timanfaya marked by a sign carrying the mischievous El Diablo (The Devil) logo.  The emblem of Lanzarote is a demon because the early settlers interpreted their first experience of a volcanic eruption as the work of the devil.  It was so cold today that we would have welcomed some sort of volcanic activity I can tell you!

We arrived at the visitor’s car park and that was as far as we could drive into the park and there we tagged on to some coach party trips and watched several demonstrations by a sun gnarled old man of ‘how hot‘ the area is because temperatures just a few metres below the surface here reach between 400°C and 600°C!   First of all he threw dry brush into a harmless looking hole in the ground and it immediately caught fire, while water poured into a bore hole erupted seconds later in the form of steam – like a mini-geyser and he finished this off by demonstrating a natural gas vent that doubles as a BBQ!

There was a coach tour into the National Park and around the volcanic craters but instead of the comfortable seat option we choose an alternative camel ride which involved a thirty minute circuit of the craters on a form of transport that even made the Jeep seem comfortable!

To be honest we were glad when the camel excursion was over, it might have been the preferred transport option of Lawrence of Arabia but we were just pleased to get back to the Daihatsu and drive away in a westerly direction.  We were making our way now towards the old capital of the island called Teguise where islanders used to take refuge from the coastal storms and from pirate raids and had built themselves an impressive fortress at the highest point with commanding views over most of the island.

This was the Santa Bárbara castle and it turned out that only that year there had been a complete restoration by the Fine Arts Association and on account of being some of the first visitors to the restored attraction it had a most non–medieval feel about it but having paid the entrance fee we visited the museum and wandered around the castle walls until we collectively agreed that it was time to leave and make our way back through the island capital, Arrecife and back to the relative warmth of the coastal strip.  It was still quite early and I innocently asked what we were going to do for the rest of the day?  Richard gave me a withering look, rolled his eyes skywards and said ‘have you got no imagination?’ and we spent the remainder of the day in the comfort of the bars of Puerto Del Carmen.

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F is for Fire Mountain but it could well have been:

Flamenco

Fuerteventura

Food

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Other posts about Volcanoes:

Mount Vesuvius

Yellowstone Park

Iceland

__________________________________________________

Island Hopping 2006, Santorini, Oia and Thira

Oia Santorini Greece

I had a great nights sleep and woke early as usual. I carried out the early morning weather check and satisfied that the sun was shining already I made everyone a cup of tea and I then went to the village to buy some fruit for breakfast.

There was a mini-market with a good selection of  curiously shaped fruits. Although ugly they looked interesting and I bought plums, peaches, grapes and oranges none of which would have made it through fruit police quality control at Tesco. Having selected my breakfast purchases I encountered a problem. It is difficult to buy €5 euros worth of groceries with a €50 note so early in the morning. The till was already almost empty and after scratching around for my change it looking as though Dick Turpin had paid a visit and left his calling card!

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