I can date quite accurately the time when I began to question the content and value of my annual holidays, it was in the early 2000s, my young family were growing up and leaving home and there was no longer a need for an annual visit to a beach resort for sun, sand and sea.
One of my last holidays of this kind was to the Spanish Canary Island of Fuerteventura and I wouldn’t really consider boring you with the details of long days spent by the pool at the Fuerteventura Princess Hotel near the resort town of Jandia or lying around on the sand on the twenty-five long kilometre beach and enjoying the freedom of naturist sunbathing except for the fact that Fuerteventura happens to have had possibly the best beach that I have ever had the pleasure of visiting – Cofete.
Cofete is a small village in the south-western part of the Jandia peninsula on the island and nearby it has a sandy windswept Atlantic facing beach that is about five kilometers long and 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 the man from Atlantis or Aquaman 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!
There is something curiously mysterious about it, deserted, solitary, lonely and brooding away in the background are the eight-hundred metre high wilderness mountains of Jandia. The spine of these barren peaks seem to separate the beach from the inhabited holiday side half of the island with the 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 (it is prohibited to take a regular hire car there) 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 wooden shacks built from driftwood and materials washed up by the waves and most are only lived in by ageing hippies 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 grime from the journey.
On a second day we drove north but stayed on the eastern coast of the island and visited the busy tourist beach of Corralajo where previous sunbathers had built black volcanic stone shelters to keep out the wind and where people stretched out naked on the caramel sand inside. It didn’t compare to Cofete of course so we didn’t stay very long but made a driving tour of the coastline starting at Lajares at the very north where the waves of the Atlantic crash over the rocks and where two windmills are the only real tourist attraction before taking a meandering route down the coast stopping every now and again in a desperate but ultimately futile attempt to discover something interesting.
Except for Cofete I found Fuertuventura to be instantly forgettable. It is the second largest of the Canary Islands after Tenerife and there are simply miles and miles of absolutely bugger all! Good for that relaxing beach side holiday but absolutely hopeless for someone with itchy feet like me!