Tag Archives: Lanzarote

Entrance Tickets – Sioux City, Gran Canaria

Sioux City Gran Canaria

One day towards the end of the holiday I walked to Sioux City (not Sioux City in Iowa USA but Sioux City at Canon del Aquila in Gran Canaria) which is an old movie set from the days of the spaghetti westerns which had been transformed into a western theme park with cowboys and Indians, US cavalry and show girls in a succession of staged events and shows that were performed throughout the afternoon.

It was entertaining enough but seemed curiously out of place to me.

Read the full story…

Spanish Islands, Gran Canaria

Gran Canaria Postcard Geography

Having visited Lanzarote in December 1983 I declared the Canary Islands my number one place to go on holiday and so the next time I was booking a summer vacation I choose the neighbouring island of Gran Canaria.

It was May 1986 and this was a special holiday because since the last time that I had been away I had become a father and so this was to be the first of a sequence of holidays to Spanish islands in search of a beach, a swimming pool and a kids’ club.

Unlike Lanzarote, Gran Canaria had been quicker off the mark in terms of developing and encouraging tourism and hadn’t had the benefit of a famous architect like Cesar Manrique to protect it against unsuitable development so here were all of the things that I expected of a Spanish seaside holiday and we were staying in the tourist developed south of the island at the resort of San Agustin, part of the Maspolomas conurbation.

Gran Canaria was formed by a volcano that grew out of the sea and continued to spew enough lava onto the surface to break through the ocean and form an island.  It is circular in shape with a mountain peak in the middle which separates the island into two distinct sectors, north and south.  Viewed from above it looks rather like a beached starfish. In the north is the capital Las Palmas and there is a wet tropical climate but in the south it is dry, arid and desert like.  I didn’t get to visit Las Palmas and I regret that now.

Gran Canaria Canary Islands Spain

To be honest, it seems to me that there isn’t an awful lot to do in Gran Canaria (except go to Las Palmas) except lie around the pool, occasionally swim in the sea or find a bar or a restaurant for evening meal but perhaps I am being a little unfair.

Mid way through the holiday we did hire a car, a little blue Seat with an open top and on the first day set off into the mountains in the interior.  This turned out to be rather hard work as the road swept in extravagant loops around deep valleys and gorges and followed a precarious route to the top.  Actually, we didn’t get to the top because after an hour or so we got a puncture and I had to change the wheel at the roadside.  We were high up and close to the edge and part way through the process the car started to slide off the jack and I wondered how I was going to explain to the hire company just how the car had fallen off the road and disappeared into a ravine.

That rather put me off driving in Gran Canaria and we sensibly abandoned the journey and returned carefully to the Montenego Apartments with its attractive little garden and swimming pool and we didn’t attempt anything so adventurous again that week and there were places to visit close by so we concentrated on these instead.

Maspolomas Gran Canaria

Next to San Agustin was the noisy 18-30 holidays resort of Playa del Ingles which was a bit too boisterous for us but just beyond that were the sand dunes of Maspolomas which, although not all that large provide a spacious and, despite the crowds an almost solitary contrast to the over developed promenades of the town and we used to like walking there and watching the camel trains taking people from the town to the lighthouse and return but mindful of how uncomfortable the camel ride had been in Lanzarote we declined to repeat the experience here.

Just around the coast a little, heading west, there was a new purpose built resort of Puerto Rico where layers of concrete rising up the sides of the cliffs like artificial geological strata have permanently disfigured what I imagine was once an attractive landscape.

Back towards the mountains of the centre there was a wildlife and bird park called Palmitos Park and we drove there one day to see the exotic gardens, the birds and the afternoon performing dolphin show but I don’t remember it being especially memorable.  A few years ago the park was destroyed by forest fires on the island and a lot of the birds had to be released but I think it has reopened against since.

After the car had been returned without them noticing the punctured tyre in the boot we were once more confined to the resort area but there was one last attraction to go and visit which was quite close to our apartments so one day towards the end of the holiday I walked to Sioux City (not Sioux City in Iowa USA but Sioux City at Canon del Aquila in Gran Canaria) which is an old movie set from the days of the spaghetti westerns which had been transformed into a western theme park with cowboys and Indians, US cavalry and show girls in a succession of staged events and shows that were performed throughout the afternoon.  It was entertaining enough but seemed curiously out of place it seemed to me.

And so the holiday came to an end and my assessment at the time was quite firmly that  I didn’t like it as much as Lanzarote but having said that it didn’t stop me going back a couple of years later for a week away with my brother.

I am fairly certain that I wouldn’t go back again now.

Sioux City Gran Canaria, Spain

Spanish Islands, Postcards from Lanzarote

Lanzarote Postcard 1

Lanzarote Postcard 2

Lanzarote postcard 1983

Spanish Islands, Lanzarote – Cueva de los Verde and Jameos del Aqua

Jameos del Aqua Lanzarote Canary Islands

Even in 1983 Puerto del Carmen was the busiest tourist resort on the island but in December it was rather quiet and at that time hadn’t really begun to attract the rowdy visitors that have subsequently discovered the island.  Consequently evenings were relatively quiet and relaxed in the bars and the restaurants of the resort without the excesses that have led some to refer to the island these days as Lanzagrotty!

After the drive to the west of the island to Timanfaya we had the knackered jeep at our disposal for another day and this time travelled north along the eastern coast to visit the volcanic caves just north of Arrecife.

It is a rather odd thing but people seem to like to go below the surface of the earth and go down caves and caverns, grottoes and mines and I have to say that I am no exception.  I used to live near the Peak District National Park in Derbyshire (UK) and would go down the Blue John mines near Buxton pretty much every year.  Well the guide book pointed out some caves in Lanzarote so that is where we made for today.

La Cueva de los Verdes is what is known as a lava tube and was created around three thousand years ago by lava flows from the nearby volcano Monte Corona, flowing across the Malpaís de la Corona toward the sea. The lava streams cooled on top, developing a solid crust, before the lava drained away leaving the top part as the roof of a cave. In a number of places along the tube the roof of the cave collapsed, forming a cavern known locally as a jameo.

The cave system at Cueva de los Verdes is around six kilometres long and claimed to be the longest lava tube in the World but I am willing to wager that somewhere else in the World will be making exactly the same claim!

Visitors can take a tour along about a kilometre of illuminated path and so we handed over our money and prepared to leave the sunshine and like Otto Lidenbrock in ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’ * descend below the surface.

We followed our guide through an intriguing maze of gigantic caves, carved by lava and gnawed by erosion, through a succession of caverns and galleries with lighting displays arranged to illuminate the colours of the rocks and the eerie shadows that they cast.  As usual in underground caves he kept pointing out natural sculptures that, with a lot of imagination, had a resemblance to familiar icons – the Madonna and Child (several times), Bulls, Matadors and famous Spanish Kings and Queens.

After an hour or so we returned blinking to the surface and drove the short distance to nearby Jameos del Agua and prepared to go straight underground again.

This time we descended steeply down a flight of steps and arrived in a rather gloomy café area where we stopped for a drink and an overpriced bocadillo before continuing into the cave.  There was a walk now along a narrow path on one side of a flooded cavern where in the water the main attraction were hundreds of blind albino crabs, apparently the only ones like it in the World, which is another claim that I am unable to confirm.

Jameos del Agua Admission Ticket Lanzarote

Jameos del aqua Lanzarote Canary Islands

We didn’t spend nearly as much time underground at this cave because it opened out quite quickly into the collapsed cavern where the afternoon sunshine was pouring into a luxurious tropical garden with exotic plants and scarlet flowers, fish ponds with turtles posing obligingly for photographs and a brilliant turquoise swimming pool and recreational area.  Today this is claimed to be the number one visitor attraction on the island and visitors are pre warned about long queues but once again it was quiet enough when we were there.

At the end of the day we drove back to Puerto del Carmen and as we were running low on fuel we were forced to find a garage so we pulled into a filling station where the smiling attendant approached probably in expectation of filling the tank and a big sale:

‘Si Seňor?’ he beamed,

‘two hundred por favor’ , we said calculating that this would be enough to see us through until we returned the vehicle to the car hire office.

‘two hondred?’  ‘two hondred?’  the man pushed his black beret up over his forehead scratched his head in that puzzled sort of way, twisted his face into a squint, wrinkled his walnut sunburned face and looked thoroughly confused as he searched for clarification, finally he just said – ‘not enough room in tank!’

We looked confused and then we realised what he meant and were more specific, ‘no, not litres – pesetas!’

Now, this was the equivalent of about seventy-five pence so this required great precision on his part to deliver only just the required miniscule amount into the tank.  We handed him two one hundred peseta notes and he walked away shaking his head and repeating over and over to himself ‘two hondred, two hondred…’

And this wasn’t the end to Richard’s meanness and on the last night we finally found out why he always found an excuse to go back into a restaurant after we had paid and left.  He would claim that he had left his jacket or needed the gents or some other quite plausible reason but then we caught him going back inside and scooping up the change that we had left for a gratuity because he didn’t agree with the principle of tipping.

Having caught him we made him buy the next few rounds of drinks!

This had been my first time visiting the Canary Islands and I liked Lanzarote even though I have never been back but for the next few years I did make it an annual event to visit some of the others…

Puerto Del Carmen Lanzarote 1983 

* Rather interestingly in the book the Professor and his assistant search for the Centre of the Earth by entering a lava tube at Snæfellsjökull glacier in Iceland and eventually comes back to the surface through another one on the slopes of Mount Etna on the island of Sicily.

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Other Cave Stories:

Drogarati Cave and Blue Lagoon, Kephalonia

Cueva del Aguila, Spain

Altimira Caves, Spain

Blue Lagoon, Capri

Krakow, Wieliczka Salt Mine

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Spanish Islands, Lanzarote – Fire Mountain and a Modernised Castle

Lanzarote Fire Mountain

Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

After a couple of fine sunny days the weather had turned rather sour and unwelcome thick clouds kept racing in from the Atlantic Ocean, mostly steely grey but sometimes black and ominous and overloaded 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.

Timanfaya National Park has the popular tag of Fire Mountain and is a lonely, desolate and lifeless place of barren landscape and volcanic rock laid down in the early eighteenth century when more than thirty volcanoes exploded more or less at the same time, spilling fire, smoke and huge deposits of magma onto the surrounding landscape, engulfing entire villages and destroying once fertile agricultural land.  The eruptions transformed almost a quarter of the island into a sea of solidified lava, multicoloured volcanic rocks, copper coloured sand and a thick layer of course grey ash and nearly three hundred years later little has changed and there is still hardly any vegetation there.

As we had a four wheel drive we thought we might test its capabilities to the full so rather than follow the tarmac highway we went off road and tried to plot our own course.

Lost on Fire Mountain, Lanzarote

We got hopelessly lost of course and at one point came across a surprised islander, a whiskered, toothless old lady in rusty black clothes and with a wrinkled face that could easily be mistaken for a road map so we stopped and asked for directions to the park.

I can’t be sure but I think she said that the really 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 National Park marked by a sign carrying the mischievous El Diablo (The Devil) logo.

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

Volcano Tours at Fire Mountain, Lanzarote

We arrived at the visitor 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 up to 600° centigrade!

First of all he threw dry brush into a harmless looking hole in the ground and it immediately burst into flames and then he demonstrated the geyser which he made perform by pouring cold water into a bore hole and then retreating swiftly as it erupted seconds later in the form of steam and a brief but satisfying ‘whoosh’.

They probably need to be cautious about this approach because forcing a natural event can sometimes only yield temporary results.  In Iceland for example there is an original Great Geyser that used to be frustratingly irregular so apparently people used to encourage it to blow by pouring soap powder into the borehole as this seemed to be a generally reliable way of encouraging it to perform.  Eventually this stopped working however because the residue of the soap clogged up the underground vents rather like an automatic washing machine that hasn’t been rinsed through.

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

Due to the fragility of the rocks and the possible danger of collapsing lava tubes and gullies it isn’t advisable to go wandering about by yourself and quite sensibly unescorted walking is not permitted. The really prudent way to proceed further was to use a coach tour into the National Park and around the volcanic craters but instead of the restful seat option in a heated bus we choose an alternative camel ride which involved a twenty 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.

Santa Bárbara castle on Lanzarote

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.

Arrecife doesn’t tend to feature very prominently in any of the island guide books and even without stopping the jeep we could well understand why.  It might be different now of course but in 1983 it was an unattractive and workmanlike place with a working harbour and a street of rather unattractive buildings so finding no good reason to stop the car we rather rudely drove straight through.

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.

Lanzarote Teguise Castle

Spanish Islands, Lanzarote

Lanzarote Postcard Multi Picture

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.

We landed at a sunny but windy Arrecife airport around about mid-morning and the Cosmos holiday transport then drove us the short distance to our accommodation in the resort of Puerto del Carmen.  I liked it immediately with its low level construction, natural building materials and the paintwork everywhere a uniform green, in complimentary harmony with the environment and the landscape.  At this point my only previous visit to Spain had been to Benidorm on the Costa Blanca and this place was in total contrast to the high rise world that I was to a certain extent anticipating.

The explanation for this building restraint is the achievement of the artist and architect Cesar Manrique who was born in Arrecife in 1919.  He was passionate about his island and successfully lobbied the local authorities to introduce building controls which prevented the excesses of neighbouring Gran Canaria and Tenerife which from the 1960s on were busy trying to emulate the costas of the mainland in an orgy of high rise concrete and steel construction.  Manrique had a major influence on the planning regulations in Lanzarote, when he recognised its tourist potential and lobbied successfully to encourage sympathetic development of tourism.

Lanzarote Postcard 1983

As a result of this sustainable development, ten years or so after my visit, Lanzarote was named a UNESCO biosphere site which is a status that is awarded in recognition that a place can demonstrate a balanced relationship between people and nature and of the 621 biosphere sites around the world, Lanzarote is the only entire island to win the prestigious classification.

The UNESCO website praises the island’s ecological charms, including a profusion of unique and endangered species and it praises the way that “…the idea of mass tourism was rejected and, under the influence of the celebrated local artist César Manrique, priority has been given to blend tourist infrastructure with the beautiful but inhospitable environment.”

I am going to fast-forward now for a short while because sadly there are always corrupt people who are prepared to take advantage of these opportunities and recently Lanzarote has been rocked by building scandals and corruption and since May 2009, police have arrested at least twenty-four politicians and businessmen, including the former president of the Lanzarote provincial government and the former mayor of Arrecife in connection with illegal building permits that have led UNESCO to threaten withdrawal of the status if the concept has been compromised.  The Canary Island Supreme Court has declared that twenty-four hotels have been illegally built in coastal resorts such as Playa Blanca, eight of which are modern luxury hotels that qualified for a total of €23.6m in EU grants, partly thanks to the biosphere status. The EU anti-corruption office has demanded the money be returned.

Anyway, back now to 1983 and after we had settled into our first floor apartment we wasted no time in getting familiar with the bars of Puerto del Carmen and we took a stroll along the rather untidy promenade behind the black sand beach and found somewhere for lunch and in the afternoon, encouraged by the fine weather we made our way to the sand and spent some time swimming in the Atlantic Ocean.  I expect Puerto del Carmen has changed rather a lot in thirty years but then it was small and friendly and we enjoyed ourselves there.

 

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 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 regardless of the fact that it was completely 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 garage because the fuel indicator needle was hovering menacingly somewhere just below empty!  This seemed to irritate my brother Richard more than the rest of us and he immediately declared an intention to take it back in the same state.  We found a petrol station put a small amount of fuel in the tank and drove out of the town towards the arid stretch of black lava fields, glittering salt marshes and sweeping coastal mountains beyond.

Lanzarote island map postcard

More About Geysers – Timanfaya, Lanzarote

Timanfaya Lanzrote Fire Mountain Canary Islands

“On the first day of September, 1730, the earth suddenly opened near Timanfaya. An enormous mountain emerged from the ground with flames coming from its summit. It continued burning for 19 days. Some days later, a new abyss developed and an avalanche of lava rushed down over Timanfaya, Rodeo and part of Mancha Blanca.” –  Father Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo from Yaiza – eyewitness.

There are over one thousand known geysers in the World and as well as in Iceland the most famous are in Yellowstone Park in the U.S.A, the Taupau Volcanic Zone in New Zealand, El Tatio in Chile and the Valley of the Geysers in Russia.  I have been to Yellowstone but not to the others but I have been to Fire Mountain on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands where there is a sort of artificial or false geyser to amuse the tourists.

Fire Mountain is actually Timanfaya National Park, a desolate and lifeless place of barren landscape and volcanic rock laid down in the early eighteenth century when more than thirty volcanoes exploded, spilling fire, smoke and huge deposits of magma onto the surrounding landscape, engulfing entire villages and destroying once fertile agricultural land.  The eruptions transformed almost a quarter of the island into a sea of solidified lava, multicoloured volcanic rocks, copper coloured sand and a thick layer of course grey ash and nearly three hundred years later there is still hardly any vegetation there.

Lanzarote Timanfaya National Park

Together with a group of friends we were staying near the coast where the December temperature was comfortable 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 more clothes along 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, toothless old lady in rusty black clothes and with a lined face that could be mistaken for a road map so we stopped 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 significance of the demon emblem of Lanzarote is because the early settlers interpreted their first experience of a volcanic eruption as the work of Satan himself.  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 up to 600° centigrade!

 

Lanzarote Steam Geyser Timanfaya National Park

Happily the volcanic craters are dormant now but vents by the vantage point at the Islote de Hilario give out superheated air at 400 degrees centigrade which comes from a broiling chamber of magma – estimated to be safely four kilometres beneath the surface at this point. First of all he threw dry brush into a harmless looking hole in the ground and it immediately burst into flames and then he demonstrated the geyser which he made perform by pouring cold water into a bore hole and then retreating swiftly as it erupted seconds later in the form of steam and a brief but satisfying ‘whoosh’ and he finished this incendiary display by demonstrating a natural gas vent that doubled as a natural BBQ for the nearby restaurant.

Due to the fragility of the rocks and the possible danger of collapsing lava tubes and gullies it isn’t especially advisable to go wandering about by yourself or poking the surface with a sharp stick and quite sensibly unescorted walking is not permitted. The really prudent way to proceed further was to use a coach tour into the National Park and around the volcanic craters but instead of the restful seat option in a heated bus we choose an alternative camel ride which involved a twenty minute circuit of the craters on a form of transport that even made the Jeep seem comfortable and we were jolly grateful when it was all over and we could make our way back to Puerto del Carmen in the beat up old hire car.

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

Iceland, Car Hire and Volcano Damage

Iceland Volcano

As a sort of postscript to my previous post I started to think about other dangerous volcano areas that I have visited and where it may not be a good idea to take a hire car if there is a genuine threat of paint stripping damage.

Firstly Mount Vesuvius near Naples in Italy:

Vesuvius the crater

Mind you, you would probably consider yourself spectacularly unlucky if the thing went off while you were on a tourist visit to the top of the crater.  But then don’t forget that it is the only volcano on the European mainland to have erupted within the last hundred years and that was in 1944 when it destroyed a handful of communities and an entire United States bomber squadron, which makes you wonder why they didn’t just take off and go somewhere else!

Second, Timanfaya or Fire Mountain on the Spanish Island of Lanzarote:

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya Lanzarote

When I visited this volcanic site we arrived at the visitor’s car park and that was as far as you could drive into the park and there I tagged on to some coach party trips and watched several demonstrations by a sun gnarled old man with a face of weathered leather and  hands with knotted knuckles 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 doubled as a BBQ!

Also in the Spanish Canary Islands on nearby Tenerife there is the still active volcano Mount Teide  which I visited in 1989:

Mount Teide Tenerife

The summit of Mount Teide at just over three thousand, seven hundred metres is the highest point in Spain and the highest point above sea level in the islands of the Atlantic.  At 7,500 m from its base on the ocean floor, it is the third highest volcano in the world and its altitude makes Tenerife the tenth highest island in the world (although to be fair this is another of those biggest, largest, highest statistics to be wary of). It remains active: its most recent eruption occurred in 1909 from the El Chinyero vent on the north-western Santiago rift. The United Nations Committee for Disaster Mitigation designated Teide what they call a Decade Volcano because of its history of destructive eruptions and its proximity to several large towns.

Finally and probably the most dangerous of all, Yellowstone National Park in the USA:

Yellowstone is a super volcano called a caldera (which is Latin for cauldron) that are so explosive that they just burst open and blow everything away in one almighty blast of truly biblical proportions.  And this event would be so huge that it is the reason why previous eruptions have not left behind a classic volcanic mountain, like say Vesuvius or Mount Etna.

The Yellowstone caldera measures nine thousand square kilometers and the crater is almost sixty-five kilometers across, so as you can probably imagine that would have been one almighty explosion!  Luckily these super volcanoes don’t go off very often, the last time was six hundred and thirty thousand years ago, but if it did explode you would definitely want to stand well back because one thing to be sure is that nothing for thousands of miles around would survive and the paint stripping insurance for the hire car would be completely irrelevant and a total waste of money.

 

More Postcard Maps – Spanish Islands

Lanzarote island map postcard

Fuertuventura Postcard 02

Gran Canaria Island Map postcard

Tenerife Island Map Postcard

Ibiza Island Mapp Postcard

Minorca Island Map Postcard

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

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