Tag Archives: Puerto del Carmen

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.

Read the Full Story…

Click on an image to scroll through the Gallery…

Entrance Tickets – Jameos Del Agua, Lanzarote

Jameos Del Agua Lanzarote

“Wherever he saw a hole he always wanted to know the depth of it. To him this was important.”  –  Jules Verne –  ‘Journey to the Centre of the Earth’

After the drive to the west of the island to Timanfaya we had the knackered old 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.

Jameos del Aqua Lanzarote Canary Islands

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.

Lanzarote Postcard Multi Picture

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 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.

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…’

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.

Do you like going underground? Which is your favourite cave?

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.

Click on an image to scroll through the gallery…

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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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Entrance Tickets – Timanfaya National Park, Lanzarote

Entrance Ticket - Timanfaya Lanzarote

“The camel and his driver — each has his own plan.” – African Proverb

“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 …”  –  Father Andrés Lorenzo Curbelo from Yaiza – an eyewitness.

In the early eighteenth century more than thirty volcanoes exploded on Lanzarote in the Canary Islands, spilling fire, smoke and huge deposits of magma onto the surrounding landscape, engulfing entire villages and destroying once fertile agricultural land.  Today this is Timanfaya National Park, a desolate and lifeless place of barren landscape and arid volcanic rock.

Vesuvius Postcard

The eruptions transformed as much as 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 in this place.  Black lava ribs of the mountain spill from the top and in the occasional sunshine the colours  were ever changing, the rocks were black, brown, purple and umber with a sulphurous yellow crust like fine filigree lace and all over there was vivid green copper oxide and some hardy mosses ferociously clinging on to life in a highly improbable location.

Lanzarote Timanfaya National Park

Together with a group of friends I was 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 to the full so rather than sensibly 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 easily be mistaken for a road map so we stopped and asked for directions to the park.

I can’t be absolutely certain but I think she said that the really sensible thing to do 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.

Timanfaya Lanzrote Fire Mountain Canary Islands

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!

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 twisted knotted hands of ‘how hot‘ the area is because temperatures just a few metres below the surface here reach between up to 600° centigrade!

Fire Mountain Lanzarote SpainLanzarote 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 super-heated air at 400° centigrade which comes from a boiling 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.

Lanzarote Fire Mountain

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.

“I distrust camels, and anyone else who can go a week without a drink” – American comedian, Joe E. Lewis

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.

Have you ever taken a camel ride?  Did you enjoy it?

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

Car Hire Misadventures – Lanzarote, 1983

Parque Nacional de Timanfaya

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.

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, even though she had probably never ever driven a vehicle in her life, she displayed great wisdom and  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.

Read the full story…

Lanzarote Car Hire

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.

__________________________________________________

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