Lanzarote 2000

It's only mid-April and we have had our trip to the most eastern island of the Canary Isles, Lanzarote. We were renting a small bungalow my sister bought one or two years ago and it was perfect for us. A living-room, open kitchen, a bath and a bedroom, where we all slept. Nikki's bed first was in the living-room, but since she went to bed earlier than we did, we put it in the bedroom. We all woke around the same time, usually 8 am, so that was fine. We also could watch German TV as there's a satellite device, one of the conveniences.

Lanzarote is visited by about 1,000,000 tourists each year, a great percentage of them are German and British, followed by Scandinavians. You can find German restaurants, British and Irish pubs and Sports Bars, we saw even a Norwegian Church Center. We heard alot of different languages and as many Spanish people talk English or German for the tourists, we didn't hear much Spanish! Still Christian learned a few sentences for ordering in the restaurants and for paying. I even know more than ¡hola! and ¡adios! now. (Don't try me though!) One of the great advantages of the Canary Isles is the climate. It is moderate all year round, no real seasons. Although Lanzarote is not far from Africa, there is no Saharan heat. It is always windy though. We had alot of clouds and even some rain during the first week, but it cleared and warmed up by the second week. We found out a kind of pattern – if it was cloudy in the morning, the afternoon would be fine. If we had blue skies in the morning, clouds would come during the day. And we were not the only ones to find that out! It was usually to windy to stay at the beach for a longer time, we mostly spent the afternoon at the pool, where Nicole almost mutated into a fish. She spent hours in the water. I was wondering why she hadn't grown gills and webs between her fingers and toes! Still she was too afraid to be in the deeper pool without her swimmings aids. She did jump and dive into the kiddie pool though.

But let me start at the beginning. We took the first two days to explore the place we were staying at. Puerto del Carmen is based of a small village and has become the most touristy place. There are two other touristy places on the island, Costa Teguise in the east and Playa Blanca in the west, but these two are quieter. As the bungalow is not in the center of Puerto del Carmen, we didn't hear anything of the night life, still we were close enough to be in the middle of it all in a couple of minutes. It also wasn't very crowded as we didn't go in peak season. I don't want to imagine what it might be like in peak season! Puerto del Carmen has beautiful beaches with very dark sand due to the volcanic ashes. I wonder why the closest beach to us was still called Playa Blanca, which means White Beach! The beaches with the lightest sand are the Papagayo beaches in the southwest. We've been there for a day. Unfortunately the road to the last beach was closed but the "ranger" told us that it's a 5-minutes-walk down to the actual Playa de Papagayo, the name comes from the shape, it's like an open parrot bill. We walked but it took us at least 20 minutes across dunes and pebble hills. But it was worth it. The water is crystal clear, there are many little fish and it's protected from the wind. Back to Puerto del Carmen. The Avenida de las Playas, the beach promenade in Puerto del Carmen stretches along three different beaches for two or three miles. Shopping arcades, bars and restaurants, gift shops line the street. Above the promenade there are the holiday complexes. And what I thought was pretty scaring in a way, was that I found tshirts with the same motifs I had bought in Florida a couple of years ago, just underlined with Lanzarote instead of places in Florida. Talking about unique souvenirs! Lanzarote does have unique souvenirs though, especially jewelry made from a semiprecious stone called Olivin, it's green. You can find little pieces of it yourself at the black beaches.

Then we decided to rent a car for ten days. The first time we went was to the capital of Lanzarote, Arrecife, which is just a few miles away. We didn't stay that long, just walked down a pedestrian shopping zone. We visited a place called Castillo de San Gabriel which is on a small island off Arrecife which is to be reached via a drawbridge. Inside is a small archaeological museum and you have a nice view from the top. Sites like that always are castles of knights for Nicole .

The most interesting things concerning the landscape is its diversity. The scenery changes rapidly within a relatively small area. Beaches, the petrified rock of the Fire Mountains, black beaches and lava rocks on the westcoast, the vineyards in the middle, the Valley of Thousand Palms in the Northeast (though I haven't counted them!). The most fascinating thing for me was the black and red volcanic ash, called picón. You can find it in the National Park of Timanfaya, where the Fire Mountains are, the mountain almost look like velvet sometimes. You can take a tour on the "Road to the Volcanoes", a guided bus tour, you can't go alone. Unfortunately you are not even allowed to leave the bus. It does stop and you can take pictures through the windows but not more. The lava fields give you a feeling of driving on the moon. It looks so unreal! There was a village called Timanfaya once, which was destroyed by the eruptions in the 18th century (1730-1736). It also destroyed the most fertile area of the whole island. We did the bus tour of course and I was unlucky, because my camera broke on that tour. It was just a tiny plastic nipple that got lost while changing a roll of film but with that tiny thingy missing the camera wouldn't close. I forced Christian to take as many pictures as possible through the bus windows, I hope they turned out well so I can have copies made. As some of you may know is that both Christian and I are avid photographers. The difference is that he makes slides and I take paper pictures. What I did was buying a new camera that evening. I couldn't waste time without the possibility of taking pictures in the middle of my vacation!

Shortly before entering the National Park, at the foot of the Fire Mountains, is a camel station. You can ride on dromedaries there, for about 20 minutes. I now know why these animals are called "ships of the desert"! But it was fun and Nicole liked it so much that we went a second time on our last day.

In the northeast of the island is a subterranean lavatunnel which is several miles long. The Cueva de los Verdes (Green Cave – but nothing is green in there, Verdes is the name of a family there) is a part of that cave system which can be visited. No stalaktites or stalakmites, it's a volcanic tunnel, but you can see different lava structures and different colors from the iron and calcium in the rocks and at the end of the footpath for visitors is a lake, so quiet, that you think it's a big hole. And inside is a place for concerts as the acoustic is magnificent! They are playing discrete music and the lighting in indirect which makes it pretty impressive. There's another place called Jameos del Agua, which belongs to the same cave system. There is a lake where blind, white crabs live. The whole place has been designed by César Manrique, architect, artist, designer, politician. He was involved in many projects on Lanzarote. He also designed a place called Jardín de Cactus, a cactus garden like a Japanese rock garden, which we visited a few days later. Nice place! Thousands of cacti, a windmill and a restaurant – which served the strongest Sangría we ever had by the way! Around the garden are cactus fields, where still cochineal insects (some kind of lice) are bred and their blood turned into purple dye. With the development of artificial dyes, the fields once seemed redundant, but even today there is no suitable substitute for natural purple dye, for instance in lipstick. I don't want to think of lice blood in my lipstick....

On the same day we visited the "Valley of Tousands Palms". Lanzarote is so small that you can easily see everything in just a couple of days. In the valley is the town of Haría, where César Manrique is buried. Haría is one of the places on the island that have a supply of fresh water. When approaching the town from the south, you go up and down the mountains, and shortly before you go down into the valley you have a spectacular view of the valley. That's where we took a rest and had lunch. Papas Arrugados with mojo, Canarian potatoes with a red and green sauce, chili and garlic stuff, delicious!

The most beautiful place beside the volcanos is in my opinion El Golfo. In the remains of a volcano which has half vanished into the Atlantic Ocean, an emerald green lagoon has formed. It is surrounded by huge rock walls colored red and brown and the "beach" is entirely black. No sand, it's gravel and that's where you can find the pieces of Olivin. Many people just walk there head down to find it! The intense blue of the ocean makes the whole picture, the sound of the waves make it a perfect picture. A few miles down south is a place called Los Hervideros, where the black volcanic rocks have been formed into caves by the water. You can walk to the caves on narrow paths and you can hear the thunder of the crashing waves.

Since we all like all kinds of zoos and parks we took one day to visit the Guinate Tropical Park in the north. They have all kinds of tropical birds, parrots and cockatoos, some monkeys. A few miles up to the very north of Lanzarote there is a viewpoint also designed by Manrique called Mirador del Rio. We didn't go inside as we had almost the same fantastic view from outside the building which was buit into the rocks. What you can see are three small islands off the coast – La Graciosa, Montaña Clara and Alegranza. Only La Graciosa is inhabited.

Just sort of between the Fire Mountains and Puerto del Carmen is the vineyard region around La Geria. The vines are not planted on soil but in small craters digged into the volcanic ash, sheltered from the wind by small stone walls. At night the ash absorbs the dew and by day it protects the soil underneath from drying out. With the green vines on black ash under a blue sky – it looks just great. We tried several kinds of wine and they all tasted very well.

Besides all that, we drove through several nice villages. Yaiza, near the National Park, is considered the most beautiful village on the whole Canary Isles. Since we don't know the other islands, I can't judge that! It was nice though. But we didn't see everything. And it for sure wasn't our last visit! The flight isn't that long, 4-5 hours and due to the climate we could go year-round. As usual we didn't want to come home, but arriving here and sleeping in my own bed was nice too. So, that's it for this year. Until next time!