Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Leisure in Lanzarote

Thursday 10 April 2014. The last day of our cruise around the Canaries is a day on Lanzarote. We awake in the port of Arrecife and after breakfast we bounce down the gangway and onto a coach as we have an excursion booked.

This will be a morning tour and sets off with a trip to a shop... Just about every sort of souvenir you can think of and of course this includes fridge magnets. There's a free "glass of wine" that's a small plastic beaker with an eighth of an inch of liquid in it. At 9:30 in the morning it's still more wine than I want to drink...

The first real attraction is at the Mirador del Rio with a viewpoint that looks across the Straits of Rio to a small island, La Graciosa, on which an incident occurred that inspired Robert Louis Stevenson's book Treasure Island.

The fall of the cliff face is spectacular, plunging down to the sea in a sweep of barren rock. The viewpoint itself is fairly spectacular as well, being burrowed into the cliff face.

Designed by the artist Cesar Manrique, it is a delight, with a whitewashed interior with almost no sharp edges anywhere and a feeling of light, space and peace about the place. No mean feat when several coach loads of eager tourists turn up at once...

Little artifact collections decorate the place. Stones, plants, earthenware pots. It's just a touch misty which makes the view across the straits a little subdued. Never mind, we're being herded back to the coach for the ride to our next stop.

This turns out to be an aloe vera plantation. That's not an aloe vera plant above, it's a cactus with a flower, the desert rose, about to blossom. This was one of those stops that seemed to be a half-desperate "please spend money here". There was an extremely boring talk about aloe vera. It may well be someone's idea of heaven to travel to far-flung places and learn about household products, but sadly it left me cold... Aloe vera is edible apparently and after using a huge knife to strip and divide small bars of the leaves for us to nibble on, the company owner and living partner of our coach guide passed them round. It was a bit like nibbling a small bar of hotel soap, though with a nastier aftertaste... and... spit!

Final stop is at Jameos del Agua, another natural feature enhanced by the skill and artistry of Cesar Manrique. In this case it's a tunnel formed by a lava flow that at this point blew out and formed a hole which we descend by way of steps.

We let the rest of the tour go ahead and stop for a drink in the bar. Before us is a short length of the lava tunnel which now holds a pond in which resides a species of small white blind crab, unique to this site. They like deeper water, so it's lucky the water in the pool is crystal clear. Even so, they are so far beneath the surface they could be white blobs of paint most of the time until all of a sudden you see through a relatively ripple-free bit of water and make out just for a second that they are actually crabs! Being blind, they don't wave back or react in anyway to the curious tourist. They just huddle together saying in crab talk, "I feel like I'm being watched..." "Watched? What's that?"

Drink finished, we make our way through the tunnel and come out to climb out the other side where we arrive in a landscaped garden complete with a blue pool. A choice of steps lead up from this second hole in the tunnel up to a terrace and shop.

Snatched from the coach window as we drove back into Arrecife, this is the wreck of the Telamon, which started life in the UK in 1954 as the Temple Hall and was wrecked here in 1981, proving to be beyond salvage.

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