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Fuerteventura and Lanzarote
Fuerteventura is considered the oldest island of the Canary archipelago and, like Lanzarote, very desert-like. In places you even have the impression of moving through a lunar landscape. The volcanic activity in the past is omnipresent. After fine volcanic ash, you bump over hardened lava fields and follow the former lava flow towards the sea, where the surf has already left its deep traces after thousands of years.
It is also very astonishing that peoples from North Africa settled here a very long time ago and were able to extract the necessities of life from the barren soil. Thanks to the few water sources and streams, they were able to plant the bare necessities on the very fertile volcanic soil, and their success led to regular raids of the islands in prehistoric times.
Today, piracy is over, but without irrigation, most crops would wither in no time. Human help is omnipresent for the palms or other plants. Groundwater extraction led to the lowering of the water table in many places. The many defective, collapsed and old water pumps that are at the mercy of their fate are probably a clear indication of this.
Besides the irrigation of agricultural crops, tourism also has a great “thirst for water”, which is provided thanks to desalination plants and thermal power plants provide the necessary power. A vicious circle!
Vicious circle or not; we crossed from Gran Canaria to Fuerteventura in the evening. When we arrived, it was already dark and we awkwardly looked for a place to stay outside the ferry port of Morro Jable. After the green island of Gran Canaria, we only saw a barren and stony landscape in the headlights.
The first rays of sunshine soon confirmed what we had seen at night and we were surprised by the barren landscape, although we had read about it several times in the travel guide. Far and wide only stone deserts stretching far up to the mountains, dotted with a few houses and below us the roaring sea. Wow, we have arrived in the desert!
Soon we joined the many tourists bumping their rental cars through the Parque Natural, located in the southwestern tip of the island. The unique landscape that stretches from the former volcanic craters down to the coast, or the almost endless sandy beach on the northwest side, was a new experience not only for us. Sun-seeking holidaymakers were everywhere, enjoying the warmth of the January sun.
Further north, after crossing the sand dunes of El Jable on the west side, we stood at the first surfing hotspot. The strong swell and the fierce wind were probably a bit too much even for the cracks and longingly they stood at the edge of the surf, waiting for the beach guard to finally bring in the red flag.
In a zigzag course, we start our journey in a north-easterly direction. What was not possible on Gran Canaria, we made up for extensively here and enjoyed the all possible or almost impossible side roads, challenged our jeep and reached places where probably not many people go with their rented Cinquecento.
The vast and almost deserted landscape we experienced in this way inspired us more and more and we could hardly get enough of it. After the “stressful” coastal strips on the south-east coast, where there are a lot of tourist facilities, followed by countless ruins of buildings, the journey into the hinterland was always a relief for the heart.
On the west coast, we experienced even more of this wild landscape and only a few settlements attracted tourists with their charm and the extensive hiking trails. In addition to the unique landscape and pretty villages, the weather and pleasant temperatures were more than kind to us. Until the sun disappeared on the horizon, it was mostly very warm and we enjoyed the last rays of sunshine before retreating inside our mobile home.
We drove generously around the main town – Puerto de Rosario – on the west side of the island and until almost the northern end of Fuerteventura we were on lonely roads. This changed abruptly on the north coast and the waves not only attracted sun worshippers to the beach, but whole columns of vehicles with lashed surfboards moved back and forth along the coastal path, hoping to find the ultimate wave.
In Corralejo we immediately got the ferry ticket and boarded the booked ship in the late afternoon. We had received good tips for Lanzarote from friends and so we ventured on the late crossing in glorious weather.
The former fishing village of Playa Blanca is now a huge holiday town and almost the entire southern coastline is covered in concrete with white hotels, holiday resorts and houses. A little awkwardly, we first peered from the railing of the ferry as it entered the harbour and were thus a little late arriving down at the car deck, which already caused some nervousness among the ship’s crew.
Thanks to our information, we were able to leave Playa Blanca and head east to our overnight accommodation, which was in the park “Monumento Natural Los Ajaches”. In this park, according to our information, single overnight stays would be tolerated, as – like everywhere in the Canary Islands – there are no facilities for campers available anywhere.
The fact that we experienced a veritable rush hour of oncoming vehicles on the bumpy road on the way out to our campsite was no longer surprising. After all, the many holidaymakers have to get back to their accommodation. The next morning, the same traffic flow again, but only in the opposite direction, and a certain amount of competition for the best sunny spot on the sandy beach. And as already written, the whole thing is in a nature park!
In the morning, before we drove away from the beach, i.e. from our overnight stop, I briefly roamed the wonderful stretch of coast in the morning sunshine. Unfortunately, and this is probably not just a Spanish or Canarian problem: there is nothing at all for human needs! Small and big business is done somehow and somewhere behind a boulder or in the wild. Everywhere you find toilet paper or non-rotting wet wipes under the stones, or in some corners there is a strong smell of urine, as if you were standing in a badly maintained toilet.
For the time being, we drove towards the main town of Arrecife, where there is a jeep repair shop. The car’s electronics directed us to the workshop for an oil change, although we had done this before leaving Switzerland. Well, high-tech and travelling on devious routes sometimes take their toll. With my own diagnostic device, I was only able to reset the fault to a limited extent and it required the computer of the specialist garage. After all the indicator lights had finally gone dark again and the emergency driving mode had been cancelled, our jeep was back on track according to our wishes and nothing stood in the way of continuing our journey along the south-east and east coast.
To the north of the main town is a larger village that is completely dedicated to tourism, followed by smaller, manageable villages along the coast. In between, there is a vast, undeveloped landscape, as it was formed thousands of years ago and changed again by later volcanic eruptions. Away from the coast, in the hinterland, there are always small villages where all kinds of crops are cultivated in the fertile fields, usually with laborious manual labour. But even on these fields; without water, i.e. irrigation, nothing works and the fields would remain brown or black.
Before we arrived in the very north of Lanzarote, we met two travellers with whom we had to hold out for 25 days on a Greek beach during the first Corona lockdown. It goes without saying that we had a lot to talk about. The two of them also recommended wintering in the Canary Islands and provided us with countless tips and advice before continuing our journey, so that we could hardly get bored.
In the meantime, the weather phenomenon Calima occupied us more and more. Besides sandy air (which led to coughing and watery eyes), the east wind was noticeable all over the island and we always had the same problems with the strong gusts at our camps. At night, we often had to realign our jeep so that the pop-up roof faced the wind at the optimum angle. The nerve-racking fluttering of the side walls of the fabric awning often robbed us of sleep.
Since Lanzarote is relatively small, we often changed the side of the coast in the evening, looking for familiar places where we knew the wind was a little more bearable and allowed us to spend the night in the pop-up roof without always having the feeling that everything could fly away in the next gust of wind. It didn’t always work out and during two nights we hardly had any rest.
In 1730 there was the last crash on Lanzarote and a six-year volcanic activity changed the southwest extremely strongly, where many things from that time disappeared and affected large parts of the island. On the other hand, wonderful grape juices ripen on this new vuclan ash and tourists are driven through an extraordinary landscape in the core area of the eruption. You are only allowed to visit the Timanfaya National Park in a bus belonging to the national park administration and even hiking is forbidden, except for one route.
Perhaps we were a little too confident the following night and put our jeep too close to the park boundary. So the next morning we were expelled from the site by a ranger. He was absolutely right, but we had never experienced a ban in this way before; clearly and without ifs and buts!
In the meantime, after our zigzag course through Lanzarote, we were already back at the southern end, the first clouds covered the sun and the fresh north-east wind almost blew us towards the harbour. We quickly booked the ferry ticket for the crossing to Fuerteventura and hopped back to the next island.
Long live island hopping!
>Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator