Category Archives: Canary Islands.

FUERTEVENTURIA – Puerto del Rosario.

How to pass a day away.

I had a day to spare but was unable easily to get back up into the mountains so I decided on a leisurely day in town. Puerto del Rosario is the working capital of the Island and is based on its busy port. First impressions are of a self contained town with the locals going about there business away from the general tourist traffic. My hotel  http://www.hoteltamasite.com/ was a typical Spanish town centre option – basic and practical. Centrally situated, Spanish speaking staff, small room, noisy evenings, as a plus this hotel had a sun roof with views over the harbour. There are always bars around for breakfast and supper.

Hotel Tamasite – the blue one!

From my window I looked down onto a courtyard that had been blocked off – including an old ‘dormobile’ left in situ.

Spot the wreck.

After a wander down to the small TI office on the harbour in the morning I was armed with a street map of a sculpture trail. There are more than 50 installations created in the last decade or so as part of an International Sculpture Symposium held every year.  So off I went, on the sea front the sculptures had a marine theme – shells and fishermen, in the streets above local characters, abstract objects and goats. The number of goat statues was puzzling until I read that the town was formally called Puerto de Cabras [goats] until it was thought in 1957 the new name [rosary] was more attractive. Several of the installations were on roundabouts making photography dangerous.  I called in at the museum based on the house where philosopher Miguel de Unamuno lived while in exile in 1924, I’d seen his statue in the hills yesterday. Next door was the simple Señora del Rosario church and that was it for tourism here. I regret not seeing the massive barracks of the Foreign Lesion which was moved here in 1975 and apparently are still used on a smaller scale.

I only had my phone for the poor quality pictures.

Unamuno outside his house.

Senora del Rosario Church.

According to a well known review site two of the better restaurants on the Island are within a short distance of my hotel so I chose one for lunch. La Jaira de Demain lies up a side street above the harbour and is simply decorated with an outside terrace. I went for the menu – octopus and squid vinaigrette starter and than hake with mojo sauce for the main. Plus a sweet and wine 12euros.  Beautifully presented and delicious.

Needed a lie down on Playa Chico, the town’s beach, before my afternoon swim.

Later in the evening popped round the corner to El Bounty del Muella another small restaurant. Run by Italians the menu is Mediterranean/Canarian and is a little bit over the top presentation wise, I don’t like slate slabs to dine off. I chose ‘catch of the day’  grilled vieja [parrot fish] which was exceptionally tasty, an expensive end to my short stay on Fuerteventura.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Tefia – Betancuria.

Our conversation at breakfast was a strange mixture of Italian/French/English/Spanish, seemed to work. The resident hens provided superb fresh scrambled eggs for breakfast and the ginger kitten wanted to come with me. A detour around an observatory had me back on route. The Canary Islands are famous for their star gazing opportunities and observatories, it would have been good to spend time in this one. A prominent windmill was my next point, this one having originally six sails where  most have four. An information board here told of las parcelas – plots of land given to settlers last century and now mostly abandoned. The photo from yesterday showed the modern version of ‘parcelas’ distribution. Full circle.

The next stage was desolate barren land, I could see why a trail shelter I passed would be useful. The rolling hills to the north looked beautiful though and little rural houses reminded me of Tunisia which I used to visit often, how times have changed there! Further on, approaching a town identical unimaginative modern properties built on parcels of land lining the road. Each had its own barking dog tethered to a kennel, there must be a good business in prefabricated kennels. The village of Llanos de la Concepcion had nothing to offer apart from an 18th century chapel so I pushed on to Valle de Sante Ines where there was a very welcoming roadside shop/bar run by a delightful lady who provided lunch on the terrace watching the world go by.  The world consisted of the occasional local popping into the shop for a minor item and on the road a steady stream of cycling clubs powering through. When I arrived the music was Spanish but subtlety changed to a Rod Stewart rock album whilst I dined – nice touch señora, hasta luego.

Trail signage to the extreme.

Never identified this common ground succulent.

 

African atmosphere.

Modern ‘parcelas’

Convoluted lanes eventually led me out of town into a fertile valley heading to the hills where yesterday’s storms had been raging. Height was gained on roads then suddenly the GR went off at right angles onto  a paved path straight into the hills. A fairly direct ascent took me towards Coral de Guize at 588m, human statues on the pass seemed to be belittling  my slow upward progress. On arrival at the windy pass I fell into conversation with a German cyclist with tales of yesterday’s floods and the wonderful winter training opportunities. We collaborated with photos emphasing the scale of the statues, indigenous Guanche chieftains from the Island’s past.

An ancient path led down into Betancuria whilst the road wound its modern way down on the other side of the valley. Betancuria was at one time capital of the Island and is dominated by its church. Little lanes run everywhere, Little cafes serve coffee. I had been unable to find accommodation here prior to leaving UK and was due to catch the last bus out at 4.30 to Puerto del Rosario. This gave me time to inquire about Tomas who has rooms in town. The first cafe I went into knew him, phoned him  and arranged for me to meet him. His apartments were not easy to find but having done so I obtained contact details for a subsequent visit, all very useful. On the bus out were two ladies who had forsaken their all inclusive holiday in Fuste to experience inland villages off the tourist trail – good on them and I hope they made it back for happy hour. I was happy with my simple hotel at the heart of Puerto del Rosario overlooking the harbour.

A hazy Betancuria down valley.

 

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. La Oliva – Tefia.

The number 8 guagua dropped me off at 9.30am with nothing much stirring in the village. The only sign of life were a few fancy dress stragglers on the bus returning home after a night’s carnivalling on the coast. A track left the village past a strange modern building and then a small chapel and monastery heading for the fine peak of Mt. Tindaya. This mountain was considered sacred by the indigenous people, looking at the picture taken from the chapel there are some ominous black clouds ahead. The ground is barren to say the least and again there is virtually nothing for the odd homestead to survive on. A board offers ‘parcelas’ of land for sale an echo of the schemes in the 40’s to try and attract farmers onto nearby land, each family was given a house, 2hectares and 56 pesetas towards equipment. Few remain.

Mt. Tindaya.

Arriving suddenly into the outskirts of the village of Tindaya a coffee was enjoyed in a little cafe bar, Los Podomorfos. Further in a shop provided some food and drink for an al fresco lunch and I didn’t visit the noisy bar. Sat outside the shop on a wall I was amazed at the number of cars that pulled up for a quick small purchase, the village seemed to be more roads than houses but a lot of people must live in the environs. Enclosures on the outskirts were full of untended Prickly Pears. These were originally introduced as an impenetrable spiny plot boundary and for there edible fruits. In the 19th century they became a source of income derived from the Cochineal beetle living on them and producing a red dye, now superseded by synthetic dyes  – hence the number of abandoned plots in this area. Human ingenuity always astounds me. Hoopoes were skipping about in the fields.

Ahead was a vast empty plain with a range of volcanoes to the SE, worryingly the sky had turned even blacker and rumblings were coming from those hills. On my right above was a statue of Don Miguel de Unamuno a Spanish philosopher exiled because of his political views to Fuerteventura in 1924 – there is a museum in his house in Puerto Rosario which I hope to visit. I don’t know why this statue is here of all places. Moving on the storm worsened, I was on the very edge of it with the occasional dollop of rain as the thunder and lightening raged on. A garden centre appeared with an unusual planter.

I was hoping to get to Tefia before being soaked and I did but the bar was permanently closed so a bus shelter was my refuge for half an hour. The village was deserted, a familiar statement, as I continued past an hermitage and made for an eco-museum on the outskirts. I had booked a remote villa for the night and they had asked me to phone from the museum where they would pick me up. That is always a worrying scenario for backpackers – you are losing control. There was no shelter at the museum, which consisted of an interesting group of buildings representing rural life in the last century, but the storm stayed in the mountains. My hosts eventually arrived with tales of severe flooding in other areas of the island. Their small villa was indeed remote, two Italian guys who had bought a ruin and were in the process of trying to  build a tourist business. First they need to sort out their location info as nobody would find them at present. Great boutique rooms and lovely food in an idyllic setting, if you like remoteness, made for an enjoyable stay and it turned out the GR131 was only a few 100m away.                  [ Villa Cecilio. ]

Hermitage San Augustin, Tefia.

Little shelter.

Museum…

… my accommodation, little difference.

The house kitten.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Lajares – La Oliva.

Across the road from the bus stop was a surfing shop highlighting the need to clean up our beaches, complete with a striking installation being made up of beach detritus. Lajares despite being well inland seems to have become a surfing centre with lots of related shops and schools.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picking up the GR markings I followed a tarmac lane out of town passing housing, this became a dirt track passing more scattered modern properties with cactus gardens, then became a narrower path running between walls reminiscent of The Dales. Abandoned fields still had the occasional fig tree growing inside its own protective wall. There were clumps of wheat scattered in the rocky ground, no doubt seeding itself over the years since last grown here. One certainly had the feeling of walking through an abandoned subsistence landscape.

Walled lanes and fields under M. Arena.

I was slowly gaining height on the slopes of the prominent Mt. Arena with views back to scattered Lajares and yesterday’s volcano walk. At the pass I came across my first trail shelter built to provide the GR walker with wind and sun protection in this harsh landscape. Up here the lava has a green lichenous covering which in the past was collected for dye production.

Back to Lajares and volcanoes.

From here La Oliva was spotted down in the valley whilst more volcanic ranges stretched out to the south.  A Chiffchaff caught my attention high in an Agave plant. On a hill ahead were two prominent windmills used previously for grinding grain. As I descended the usual collection of put together buildings with associated yapping dogs were passed, there only purpose seemingly a few goats or hens. La Oliva itself has a smart central square with its church and muscular tower.

La Olivia with M Muda behind and the shapely Tindaya to the right.

There are shops and bars and importantly a bus back to Corralejo for a late lunch and a swim. These short days are suiting me.

The locals’ beach, Corralejo.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Corralejo – Lajares.

Getting out of Corralejo seemed complicated, bits of waste land, a deserted failed development with nothing built but roads, signs and lighting and eventually a dirt track heading into the hills. The GR131 waymarking was now frequent making me think I’d come the wrong way at the start.

Looking back to Corralejo and Isla Lobos.

The way to Lajares crosses a vast area of lava known as Malpais of Bayuyo – badlands – between volcanic cones. There were a few habitations with a few goats. A natural gas cave was seen on the right and was bizarrely being visited by a man wearing a thong accompanied by a normally dressed lady, I kept a safe distance.

Don’t click.

On the left was a caldera on the flanks of Bayuyo, ahead however was a more prominent volcano,  Calderon Hondo 248m, and this became my objective despite being off route – it was asking to be climbed. A track led to it and a steep ascent reached the crater which provided a pleasant circuit. This seemed a popular venue, a land rover track giving easy access for tours, and lots of people were taking selfies against the 100m crater. The ash cone showed fantastic laval bandings. The rocks provided some footing for low plants and mountain goats were running around up here. Extensive views over the malpias below with occasional old enclosed agricultural areas with Corralejo and Lobos Isla behind and Lanzarote just across the channel. People were bending over taking pictures of the hungry and cheeky Barbary Ground Squirrels. This species was introduced from Africa, only a 100k to the east, in 1965 [why?] and has proved a good source of food for the frequent Buzzards.   Ravens were flying past in raucous cry. At the back of my mind was the film of Mt. Etna erupting last week, but surely this volcano is completely dormant…?

Calderon Hondo.

Distant Lanzarote.

I dropped out of the wind for a lunch of bread and tomatoes, don’t these fresh local tomatoes taste great. A camel train passed me carrying tourists and further down the mountain I came across their base. My path was well constructed through the lava fields to make easy walking and soon I was heading down a track into Lajares and rejoining the GR131. A cafe was open and served good coffee, while I was there it was inundated by a posse of 4×4’s depositing tourists on an adventure trip. Time to find my little bus stop for the number 8 guagua back to town.

Path to Lajares

Reliable bus service?

Hint – I’m glad I searched out the Kompass 1:50,000 map to replace the Discovery 1:100,000 which would have been inadequate for navigating. The signage and waymarking however are superb.

FUERTEVENTURA GR 131. Isla de Lobos.

I’m stood at the lighthouse on the northern end of the island of Lobos, just across the sea is Lanzarote where my journey on the GR131 through the Canary Islands began a couple of years ago. To reach here I’ve flown from Manchester, in the company of five lovely scouse sisters on a jolly; caught the bus to the surfing centre of Corralejo, booked into a great apartment; crossed the sea on a glass-bottomed boat and walked 5k up the eastern side of the tiny Lobos island.  A familiar sight of a wooden GR131 way post has me started on this next stretch. The weather is perfect and the walking an easy 6k stroll back to the jetty – what a way to start a short holiday.

The lighthouse was opened in 1865, originally powered by olive oil giving a red light. From 1883 a lamp ran on paraffin, and then in 1923 acetylene.  A system of solar panels and batteries now provide the power for a halogen lamp and when the lighthouse was automated in the 1960s the keeper and his family were the last to leave the island. The only temporary residents now are conservation staff and a few fishermen. At the southern end of the island are a few ‘huts’ all that is left of the village of El Puertilo above its tiny natural harbour. Here there is a small restaurant which, when I arrived, was being restocked from the ferry by wheelbarrow.

Stocking the Island.

El Puerlito.

Faro de Lobos.

Lobos is of course volcanic, last activity 10,000 yrs ago, magma frozen in time. A nature reserve where one is allowed to follow a few delineated tracks. I had read of rare birds – petrels, shearwaters and osprey but all I saw were a few gulls. The flora was easier to observe, if not identify.

Following the GR131 back across the island I passed the base of a volcanic cone but time was short [there will be plenty more] and I opted instead for a swim off the Playa de la Caldera. There was time however to visit the salinas, evaporating pools for salt extraction which were not apparently ever used.

Salinas and caldera.

Playa.

The sea was calm for the short trip back to Corralejo. My apartment block turns out to be tops – lovely warm swimming pool to relax in, studio room with sea view and kitchenette. A cheap supermarket round the corner sorted out my meals for the next few nights.  The room rules included “no board in the room” I thought to start with food not allowed until I realised they meant obviously no surfboard.                   http://www.surfingcolors.com/

 

Whats to come –

 

TENERIFE GR131. La Laguna – Santa Cruz.

The final chapter, another easy day that wasn’t.

dsc04564

The tram took us back up to La Laguna and that was the easy bit. We walked up the nearest hill, good view back to La Laguna, but our way from there looked awkward so we dropped down to the road again and picked up the ‘correct’ lane further on.  Higher up we met a Dutch couple who seemed to be in completely the wrong place, they were using an alternative Kompass map which didn’t seem much better than ours. As we climbed the lane numerous runners in various states of exhaustion were pounding down. Obviously some sort of training run was in progress and the only person to stop and chat said they had already done 20k on a circuit from La Laguna. Higher up a farmer tending his frisky cattle gave us some indication of a route through to Santa Cruz.  At the highest point we rested whilst more runners came through. A track led off in the right direction through cacti and other prickly shrubs. All was going well and we met up with a  ‘Camino Lecheras’ which promised a continuing way. Research later has shown this was the route for transporting dairy products from La Laguna to Santa Cruz.                                                                                                                                                 This was quoted on one site – La vegetación predominante en esta zona es una variedad del cardonal tabaibal, abundando bejeques, balos, cornicales, faro, incienso, verode, cerrillo, mato risco, tederas, tasaigo, magarza, pitera, gomereta, jediondo, culantrillo y otras.                                                I think we must be missing something.                                                                                                        Anyhow we managed to loose that camino and took our own way down to the road at Valle Jimenez where we thought we had found our route. Crashing through undergrowth brought us onto a lane heading in the right direction. Then it was hopefully  back up a cleared path, Lamesa, seemed to be going somewhere but ran out at the upper road near some transmission stations. We were challenged by security as to what we doing but when we said walking to Santa Cruz our obvious stupidity allowed us through. The embarrassing thing was that we could soon be retracing our steps. At a view point we could see Santa Cruz and decided to make a break for it down ancient terracing. All went well and soon we were on a road which zigzagged all the way into town. We celebrated our completion, almost, with a beer in a cafe near the port.

Next morning we relaxed over breakfast and repacking. A stroll through town to the market and then the emblematic Auditorium, an arching concrete structure. Past the inviting ‘lido’ was the Palmetum where we spent  an hour marveling at the diversity of botany. Back to the bus station for lunch and the transfer to the airport.

Ficus sycomorus.

Ficus sycomorus.

Crinum Asiaticus.

Crinum Asiaticus.

 

Pandanus.

Pandanus.

 

Life is not always a bowl of cherries – the morning after at the bus station.

Snow on our local fell has not melted since our return.

So we walked almost coast to coast across Tenerife. The GR131 only existed between Arona and La Esperanza and was excellently waymarked. The bits we did at either end linking to the ports, surely the original idea of a route through the Canaries, were virtually nonexistent. With a little more research we could have found a better way through what is good walking territory, it was good fun trying. Can’t imagine the local authorities will get round to completing the route.

On to the next Island….