On Thursday, I caught the bus to the Spanish seaside town of Gran Tarajal on Fuerteventura’s east coast. I knew I was in for an adventure, the bus journey alone amounting to almost an hour of door to door scenery. I am a real sucker for scenery. Only, so many times on the journey I wanted the bus to pull over so I could take long lingering looks at the mountains with all of their curves and their jagged edges. To add to my frustration, the glorious views continued on both sides of the road so you never knew where best to turn your head and, since these are public buses, how to do so without drawing attention to yourself. The bus driver, it has to be said, was a touch reckless. He drove too fast, tailgated, overtook when it was scarcely safe to do so and threw the bus into curves. I was not the only passenger to find this alarming. When I arrived at my destination, a woman approached me and struck up a conversation about the bus ride. She was Spanish and thought I was too. I carried on replying to her without announcing I was English and not fully understanding her every word. The intuition comes in very handy in these situations. And we had a good laugh.
My host for the day was Kelly and when she appeared and interrupted us, I felt handed back to my own language. This was the first time we’d met and as we strolled through the town’s park, all beautiful green grass peppered with palm trees, we quickly discovered we had a raft of geographical connections. I warmed to Kelly immediately as a kindred soul without knowing why. I also warmed to Gran Tarajal, an authentic, Canarian town displaying oodles of civic pride.
The park soon gave way to the promenade and the beach and the ocean. These photos are not the best due to morning cloud, but you get the idea.
The promenade widens then narrows and widens again beside acres of fine dark sand. It is a promenade filled with seats and street plantings and demands of its walkers a slower pace, a stroll.
Gran Tarajal is wrapped around a bay. Looking up side streets is a reminder of how tucked in the town is, tucked in below cradling, steep-sided hills or small mountains whose arms reach out to form the headlands. The backdrop is far more impressive in real life.
I got the impression, confirmed by Kelly, that Gran Tarajal is a laid back, family-centred community of mostly Spanish workers. Here there’s another of the island’s murals.
And of course, more sculpture.
And here you can get a glimpse of how the 800 metre long beach is set up for activities of all kinds.
Kelly suggested we walked on past the port – all agricultural produce was once shipped from Gran Tarajal – to the marina and when there she spotted her friend Georgie, who lives on a boat with her partner and their three small children. The boat was in dry dock needing maintenance. Georgie came over and we chatted through the fence. After a while she invited us for coffee and we sat around beside her boat. I marvelled at what it took to live a life at sea, let alone with three children. I didn’t even know what an anchorage was, such is my knowledge of maritime existence, and I had it all explained to me and gained an image of a very different kind of lifestyle. Hours slipped by and the early cloud gave way to a brilliant blue sky.
Eventually, we pulled ourselves away from what was for me an enchanting and memorable experience.
We passed more sculpture on our way back to collect Kelly’s son from school. Kelly was keen to take me back to her place.
This time, we walked through the town’s streets and arrived at the seahorse fountain.
We collected Kelly’s son – memories of doing the same stirred as we stood waiting in the playground for him – then enjoyed a superb lunch at Kelly’s and a rich conversation with her and her partner Dean. It was then I discovered the deeper connection we shared. The couple are creating a sustainable lifestyle here on Fuerteventura, with off-grid solar, grey-water irrigation, trash-mulching and more. In about a year they have transformed their block with extensive vegetable gardens and orchards. When all the baby trees grow they will have an oasis. And they are smart, too. Their block is on a slope, descending to a natural flat-bottomed waterless dam. Their aim is to harvest as much water from that natural dam as they are able. Having created my own sustainable lifestyle in Australia, I resonated strongly.
I didn’t take photos of Kelly’s place; there’s always people’s privacy to consider. Just let it be known there are all kinds of people living on Fuerteventura doing amazing things. I was buoyed by this knowledge all the way back to Puerto del Rosario on the bus. This time I took the coastal route for more epic scenery, although I suspect I scored the same maverick bus driver!
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Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of three novels set in Fuerteventura: Clarissa’s Warning, A Prison in the Sun and The Ghost of Villa Winter which form part of her Canary Islands fiction. To find out more, click here.