I’m sitting at my desk all rugged up on a cold and sunny day. I’m a British-Australian living down under, and if you drove a spike through the centre of the earth from my place you would just about end up in the Canary Islands. Which is where I want to be. And can’t be.
It’s a pretty weird feeling looking back a year or so to when I was last in Fuerteventura. That was when I looked around and decided that the Canary Islands were definitely where I wanted to live again, having lived in Lanzarote in the 1980s.
My last visit to Fuerteventura was February 2020. Brexit loomed large. Coronavirus was not yet a thing. With joy in my heart and a lot of fear, I hopped on the plane back to Oz in early March thinking I was about to sell my house, pack up my things and relocate in time to beat the Brexit deadline. I even gave a lawyer power of attorney so she could act on my behalf to buy a house.
Then, everything changed. Two weeks later, Australia became a fortress. Covid went viral. Even if I managed to beg my way out of the country, I couldn’t take the risk.
Which means I am now in the same position as tons of others who yearn to be where they cannot be, except that I am so so far away.
To bring myself closer, I am blogging. It’s a way of staying connected. Until, well, maybe one day…
I took this photo in that February of 2020. Just look at that incline! I was renting an apartment up that hill. I’d gone down to the port as I was looking at buying a flat nearby.
I was drawn to the area because one of the few locations that 19th century travel writer Olivia Stone stayed in is nearby. Back then, the building was a hotel. Now it’s a ruin.
Olivia Stone came on a tour of the Canary Islands with her husband in the 1880s. Her travel diary Tenerife and Its Six Satellites is well worth a read. I dip into it from time to time. It’s like entering an alternate universe. You know the places mentioned, you can feel the same heat, the wind, the sun on your face, but back then Fuerteventura was nothing at all like it is now.
These two volumes are a vital historical document. Olivia Stone documented the traditional ways of the islands. The section on Fuerteventura opens with a description of Corralejo as a collection of small fishermen’s huts. Here’s what she says about Puerto del Rosario, then Puerto Cabras:
Puerto Cabras is officially, but not really, the principal town of Fuerteventura. Several towns in the interior are larger and more important. It is, however, the only port, and hence its priority. The anchorage is not good, and the roadstead wide and open. The little village is built on the most hilly part of the shore, and so steep are its streets, that there is scarcely a house that not a view of the sea. The streets are very broad, grass-grown, and deserted; the houses are low, a few being two-storied, but are mostly in cottage style. They are neatly built. What vegetation there is being confined to the patios is consequently invisible, still further helping to give the dead appearance. A cannon-ball fired up a street would hurt no one.Tenerife and its Six Satellites Vol II, p 354.
What a vivid image! It really makes you realise the changes that have taken place on the islands in the last 130 years or so. Olivia Stone’s Puerto Cabras is a far cry from the Puerto del Rosario I encountered last year.
I think the modern version is charming. Maybe I look through rose-coloured glasses but as I sit here trying to stay warm at my desk, another memory floats in. It’s of the woman standing behind me in the checkout queue in the Hiperdino supermarket on Calle Isla Graciosa in the last week of my stay. The way she broke out in conversation in Spanish assuming I could understand her, with my mind racing to assimilate her words and form replies. There we stood with her chatting and laughing and me floundering for the gist. I did well enough because she kept nudging my arm and chatting some more.
And I beamed inwardly all the way back to my flat.
How long it will be before Fortress Australia opens its borders and I can at least visit my favourite little islands is anyone’s guess. I can guarantee that all of you Brits will get there before me.
Keep safe. Go well!
follow this site to follow my blog