Flying from the Gold Coast to Fuerteventura to arrive at the equivalent latitude in the north is a journey not to be sniffed at. It took 44 hours of travelling door to door, involving an airport shuttle, four planes, a lift in a car, a ferry and another lift in a car. Those car journeys were originally going to be buses; I was saved that ordeal by generous friends.
It’s February, and the land is dry. This is my first visit in four years and this time, I am not staying in my old home of Lanzarote, but heading straight to Fuerteventura. I could have flown direct after an unexpected change of initial destination, but I am glad I didn’t. It was nice just to say hello and soak in the atmosphere of the mountains on Lanzarote.
I had lunch in a cafe in Yaiza and seated below the artworks are other diners. There is something mesmerising about the barren landscape and I love the way the island makes a big effort to present itself well to tourists. It needs to. There’s a competitive world out there.
And then, with the sun low in the western sky, I headed to Fuerteventura on the ferry, crossing the sapphire water. What a charming introduction to this desert landscape. The shapes of the volcanoes and ranges, the creamy pale browns of the earth; it was as though the island was saying welcome. As the ferry approached Corralejo, I took in the sprawling development of this once tiny fishing village and understood why many here want some sort of reversal of the thoughtless development that has been taking place. As my new friends drove me down to the capital Puerto del Rosario where I am spending the next month, they explained that the road cutting through the sand dunes would soon be closed permanently to all traffic to protect the environment. Seeing a long row of cars parked up on the sand, and the occupants wandering around over the dunes like ants, I thought it about time things like this started happening. There are ways to corral humans and stop them wandering all over the place.
As we drove on, my gaze was drawn by the sapphire and turquoise water on this island of beaches, and also by the mountains. It is a natural landscape that in many ways would benefit from an absence of occupants. But humanity is what it is and the local economy needs to flourish somehow.
What has struck me most so far on the first hours of my trip is the hospitality. The people here are overwhelmingly polite and generous and friendly. They endure my broken Spanish with delight and help me to speak better. They exude genuine warmth that makes me feel at home. The owner of my apartment – which is spacious, clean and well presented – was here to greet me and show me around. A glowing 5 star review guaranteed! I slept well in a very comfortable bed, and I find I don’t mind the various noises coming from the other apartments and from the street and the little park below in this my inner city location. There is something warming hearing Spanish everywhere.
Here is an example of Puerto del Rosario’s famous murals.
As I wait for another friend to arrive, I penned this by way of capturing my first impressions. It’s winter. The day is set to reach 21 Celsius. The sunlight of this special latitude of 28-29 degrees is perfect and nourishing somehow. No wonder people from Europe come here for their holidays. No wonder they come here to live as well…
I’m here to write a novel. My third set on the island and my fifth in my Canary Islands collection. Although, I am too tired to make a start today…
I ended up doing this…
…with this wonderful man and local artist and photographer JF Olivares who I have been waiting to meet for over three years.
Suffice to say my photos cannot do justice to the scale, the atmosphere and the incredible silence of the island away from the tourists. We talked and talked and my head bursts with fresh knowledge of the special culture of the indigenous people, the dark history of the Spanish overlords, and the lack of will of modern day governments at all levels to preserve the integrity of Fuerteventura and value it as so much more than a lot of dry dirt to be built on so that more and more can dip their toes in the ocean.
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 two novels set in Fuerteventura: Clarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.