A short walk around Puerto del Rosario Fuerteventura

Playa Chica or Los Pozos

Feeling energetic this morning, I set off for Playa Chica, the lovely beach in the Los Pozos quarter of Puerto del Rosario. It was about 10am and the cool northerly wind aside – which had caused locals to don jumpers, jackets and even scarves – the day was glorious. The first evidence that it would be a different sort of day to when I last had a ramble about town was when I passed a few stout elderly couples with backpacks, obviously not knowing where they were going.

The pavements were definitely not my own. There were more of them as I neared the central square. Then, a swarm exited the side door of the Our Lady of the Rosary church. Last time, although the church had been open, I did not enter as it was almost empty and I had no idea if the two women inside were worshipping. It seemed wrong to barge on in. This time, since it was so obviously overrun, I went in and sat on a pew.

Our Lady of the Rosary Church

I tried to imagine what it would be like as a place of worship with its vaulted ceiling and huge wooden doors, and its modest if absorbing altarpiece, but there were too many tourists to get any sort of spiritual vibe. I didn’t linger long. I was thinking since it was Carnaval, maybe a lot of holidaymakers had arrived.

I headed off down past the town hall, skirting a party of cyclists, none of whom looked all that cycle-fit, and it was then I saw why there were so many tourists. Two cruise ships were docked in the little port.

Puerto del Rosario

Floating hotels. And they really are imposing. The entire promenade beside the ocean was filled with ramblers. It was not possible to walk in a straight line. I was a little disappointed to see the dedicated cruise ship market, located on the opposite side of the road, only had a smattering of stalls and many of the slots were empty. Seemed to me either a missed opportunity or the cruisers were not known for spending their cash. Something I have noted here on the island is a real lack of tourist bric-a-brac. I have not seen markets filled with artesans selling their wares. Maybe I’m missing something. I’m used to Lanzarote, where they even sell the pebbles off the beach, crafted into jewellery.

I kept walking, dodging, pressing on, hoping locals did not assume I was one of the cruiser pack. Although looking at me, it would have been a fair assumption. I do not resemble the majoreros at all.

Ahead was the beach, which I decided on the spot was my beach, having been there once before when it was completely empty, and those others had no right to it. Only…

Playa Chica

They had every right to it, of course they did.

Some guys in a van were setting up music so I sat and listened to Canary Island tunes, caught a little sun and enjoyed the view of the rather grand Palacio de Formación y Congresos de Fuerteventura – that big dark-grey building in the photo above – and the distant mountains, and I marvelled at this wonderful unassuming little city of Puerto del Rosario. I even took a selfie, replete with the ship.

I didn’t hang around long. I headed up to Las Rotondas, where I visited a bookstore to discover what I already knew. There is no place here for my books. No easy spot for them. I would have to make that happen and I think it would be quite hard. Just because an author writes about a place does not mean that place will embrace the works. Depends.

Wall Art in Puerto del Rosario

I kept walking, back to the church and on up , and I mean up Calle Juan de Bethencourt, all the way up to the cafe Gaynor and Paul introduced me to, a German cafe selling wonderful rich bread and some of the best coffee in town. Of course, you can rely on me not to take food photos, so here is another mural to finish off. The street art here is fantastic and all part of why this little city has become my ideal place to live. It has everything I could wish for. It makes me feel I have entered a Graham Greene novel. And I do admire Graham Greene.

Street art Puerto del Rosario

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You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

 

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 FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

 

Discovering Fuerteventura – From El Cotillo to Tefia

A Brief Spell in Corralejo

The northern end of the mountainous island of Fuerteventura contains the sprawling metropolis of Corralejo situated on the eastern corner, a tourist town that has completely obliterated the once quaint fishing village and small port receiving boats from Lanzarote. I took no photos in the short time I was there. Unlike Puerto del Rosario, which is vibrant and exudes civic pride, Corralejo held no appeal that day. I guess I remembered it as it was and couldn’t come to terms with how it is now. Perhaps on a different day I’ll change my mind. Has been known! My companion and tour guide Paul, who had business in the town, led me across numerous small plazas and down many backstreets. I found it hard to gain a sense of the spirit of the place. We did enjoy lunch in a French cafe which was very good.

Heading to El Cotillo

I was pleased when we headed west to El Cotillo.

We passed through La Oliva, which has retained its charm despite the new housing development, and has an open, welcoming feel. The old church is impressive. 

This trip was all about open country. The foreground is rarely anything to speak of. The ground is dry, rocky and inhospitable. This is an island of low mountains and they loom everywhere and are truly magnificent, appearing much closer and higher than in a photo. No matter where you go on the island, there are always the mountains and the volcanoes to draw the eye. Yet always, too, the power lines. Pity the government has no plans to put them underground. When you are driving and looking, you ignore them, but when you take a photo, there they are.

El Cotillo on the western corner of the island is exactly as I imagined it. The little harbour, the low cliffs trailing off into the distance, there is so much here to please the eye. Boats entering the harbour navigate through that passage in the second photo.

El Cotillo

Although when we headed back through the town I was again disappointed to see too much development and nowhere near enough streetscaping and civic infrastructure to tie things together. I have to keep reminding myself that this tourism boom is very recent, only in the last few decades, and that before, Fuerteventura was the Canary Islands’ poor relation, a backwater place with a tiny population. It is a massive leap to get from those circumstances to the current ones, demanding a lot from town planners. Fuerteventura lacks the influence of artist and ecologist César Manrique who prevented aesthetically unpleasing development on Lanzarote by getting certain rules written into law. Construction is hard to undo and the consequences on Fuerteventura are evident everywhere.

The reefs that make El Cotillo so special, creating swimming pools sheltered from the strong Atlantic waves, are unspoilt.

El Cotillo

Visiting Dark Times in Tefía at El Albergue – the Hostel that was once a Concentration Camp for Gay Men

The journey inland from El Cotillo past Montaña de Tindaya features a remoter part of the island, and up through the backroads I gained a sense of how things would have been elsewhere, in the past. I had driven up this road before. I knew where I was heading. Last time, in 1990, I had no idea, and as my then boyfriend drove through Tefía, I didn’t realise the gay prison he had been telling me about many times as though it signified the pinnacle of Fuerteventura’s dark past was right there only a hundred metres or so off the main road. Last year, A Prison in the Sun, my novel depicting conditions in this concentration camp, was published and I felt I had to come to the island and pay my respects to those men.

Of course, the prison cells are impossible to see from the road. They were built in a dip in the terrain and the land below the cells’ back walls falls away into a deep barranco. I had seen a YouTube video of these three prison cells each housing about 12 men, but to get close and see them for myself was a whole different matter.

Tefía is a windswept plain. I saw the arduous walk the prisoners had to make each Sunday to reach the church in Casillas del Angel.

I wanted to visit the cells but the compound, now a youth centre, had something on and while we were able to pull up in the carpark, I wasn’t comfortable traipsing down the hill. I felt we were trespassing.

Concentration camp for gay men Tefia Fuerteventura

All that passers-by can see from the road is this windmill which sits all proud and lonely on the wild windy plain as though it has no secret to behold.

Windmill Tefia Fuerteventura

Join my Facebook group to keep up to date with my Canary Islands writing

You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

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 FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

A Lazy Day in Las Playitas, Fuerteventura

Enjoying Antigua

I had no idea what sort of day I would be having when friends Gaynor and Paul invited me to lunch in Las Playitas, a tiny village on Fuerteventura’s east coast, a little north of Gran Tarajal. Mid-morning, we set off from Puerto del Rosario, taking an inland route to pick up another friend who was celebrating her birthday. First, we took coffee in Antigua. We were too late to enter the church but I was pleased to find the day clear and crisp for photos. Antigua is a charming village and easily my favourite on the island.

Antigua Fuerteventura

A Brief Moment in Tiscamanita

Later, as we drove through Tiscamanita, I asked for a short detour down a side street so I could see for myself the block on land where my character Claire restored an old ruin. I found the spot exactly as I’d imagined, only there was a lot of new development opposite. This is the view from Claire’s imaginary house in Clarissa’s Warning.

Tiscamanita Fuerteventura

From there we headed straight to the coast. As ever, I was enchanted with the mountains, the wonderful scenery we passed. We were on the plain heading to a beach so I had no fear that we would be traversing any narrow roads snaking up mountainsides.

I was wrong.

A Detour to Faro de la Entallada

Gaynor wanted to visit the lighthouse. I, naturally, did not. But I knew it would be lovely up there and if I could manage to avoid looking at the sheer drop, avoid noting the lack of crash barriers, avoid picturing inordinately wide vehicles approaching and forcing us over the edge, I’d make it without succumbing to full-blown panic.

This is why there are no photos of the ascent. And why my photos of the view from the lighthouse are somewhat constrained. The others, of course, trotted off to the edge of the parking area and disappeared down a path.

I found out afterwards that the elevation is only 196 metres and I have stood on cliffs much higher. Maybe it is ageing increasing my fear of heights. But I am determined to at least partially conquer this fear. I don’t want to miss out on all the tremendous views from up high.

Faro de la Entallada was built in 1955 in Moorish style out of stone from the island village of Tetir. The brown ochre and white mortar make for a pleasing mottled effect. The lighthouse is the third highest in the Canary Islands and is the closest point to Africa.

Faro de la Entallada

This is where the others went, down this path, Gaynor no doubt hanging upside down off the railings at the end. She was rapt!

Arriving at Las Playitas

With Gaynor’s help and Paul’s excellent driving, I managed the descent without enduring too much terror and we were at last heading to Las Playitas where we enjoyed a sumptuous lunch of grilled fish and tapas. I love the way the houses are cut into the hillside. The one with the arched blue doors looks like it’s for sale.

More sculpture for visitors and locals to enjoy.

Las Playitas
Las Playitas

 

The water was pristine. I headed up a short quay…

and took some photos looking back at Las Playitas with its jumble of cuboid dwellings.

I think the food, the wine and the great company made me forget the all important food photo. So I pinched a photo of a plate of grilled fish off the internet for the sake of completion.

There is everything to love about this island, especially in the winter months when the days are cooler. Laid back and tranquil and very friendly.

(note my photos have not been colour enhanced – they are just holiday snaps):

Join my Facebook group to keep up to date with my Canary Islands writing

You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

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 FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

Responding to the Fires

It is now three weeks after a devastating bushfire tore through my old home town Cobargo, part of a fire apocalypse that has razed an area of Australia about the size of England. Fires in various locations in Australia are still burning. The fire season is far from over. Used to be called summer. These fires have come off the back of the hottest decade on record on Earth and the second-hottest year ever recorded. In terms of scale and intensity, and duration and frequency, these fires are unprecedented and primarily caused by the insane heat and the relentless drought and the kiln-dry winds.

In the last three weeks I have read countless articles on climate change, on the politics of climate change, and on Australia’s do-nothing while pretending to do something government skirting the climate change emergency. And I have hoped. I have hoped not for a transformation in Australian politics since both major parties are actively pro-coal. But I’ve hoped that the fires would catalyse radical change elsewhere. That governments faced up to their responsibilities. That the citizenry of those countries became roused into action and demanded that those responsibilities will be met. That people everywhere re-assess, and particularly those with large footprints. (In order not to appear a hypocrite, I checked out my own footprint and breathed a sigh of relief when I found it only takes one planet to support me. Only. I could do better and will endeavour to do so. Meanwhile I will carry on with a clear enough conscience helping to raise awareness.)

I had to hope in this fashion. I had no choice. Despite the groundswell of aware and switched on people in Australia, despite an enormous number of folk doing something to make a difference, we are hampered by the great weight of retrograde action and policy from on high. The only way this country’s government will change its shameful attitude is if it is shamed into doing so by other nations.

Therefore, it was heartening to hear that Greta Thunberg has vied for dominance with Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos. That she has a new weapon in her armoury; she can refer to the Australian fires. That she is far from alone in being a young climate activist and many others are gaining attention and taking to the world stage. Young people have plenty of energy and plenty to fight for. I stand in solidarity.

And today, when I read the newly elected Spanish government has stepped up to the challenge, declared a climate emergency and announced some targets I welled up. https://apnews.com/1e946085841af1e942659d4154d75d03

I know Spain has been suffering from a climate changed reality too. They have endured vicious heat waves and droughts and wildfires and storms. But it was this photo that really got me.

Thanks to the Greta Thunbergs and the Spains of the world I can hope a little. I can hope that the hideous deaths by fire of my acquaintances in Cobargo and all those other human lives lost, that the destruction of homes and livelihoods, that the unconscionable annihilation of over a billion animals, that all that can mean something, can invoke change. Because if this apocalypse does not foster a massive scaling back on CO2 emissions, then nothing will, until the next apocalypse. By then, will it be too late?

 

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 The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Book Trailer: A Prison in the Sun

I’m delighted to share this book trailer for a Prison in the Sun, created by PR Manager and author Henry Roi.

http://mybook.to/prisonsun

“After millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore rents an old farmhouse in Fuerteventura, he moves in to find his muse.

Instead, he discovers a rucksack filled with cash. Who does it belong to – and should he hand it in… or keep it?

Struggling to make up his mind, Trevor unravels the harrowing true story of a little-known concentration camp that incarcerated gay men in the 1950s and 60s.”

Read more about my novel here – https://isobelblackthorn.com/canary-islands-novels/a-prison-in-the-sun/

Isobel Blackthorn is the author of a Canary Islands Mystery series, including A Matter of LatitudeClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the SunThe Drago Tree serves as a prequel. Find her author page and easy access to her writing here author.to/IsobelBlackthorn

Behind the Story: A Prison in the Sun (Canary Islands Mysteries Book 3)

When I was first told that a prison incarcerating gay men during General Franco’s regime in Spain, I was a foolish twenty-seven year old with aspirations of becoming a writer and not a clue how to go about it. The year was 1989. Back then, the true story of the prison was a dark secret whispered among locals and no one else. The Canary Islands government was silent.

It took me almost thirty years to feel equipped to tell this story. By then I was living in Australia, I had three novels set in the Canary Islands and I knew I needed to write a fourth. I felt torn as I also wanted to produce something literary, a work set entirely in the Canary Islands in the 1950s. Trouble for me was I no longer lived there, I was not born there, my Spanish was adequate but by no means sufficient to chat with locals, and above all, I am not male and I am not gay. I am also not rich! The research needed for such a literary approach would have cost many thousands in travel and accommodation. Twice I applied for funding but was unsuccessful. So I resigned myself to the notion of positioning the novel alongside the two mysteries I had already written, knowing that approach would constrain the way A Prison in the Sun could be told.

The prison cells at La Colonia Agrícola Penitenciaria de Tefía, Fuerteventura, Canary Islands, Spain

I felt apprehensive. I had a lot of conversations with numerous respected authors and publishers. There was talk of the inappropriateness or lack of my fitness for the task, being neither male, gay nor from the islands. Lionel Shriver was mentioned along with political correctness. Most encouraged me, championing my efforts and bravery. I took this very idea of appropriateness and also of contemporary conversations around sexual preference and created a conflicted character, millennial ghostwriter Trevor Moore. I decided I would have him tell the story of the prison. After all, he wants to write a novel with his name on the cover for once, and there is the small matter of his ghostwriting gigs winning prizes for other writers. I had so much fun being Trevor. Best of all, I popped him in a holiday let which was a house I was poised to buy back in 2017. The only reason I didn’t was the owners took it off the market. I think they did me a favour, as you will find out if you read the book.

Screenshot taken from documentary La Memoria Silenciada Tefía – Twelve men crammed in a barn.

As for the prison in Tefía, Fuerteventura – or rather concentration camp for that is what it was – I spent many many hours brushing up my Spanish so that I could read newspaper articles, blog posts, doctoral theses and academic books. I read James Baldwin’s Giovanni’s Room. I took copious notes on the economic, political and social history of the Canary Islands from the 1920s. I watched YouTube videos. I read everything I could find on the prison. I am indebted to former prisoner Octavio García, whose testimony and activism helped raise awareness, in Spain at least, of this ignominy. Also to Professor of History Miguel Ángel Sosa Machín who interviewed Octavio and produced a novella, Viaje al centro de la infamia (which I read). His efforts gained much publicity in the noughties. It would have been impossible for me to write this novel prior to efforts of these two men.  I read up on what it was like to be gay in Spain. I recalled my closest friends of that time, who were both local to the islands and gay. The result is as authentic as I, a humble female author in her fifties, could make it. I did not shy away from the brutal truth of prison life. I put myself there. I lay down in the prisoners’ cots. I trudged up the hill in the searing sun and the raging wind to assemble in the quadrangle. I imagined what it would be like to break rocks all day. To be starving.

Not wanting to give Trevor an easy time of it, I put him through his paces. And what he goes through provides relief from the harsh reality of Fuerteventura in the 1950s. To say more would spoil the novel. Here is what one reviewer has to say:

“The author has used her deep knowledge of landscape, politics and history on the Canary Islands to give us a page-turning juxtaposition of savage past events with present-day drama, mystery and murder.

The book weaves two stories together over decades: a present-day author uncovering revelations of sadistic and gut-wrenching homophobia in the past while anguishing over his own sexual orientation. Matters heat up as he finds himself battling for his life, caught in the crosshairs of a murderous drug deal.

The result is a tapestry of events that will keep you reading to the last page.” – Veronica Schwarz.

You can find A Prison in the Sun here : http://mybook.to/prisonsun

 

Kindle special discount of The Drago Tree

I’m delighted to announce that the Kindle edition of The Drago Tree is discounted to only $0.99 cents for a limited time only.

 

“Haunted by demons past and present, geologist Ann Salter seeks sanctuary on the exotic island of Lanzarote. There she meets charismatic author Richard Parry and indigenous potter Domingo and together they explore the island.

Ann’s encounters with the island’s hidden treasures becomes a journey deep inside herself as she struggles to understand who she was, who she is, and who she wants to be.

Set against a panoramic backdrop of dramatic island landscapes and Spanish colonial history, The Drago Tree is an intriguing tale of betrayal, conquest and love, in all its forms.”

“Set on Lanzarote this is a wonderful wonderful book. I honestly do not know why I have left it so long to read but now I have I am glad I did. The relationships of the three main characters will forever stay with me and the descriptive writing is just perfect. I love love loved it and will re-read again again. Stunning” – NetGalley reviewer

https://isobelblackthorn.com/the-drago-tree/

Buy your copy here on Amazon https://amzn.to/2LTA596