A Lazy Day in Las Playitas, Fuerteventura

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

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.

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!

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):

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 Day Out and About in Fuerteventura

When I planned to spend a month on this fascinating Canary Island, I imagined getting around on public buses and placing my faith in their esoteric timetables. Instead, my fabulous friends here are showing me around. Yesterday, photographer and artist JF Olivares took me south. The day proved hazy thanks to a strong easterly bringing with it Saharan dust. Which means my photos are not the best photos of these places, but they do tell a story. The photo below is a typical view of the island on the eastern seaboard.

After a late breakfast in a cafe near Gran Tarajal we turned inland, Oli always preferring the backroads. With him, I felt I was getting a glimpse of the real Fuerteventura. It is a privilege to know someone who has spent all his life in a place, seen the changes as the island transitioned from a forgotten backwater into a tourist mecca. He remembers the island when the population was small, when the development was just about non existent. I listened. I could feel his pain. Trouble is, you can’t undo time.

At first, as we drove into the interior, the mountains towered in the mid distance.

Before long, we were in amongst them. Their distinct formations cannot fail to grab the eye. Photos flatten a landscape. These old volcanoes rise up out of the flat plain in every direction. Monoliths, sculptural, as though the island itself was a vast exhibition.

On and on we went. We chatted about life, the island, the future, sharing the same passion, the same values, mourning what has been lost here. My Spanish had improved from the week before and I was able to communicate in full sentences, which only spurred Oli on, confident I could understand. Then, the landscape changed.

Montaña Cardón
Montaña Cardón

We’d reached a portion of the southern massif, where Montaña Cardón affords a stupendous view. The road was narrow, the bends many and sharp and Oli could see I was nervous. I have a terrible fear of driving on roads with a sharp fall to the side. I wish I could overcome it. Maybe with practice. The scenery all through this area is breathtaking. The short walk to the summit from the small parking area contained scores of tourists, all of them much braver than me. I did manage to take this photo of the undulating mountains.

It seems I am not the only person to remark on the femininity of the landscape, which Oli says resembles a heavily pregnant woman.

Our next stop was the coastal town of Ajuy, which took us past this mountain, which the locals have named La Teta de la Abuela, or Grandmother’s Tit.

A great disappoint to Oli and to me are the power poles. The government went for the cheap option of erecting towers to provide electricity to every region. They should be put underground. They graffiti the landscape.

The west coast of Fuerteventura is tremendous. The immense force of the ocean is felt here. For a long time, we stood on the low cliffs surrounding Ajuy with the wind blasting from the east and the Atlantic waves pounding the shore, waves much bigger than they look.

          

From there we headed down a back road to the water and this fabulous rock formation.

Oli was on the hunt for pebbles.

I kept one which fits in the palm of my hand.

I managed to take this photo without any tourists. Everywhere we went, on every single dirt track, someone was there before us. It was inevitable and yet disappointing as there are so few places locals can go to get away from holidaymakers, to gain a sense that the island still belongs to them. The roads here are terrific and they need to be; there’s a continuous flow of traffic on each and every one of them, sometimes a trickle, other times a steady flow, but always people, always vehicles, wherever you go. It is a pity, as this should be wilderness. Tourism is the mainstay of the economy, but how to control it when people do not like being controlled. Impose a rule and you can be sure the unreflective will march with their feet to other climes. How could I explain to Oli that it was the same the world over. Beside, I think he’s aware. Tourism is the modern version of colonisation.

Oli’s dog Rohn didn’t mind the presence of others. He swam about in the water, joining this tourist with his can of beer and his cigarette. The others are out of the frame. The guy in the water was on borrowed time; the tide was coming in fast.

We managed to have this secluded spring near Ajuy to ourselves, passing some other visitors exiting the barranco as we arrived. The water in this dam was stagnant and green. There’s been no rain here this winter. Rohn hadn’t a care and we enjoyed the smell of his coat all the way home.

photo JF Olivares

As we whipped through the inland villages Oli explained that Fuerteventura lacks the architectural restrictions of its sister island Lanzarote. I already knew. We both think local government zoning of residential land needs to be tightened to prevent a sprawl of scattered dwellings across the island. Fuerteventura is not an island of pretty villages, but there are exceptions. Páraja is a pretty town and Triquivijate too. Tiscamanita is charming due to its position in the landscape, as is Agua de Bueyes. But what the island majors in is landscape:

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 morning stroll in Puerto del Rosario

I had no idea when I booked an entire month in an apartment in central Puerto del Rosario that I would fall for this little port city. Little, as it has a population of 40,000, which is half the population of Fuerteventura. Formerly Puerto Cabras, the city has been the island capital since 1860.

The barrios of Puerto del Rosario fan out from the port up a steepish rise. Ribbons of one-way streets filled with a mix of shops and residential properties are constructed mostly in standard cuboid style, although here and there it is possible to commend the modern architecture with its attention to detail in the facades. So much of the housing stock on the island is relatively new, a boom in tourism and consequent migration has seen rapid expansion in the last few decades. Evidence of civic pride abounds in the street plantings of trees, the carefully designed parks and the plazas.

Pedestrians have right of way, so crossing the roads are not a hassle.

I headed down Calle Leon y Castille, cutting around the back of the church, grandly named Parroquia de Nuestra Señora del Rosario, to the Museo Miguel de Unamuno, housed in a building that pre-dates 1877, when it appears in a property register.

Lecturer and Rector of the University of Salamanca, Miguel de Unamuno came to Fuerteventura in 1924, after being exiled by General Primo de Rivera for criticising Spanish politics. He stayed on Fuerteventura for about four months, visiting the inland towns and writing his impressions of island. After leaving for Paris, he continued to include Fuerteventura in his writing and for which he has been acknowledged as culturally significant. I am going to have to read this author’s work!

 

th Statue of Miguel de Unamuno outside the Museum in Puerto del Rosario

The museum comprises a number of rooms with 14 foot ceilings containing original furnishings arranged around a central courtyard. In the centre of the courtyard, an iron staircase leads to a cellar below. After taking in the heavy furniture, the intricate tiles and the beamed ceilings and having flashbacks to when I lived in a house equally grand in Lanzarote, it was the courtyard that held my attention. I am used to rooms in the old houses leading directly outside. I have not seen an enclosed courtyard created in this style before and find it intriguing.

After a short dose of history, I headed down to the port, following a road so steep in places stairs had been provided for the faint of heart. I crossed another road on the designated zebra crossing – they are everywhere and very well-placed – and headed along a path beside the water, which soon widened and became a promenade. All along the promenade, just like in much of the city centre, are large sculptures in metal and rock. Here’s a snail.

Looking back at the city, these buildings caught my eye. The one in the middle is obviously old and I wonder what its history might be. Beside it is one of the city’s famous murals. I have a lot of respect for a city bent on beautifying and creating interest out of its plain white walls.

Something else that grabbed me was the way the local council had thought of every sort of comfort and enjoyment when landscaping the point sheltering Playa del Pozos. Beside the main walkway along Senda de los Cetáceos lie a series of sheltered and semi-private seating areas overlooking the turquoise waters of this most tranquil beach. I found the entire arrangement charming.

I arrived on a cloudy day, but still, the water has a lovely hue to it and the chalky mountains make a pleasant backdrop. The beach has so much sand and at the head is a boardwalk for those who don’t want sand in their shoes. I read somewhere that this is not a beach used by tourists as it is close to the port. Still, I would be very tempted to take a dip.

My destination was the limestone ovens, or hornos de cal. Enjoying an abundance of limestone, Fuerteventura exported lime to the other islands.

I walked up and around the twin ovens in their stout round edifice, and admired the view before taking a short cut home past the shopping mall.

A two-hour walk and I feel I am getting to know this town just a little bit. Really, I have hardly scratched the surface.

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.

 

 

Arriving in Fuerteventura

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.

 

Read more https://isobelblackthorn.com/2020/02/10/a-morning-stroll-in-puerto-del-rosario/

 

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.

Memoir: There’s a Volcano Outside my Front Door

 

There’s a volcano outside my front door. I stand on the threshold and there it rises, a perfect cone, decapitated by its own fury. It’s winter, and the euphorbias cling on, smatterings of green against the cinder black. To my right is the volcano’s big sister, La Corona, a monolith, its fractured crest evidence of a day five-thousand years ago, when lava spewed and gushed and tumbled, razing the land.

Back then, there were no human witnesses. Now homo sapiens ramble all over the rock. I’m visiting the island of my memories, my former home, Lanzarote, desert dry and riddled with volcanoes, their offerings of cinder and lava meeting the eye in all directions. An island as commonplace as a tea towel to the British tourist, a place no one has heard of in Australia, where I live now.

I’m a woman in her fifties staring back into her twenties, living on an island continent straddling the Indian and Pacific Oceans, while my soul is shackled to this Atlantic rock.

A benevolent wind whistles through the shutters. Behind me, moving from room to room, Michelle is preparing for the day. We’re staying in an ancient farmhouse with metre-thick stone walls. It’s the northernmost dwelling in Máguez, a tiny village of whitewashed, flat-roofed farmhouses hugging narrow streets, nestling in an elevated valley on a tongue of land about five kilometres wide.

It’s a fine day. Streaks of cloud occupy the sky. I trace an attentive eye along the western ridge, taking in the folds of the mountains, aware that on the other side of their crest, is the cliff. I stare and stare, my soul hungry for what I saw before, as though I could re-capture my past and erase the years between.

There’s a culture of rare ingenuity on this island where it scarcely rains, dry-land farming. Without it, the people could not have existed. For millennia, the farmers have used the cinders for mulch. They call it picón and it renders the fields basalt black. Up here, away from the resorts, the old ways are still lived, evidenced in the small field of maize across the street, in the old farmer bent double, weeding. The farmers make use of the rock too, for wind protection. The result is a tidy arrangement of cinder fields and dry-stone walls.

Our car, a small and white rental, waits beside a small patio. I eye it with trepidation. Michelle is doing the driving. We’ve been all over the island, coursing every major road. We’ve passed low stone walls framing fields of black, where single grape vines or fig trees nestle in neat rows in cinder pits protected by stone wall arcs. We’ve passed low stone walls fronting every terrace rising up the mountain slopes. We’ve passed low stone walls framing every single field, right up to the roadside.

I haven’t seen much beyond those low stone walls. Michelle, a native of Australia’s capital, Canberra, is transfixed by the primordial terrain. I envy her. I have scarcely been able to take it all in. I want to, badly, but when we’re in the car, I can’t seem to peel my eyes from the roadside. It’s a reflex. She finds it hard to centre the car. I’m a reluctant driver turned apprehensive passenger and it’s all I can do not to grip the seat. I don’t think my fear is unfounded. We’ve shaved some roadside weeds and knocked a side vision mirror or two.

Lanzarote, or Titeroyugatra as it is traditionally named, has a colourful history. One of the Fortunate Islands known to Pliny the Elder, the island was given its European name after a Genoese sailor, Lancelotto Malocello, who landed in the 14th century.

By the 15th century, knowledge of the island had grown. There was much to be gained from the lichen and the cochineal, both prized fabric dyes. The island was the subject of numerous piratical attacks, servicing the north African slave trade. Then in 1402, Norman nobleman Jean Béthencourt and his sidekick Gadifer de la Salle conquered Lanzarote, subduing the local tribe, capturing their king, Guadarfía, and securing assistance from King Henry III of Castile.

With conquest came Catholicism, the islanders forced to convert. Up sprung churches, monasteries, convents. Forts were built to protect the island from further attack.

The forts now house art galleries and museums.

From his base on Lanzarote, Béthencourt set off to conquer the rest of the Canary Islands in battle after bloody battle spanning much of the fifteenth century. The islands proved geographically strategic, ocean-faring caravels able to take advantage of the Canary current that made for plain sailing to the Americas. In the centuries that followed, Lanzarote suffered many incursions, its capital razed, all its records destroyed. Once, nine-hundred locals hid in a lava tube in the island’s north, a tube created by La Corona. They were discovered, captured, shipped to the slave markets in Algiers and held to ransom. The then King of Castile paid up and the captives were returned to the island.

The lava tube, Cuevos de los Verdes, is now a tourist site. We visited the caves last week. Down in those caves, imagining close to a thousand terrified souls in amongst all that rock, I was moved by the trauma the islanders have endured.

The car yelps and Michelle is behind me, her sandaled feet crunching on the gravel drive. In the car, she fiddles with the GoPro before slinging the gear stick into reverse for the five-point turn.

The GoPro forces us both into silence. After weeks of site-seeing, we’re heading north for a short excursion round La Corona, the volcano that gave birth to the world’s longest lava tube.

This time, I’m determined to take in my surroundings. It’s nonsensical to travel halfway round the world only to stare down at the nose of the car and a single white line. Besides, my companion’s driving is improving every day. Nice pep talk, but I’ve become so nervous all I can do is glimpse snatches, while the better part of me lives out its terror.

I manage to look for long enough to notice nothing appears the same as it did before, despite the fact that it is exactly as it was and my mind the distorter. Lacking depth of field, my imagination has flattened the landscape, memories reduced to a Google maps’ street view version of what I am beholding.

We pass through the village of Yé and the farmed fields give way to the lava, a violent tumble of basalt, shards like standing stones, the whole blanketed in euphorbias and lichens, at this time of year a patchwork of whites, greens and oranges.

Michelle pulls up at the intersection. I point to my right. Left is the cliff road, which might possibly be fine on the way to the lookout, but on the way back the sheer drop to the ocean would be on my side. I hadn’t realised my fear of heights was so intense until I found myself back in this barren landscape.

I’ve become phobic and I’m not happy about it. Even on the relatively tame road that curves round the base of La Corona, I’m on fire, my palms hot and damp.

The land descends to the ocean. We corner a bend and then another. There’s a low stone wall beside the road. Eyeing the speedometer, I find we’re doing sixty.

‘Slow down.’

‘Why?’ she says, taking no notice.

‘It must have been right here,’ I murmur to myself.

Things look different in the dark. Twenty-six years ago, that wall would have been exactly that height. No one had come along and removed the stones. The road is narrow too, with little space between the tarmac and the wall.

I couldn’t have been driving any faster than Michelle. I couldn’t have been hurtling headlong into that wall, as memory tells me I had. I would have been coming at the wall at a glancing angle.

Another driver would have steered and braked her way to safety.

I blacked out.

Two in the morning on a lonely stretch of road, and when I came to the engine was still running and I was upside down with petrol dripping on me. My first thought was, I’ve woken up to die.

Vivid as yesterday, I scramble from the car. I’ve no torch and there’s no moon to light my way. I head back to the village of Yé. I walk up and down the streets pounding on one door then another, calling for help. For what feels like hours I try.

I discover, later, the villagers were as frightened as me, terrified if they opened the door I’d barrel in with a gang of marauding no-gooders in tow. It has me thinking traumatic memories are stored in our genes.

At last a door opens. Inside, I see my student. I sit in a chair in the centre of a bare room with her family hovering around me. Someone hands me brandy. I drink it down, welcoming the burn in my throat. It does nothing to quell the shaking.

That was no ordinary car accident. The setting alone was and is extraordinary.

I left the island for Australia soon after and over the years that accident has taken on gargantuan proportions, crippling my confidence, filling my life with fears. All that time lost to an inner vice-like grip.

The road snakes along and I see a road sign.

‘Make a left up ahead.’

The road down to the small fishing village of Órzola and the island’s northern tip is little more than a lane carved into the lava. We crawl along. Cars approach and we have to squeeze by each other.

I leave that manoeuvre to my companion and look at the landscape. For me, the decision isn’t easy. Every cell of my being is on high alert. But some other part of me takes control. After all, there is nowhere on the planet to compare to here.

Drag over coals

Last month I found myself on a fast train from Edinburgh to London. Too tired to read, I spent the whole journey gazing out the window. Recollecting that journey, one memory stands out: the number of wind farms, none of them that far from residential areas. I mentioned this to the couple seated by me, and they said that people are used to them. They realise the necessity. I have no idea if that is true, but their comment had me thinking how absurdly precious Australia can be.

images

Also, we passed  a solar farm, tucked beside the railway tracks. Obviously someone decided those panels would generate enough power, despite cloud.

I know, as do many, that Australia could be 100% renewable so easily. We could be running all our vehicles off grid too. Wouldn’t that be amazing?!

So I ask myself, why is this country so embarrassingly backward when it comes to alternative energy? Is it because a small group of mining magnates have our politicians by the short and curlies? If so, then that is corruption, plain and simple.

Maybe we need a People’s Commission. Challenge these power-crazed dullards and their minions with their fracking and their blasting and their dredging. Drag them over their own hot coals.

A People’s Commission, now wouldn’t that be novel? But I doubt the citizenry of Australia is all that motivated. Too many are out to lunch on their sun loungers?

Well, on the up side, if you want a real estate bargain, buy a house in Toora, South Gippsland, a town situated near a wind farm.

http://stopthesethings.com/tag/toora-wind-farm/

http://waubrafoundation.org.au/resources/wind-storm-sixty-minutes-story-about-wind-farm-woes-at-toora-wind-farm-victoria/

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-18/a-wind-turbine-at-toora-wind-farm-in-the-south/7180670

Good news is prices in Toora are low, they are right down there with properties in towns in decline due to the endless dry.

Long gone the old ways …

As any anthropologist will tell you, the old ways of indigenous cultures the world over are always tramped on in the name of progress. Some are decimated, wiped from the earth like unwanted crumbs. Others allowed to exist on the fringes, tolerated, ignored and oppressed all at once. Then there are smaller cultures absorbed into a larger dominant culture, seeping into language and custom. And then there are those wiped away by the dishrag of colonisation, only to be resurrected as curiosities for the edification of tourism.

Lanzaroteview of Los Helechos through our front door

Here on Lanzarote, the indigenous people, the Conojeros, blended with their colonisers, through marriage, through birth. A new sort of traditional way of life, Catholicised, yet still seated in the old ways, endured for centuries. It was a culture of survival and resilience in brutal conditions. Here, dry land farming and ingenious water capture techniques kept a small population of about a few thousand from starvation.

LanzaroteAn alcogida

Swathes of the lower slopes of volcanoes were smeared with concrete (alcogidas), funnelling water into underground water tanks (aljibes); large fresh water ponds (maretas) were built along with wells and dams; in the 1920s, tunnels were gouged into the cliff of El Risco to access the water in the water galleries of the Famara massif; roofs of dwellings and patios built high, were designed to channel water into farmhouse aljibes – the people went to ingenious lengths to capture what little rain there was.

Up until the 1960s and beyond, farmers terraced the mountainsides right to the top to capture any water should it rain, creating moist micro-environments along the stone wall edge. The terraces also took advantage of the moisture provided by morning mist.

LanzaroteMaize growing in little cinder pits

The Conojeros were a people accustomed to breathtaking views, at ease in the wind, strong enough at times to knock you over.

The people built their farmhouses strategically, the north facing wall windowless, rooms inside facing an interior courtyard. Farmers lived alongside their animals. They grew what they could, hardy plants able to tolerate high amounts of wind. For a long time only two villages existed, Teguise and Haria, the other villages were more like localities where a few farmhouses, spread well apart, took advantage of a valley, a mountainside, a plain.

Fish were plentiful and a small fishing industry grew up around Arrecife. Some farmers grew prickly pear for cochineal. Salt works providing another source of income for a sparse economy.

In the 1960s up sprang a hotel. And then another …

YaizaCamel sculptures on a roundabout in Yaiza.

Now, the tourists can see the old ways, as displayed in museums courtesy of CACT (the local government’s Centre for Arts, Culture and Tourism). Or they can visit the alcogidas, now in disrepair, or poke their heads down an abandoned aljibe, or well – the water below polluted by effluent and no longer safe to drink, or check out the dam at Mala, the wall now cracked and leaking, or puzzle over the site of the grand mareta at Teguise, and witness the erosion of the mountainsides where the terraces are crumbling away.

The government knows it has a problem. Residents are entitled to have 10,000 square metres of land to farm as they wish, with access to cheap water from the desal plants – but the young are not that interested.

You can still see the old farmers at work. Up in the north there are many small farms run by the old people. Little fields of black planted up with neat rows of maize, and not a weed in sight. A farmer harvesting potatoes by hand, his wheelbarrow nearby. They still farm right to the mountaintops and the cliff edge. It’s a privilege to behold.

Haria LanzaroteThe mother volcano, La Corona, as seen from our garden.

I am glad I decided to write a sequel to The Drago Tree. I want to be taken deeper into the story of this island. And the sequel will necessitate my return. For now, as our time here draws to a close, I feel just as Ann felt at the end of her holiday, still in awe of my surroundings, wanting to celebrate the traditions and mourn their passing, at odds with the very tourist industry that has allowed my easy passage to Lanzarote’s shores.